By Dick Downey
Updated 1:53 pm ET
Saturday morning at Churchill Downs saw a rapid succession of workouts by Kentucky Derby contenders Omaha Beach, Plus Que Parfait and War of Will. Derby hopeful Signalman was also on the worktab.
The second Derby horse to work during the 7:30 session reserved for Derby and Oaks horses on a cool, partly cloudy morning, Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach went five furlongs in 59.00, breezing, for trainer Richard Mandella. He worked in company with Kowboy Karma, who was timed in 1:00.80. Julien Leparoux handled the work.
The work probably solidified the status of Omaha Beach as the unofficial early favorite in the Run for the Roses. His initial fractions were 12.00, 23.60 and 35.40; and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.80. He continued to gallop beyond that point was pulled up by the easternmost gap on the backstretch, sometimes called the Romans gap, short of the track kitchen. Behind his workmate by four lengths at the start of the work, Omaha Beach was five in front at the finish line.
Plus Que Parfait, winner of the UAE Derby for trainer Brendan Walsh, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.00 in company with Al Taweel, who was timed in 1:02.20. Fractional times for Plus Que Parfait was were 12.00, 23.60, 36.20 and 49.40, and he was out six furlongs in 1:15.60.
War of Will, who disappointed with a ninth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby as the favorite, went four furlongs in 47.60, breezing in company with Starinthemaking, who was timed in 48.60. Splits for War of Will were 12.00, 24.00 and 36.20, and he galloped out five furlongs in 1:00, six in 1:13.60. Tyler Gaffalione was up.
Under Brian Hernandez, Jr., Signalman breezed just in front of War of Will, going five furlongs in 1:00, out six in 1:13.40, with initial fractions of 35.20 and 47.60. Signalman continues to need two defections to make the Derby field. He'd be a confirmed starter if he hadn't been nosed out of second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes by Win Win Win, costing him 20 valuable Derby points.
At San Luis Rey in California, UAE Derby second finisher Gray Magician worked five furlongs in 1.00:40 with Drayden Van Dyke aboard for trainer Peter Miller.
Bodexpress, second in the Florida Derby, reportedly worked at Gulfstream Park this morning for trainer Gustavo Delgado, but apparently he'll wait for another day. He needs one defection to make the Derby starting gate.