04/25/2012 3:02PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Liaison needs urging to get his work done

Barbara D. Livingston
Liaison, under Shaun Bridgmohan, had a key test to see how he would handle Churchill's dirt track on Wednesday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day at Churchill Downs. At 8:30 every morning this past week, the same, small group of prospective Kentucky Derby starters come out on the track during the 15-minute training session set aside for Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses.

The regular group of Dullahan, Prospective, Optimizer, and Mark Valeski were joined on Wednesday by Liaison, who became the only Derby worker of the morning when he drilled six furlongs after the renovation break under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. The Derby contingent is expected to grow by two in time for training hours on Friday, with Union Rags and Went the Day Well expected to van over from Keeneland.

Temperatures finally began to moderate on Wednesday, although the racetrack still held some water following overnight rains and was rated good while appearing a bit on the deep side at the time Liaison breezed. There is additional precipitation in the forecast over the local area this weekend, which could disrupt planned workouts for up to a half dozen Derby runners, the majority of whom are scheduled to breeze on Saturday.

Churchill Downs: Sunny, Temp. 53, Track “Good”

Liaison (six furlongs in 1:12.92): Liaison’s form has tailed off dramatically thus far this season, and trainer Bob Baffert said he was looking for a stiff workout to see how he would handle the local surface. And he got it.

Liaison, working alone, left the 5 1/2-furlong pole at a leisurely pace, but didn’t take long to pick things up, posting early splits of 12.51 seconds, 24.70, 36.89, and 49.11 for his opening half-mile. From that point on, Bridgmohan got after Liaison with a steady series of sharp raps of the stick, which resounded loudly all the way up to the top floor of the grandstand. Liaison responded to the pressure, completing his final quarter in 23.81 to the 7 1/2-furlong pole before easing up just a bit around the turn, galloping out seven furlongs in 1:26.58.

[KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Latest updates, Mike Welsch's video reports]

“He’s a lazy horse so I told Shaun I wanted a good work,” Baffert said. “I thought he was reaching out and moving well for him. I liked the work, but it’s hard to tell sometimes if you don’t know the horse – or don’t know what instructions I’m giving the rider with the radio as he goes.”

Although he finished willingly enough over a somewhat tiring track, the fact Liaison had to be urged so hard to do so makes the work average at best for a horse whose current form has to really move forward to make him a major player in this year’s Derby field.

Both Prospective and Dullahan continue to impress during their routine morning gallops. For the second day in succession, Prospective was full of energy during the latter stages of his training session. Dullahan has maintained a high energy level throughout the week and gives every indication he has bounced back nicely from his big victory in the Blue Grass and handling his home course well.

Colonial Empress (four furlongs in 48.71 ): The Oaks hopeful breezed a routine half-mile, shading 24 for her final quarter before galloping out a relatively strong 1:02.17, considering that the majority of trainer D. Wayne Lukas’s runners tend to pull up rather quickly during their gallop outs.