Steve Haskin's Kentucky Derby Report: The Storm Before the Calm Before the Storm
by Steve Haskin
Date Posted: 4/26/2003 1:54:42 PM
Last Updated: 1/8/2004 7:18:58 PM

The storm that hit Louisville yesterday lingered until mid-morning, with the drizzle and wind finally giving way to brightening skies. With very little action, today will be more of a Derby potpourri. The heavy duty works pick up tomorrow, headed by Empire Maker and Peace Rules, and we'll also get a look at Atswhatimtalknbout working with blinkers under David Flores.

Saturday's only worker was Brancusi, who has not exactly been training by the book. Then again, trainer Patrick Biancone has never read the book, and even if he had, he'd probably throw it away.

"I have my own book," said Biancone, who elected to remain at Keeneland and work Brancusi a mile on the turf instead of vanning him to Churchill Downs for a more traditional dirt work. The grand-looking son of Deputy Commander breezed an easy mile over a yielding turf course in 1:43 4/5.

"I'm not interested in the time," Biancone said. "The grass was soft and I just wanted a good work to stretch his legs. It was more of a long, steady work, and he did it nice and easy."

Biancone said he's planning on vanning Brancusi to Churchill Downs on Wednesday afternoon, which would give him at least two mornings over the Churchill track. Biancone originally had planned to ship to Churchill for a Friday work. But the storm put his schedule back a day. When the rains continued through the late afternoon on Friday, Biancone decided to stay at Keeneland, with the turf as an option if the dirt track was sloppy. Biancone did wind up working on the turf, and the irony of it is that the main track at Churchill was in excellent shape, producing several strong works, including one by Kentucky Oaks favorite Elloluv.

We're really looking forward to seeing Brancusi when he ships in, as he's been pretty high up on the Derby Watch list for quite a while. Although some people feel that Biancone has outsmarted himself by remaining at Keeneland and having to ultimately work over the turf, this is one of the sharpest trainers in the world, and he's dangerous no matter how he works a horse. But this is the Kentucky Derby and there is a book, and we'll be curious to see if the book or Biancone win this battle.

Two horses who had their best gallops this morning were Empire Maker and Kafwain. Empire Maker was very smooth and professional and just made an excellent appearance. Kafwain was strong, but just glided along with his ears up. It was a very professional move, and at one point he rolled right on by stablemate Indian Express, who also is looking better and more professional every day. Trainer Bob Baffert has not ruled out starting Senor Swinger in the Derby, but all he's had since the Wood Memorial is a 1:03 breeze on the turf, so watch for a sharp, Baffert-style drill next time out, after which he'll make up his mind.

Frankel had planned on using his Woodford Reserve starter Requette as a workmate for Empire Maker tomorrow, but is now seriously considering switching the assignment to Epicenter. "I don't want to take too much out of Requette," Frankel said.

Peace Rules had his usual strong gallop, but, unlike yesterday, he came off the track like a perfect gentleman, escorted by assistant Ruben Loza.

One thing we said we'll be looking for over the two weeks prior to the Derby is how Atswhatimtalknbout progress or regresses. After watching him tearing at the grass while grazing, and breaking from the gate and galloping this morning, there is no doubt the colt is progressing. We saw the aggression and enthusiasm we were looking for as he broke from the gate and immediately was full of himself. He continued to gallop enthusiastically, occasionally tossing his head around. His big test comes tomorrow when he works with blinkers under jockey David Flores. After what we saw today, we expect a very sharp move.

Ten Most Wanted may have set a Derby record this morning for the longest time away from the barn. The imposing son of Deputy Commander had a little jog before schooling in the paddock. As he was finishing up his school, the good filly, Midnight Cry, broke down near the quarter, and no horses were allowed on the track for a good 10-15 minutes. When Ten Most Wanted finally was able to get back on the track he turned in a strong gallop and looked super coming off the track with his neck bowed.. Each day, this colt appears more dappled out, which is something you want to see. . He is looking more and more like the so-called wise guy horse, and could very well get bet down to second choice.

Offlee Wild has his own video, that was made up by a member of the Azalea Stables partnership. With the theme song from "Rocky" as the background music throughout the video, it shows some of the colt's races, along with images from the movie "Gladiator," as well other little interesting touches. Just the right kind of entertainment for a slow morning.

Bob Baffert moved way up in his relationship with the media this morning, becoming the first trainer on record to sacrifice life and especially limb to save the hide of a well-respected journalist. While Baffert was showing him (no, not me, much more respected than that) Indian Express, the colt took a quick lunge at the journalist. Baffert, demonstrating his protective instincts, thrust his arm between Indian Express' teeth and the unsuspecting journalist. The result of his heroism was a nasty, quarter-sized welt on his forearm where Indian Express nailed him. Way to go, Bob.

Another equine bite victim this morning was Amy Mullins, assistant and exercise rider for her husband, Jeff Mullins (told you it was a slow day). After mentioning yesterday that Buddy Gill was one of the kinder and gentler Derby horses (at least he was while we were playing with him), he went and made us look bad by biting Amy on the arm. Amy said the gelding normally is kind and gentle, but he does have his moments. "Yesterday, for instance, when we walked him, he walked around there so quietly, then he just blew up without warning," she said.

With the purchase of Domestic Dispute, who will run in the Derby, and the possibility of Ten Cents a Shine, Senor Swinger, and Lone Star Sky being entered, we could wind up with 18 or 19 for the Run for the Roses.

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