Updated on 09/17/2011 11:10AM

Work's a blast for McCarron


ARCADIA, Calif. - Chris McCarron starts his job as general manager of Santa Anita next week. He still has time to play hooky this week.

On Monday, McCarron made his usual stop at trainer Ron Ellis's barn to check on the status of Atswhatimtalknbout, the 3-year-old A.P. Indy colt whom McCarron earlier this month helped Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Gary Ross, and Frank Marshall acquire a minority interest in from owner B. Wayne Hughes. When McCarron found out Atswhatimtalknbout was scheduled to work Tuesday morning, he volunteered to take Atswhatimtalknbout for a test drive.

"Working a horse like this is a blast," McCarron said Tuesday after Atswhatimtalknbout worked a half-mile in 48.80 seconds, breezing, on a gorgeous morning at Santa Anita. "He was really relaxed. He's better in company. When he goes by himself, he gawks. Today he was gawking the whole time, except when he saw a horse in front of him galloping fairly close to the rail. He went after that horse, then he settled again. He's got a big, nice stride."

Atswhatimtalknbout, a fast-finishing second in the San Felipe Stakes earlier this month, is the likely favorite for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5. That race is more than a week away, but you would have hardly known that Tuesday morning, when several key participants for the race recorded their second-to-last workouts.

Shortly after Atswhatimtalknbout worked, trainer Bob Baffert put Kafwain through a blistering six-furlong drill in 1:10.80 in which he left a workmate well behind. Earlier Tuesday morning, Baffert sent Domestic Dispute, the beaten favorite in the San Felipe, five furlongs in 58.80 seconds. Dana Barnes, Baffert's top exercise rider, was aboard both Kafwain and Domestic Dispute.

Those are the only two Baffert will run in the Santa Anita Derby. He said During will go to the April 12 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, with Gary Stevens riding. Baffert said he is considering the Wood, Blue Grass Stakes, and Arkansas Derby - all on April 12 - for his newest acquisition, Senor Swinger, who was scheduled to fly from Chicago to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

And Baffert will send Apalachian Thunder (Patrick Valenzuela riding) and Spensive (Stevens) to Sunland Park for Sunday's $500,000 WinStar Derby.

One horse not going to the WinStar Derby is Robledo. Trainer Vladimir Cerin said Robledo, the Turf Paradise Derby winner, has a cut on a foot that is not healing properly, so he will be rested until Hollywood Park's spring-summer meeting.

Atswhatimtalknbout will be ridden in the Santa Anita Derby by David Flores. Corey Nakatani will ride Domestic Dispute, and Valenzuela will be aboard Kafwain. Others expected for the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby include San Felipe winner Buddy Gil (Stevens), El Camino Real Derby winner Ocean Terrace (Kent Desormeaux), El Camino runner-up Ministers Wild Cat (Victor Espinoza), and Logician, the fourth-place finisher in the San Felipe.

Atswhatimtalknbout worked Tuesday with bar shoes on his front hooves. The shoes are a conventional racing plate, with a heavy, yet flexible, plastic strip encircling the rest of the hoof. A traditional bar shoe is made entirely of metal. Ellis said he has used the bar shoes occasionally this spring on Atswhatimtalknbout because "he had some heat in his feet after his second race, and these seemed to protect his feet.

"These aren't as rigid as a regular bar shoe," Ellis said. "The bar is made of plastic. It's preventative. With the timetable he's on" - Atswhatimtalknbout will race five times this meet before going to the Kentucky Derby - "we couldn't afford a quarter-crack or a bruise.

"He doesn't wear them to race. He's worn glue-on shoes for his last two races. He'll get new glue-on shoes next Tuesday, after he works on Monday. The plan is to keep those shoes on him until he's due to be re-shod a month later, which is five or six days before the Kentucky Derby. He won't wear the bar shoes between the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby.

"He wore the bar shoes to train between his second and third starts," Ellis added. "I didn't use them between his third start and the San Felipe. He got new glue-on shoes just before his third race, and I didn't want to go right back and rip those off. The shoes he wore for his third race he kept on for the San Felipe. He was due for new shoes after the San Felipe, so we put the bar shoes back on him then."