04/29/2010 11:00PM

Report card for Derby works

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Now they're all in!

All 20 Kentucky Derby starters were on the grounds Thursday and being fine-tuned for what their connections hope will prove to be a winning run Saturday. Nobody breezed or even blew out Thursday morning over the driest and best racetrack in the last week.

Among the horses who caught my eye the most this morning were Sidney's Candy, who has rebounded nicely from last weekend's work; Paddy O'Prado, who has been machine-like in his efficiency here all week; and American Lion, who is as smooth as silk when he gallops. I got my first look today at the Mike Maker pair of Stately Victor, who looks like a million bucks, and Dean's Kitten -- both have the unmistakable stride of a grass horse.

Devil May Care may have been a little off her game Thursday, failing to switch leads while galloping with her head cocked out a bit down the stretch before stumbling a stride as she was pulling up. Perhaps she was a little less focused without the blinkers. I'll be watching her very closely Friday. Backtalk looked awkward and choppy as he passed by the twin spires.

With all the major groundwork done, it's time to take a look at the field from impressions left during training hours here over the last 10 mornings.

Lookin At Lucky: Anyone looking to fault the Derby favorite will be hard-pressed off what I've seen over the last 1 1/2 weeks. He may look a bit shaky when he first jogs onto the track each morning, but his gallops have been good and his last two works were excellent, including his 1:12.01 six-furlong drill April 21, after which he galloped out a strong seven-eighths and mile. If he gets around clean from the rail, he'll be tough to beat.

Ice Box: I have had mixed reactions watching him train during the week, although I really liked the way he galloped out after showing some uncharacteristic speed during his final half-mile drill in 46.38 here last week. He should run his race, which means he'll drop well back and try to pick up as many pieces as he can at the end.

Noble's Promise: I have found no real chinks in his armor in the morning, and he finished willingly enough in his final prep. My gut reaction, though, says it's got to be tough for any horse to give his peak performance in a grueling race such as the Derby after recuperating from a lung issue, no matter how minor.

Super Saver: He's trained as well as anyone here on a daily basis for the last 10 days and obviously loves this strip. He was not asked to extend himself in a very sharp but easy final half-mile drill with jockey Calvin Borel aboard, and everything I've seen suggests he's ready for a peak performance in the third start of his form cycle. Can Calvin make it three of the last four?

Line of David: He had the misfortune of catching a wet track for his final Derby work, and it was obvious he wanted no part of the slop, falling apart very badly down the stretch after showing his usual early zip. Looks like a pace factor at best off that effort and will really be up against the 8-ball if the forecast for heavy rains before post time holds true.

Stately Victor: Did all his major work at the Trackside Training Center, but visually, he made a great first impression Thursday. Was his last a fluke, or could he be a horse peaking at the right time? That's the $64,000 question in this corner.

American Lion: He couldn't have looked any better on a regular basis since arriving from Keeneland last week, and he arguably was the smoothest mover of this bunch in the morning. Turned in an easy but somewhat uninspiring final work, albeit over a wet track, earlier this week, and he does have a running style that seems to clash with the profile of this race.

Dean's Kitten: Like stablemate Stately Victor, he didn't ship over from Trackside until Wednesday, so there's been very little opportunity to form an opinion, other than he does display the type of high action one would expect from a turf specialist.

Make Music for Me: I didn't pay all that much attention to him most of the week since it seemed unlikely he'd crack the starting lineup. His last local work was fair to average at best with a lackluster gallop-out.

Paddy O'Prado: As noted above, he's been machine-like in his efficiency during routine morning gallops, chugging along with the look of a horse who can run all day. His final Derby prep may have been the most impressive of any I saw last week, five furlongs in 58.44 seconds with a six-furlong gallop-out of 1:11.06 and seven-eighths in 1:25.62. That drill came over a very sloppy track, and with the forecast calling for rain, a wet track would only seem to enhance his chances. Peaking at the right time, and in my mind the best value play in this evenly matched lineup.

Devil May Care: Trained as well as anybody when sent out with blinkers during her first several local sessions, including a five-furlong drill last Saturday in which she just cruised around in 1:00.10 before galloping out extremely well. She has not looked quite as sharp since returning to the track earlier this week, each of those trips coming without the shades, and I am really banking on the blinkers to bring out the absolute best in her on Derby Day.

Conveyance: He has put his abundant speed on display in a pair of recent workouts, both of which were hard to fault, although stretching that speed out to 10 furlongs with expected pace pressure from the likes of Line of David and perhaps others may be stretching his limitations just a bit too far.

Jackson Bend: Game little colt has always been a good work horse, and his final Derby drill was no exception, a solid half in 47.04 and a gallop-out that shaded 1:00, but his propensity to drift sideways and fight his rider on a regular basis in the mornings does shake the confidence level a bit. He always runs his race, but 1 1/4 miles might prove a little more than he can handle.

Mission Impazible: Another of the Pletchers who has trained extremely well over the last couple of weeks both here and in south Florida. Made short work of former Derby contender and stablemate Rule during the latter stages of each of his last two breezes, and his energy level has continued to be high all week. Gives the notion he's sitting on his best yet.

Discreetly Mine: The least respected of the Pletcher quartet in this field, but he has more than held his own during the group's final preparations leading up to the race. As with Jackson Bend, however, 10 furlongs may be a bit more than he can handle at this level.

Awesome Act: I wasn't overly impressed with his first local work, but he definitely improved the second time around, although did still struggle to get by his older minor-stakes-winning stablemate Peace Town at the end of that drill. Getting mixed signals from this one, and he figures to be overbet some in light of his well-documented trip in the Wood.

Dublin: He gave his rider all he could handle trying to bear out around the final turn of his most recent Derby work, and he hasn't been the smoothest mover out there in the morning since coming out of the work.

Backtalk: I did not get to see his final prep, which came over at Keeneland, but was not impressed with the choppy way he got over the ground galloping here Thursday.

Homeboykris: He turned in a couple of easy, albeit unspectacular, workouts since arriving from south Florida last week. Winless since the Champagne. Seems overmatched in his current form.

Sidney's Candy: Rated well enough off stablemate Via Verde in a fast six-furlong drill last week, a positive sign for a colt who has had the majority of his success on the lead. Showed a nice turn of foot during the middle stages of that work, although he needed some urging to finally pull away from his mate at the end, and the gallop-out was relatively nonexistent. Like Awesome Act, he is giving mixed signals, and for me is among the major question marks Saturday.

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