Updated on 04/30/2012 1:42PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Union Rags finishes strongly in five-furlong drill

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Barbara D. Livingston
Union Rags works five furlongs under Julien Leparoux in 59.97 seconds at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After a relatively quiet week, activity picked up to a frenetic pace at Churchill Downs on Saturday morning with four Kentucky Derby hopefuls working within a five-minute span immediately after the renovation break. Overall, seven of the prospective 20-horse Derby field breezed around the country on Saturday, including Hansen at the nearby Trackside training center, Alpha at Belmont Park, and Done Talking at Laurel Park. Two other horses, Gemologist and El Padrino, had their scheduled works postponed Saturday at least one day due to a sloppy track at the Palm Meadows training facility in south Florida.    

KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Latest updates, Mike Welsch’s video reports

There was no such problem with the weather at Churchill Downs despite predictions for rain late Friday and early Saturday morning. That threat may have been, in part, responsible for the racetrack being somewhat on the “cuppy” and slower side during training hours on Saturday, an observation validated by several trainers and jockeys, including Bob Baffert and Julien Leparoux.

Work of the day

Union Rags (five furlongs in 59.97 seconds; all workouts timed by Daily Racing Form unless otherwise noted): Leparoux dropped Union Rags down on the rail approaching the five-furlong pole, easing him into a work which officially began at the half-mile pole. Moving effortlessly and with long, efficient strides, Union Rags completed his opening quarter in 23.37, switched leads on cue at the head of the stretch, and just cruised to the wire in 47.27 without need of urging and while holding a straight and true course throughout. After switching back to his left lead right at the wire, Union Rags continued very willingly into the bend with Leparoux remaining motionless in the saddle, completing his drill at the seven-eighths pole before galloping out an impressive six furlongs in 1:13.34.

“I’m glad we went immediately after the break because the track was on the slow side this morning,” Leparoux said afterwards. “Both previous times I’d breezed him, we went easily. Today, Michael wanted a more serious work and when I asked him at the eighth pole, he responded very well.”

After making an awesome appearance on Friday, Union Rags followed with easily the most impressive workout  I have witnessed here this past week, suggesting he has been brought along in a manner that should result in a peak performance on Derby Day.

Other workouts

Prospective (five furlongs in 1:01.08): Prospective was eager to go long before arriving at the five-furlong pole to begin his drill in company with stablemate Moon Traveler, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan having his hands full getting the Tampa Bay Derby winner to finally settle a length behind his partner approaching the end of the backstretch.  But once able to relax, Prospective looked very sharp, drawing even with his mate in early stretch then readily drawing three lengths clear after completing his final quarter in 24.19 without even a hint of urging from his rider. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.02.

“I told Shaun to go in 1:01 and he hit it right on the money,” said trainer Mark Casse. “Shaun said he had to slow him down the first part or he was going to go way too fast.”

Prospective has made a nice impression all week and his work Saturday was an extension of what  I have been seeing here in recent mornings. 

Dullahan (five furlongs in 1:00.99): With Tammy Fox aboard, Dullahan breezed through his opening quarter in 23.95 and while never really asked down the lane, he did not appear to level off or finish up nearly as strong as he did in his final, brilliant work over the artificial surface at Keeneland before the Blue Grass Stakes. He also shut down a little quick once passing the wire, galloping out six furlongs in just a tick less than 1:16.

Dullahan has trained well, for the most part, all week although Saturday’s work was somewhat reminiscent of his breezes earlier this winter at Gulfstream Park and re-enforces the notion that he may just be a better horse on synthetics and grass than over dirt.

Went the Day Well (five furlongs in 1:00.80): Equipped with blinkers for the first time in a work, and with regular rider John Velazquez up, Went the Day Well began about a length behind his regular partner, Crimson China. The pair entered the stretch on even terms while floating about four paths off the inner rail. Went the Day Well appeared to lean in just a bit on Crimson China while urged slightly by Velazquez nearing midstretch, eventually edging three lengths clear at the wire under some mild pressure. Went the Day Well galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.42.

Saturday’s work was a major improvement over a similar move, without blinkers, last Saturday at Keeneland when Went the Day Well struggled a bit to match strides with Crimson China coming to the wire. His gallop out was also much improved.

“This was the first time he’s kicked on from another horse like that,” said trainer Graham Motion. “He waited on the same horse in their work last week.”

Hansen (five furlongs in 1:01.20 according to clocker at the Trackside training center): Hansen appeared a bit headstrong breaking off alone at the half-mile pole over the six-furlong Trackside training center strip. He posted early fractions of 12.20, 24.60 and 36.40 before joining up with stablemate Derby Kitten at the eighth pole while hugging the inner rail. Hansen completed his final quarter, under what appeared to be some mild urging, in 24.80 and reportedly galloped out three-quarters of a mile in 1:15.20.

As he has shown in the past, Hansen was headstrong right from the start although it’s a little difficult to accurately assess the work from a video and over an unfamiliar training surface. I am anxious to see if Hansen shows the same high energy level he displayed in the days leading up to the Breeders’ Cup when shipping to Churchill Downs during the middle of the week.

Done Talking (five furlongs in 1:01 according to clocker Tim Geraghty at Laurel Park): In Maryland, Done Talking, the Illinois Derby winner, worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:01 and galloped out six panels in 1:14.60 with jockey Sheldon Russell aboard. "I told Sheldon to go in a minute and change, and he almost hit it on the number," said trainer Hamilton Smith. "I wanted him to gallop out strong. He wasn't tired when he got back to the barn, and we're ready to go." Done Talking is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Sunday morning. 

– additional reporting by Byron King