05/01/2007 11:00PM

Work light as preparations wind down


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - All the final major preparations are over. Now it's just a matter of maintaining and getting all the Kentucky Derby starters out and back home safely in the final three days of training that remain prior to the main event.

As of Wednesday, the only Derby starter not on the grounds was Nobiz Like Shobiz who was scheduled to arrive later that afternoon. All 19 who are here went to the track Wednesday, including Street Sense, whose eye-catching five-furlong work Tuesday may have solidified his role as the favorite.

There were no scheduled workouts Wednesday. The only two horses who brought out the stopwatch were trainer Doug O'Neill's pair of Great Hunter and Liquidity, who both stepped up the pace noticeably going down the backstretch during the final stages of their gallops. Great Hunter, who continues to make a very favorable appearance since shipping over from Keeneland, posted splits of 14.25 seconds and then 12.85 from the six-furlong to the half-mile pole before pulling up. Liquidity leveled off into a couple of 14-second splits and also is doing very well since moving over from the Polytrack to the conventional dirt surface.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had all five of his Derby starters on the track here for the first time Wednesday, and all but Scat Daddy went out in the first set when the track opened at 6 a.m. Circular Quay looked very relaxed and stretched out nicely, galloping under a relatively loose rein. Any Given Saturday, in sharp contrast, tugged his way around despite going in draw reins and with his rider keeping a tight hold to prevent the good-looking colt from doing too much.

Scat Daddy went to the track in the second set and jogged the wrong way equipped in rubber protective bell boots and accompanied by assistant trainer Michael McCarthy aboard the stable pony. Scat Daddy was the only one of the four Pletcher Derby runners who shipped over from Keeneland on Tuesday not to gallop this morning, and is also the only one training in bar shoes.

Zanjero, who has trained well this past week, also did little more than jog alongside a pony after visiting the paddock on what might be assumed to have been a regular gallop day. Stablemate Curlin, who like Zanjero worked Monday, did gallop an easy mile as dawn broke over the Downs and continues to look very good.

Dominican had a busy morning, jogging and galloping more than two miles, and again displayed the high leg action often associated with horses who prefer turf - and a Polytrack surface - to conventional dirt racetracks.

Street Sense came out on the track right on schedule, 7 a.m., as usual, and as expected jogged once around the wrong way with the pony as is customary the day after he works.

I was hoping to see Tiago and Stormello handle the track a little better after neither was visually appealing the previous morning, but there was no such luck.

Tiago once again warmed up in the one-mile chute, then had to delay moving onto the main track while the outriders corralled a loose horse. He was allowed to open up a little more than during his first visit to the track here Tuesday, but still doesn't seem all that comfortable with the surface and was on the wrong lead down the stretch the second time around.

Stormello has very choppy action when he gallops and never seemed to settle into a comfortable rhythm during his training.