LOUISVILLE — With the expected rain giving way to mild temperatures and sunshine, a foursome of Kentucky Derby hopefuls — led by Grade I winners Union Rags and Dullahan — hit the Churchill Downs track Saturday to put in their final major preparations.
Just after the renovation break at 8:30 a.m., Union Rags, Dullahan, Prospective and Went the Day Well had all the cameras on them as they readied for their respective breezes.
Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective was the first to complete his work, covering 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 in company with Moon Traveler and finishing about 3 lengths in front.
Dullahan also drilled 5 furlongs, clocking in at 1:01.20 while Union Rags worked 4 furlongs in :59.80 with jockey Julien Leparoux up. Went the Day Well was officially clocked going 5 furlongs in 1:01 flat with trainer Graham Motion recording him going 6 furlongs in 1:141⁄5 under jockey John Velazquez.
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Trainer Michael Matz admittedly didn't have the best view to see Union Rags' move, but his eyes lit up when he heard the final time.
"We wanted him to have a strong work here and that was the plan all along," Matz said. "I wish I could've seen it, but all I saw was the front part of it, the last quarter mile, but he looked like he did that nice. (Leparoux) said he galloped out real strong and said he thinks he likes the track."
Went the Day Well, winner of the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in March, is trying to give Motion, Velazquez and owners Team Valor their second consecutive win in the Derby following Animal Kingdom's triumph last season. Went the Day Well is known for being more lazy than spectacular in the mornings but put in one of the most impressive moves Saturday, clocking splits of 12.40, 24.60, 36.60, 48.80 in company with stablemate Crimson China and finishing about 3 lengths in front.
"Johnny (Velazquez) was very pleased with him," Motion said. "He actually thought he breezed a little better over here than he did on the synthetic last week so we're very happy with that. Animal Kingdom was an exceptional work horse where this horse tends to be a little lazy, but I thought today was probably one of the best works I've seen him do to be honest."
Went the Day Well worked in blinkers Saturday, and Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin said after the work the colt would race with them on for the Derby.
Dullahan, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last time out, recorded splits of :11.80, :23.80 and :36 with Tammy Fox up. Dullahan has yet to win in three tries over a dirt surface but has pleased trainer Dale Romans with how he has moved over the Churchill track in recent days.
"That was perfect, that was all we were looking for," Romans said. "We just wanted a nice maintenance breeze. He's plenty fit. We just wanted to let him stretch his legs, stretch his lungs a little bit. We'll take it easy from here."
Trainer Mark Casse called Prospective's outing "perfect" after the colt put in splits of :12.20, :24.80, :36.80, and :49.
"I told (jockey) Shaun (Bridgmohan) to go 1:01, so I think he went 1:01 and 1, so he'll get docked for that," Casse laughed. "He said he just was super. The horse he works with is not a bad horse and I was surprised at how easily he worked away from him. We've said all along that he likes Churchill and I think he does. We're ready."
Hansen works at Trackside
Reigning juvenile champion Hansen got a little help from a friend in his final move before next Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
In a 5-furlong breeze at Churchill's Trackside Training Center, Hansen covered the distance in 1:01.20 working the first 3 furlongs solo and then getting company in the form of stablemate Derby Kitten for the final portion.
As Hansen came into the lane for the last 2 furlongs of his work, Derby Kitten dropped in and acted as a target for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner with the latter recording splits of : 12.20, :24.60, :36.80, and :49.20.
"It was good, we weren't looking to do a whole lot today," trainer Mike Maker said. "The plan was to go a soft first three-eighths and then finish up the last quarter, which he did. We wanted an honest effort all the way through."
Alpha tunes up at Belmont
Godolphin Racing's Alpha had his first breeze since his runner-up finish in the Grade I Wood Memorial, turning in a :59.54 5-furlong breeze over the Belmont Park track Saturday with Rajiv Maragh aboard.
Going in company with stablemate Steele Road, Alpha was caught traveling the opening eighth of a mile in 11.69 seconds, a quarter in 23.22, and a half in 47.15. He galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:15.12.
"That was a little bit faster than most of our horses work," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He's only having this one work in between, so we wanted a good, solid half-out-five-eighths."
Alpha is scheduled to fly to Louisville on Monday. McLaughlin said Maragh could ride the colt in the Derby but isn't ready to make a commitment to any rider.
"If we entered this morning, he would be riding, but we just want to see if any other jockeys come open over the weekend," McLaughlin said.
Done Talking preps
Illinois Derby winner Done Talking finished his major work for Derby 138 by working a bullet 5 furlongs in 1:01 at Laurel Park with jockey Sheldon Russell up.
The move was the best of 17 at the distance over a fast track. Done Talking galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:14.60.