Updated on 09/17/2011 10:12AM

Time to go full speed ahead


ARCADIA, Calif. - It is not in trainer Ron Ellis's nature to run a horse five times during the Santa Anita meeting, but he has been forced to do just that with Atswhatimtalknbout, who is expected to be the favorite in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.

In order for Atswhatimtalknbout to make the May 3 Kentucky Derby, Ellis has had no margin for error. He has not, however, wanted to go full steam ahead every day with Atswhatimtalknbout this meet. Ellis's strategy was to get through the first three races, back off slightly leading up to last month's San Felipe Stakes, then bear down aggressively leading up to the Santa Anita Derby.

Monday morning at Santa Anita, Ellis showed he means business this Saturday. He let Atswhatimtalknbout roll in a five-furlong work that was as impressive as it was fast. With jockey David Flores aboard, Atswhatimtalknbout blew away a workmate in the final furlong and was timed in 58.80 seconds, the second fastest of 48 works at the distance.

The morning's fastest five-furlong time belonged to Domestic Dispute, the beaten favorite in the San Felipe who will try to redeem himself in the Santa Anita Derby. He was timed in 58.60 seconds. Atswhatimtalknbout and Domestic Dispute worked a few minutes apart, after the final renovation break on an unseasonably warm morning.

When they walked off the track moments later, Atswhatimtalknbout seemed eager to do more, but Domestic Dispute was breathing hard. "He always does that. That's what Silver Charm used to do," Bob Baffert, Domestic Dispute's trainer, said.

"I think [Atswhatimtalknabout] is fit enough for the distance," Ellis said, referring to the Santa Anita Derby's 1 1/8 miles. "We were trying to sharpen him up a little bit."

Ellis had a workmate lead Atswhatimtalknbout for the first three furlongs. The trainer was in radio contact with the workmate's rider and repeatedly said, "Get him going, get him going," when the work began.

"Atswhatimtalknbout tends to look around. I wanted him to have a target. I didn't want him to catch up to the workmate too soon," Ellis said. "He should be just right."

Asked if the fast work was in keeping with his overall training plan outlined weeks ago, Ellis replied, "It is the derby."

B. Wayne Hughes, the majority owner of Atswhatimtalknbout, on Monday said he has had baseball-style caps produced that will be given to 2,000 fans arriving at the grandstand entrance on Saturday.

Domestic Dispute and two other Baffert trainees, Kafwain and Indian Express, had their final works Monday for the Santa Anita Derby.

Domestic Dispute, with exercise rider Dana Barnes, worked by himself. "He went nice," Baffert said. Corey Nakatani will ride Domestic Dispute in the Santa Anita Derby.

Both Kafwain and Indian Express worked earlier in the morning, though not together. They both worked in company. Kafwain, with Barnes aboard, was timed in 59.60 seconds for five furlongs while easily outworking Requesto. "He was cruising out there. He should be ready now," Baffert said. Patrick Valenzuela rides Kafwain on Saturday.

Tyler Baze will ride Indian Express on Saturday, but Gary Stevens was deputized Monday morning to put the colt through a six-furlong drill in 1:11.60. It was the best time of 17 at the distance; the second-best time was a full second slower. Indian Express, who won his first two starts in Panama, was fourth in the 6 1/2-furlong San Pedro Stakes on March 22 in his lone start in this country.

"I'm taking a shot with him," Baffert said. "He had a setback after I first got him. He popped a splint. He's a nice horse. I'm not sure where he fits, so we'll throw him to the wolves and see what we've got."

Stevens's mount on Saturday will be Buddy Gil, the upset winner of the San Felipe three weeks ago.

In addition to Atswhatimtalknbout, Buddy Gil, and the Baffert trio of Domestic Dispute, Indian Express, and Kafwain, the Santa Anita Derby field is expected to include Flirt With Fortune (Omar Berrio riding), Logician (Jose Valdivia Jr.), Ministers Wild Cat (Victor Espinoza), and Ocean Terrace (Kent Desormeaux).

Ministers Wild Cat will be adding blinkers for the race.

Buddy Gil, Atswhatimtalknbout, Logician, Domestic Dispute, and Flirt With Fortune all raced last in the San Felipe, this track's last major prep for the Santa Anita Derby. Two other San Felipe runners - Man Among Men and Ten Cents a Shine - are going to the April 12 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

Man Among Men, who was seventh in the San Felipe, worked six furlongs in 1:11.40 on Monday morning at Hollywood Park. His time was the fastest of 13 at the distance; the next-fastest time was 1:13.

Ten Cents a Shine, who was eighth in the San Felipe, worked a mile in 1:38.40 on Sunday at Santa Anita. He has picked up jockey Mike Smith for the Arkansas Derby.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen