04/29/2013 8:59AM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Orb impresses in final breeze

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When it came to this year’s Kentucky Derby workouts, they saved the best for last.

The majority of the final Derby works were already in the books by the time the racetrack opened for training Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Only one important piece of business remained, a final breeze from Florida Derby winner Orb, who delivered all that everybody expected and then some.

Barbara D. Livingston
Orb (left) breezes five furlong in 1:00.98, with stable mate Overwhelming.

Orb was one of three likely Derby starters to work Monday, along with trainer D. Wayne Lukas’s pair of Oxbow and Will Take Charge. Winning Cause also breezed during the special Derby/Oaks training session, but was withdrawn from consideration for the Derby by trainer Todd Pletcher a short while later.

The skies were overcast, and temperatures had moderated compared with the bone-chilling cold of last week. The racetrack was listed as fast, but definitely was not as quick as it had been following the renovation break the previous morning.

Monday at Churchill

58 degrees, cloudy, fast

Orb (four furlongs in 47.89 seconds) has had an almost perfect week since arriving from Payson Park, and the karma got even better, if possible, Monday. Orb, with regular exercise rider Jenn Patterson up, once again went in company with stablemate Overwhelming, who had jockey Joel Rosario aboard. Rosario will ride Orb in the Derby.

The team began at the half-mile pole and settled into a nice early rhythm, posting splits of 12.20 seconds and 23.74 through the opening quarter-mile. Orb was widest of the two while turning into the stretch about a head in front. He gradually extended that advantage while continuing to just cruise along under his motionless rider, striding out effortlessly to the wire and beyond.

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

The gallop-out made the work even more special. Orb completed five furlongs to the seven-eighths pole in 1:00.98, with Patterson rising up in the saddle immediately after the finish line, allowing her mount to travel along on his own into and around the turn. This was a true gallop-out, as compared with several others I’ve seen this past week, where the riders continued to offer some encouragement both into and on the bend.

Orb pulled up six furlongs in 1:14.83 in a move similar to, but even more impressive than, the one I witnessed at Payson Park five days prior to his winning effort in the Florida Derby.

Although the phrase “exactly what I was looking for” is too often misused by trainers to describe a horse’s work, in the case of trainer Shug McGaughey’s reaction to Orb’s breeze Monday, it couldn’t sum things up any better.

Oxbow (five furlongs in 59.82), who did not appear very comfortable during a routine one-mile jog Sunday, had been aggressive in both his previous work and earlier gallops this past week, and he was similarly eager under jockey Gary Stevens on Monday. Oxbow was headstrong from the moment he was released from alongside the pony by Lukas near the 5 1/2-furlong pole, and Stevens had his hands full reining him in as best he could through an opening quarter in 23.54.

Oxbow had his head cocked to the inside, which has been the norm this past week, around the bend, and as a result, he bore out five or six paths wide, with Stevens tugging on the left rein, doing his best to keep him in entering the stretch. Oxbow finally came to hand and leveled off near the eighth pole, completing his final quarter in a respectable 24.22, with just mild urging near the wire before galloping out six furlongs in an average 1:14.73.

All in all, this was not a bad work, but that’s an assessment tempered by some concern over Oxbow’s propensity to get out on the turn.

Will Take Charge (five furlongs in 1:00.82), like Oxbow, was full of run coming away from the pole, zipping an opening quarter in an even swifter 23.17 and three-eighths in 35.20. He then had little left through the latter stages of the drill, needing plenty of encouragement to come home his last quarter in a slow 25.62 while also making a “raspy noise” at the wire, according to former jockey Richard Migliore, who was stationed at ground level on the finish line to observe the work.

Will Take Charge shut down rather quickly after passing the wire and did not receive a six-furlong gallop-out time.

Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents picked up the pace during their second day on the track. Itsmyluckyday galloped an easy 1 1/2 miles after simply jogging a mile the previous morning and continues to make a good visual impression. Goldencents went along at a much brisker pace, as is common in the mornings for horses trained by Doug O’Neill, during the latter stages of a jog/gallop session.

Frac Daddy’s final work here Saturday was good but not great, and he continued to show a high energy level with a very strong and visually appealing gallop Monday.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out only two of his five Derby hopefuls to train Monday, with Palace Malice and Charming Kitten galloping after the break, while Revolutionary, Verrazano, and Overanalyze stayed in the barn, which is not uncommon for Pletcher’s horses the second day after a work.

Seaneen Girl was the lone Kentucky Oaks starter to breeze, going an easy half-mile in 48.89, with a final quarter-mile split in 24.60, under jockey Rosie Napravnik well before dawn.