04/23/2009 11:00PM

Pioneerof the Nile sharp in the slop


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Rain was the major story at Churchill Downs on Monday morning. There was enough rain to temporarily close the racetrack for approximately 30 minutes just before dawn to repair several washed-out spots on the course.

Fortunately, the track was reopened at 7:15 a.m., then it was business as usual, with each of the nine likely Kentucky Derby starters currently stabled on the grounds able to get in some exercise in one form or another despite the weather conditions.

Churchill Downs

Showery, track sloppy, 52 degrees

Pioneerof the Nile was the only Derby hopeful to gallop after the renovation break, and the Santa Anita Derby winner made a fantastic appearance. Pioneerof the Nile has a beautiful, long stride, and he galloped strongly and willingly over the sloppy surface as a prelude to his scheduled work here Tuesday morning. That move could be postponed until Wednesday, Baffert said, depending on the condition of the racetrack. More rain was forecast for the Louisville area late Monday and into Tuesday morning.

West Side Bernie has not had an official workout since his second-place finish in the Wood on April 4. And he did not work on Monday. But West Side Bernie did put in an energetic gallop and appeared to handle the wet surface quite nicely as he glided along at almost a two-minute clip, covering 1 5/8 miles before finally pulling up near the three-eighths pole.

General Quarters looked to be the least comfortable of the Derby runners to train over the wet track on Monday. The Blue Grass winner has a high stride more reminiscent of a turf horse and is not the prettiest of movers. Or at least he did not appear so over the sloppy strip.

Desert Party merely jogged the wrong way shortly after the track reopened following the early-morning delay and clearly gave every indication he was eager to do much more. He playfully reared and wheeled a couple of times just prior to exiting the track and reared up and nearly lost his rider on the way back to the barn.

Baffert also sent out his Kentucky Oaks candidate Gabys Golden Gal to work after the renovation break under exercise rider Joe Steiner. Although officially credited with a five-furlong work, Gabys Golden Gal actually breezed seven furlongs and looked good doing it.

Gabys Golden Gal left the five-furlong pole at a leisurely pace, going her first quarter in a pedestrian 26.57 seconds before hitting on all cylinders coming down the stretch. She reached the wire after five furlongs in 1:01.89 and did not break stride until completing seven furlongs in 1:27.60 over a racetrack that was on the slow side due to the soggy condition of the course.

"I always work from the five-eighths out around like that," said Baffert. "She went slow early but really picked it up. She's not very big but she's like a keg of dynamite. This horse was very impressive at Sunland and is doing well. But that Rachel Alexandra, I don't know, she's pretty special."