04/24/2008 11:00PM

Threat of rain impacts work tab


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If Churchill Down next Saturday is bathed in the sunshine and warmth that has enveloped this area over the past few days, the sun surely will be shining bright on the old Kentucky home for the 134th Kentucky Derby. But the forecast for this weekend, and into the first part of Derby week, is not as hospitable, so several trainers have been attuned as much to The Weather Channel as reruns of "Seinfeld" on their hotel televisions, trying to glean the optimum time for a final workout for their Derby horses.

Louie Roussel III, who trains and is the co-owner of Illinois Derby winner Recapturetheglory, at first was going to work Recapturetheglory on Thursday, then postponed it to Saturday. But with the forecast calling for rain on Friday night and into Saturday, Roussel did not want to chance having a wet track facing Recapturetheglory on Saturday morning. So, he called an audible Thursday night, and decided to work Recapturetheglory on Friday morning.

Recapturetheglory, with jockey E.T. Baird aboard, worked five furlongs, with Daily Racing Form catching him in 1:00.98. Churchill Downs's official time was slightly slower, 1:01.20.

"I wanted to work him seven or eight days out," Roussel said. "He gets Lasix, so he needs time to rehydrate. The track was very deep this morning. He went well within himself. Could he have gone any faster? Yes. But it was just a little maintenance work."

Recapturetheglory has raced on a synthetic surface, dirt, and turf, but never on a wet track. As a son of Cherokee Run, though, Recapturetheglory has a pedigree to suggest he will handle an off track should the situation arise.

"I've had horses who couldn't stand up on the asphalt if there was water on it," Roussel said, referring to Kandaly, whom Roussel scratched from the 1994 Derby because of an off track. "This horse will run if it's sloppy. I just didn't want to work him on a sloppy racetrack if I could avoid it. If it comes up rain, he will run. The question is - is he good enough?"

Recapturetheglory led from gate to wire in the Illinois Derby. Both his wins have been at Hawthorne. In his lone start at Churchill Downs last fall, he finished second in a first-level allowance to Cool Coal Man, who also is scheduled to run in the Derby.

"I will be on the front end," Roussel said. "I will be up there. It could be Big Brown and I. If that's the way it is, I hope they finish that way."

The only other horse who worked Friday was Anak Nakal, who went a half-mile in 46.52 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form. Churchill clockers had him in 46.60 seconds.

Most of the Derby field had works scheduled for the weekend or Monday. The wet weather was among the reasons trainer Todd Pletcher was scheduled to give Monba and Cowboy Cal their final works at Keeneland on the synthetic Polytrack surface.

Churchill Downs has a deserved reputation as being one of the best dirt tracks in the country when it comes to drying quickly, but there was a real possibility that some training over the next few days was going to be conducted on a wet surface.

Eoin Harty, who trains Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John, said he had given himself a three-day window to sneak in Colonel John's final workout.

"The optimum day is Monday, weather permitting," Harty said Friday morning. "It seems like there's a chance of showers, but they've been so off the mark this week, I hope they stay off the mark."

Earlier in the week, the forecast for the weekend called for drenching rain late in the week. On Friday, it was 70 degrees when the track opened at 6 a.m. The high Friday was 83, following two similarly clear, gorgeous days that also got into the lower 80s. The forecast for Friday night and into Saturday called for thunderstorms, and showers were predicted for Sunday and Monday, with clearing, though cooler, weather by the middle of the week.

"I could go on either side of Monday - Sunday or Tuesday - if I have to," Harty said.

Adriano and the fillies Eight Belles and Proud Spell are scheduled to work Sunday at Churchill Downs. Court Vision, Pyro, Smooth Air, Visionaire, Z Fortune, and Z Humor all are scheduled to work Monday.

The rain that was forecast to fall beginning Friday night and into Saturday was being monitored by trainer Paulo Lobo, who had scheduled a Saturday morning workout from Arkansas Derby winner Gayego. Jockey Mike Smith was to arrive Friday night for that drill. Although Lobo said he wanted to work Saturday, he said he would wait a day if it was too muddy.