04/27/2012 2:35PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Union Rags makes great visual impression

Audrey C. Crosby
Union Rags gallops over the Churchill Downs main track on Friday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Union Rags made his grand entrance on the Churchill Downs stage Friday morning, eliciting a few oohs and aahs from the crowd as he performed a routine gallop during the special Derby-Oaks training session immediately after the renovation break.

Union Rags’s first appearance in Louisville since his runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile highlighted the local Kentucky Derby activity report while on the West Coast, I’ll Have Another made big news with a somewhat unorthodox six-furlong work at Hollywood Park.

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

The cold weather here Friday was in sharp contrast to the previous morning when temperatures soared into the high 60s during training hours. The weather is expected to go steadily downhill over the weekend with rain in the forecast both Saturday and Sunday. Union Rags is one of five Derby contenders slated to work either at Churchill Downs or the nearby Trackside Training Center on Saturday.

I’ll Have Another (six furlongs in 1:13.80, according to Hollywood Park clockers): Daily Racing Form’s California-based correspondent Steve Andersen said I’ll Have Another broke off at the eighth pole, two lengths in front of stablemate Liberal Arts, to work six furlongs around to the half-mile pole on the backstretch. Track clockers credited him with splits of 24.60 seconds, for the opening quarter, 36.40 for three furlongs, and 49.20 for the half while trainer Doug O’Neill caught him galloping out a mile in 1:41.

O’Neill said “that’s kind of my style” when asked why I’ll Have Another’s work was structured in such an unconventional manner. He also said the workmate was there to keep I’ll Have Another “honest” and just in case “he didn’t feel like practicing.”

Not sure how to judge the merits or what to make of this type of work without actually seeing how it was accomplished and knowing the nuances of Hollywood Park’s artificial surface. A more definitive assessment of the Santa Anita Derby winner will come after he has had a couple of opportunities to gallop at Churchill Downs during Derby week.

Union Rags looked as good as if not better than ever on Friday. After standing quietly alongside the pony near the five-furlong pole for an extended period upon entering the track, the Fountain of Youth winner eased into a very strong and visually impressive gallop under regular rider Peter Brette. Union Rags proceeded to clip off a series of 15-and-change eighth-mile splits from the quarter pole around to the backstretch while just gliding over the ground in an effortless and confident looking manner. His work here Saturday, weather permitting, will be eagerly anticipated.

Daddy Nose Best got the opportunity to really stretch out for the first time since his impressive workout on Monday and seemed quite full of himself once leaving the pony down the backstretch. He quickly leveled off into a nice, comfortable stride upon entering the turn but appeared to be tugging pretty hard on his rider, wanting to do more, as he galloped past the finish line. The Sunland Derby winner continues to give off good vibes.

Bodemeister galloped for the first time since Tuesday’s solid looking five-furlong workout and again was less than fluid getting over the track. His way of going in the morning may not be befitting of a horse likely to go off the Derby favorite but apparently has had little correlation to the manner in which he has performed once leaving the starting gate in the afternoon.

Went the Day Well, like Union Rags, galloped locally for the first time on Friday while sporting a set of blinkers. Went the Day Well has never raced in blinkers and it is likely trainer Graham Motion will experiment with the new equipment during the New York-bred’s final Derby workout scheduled here on Saturday morning after the break.

A quartet of Oaks contenders turned in workouts of one form or another on Friday beginning with On Fire Baby well before dawn. On Fire Baby followed up several days of energetic gallops with a nice, seven-furlong breeze in 1:26.80 during which she posted fractions of 24.95, 50.26, and 1:02.64 for the opening five-eighths. On Fire Baby, who will go into the Oaks idle nearly two months, galloped out a mile in 1:40.60 while not really being asked to extend herself coming to the wire.

Yara, who defeated potential Oaks favorite Grace Hall this winter at Gulfstream Park, was a study in contrast as she never really got out of an open gallop en route to completing seven panels in a slow 1:34.81. Officially credited with her final half-mile split of 51 by track clockers, Yara finished well off the rail through the stretch while also swapping to her left lead and then back to her right lead approaching the wire.

Other Oaks workers included Sacristy, who went a pressured seven furlongs in 1:28.81 and Oaks Lily , a relatively easy and very average half-mile in 49.53.