04/19/2010 11:00PM

Three Derby workers, but no jackpot

Barbara D. Livingston
Noble's Promise (right) worked in company with stablemate Beautician, a filly slated to go in the Kentucky Oaks.

LOUISVILLE, KY. - Watching the contenders train in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby is a little like playing the lottery, since any morning could be the one when you hit the jackpot and see a horse whose final Derby workout sets him (or, as would have been in the case last year with Rachel Alexandra, had she run in the Derby rather than the Oaks) apart from all the others.

Derby observers were given three chances to hit that jackpot Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs, although there were no Barbaro- or Street Sense-like performances on this day. Not that any of Tuesday's trio of Derby workers - Awesome Act, Noble's Promise, and Line of David - did anything to suggest they will not perform at least up to expectations a week from Saturday. It's just that none of them worked in a manner that might take them to another level in any pre-Derby assessment of the field.

Skies were party cloudy and there was another fast track at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, although perhaps not quite as glib as the previous morning.


Awesome Act (six furlongs in 1:13.05): As usual, Awesome Act worked in company with his stablemate Peace Town, who broke off approximately 2 1/2 lengths in front when the pair left the six-furlong pole. With his regular rider, Julien Leparoux, aboard, Awesome Act remained reserved a couple of lengths behind his target through early fractions of 13.12, 25.15, and 36.94 seconds. Winner of the Gotham, Awesome Act eased out while picking up the pace exiting the three-furlong pole, moving alongside Peace Town entering the stretch, and readily pulled away through a final furlong completed in 12.68 under mild encouragement from Leparoux.

According to my colleague David Grening, who had seen this same scenario played out on a couple of occasions before Awesome Act's earlier races in New York, Awesome Act usually shut down immediately after he crossed the wire and was consistently passed in the gallop out by his mate. It was encouraging, then, that he continued to widen his advantage on Peace Town this morning, galloping out seven furlongs with perhaps a little renewed interest in 1:27.11.

It was not a "blow-away" type of workout but good enough to keep him among the second echelon of Derby contenders behind the favored Eskendereya.

Noble's Promise (five furlongs in 59.84 seconds): An important work considering the minor physical issues this colt had coming out of the Arkansas Derby. He was on the muscle, as was his workmate, Kentucky Oaks hopeful Beautician, breaking off at the five-furlong pole, and not surprisingly the pair zipped right along, posting fractions of 11.72, 23:44, and 34.76 seconds for the opening three-eighths. The duo remained as a team through a half in 46.86, at which point Noble's Promise, with Willie Martinez sitting pretty chilly, began to gradually pull clear from Beautician, who struggled under pressure to the wire. The quick early pace did take a little toll late, as Noble's Promise completed his final eighth in 12.98 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.66.

All in all, not a bad work and probably enough to keep Noble's Promise in the Derby picture.

Line of David (five furlongs in 1:02.02): The Arkansas Derby winner, he was not really asked for any speed while working from the half-mile pole around to the seven-eighths pole on the clubhouse turn. He went his opening half to the wire in 49.12 seconds while kept pretty much in hand, then was put under some mild urging to complete his final eighth in 12.90 before galloping out six furlongs in an ordinary 1:16.18.

I will be expecting to see a little more from this guy in his final Derby workout on Monday.

While the concept of giving all the Derby horses a fresh and uncluttered track to work over after the renovation break at 8:30 a.m. is a good one, the problem is that just about all of them are out on the track at the same time - 8:30. And on a day like Tuesday when as many as three Derby contenders work, it's hard to pay close attention to any of the gallopers, the majority of whom were pulling up or even off the track all together by the time the last of the workers, Noble's Promise, had finished.

As a result, it was hard to get a close look at many of the other Derby runners already on the grounds at this time, although I was able to see enough once again of both Super Saver and Paddy O'Prado to pique my interest with the hope they might be my "lottery winner" in their final Derby preps this weekend.

:: DERBY 136: