Churchill clockers recorded the official work as five furlongs in 1:01 3/5, but trainer Derek Ryan said the three-quarters of a mile timing was the desired workout under jockey Eibar Coa, who flew into Louisville for the morning exercise regimen before returning to New York to ride the afternoon card at Aqueduct.
Ryan said there were some anxious moments during the workout, with the colt first hooking up with some other workout horses and then another horse coming in close to him late in the routine. “At the eighth pole he had to check a little bit when some guy crossed over near the wire, but it really didn’t affect him too much.”
Noting he was “not trading places with anybody” in regard to Musket Man being one of the overlooked Derby contenders, Ryan said he figured the colt to be in the top 10 among the race field. Ryan said he was not concerned with Musket Man’s Derby odds, noting he wagered on the colt through a Las Vegas winter book at 150-1 in January.
“It is a little progression at a time and hopefully he will be at 100% for this one,” Ryan said. “He has improved off his last two races and every race he gets a little better.”
Bred in Kentucky by Jim E. Nelson and Sergio de Sousa, Musket Man races for Eric Fein and Vic Carlson.
In his six career starts, the colt has been the model of consistency, winning five times with one third-place finish and earnings of $572,600. After breaking his maiden at Belmont Park, the colt won an allowance at Philadelphia Park to conclude his 2-year-old season. Brought back in 2009 at Tampa Bay, Musket Man won the Pasco Stakes before moving into graded stakes company for the first time with a third-place finish in the grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes won by General Quarters. He followed that with a come-from-behind triumph in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) before taking the $500,000 Illinois Derby at 1 1/8 miles.
Coa said he liked the fact Musket Man colt was more aggressive in the workout than in the past, indicating the Yonaguska colt is “fit and ready.”
The rider, who was aboard Musket Man for the first time in his Illinois Derby triumph, said the added aggressiveness would be needed in the 1 1/4-mile Derby as he would like to get off to a quick start before settling in for the rest of the race.
Although Musket Man does not have the speed to be on the lead in the Derby, Coa said getting a good start would allow him to position the colt where he wants. “He is very professional. He is easy to ride.”