LOUISVILLE — A trainer's comments following morning workouts rarely vary from general praising of what they've just seen from their horses.
Six-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Todd Pletcher proved refreshingly blunt after sending his quartet of Kentucky Derby contenders out for their final serious works Sunday, both in his positive and negative assessments.
The best and most disappointing efforts of the morning at Churchill Downs came from the same Pletcher pairing as he worked Grade I winner We Miss Artie and Grade II Risen Star Stakes winner Intense Holiday in company going four furlongs.
With jockey John Velazquez up, Intense Holiday broke off on near even terms with his stablemate but blew past We Miss Artie in the lane, finishing three lengths in front at the wire while covering the distance in 48.60 with a gallop out 1:00.80.
"I would probably classify this as the best work I've seen from him," Pletcher said of Intense Holiday. "Having said that, the horse always trains well ... but I thought that was exceptionally good.
Pletcher deemed the move for We Miss Artie "the worst I've seen him work on dirt" as he clocked in at 49.20 with a gallop out in 1:02.40.
"I wasn't happy with the work this morning (from We Miss Artie), I didn't think it was typical of what we've seen from him. He seems to be cooling out fine but ... I've been telling everyone all week that he normally works good on the dirt. This morning he didn't."
Pletcher added he was "not sure at all" if We Miss Artie should go on to the Kentucky Derby. When reached by the Herald-Leader later Sunday, owner Ken Ramsey said the colt would not be withdrawn without physical issue.
"I asked the exercise rider (Nick Bush) based on the work, would you take him out of the Derby and save him for the Preakness or something, and he said no," Ramsey said. "The dirt may very well be different Saturday than what it is now, and he may handle it better. Bottom line is We Miss Artie has earned his shot at the roses and if he stays sound, we're staying in."
Pletcher also worked Grade I Arkansas Derby winner Danza and Vinceremos in company going four furlongs, with Danza getting the better of the move. The son of Street Boss finished up in 48.80 traveling on the outside with Vinceremos going in 49 flat in an effort that likely cemented his spot in the Derby field.
"In particular Intense Holiday and Danza have trained great since they've been here," Pletcher said. "Vinceremos did well enough for us to consider a start (in the Derby)."
Chitu loses shoe in move
Sunland Derby winner Chitu lost the special shoe on his right front foot while breezing six furlongs from the gate in 1:13.20 on Sunday.
Chitu is being treated for seedy toe, a rare but potentially dangerous fungus condition. Baffert said that he and his staff have dealt with Chitu's seedy toe issue for several months and it has not affected the colt's racing career.
The son of Henny Hughes lost of piece of his hoof in the treatment of the condition and the special shoe gives additional support to the area.
"He runs in regular shoes," Baffert said. "It's a little fungus that gets in the toe and eats the front of the wall. It's not painful or anything. He's never been sore. The fungus is under control, but we just took a lot of the wall in the front of hoof off. We always have it covered up, but right now we have it open so it can get air and dry out. He's fine."
Baffert added that Bayern is no longer a candidate for the Derby. Bayern finished first in the Derby Trial Saturday night, but was disqualified to second for bumping with Embellishing Bob. Bayern was 21st on the list for the 20 berths in the Derby, but Baffert said that even if a spot opens up the colt will not run.
Wildcat Red, Ride On Curlin work
Despite a less-than-stellar time, trainer Jose Garoffalo was pleased after Grade II winner Wildcat Red worked five furlongs in 1:04.40 on Sunday.
The winner of the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes posted fractions of :13.20, :25.80, :38.80 and :51.20, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:20.60.
"The track seemed a little heavy but he did good, he didn't have to do much," Garoffalo said. "The good thing is he didn't want to stop after the wire. He came back very good."
Ride On Curlin, runner-up in the Arkansas Derby, worked seven furlongs on Sunday in 1:29 for trainer Billy Gowan.
"We wanted to go slow and then finish up, and that's what he did," Gowan said. "Just a maintenance work. He's fit."