Sidelines with John Clay

Unexpected battle took place during Kentucky Derby works on Sunday

It’s getting down to crunch time for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and with several probables working Sunday morning, a tricky situation arose on the track.

Toyota Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Win Win Win, who was working for trainer Michael Trombetta, unexpectedly hooked up with Tacitus and Country House, two horses who were working for trainer Bill Mott.

“They all handled it well,” Mott said afterward. “(Win Win Win) stayed outside, so there wasn’t a problem. I have to compliment Julian Pimentel (the jockey on Win Win Win) for doing an excellent job.”

Many onlookers said they had not seen that before, three horses involving two different Derby connections, working side-by-side. Mott said it’s not unusual during regular training when there are many horses on the track, but it was unusual for the 15-minute period in which only Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses are allowed on the Churchill Downs surface.

Win Win Win worked 4 furlongs in :47.60. Wood Memorial winner Tacitus and Arkansas Derby third-place finisher Country House worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.

The most anticipated work of the day belonged to Bob Baffert’s Improbable, who sports the same connections of last year’s Triple Crown winner Justify. Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and Starlight Racing, Improbable worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60.

“I was really happy with him,” said Baffert of the Arkansas Derby runner-up. “He went really well. He was a little bit fresh today, a little bit anxious. I loved the way he leveled off.”

Baffert will race three horses on Saturday in an attempt to tie legendary trainer Ben Jones with six Kentucky Derby victories. In addition to Improbable, Baffert will saddle Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster and last year’s 2-year-old champion, Game Winner. Both Roadster and Game Winner stepped foot on the Churchill Downs track for the first time Sunday but did not work.

Game Winner worked 7 furlongs in 1:27.00 on Friday at Santa Anita before shipping to Churchill on Saturday. Roadster went 6 furlongs in 1:13.80 at Santa Anita on Friday before making the trip to Louisville.

Fountain of Youth winner Code of Honor also worked at Churchill Downs on Sunday. Trained by Shug McGaughey, Code of Honor worked 4 furlongs in a sharp :46.80. He finished third in the Florida Derby last time out.

Probable Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach turned in an impressive work on Saturday, going five furlongs in :59. It was the second-fastest work Saturday at that distance, behind only Baffert’s McKinzie, a 4-year-old who earned a bullet with a time of :58 3/5.

War of Will, who had won the Lecomte and Risen Star before finishing ninth in the Louisiana Derby, turned in an excellent 4 furlongs in :47.60 on Saturday for trainer Mark Casse. The son of War Front lost his footing at the start of the Louisiana Derby, but has trained well since.

UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait worked 5 furlongs in 1:02 on Saturday for trainer Brendan Walsh.

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