Updated 8:37 p.m. ET
New York-breds Samraat and Uncle Sigh had their penultimate workouts for the Kentucky Derby Friday on separate tracks at Belmont Park.
Samraat, whose five-race unbeaten streak ended when he ran second to Wicked Strong in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, worked a half-mile in :49.12 (8/19) on the main track under exercise rider Simon Paine.
Owner Leonard Riggio of My Meadowview Farm and Jose Ortiz, who is second to his brother Irad in the 2014 jockey standings at Aqueduct, were both on hand to watch. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Uncle Sigh in the Derby.
Trainer Rick Violette has put Samraat through a number on mile works over the winter and spring, and he said he will do so again.
“It was perfect – if we did it again, I don’t know that we’d want to change anything,” said Violette. “It was in hand, he stretched his legs, changed leads and pulled up good; he’s acting like he just went out for a little jog. A week away, we’ll go our steady mile – next Friday or Saturday – and go from there. It’s pretty cool.”
Violette said he and Ortiz are well aware of the importance of getting Samraat to properly change leads at Churchill Downs.
“There’s no question it’s a priority,” he said. “I don’t think he can win the Derby without changing leads. When he did change leads really late in the Wood, he went and got second. It’s a big thing. Jose is aware of it … I think he’s got to be very aware of that before he turns for home.
“You like a sweeping change coming out of the turn, almost accelerating, and to use that momentum to go do what he has to do. I don’t think you can lay on horses in the Derby; there’s too many that can come and get you. So you need to set sail at the head of the lane and run to the wire.”
Uncle Sigh, second to Samraat in the Withers and Gotham prior to a fifth in the Wood, went out on the training track. Outfitted with blinkers and with exercise rider and former jockey Nick Santagata in the irons, Uncle Sigh broke off several lengths behind stable mate Thug Daddy before blasting through along the rail at the top of the stretch and cruising to the wire five lengths in front. His time for five furlongs was 1:00.31, with splits of :12.63, :24.73 and: 36.81, galloping out in 1:13.02 and up in 1:26.72.
“It was perfect,” said Santagata.. “I sat behind, he ate dirt. The last couple of races he hasn’t eaten dirt; he was outside, he’s been in the front. So it was a different situation, and he responded well. We put him there, and we came through the rail in case you got to come through a little hole in the Derby.
“Hopefully, we’ll get lucky on Derby Day. Hopefully, we’ll get a better break than we did in the Wood Memorial and we can place him better. I think the blinkers will do that. I think the blinkers will make him a little better out of the gate and be in a little bit better position.”
Samraat is a son of Noble Causeway, and Uncle Sigh was sired by Indian Charlie. They’re bidding to join Funny Cide as the only New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby.
According to available records, Irad Ortiz, 21, and Jose Ortiz, 20, will be the first brothers to ride against each other in the Derby since 1984, when Eddie Maple was third aboard At the Threshold while brother Sam Maple was 13th on Taylor’s Special. In 1976, when Chris McCarron was sixth on Cojak and Gregg McCarron finished fifth aboard On the Sly.
Edited NYRA release with additional content by Dick Downey