There was frost on the ground when Churchill Downs opened for training Wednesday morning, but a bright sun was shining by the time three Kentucky Derby contenders completed their workouts much to the satisfaction of two California-based trainers.
Trainer Bob Baffert, seeking a Derby repeat after his success with War Emblem last year, sent his contenders Kafwain and Indian Express to the track at the same time and the pair worked in company.
Both horses worked seven furlongs, but the Churchill clockers recorded the workouts for six furlongs. Kafwain breezed the seven-eighths of a mile in 1;26, with Indian Express a tick back in 1;26 1/5. Churchill clockers posted a six furlong workout time of 1:13 1/5 for Kafwain and 1:13 2/5 for Indian Express.
"This was a really good work, better than I thought they would do," Baffert said. "It wasn't a 'lights out' kind of work, but they are not lights out types of horses. The track is not as fast as it usually is. It's a demanding surface, which is good because I wanted a demanding workout."
Wednesday's breeze was the first for Kafwain since the son of Cherokee run finished third in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 5. "Kafwain was sick after the Santa Anita Derby and he needed a hard work," Baffert said. "That's why I worked them together. Kafwain is such a hard-trying horse and this work will move him way up."
Indian Express, a son of Indian Charlie, finished second in the Santa Anita Derby at 36-1 odds. He has won half of his four career starts.
Baffert said this was the last serious work for the pair, who will have one more breeze prior to the May 3 Derby.
The only other Derby contender to work Wednesday was Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Ten Most Wanted, who went seven furlongs in 1:25 3/5. Again, Churchill clockers timed the work for six furlongs in 1:11 4/5 and reported that the son of Deputy Commander galloped out seven-eighths of a mile in 1;25 3/5. Trainer Wally Dollase said the colt galloped out a mile in "1;38 and change."
Dollase and Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, who was aboard for the workout, were pleased with the effort.
"This was a very nice work," Dollase said. "The main thing is that Pat was very happy. He's 'the man'."
Dollase said Ten Most Wanted, who will breeze a half-mile three or four days before the Derby, "was a little antsy and wanting to go. That's the way he is. He's got no bottom."
"I was very pleased with the way he went about his business," Day said of Ten Most Wanted. "He went about his business in professional fashion. He was responsive and he finished up well. He's got a lot of foundation under him. I think he's gained weight since the Illinois Derby (on April 5). I am very pleased with how this horse is coming along and I expect a big effort. From the work this morning, there is every indication he will give a big effort."
Day has ridden Ten Most Wanted in his last two starts, including a third-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields previous to the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Racecourse,
"I was very taken with him the first time I saw him," Day said. "He is a very big, strong individual who gets over the ground easily."