04/25/2013 3:18PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Normandy Invasion continues to impress


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The rain was gone, but remnants of Wednesday’s downpours remained as the racetrack still had moisture in it and was designated as good during training hours Thursday at Churchill Downs. The rain, which disrupted normal training to some degree the previous morning, was replaced by frigid temperatures, low enough for frost to form on windshields and horses to be on their toes.

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Rudy Rodriguez gallops Vyjack underneath the spires of Churchill Downs.

One recent arrival, Orb, especially relished the cooler air, having trained extensively throughout the winter in southern Florida.

Thursday at Churchill

36 degrees, clear, good

For the third straight day, none of the Kentucky Derby hopefuls stabled locally turned in an official workout. Several did open up in their regular gallops, a group led by Normandy Invasion, who was really enjoying the colder temperatures that still prevailed after the renovation break.

The Wood Memorial runner-up looked razor sharp as he cruised around while kept out near the center of the one-mile oval under exercise rider Javier Herrera, stretching out beautifully, changing leads on cue, and keeping up the high energy from start to finish.

Trainer Chad Brown indicated how he felt about the morning not in words but by flashing a big thumbs-up as he passed by in the midst of a telephone conversation just outside his barn a short while later.

[KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Video analysis, news, and times]

In a bit of role reversal, it was Java’s War and not his stablemate, Frac Daddy, who got a chance to “two-minute lick” for trainer Ken McPeek on Thursday. Java’s War may be a bit on the smallish side and does not have the prettiest action, but he sure was stretching out well while clicking off a steady series of 14-second-and-change one-furlong splits for more than 1 1/4 miles, the fastest of which came just before he finally pulled up midway down the backstretch the second time around.

Frac Daddy, who turned in a couple of similar open gallops earlier in the week, was a lot more reserved for the second straight morning.

Falling Sky is another who continues to really open up in the mornings since his arrival here last week. He let loose some of that stored-up energy, the result of Wednesday’s abbreviated session due to rain, when back in full flight, open galloping 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Cassie Garcea.

Orb obviously loved the 36-degree blast of air that greeted him when he left the barn and entered the racetrack at 6 a.m. Stepping up his game a little more after galloping a relatively easy mile in his first visit to the track Wednesday, Orb pulled and played his way through a very impressive-looking 1 1/4-mile gallop while just skipping over the wet ground, according to regular exercise rider Jenn Patterson.

“I think he really relished this weather,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “Did you see him this morning, with his tail up? I asked Jenn if something was the matter, or was he just playing? She said he was playing. I think he’s gotten over the track well, and he handled the water in the track too, so that shouldn’t be a problem. He’ll go a mile and one-half tomorrow.”

Vyjack continued to make a very good visual impression while having another solid session, galloping once again in a hackamore (bitless bridle) with trainer Rudy Rodriguez aboard.

Mylute was the first Derby starter out on the track at 5:45 a.m. and had a busy morning for trainer Tom Amoss, jogging a mile before turning around and galloping nearly two more.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out the “big four” of his six possible Derby starters – Verrazano, Revolutionary, Palace Malice and Overanalyze – after the break, the group producing nearly carbon-copy and very routine gallops as they segue to their final Derby works Sunday.

Govenor Charlie, who did not reach out well when given the opportunity to gallop over the track for the first times Tuesday and Wednesday, looked a little smoother Thursday, especially toward the end of his session after switching leads shortly after passing the finish line the second time around.

At Calder, Florida Derby runner-up Itsmyluckyday worked a slow half-mile in 53 seconds Thursday, posting nearly matching 26-and-change quarter-mile splits, according to the official track clocker.

“I told the rider to take it easy with him, and I guess he got a little Derby fever and was just too cautious, and he went too slow,” trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said by phone from his barn shortly after the work. “But it might have been a blessing anyway, since I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to breeze him again this morning.

“He didn’t need to do anything. He had a hard mile work last week, and anything I do between now and next Saturday isn’t going to make any difference. I really didn’t want to distress him at all prior to putting him on the van Friday for the long trip to Churchill Downs, so better too slow than too fast this morning.”

Plesa said Itsmyluckyday would arrive at Churchill on Saturday morning and go to the track for the first time Sunday. Plesa said a decision on whether to have the Grade 3 Holy Bull winner blow out next week will not be made until after the trainer arrives in Louisville on Monday.

At Santa Anita, Goldencents breezed a slow six furlongs in 1:16.20 while never being asked for a significant effort by exercise rider Jonny Garcia.

Working alone, Goldencents broke off at the half-mile pole and worked through the stretch and to the three-quarter pole at the start of the backstretch. He was timed in 40 seconds by trainer Doug O’Neill for the first three-eighths and in 36.20 for the final three furlongs.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

“The one thing I didn’t want to see was for him to go fast early and be slower late,” O’Neill said. “That was pretty solid.”

O’Neill timed Goldencents galloping out a mile in “1:43 and change.” O’Neill typically works horses into the first turn, trying to replicate a stronger gallop.
“I try not to have them put too much energy into a workout,” he said.

Goldencents is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Saturday and will not have another work prior to the Derby.

– additional reporting by Steve Andersen