Derby Works Continue
By Dick Downey
Updated 1:36 p.m. ET
The drumbeat of workouts at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby continued on Sunday.
Trainer Chad Brown sent out My Man Sam just after the track opened at 5:45 for his his first workout since finishing second in the April 9 Blue Grass Stakes.
In company with and to the outside of stakes winner Majestic Affair, My Man Sam went four furlongs in 50.60 (40/56). His splits were 26.00 and 38.60, and he galloped out five furlongs in 103.20 and six in 1:16.40. Irad Ortiz, Jr., who's set to ride My Man Sam in the Kentucky Derby, was up. Ortiz chose My Man Sam over Shagaf.
Brown said, “It was just a maintenance work.... I thought he worked terrific. He’s only run in one stakes race and he ran terrific from the 14 post in the Blue Grass. We were lucky enough to get up for second and have the points to get up and be in this position. A rapidly developing horse with a lot of talent that should be able to get a mile-and-a-quarter.My Man Sam is a horse who appreciates some company. He’s never been real flashy in the morning, but that’s exactly how he works when he runs well. It was just an easy maintenance work. He galloped out strong.”
Brown waited until after the renovation break to work the other half of his Kentucky Derby tandem, Gotham Stakes winner Shagaf. Just after the 8:30 window reserved for Derby and Oaks horses opened, Shagaf nailed four furlongs in 48.40 (10/56) with internal fractions of 12.80, 24.60 and 36.60. He was out five furlongs in 1:01.20 and six in 1:14.60. This was a better effort than he showed in an off-the-board finish on a muddy track in the Wood Memorial.
"We worked him by himself for the first time. He’s been getting a little aggressive in his works. I thought he went terrific," Brown said. I was just so thrilled in his work. He’s a little bit better of a work horse. He went over the surface well and galloped out strong. Shagaf is just a bigger, stronger and more willing work horse (than My Man Sam), so we sent him alone today and it was the best he has ever worked in my eyes.
“The whole situation didn’t really work for him,” Brown said about the Wood Memorial. “First of all, the racetrack just wasn’t for him. It rained all day and he had only run on dry tracks. He didn’t really break well in the mud. He tried to make a run there in the final turn and ran into some horses in front of him and had to stop. As you can see here this week, he’s a huge horse with a big stride. He’s like a big locomotive going downhill. I’m not sure how much stopping you can do with a horse like that when you have his momentum going. It’s just one of those things that happen in horse racing sometimes, but the track was dry today and he worked terrific.”
In only its second day of production, live streaming of the workouts from Churchill Downs was down this morning. The stream popped on at least once at 8:50 a.m. ET, showing a horseless image of the upper stretch area, then went dark again after a few seconds.
The workouts will of course continue, some of them coming soon. Here's a list of Derby horses that haven't worked in the last three days.
Gun Runner - last work April 18 - two more workouts expected at Churchill, look for him on Monday
Lani - last work April 20 - remains to be seen how Japanese connections will handle training at Churchill
Mo Tom - last work April 20 - expected to have one more work at Churchill
Majesto - last work April 21 - arrived at Churchill April 22, number of works TBA
Mor Spirit - last work April 21 - arrived at Churchill on April 22. Based on the timing of works before the Santa Anita Derby, he may work twice more
Trojan Nation - last work April 21 - still in California, awaiting final word on his Derby status
And before long, we'll see how soon Creator, Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore and Dazzling Gem appear on the worktab following the April 16 Arkansas Derby. It looks like Creator will work on Monday. Going nine days after a race is not atypical of trainer Steve Asmussen's training pattern.