04/24/2009 11:00PM

Morning proves study in contrasts

Barbara D. Livingston
West Side Bernie , with Stewart Elliott up, has a relatively easy breeze.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Every trainer has a different approach to preparing a horse for the Kentucky Derby, and Saturday morning proved a contrast in both methodology and performance at Churchill Downs where five 3-year-olds turned in their final Derby workouts.

Churchill Downs

Sunny, 73 degrees, Track Fast

The Godolphin pair of Desert Party and Regal Ransom were definitely the stars of the day but were a contrast in styles themselves despite turning in similar work and gallop-out times.

Trainer Kelly Breen opted to give West Side Bernie a relatively easy half-mile breeze for his final Derby prep to avoid draining the tank too much a week before the main event, while both Musket Man and Papa Clem labored noticeably through the final stages of what could only be described as very disappointing works.

The weather remains unseasonably warm in Louisville, and the racetrack continued to be less than lightning-fast during training hours, yielding somewhat slower-than average workout times throughout the course of the morning.

Work of the day

Desert Party (five furlongs in 59.44 seconds): The first thing one noticed about Desert Party is that he was the morning's only Derby worker to come onto the racetrack without a stable pony, an indication he's perhaps a bit more composed and relaxed than the others. That trait stood him well about a quarter-mile into his drill, when he picked up some unexpected company midway around the turn. Desert Party fanned his unidentified workmate about five or six paths wide coming out of the turn while completing his opening three furlongs in 36.18 seconds, then leveled out nicely upon changing leads and settling into the stretch. His final quarter-mile split of 23.26 seconds was the best of the morning and accomplished without any need of urging. Desert Party then galloped out very strongly while under some mild encouragement banking into the clubhouse turn, completing six furlongs in 1:12.60 and seven-eighths in 1:26.20. In the process, he overtook fellow Derby contender West Side Bernie who had broken off well in front of him and was also galloping out at the time.

Regal Ransom (five furlongs in 59.13 seconds): Like Desert Party, Regal Ransom worked a swift five furlongs but did so in a somewhat different manner than his stablemate. Regal Ransom came out moments after the racetrack opened for training at 6 a.m. wearing a "sure win" bit, a piece of equipment that helps enhance a horse's breathing capabilities. Regal Ransom was a lot keener coming away from the pole than Desert Party, especially zipping through his second eighth-mile split in 11.16 seconds. He continued along at a rapid pace, three-eighths in 34.70 and a half in 46.54 before completing his final eighth in 12.59, with his only glitch coming when he switched prematurely back to his left lead just inside the sixteenth pole. Despite the high turn of speed, Regal Ransom galloped out well, six furlongs in 1:12.56 and seven-eighths in 1:27.04 under only mild encouragement.

Regal Ransom has always been a fast work horse. I saw him turn in a couple of similarly swift moves before his debut last summer at Saratoga, but he did gallop out strongly enough to suggest he just might be capable of carrying his inherent speed a lot further than some might expect on Derby day.

West Side Bernie (four furlongs in 48.22 seconds): He was kept well within himself while breezing through fractions of 12.16, 23.79, and 35.34 seconds with jockey Stewart Elliott aboard. His final time was just a tick off the fastest half-mile work of the morning, although he completed a final eighth in only a shade under 13 seconds. He got a good crack of the whip from Elliott as he crossed the wire to commence his gallop-out during, which he was readily overtaken by fellow worker Desert Party in the vicinity of the seven-furlong pole.

Musket Man (six furlongs in 1:14.81): The Illinois Derby winner broke off at the 5 1/2-furlong pole while in company with stablemate Bull Toccet, a 3-year-old who recently won his maiden by disqualification in his seventh career start at Philadelphia Park. The pair traveled in company from start to finish, with Musket Man put under a heavy drive by jockey Eibar Coa from the three-sixteenths pole to the wire while unable to shake his mate, who was under perhaps a notch less pressure down the lane. Completed five furlongs to the sixteenth pole in 1:01.72, finished his final eighth beyond the wire in 13.09 seconds under urging and was actually a neck behind Bull Toccet after galloping out seven eighths in 1:29.68.

He had the look of a legitimate contender coming off a couple of impressive stakes wins but now a question mark off today's lackluster drill.

Papa Clem (seven furlongs in 1:29.12): Like Musket Man, Papa Clem arrived in Louisville off a very strong performance but has certainly given little indication he will be capable of duplicating the effort on Derby Day. Breaking off at the seven-furlong marker, Papa Clem began at a rapid but certainly not overtaxing pace, getting his opening three furlongs in 36.70 seconds. But by the time he settled into the stretch, it became readily apparent Papa Clem had already begun tossing in the towel. Had to be put under strong urging, with exercise rider Mundo Cedeno throwing several crosses with the reins for encouragement, to cover his second three-eighths in 38.55 seconds, then barely made it to the wire, with Cedeno standing up and patting his exhausted mount a couple of times on the neck as they approached the finish line.

Gallopers of interest this morning included Win Willy, who made a favorable first impression along with Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge, both of whom continue to go well. It was a bit puzzling when Square Eddie came out wearing a set of bell boots and merely jogged a mile alongside a pony following a couple of very impressive gallops the previous two mornings. General Quarters also looked the best he has all week, the Blue Grass winner striding out more smoothly and appearing much more comfortable than he had in several previous appearances, including his most recent workout.