04/23/2009 11:00PM

Summer Bird looks like he could regress

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Barbara D. Livingston
Summer Bird works six furlongs in 1:16.06 on Friday at Churchill Downs. His last two eighths were each timed in over 13 seconds.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Both the weather and the activity level coming into Kentucky Derby 135 are really beginning to heat up at Churchill Downs, where the temperature rose into the 70s before the end of training hours on Friday morning.

There was only one Derby horse on Friday's clocker tab, Summer Bird, but there was plenty to see on the racetrack as prospective members of the field continue to arrive on a daily basis.

Churchill Downs

Clear, track fast, 67 degrees

Summer Bird (six furlongs in 1:16.06): Coming off his vastly improved performance in the Arkansas Derby, many handicappers thought Summer Bird could prove enough of a late presence to work his way into the Derby gimmicks at a juicy price. But Friday's work left the impression that the lightly raced colt could be more likely to regress than move forward off his career-best effort in Hot Springs.

Breaking off at the five-furlong pole, Summer Bird went along at a relaxed clip through an opening quarter of 25.48 seconds and changed leads on cue turning into the stretch. But after completing a half in 49.26, Summer Bird began to labor. Inside the sixteenth pole, jockey Chris Rosier threw another cross with his reins to help stimulate the colt, and from the wire around to the seven-furlong pole put Summer Bird under additional and less subtle pressure. But the response was merely a pair of matching, 13.40 eighth-mile splits to complete the drill followed by a relatively slow seven-furlong gallop out in 1:30.11.

Whether he's still feeling the effects of his effort in Arkansas or just doesn't handle the Churchill Downs surface as well as his home track at Oaklawn Park, Summer Bird appears to be facing a daunting task when stepping in against the elite of the 3-year-old division in this year's Derby.

Several prospective Derby starters continue to make very favorable impressions during their routine morning gallops, among them I Want Revenge, Pioneerof the Nile, Desert Party, and Square Eddie.

For the second day in a row, I Want Revenge looked razor sharp. Repeating a formula that worked so well the previous morning, I Want Revenge went out shortly after the racetrack opened for training at 6 a.m. and zipped around at a swift and steady pace while kept out past the middle of the course throughout. He looks as good as any member of the field presently on the grounds.

Pioneerof the Nile got back to serious business for the first time since Tuesday's workout and put in a strong gallop immediately after the renovation break. Nothing but smiles in the Baffert camp after training hours again this morning.

For all the good, hard work Musket Man put in on Thursday, he's another member of this field who doesn't have the prettiest way of going when he gallops. That trait was noticeable once again this morning. Whether that's a reflection of how he handles the Churchill Downs strip or just his normal way of going remains to be seen, perhaps in his final Derby workout on Saturday morning.

Chocolate Candy is another whose action is higher and not as smooth as some of his contemporaries in the field. He looked a bit uncomfortable during Friday's gallop, especially when swapping leads on several occasions both approaching and after passing the finish line.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sent out his two prospective Oaks starters, Justwhistledixie and Fitz Just Right, to breeze nearly carbon-copy half-miles following the renovation break. Unfortunately, Fitz Just Right was withdrawn from consideration for the Oaks shortly thereafter.

Justwhistledixie was the first of the pair to work, posting fractions of 12.36, 24.06, and 36.53 before completing an easy half in 49.14 and galloping out five-eighths in 1:02.06. She gave the appearance of merely galloping throughout the easy maintenance drill.

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