04/25/2011 5:15PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Nehro splashes an easy five furlongs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It’s that time of year again. Time to break out the stopwatches and binoculars and track the prospective starters during the all-important final two weeks leading up to another Kentucky Derby.

The weather in Louisville hasn’t cooperated of late, with soaking rains keeping the racetrack sloppy during training hours for the last several days, a trend that is expected to continue right into Thursday. Monday morning was no exception, with heavy showers greeting the horses when the track opened at 5:45 a.m., including Uncle Mo when he came out for another routine, but extremely important, gallop at 6 a.m.

Monday at Churchill
65 degrees, raining, sloppy

Nehro (five furlongs in 1:02.81) – Nehro looked nice and relaxed breaking off at the five-furlong pole under exercise rider Carlos Rosas and cruised easily through splits of 25.74 seconds and 37.96 for the opening quarter and three-eighths. The Arkansas Derby and Louisiana Derby runner-up was only a couple of paths off the rail coming down the stretch and changed leads nicely, but he did have his head cocked some toward the infield passing by the eighth pole. Potential trouble lay ahead, with a pair of gallopers inexplicably closer to the rail than normal inside the sixteenth pole, but Nehro was able to squeeze by while under some mild encouragement from Rosas nearing the wire to get through the narrow hole safely. Nehro finished willingly, his final quarter in 24.85, then continued out around the turn with good energy, galloping out six furlongs in 1:17.02 before pulling up seven-eighths in 1:31.99.

All in all, a very respectable, if not spectacular, work given the circumstances for a colt who is in peak form at the moment.

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Rain was pelting down heavily and lightning was flashing when Uncle Mo broke off from the pony just inside the sixteenth pole, after which he put in a very strong and willing gallop, giving little indication Monday morning of having any lingering effects from whatever led to his subpar performance in the Wood Memorial.

Only a handful of Derby candidates showed up after the renovation break, most notably The Factor in his first regular gallop since the Arkansas Derby and subsequent throat surgery. The Factor appeared a little listless backing up to just beyond the finish line, but once turning around and breaking into a gallop, he went along at a very strong pace that reached a two-minute clip (15-second eighths) down the stretch.

Archarcharch looked the least comfortable of the Derby horses out there Monday morning, perhaps more a product of his dislike for the wet surface than anything else. It will be interesting to see if he seems happier when he finally gets the opportunity to put his feet down over a dry surface, perhaps later in the week.

Shackleford returned to the track for the first time since breezing Saturday. While doing little more than jog, he did look sharp and on his toes, obviously bouncing back nicely from his swift and, from all reports, impressive drill.

The following are works I’ve seen by Derby contenders over the past week.

Sunday at Churchill
64 degrees, raining, sloppy

Mucho Macho Man (seven furlongs in 1:29.40) – In sharp contrast to his previous work eight days earlier at Gulfstream Park, in which he went the same distance in 1:23 and change but tired late, Mucho Macho Man was much more relaxed early on under regular rider Rajiv Maragh. Working in heavy rain, he posted splits of 26.60 for the quarter, 51.58 for a half, and 1:03.98 for five furlongs, before completing his final quarter in 25.41 over a very wet track and galloping out a mile in 1:43.88. It’s hard to get a true assessment of the work, considering the conditions, but it was encouraging to see Mucho Macho Man finish well under pressure and also be able to gallop out another good eighth while hugging the inside fence throughout, something he had not done in some of his previous works in south Florida.

Stay Thirsty (five furlongs in 59.92) – With Calvin Borel aboard and in company with stablemate Bridgetown, Stay Thirsty went fast right from the outset, both he and his partner getting their first three-eighths in 35.06. Stay Thirsty, in Borel’s favorite spot right up against the rail, had to be urged some after falling about a half-length behind on the turn before finishing about a neck to the good while pressured near the end. Not much gallop-out to speak of, six furlongs in 1:15.06.

Saturday at Palm Meadows (Florida)
76 degrees, sunny, fast

Pants On Fire (five furlongs in 1:00.40) – After zipping five-eighths in 58 and change the previous week, the Louisiana Derby winner slowed the pace quite a bit, going his opening three-eighths in 36.05 and then coming home the last quarter in an average 24.87 over the fast track while tapped with the stick only a couple of times at the head of the stretch. Like Stay Thirsty, he also shut down quickly, galloping out six furlongs in a slow 1:16.42.

Thursday at Palm Meadows
67 degrees, sunny, fast

Soldat (five furlongs in 59.07) – This was really a half-mile work with a 59.07-second gallop-out and a final furlong in 12.01 around to the seven-eighths pole, with the Fountain of Youth winner looking very strong all the way and especially continuing his gallop-out around the turn, pulling up six furlongs in 1:12.76 and seven-eighths in 1:27.82. Soldat gave every appearance that he has bounced back from a very disappointing effort in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in top shape.

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