Ten Most Wanted stamped himself as Empire Maker's public enemy number one this morning with a brilliant 5-furlong work. Not to be outdone, Buddy Gil also turned in another of his typical sharp works.
The one interesting aspect of Derby Week is that no opinion is safe from change. Just when you're convinced you've seen your Derby horse, you see something better the next day. After yesterday's work by Atswhatimtalknbout and today's work by Ten Most Wanted, the Derby might be shaping up as a closer's race. We're starting to see some heavy-duty closing times and strong gallop-outs by stretch runners, which could have a major bearing on the Derby, considering the number of speed horses and stalkers in the field.
When you look at horses like Indian Express, Peace Rules, Funny Cide, and Brancusi, you see a competitive race up front, not to mention a strong second tier, made up of Empire Maker, Buddy Gil, Kafwain, and Offlee Wild. If you get some major battles on or near the lead, then you could be looking for someone to come along and pick up the pieces.
The one such horse most people will be taking a long, hard look at is Ten Most Wanted. His immature days sitting right off the pace are over, and a new Ten Most Wanted will go to the post on Derby Day. It sounds strange, but this big, grand-looking son of Deputy Commander is looking so good in every aspect of the game, it's almost scary. Unlike Atswhatimtalknbout, who has to bounce back from a fall and prove his worth once again, Ten Most Wanted is constantly moving forward with giant strides. All the signs are there for a huge performance on Derby Day.
Of course, he hasn't beaten a top-class stakes winner, and he does pick up 12 pounds off the Illinois Derby, but it's difficult watching him train to think he won't be able to overcome that.
In today's work, he really showed off his magnificent stride, and he was going so smoothly, it looked like you could have balanced a glass of water on Pat Day's back and not spilled a drop. Day never moved his hands, as the big colt rattled off his eighths in :12 or less with his ears pricked, and came home his final quarter in :23 3/5 to complete the 5 furlongs in :59 2/5. When Day rose in the saddle after passing the wire, Ten Most Wanted lowered his head and kept going strongly, galloping out another eighth in :13, giving him a 1:12 2/5 gallop-out time.
He kept rolling down the backstretch, and was still so strong, it looked as if he were breaking from five-furlong pole instead of pulling up from a work. "He definitely could have gone around again," Day said. Coming off the track, it was as if he had never worked. He didn't even take a deep breath and was virtually cooled out by the time he got back to the barn. Assistant trainer Aimee Dollase worked up a good sweat walking him around the shed afterward.
This work, in addition to the yesterday's works by Empire Maker and Atswhatimtalknbout, were standouts, and you might not have to look much farther to find your trifecta box.
As for Buddy Gil's 5-furlong work in :59 3/5, this has become routine for the Santa Anita Derby winner. He's been throwing in these kind of works for the past two months, and you don't expect anything less of him. Trainer Jeff Mullins said he's never asked for speed, and only works fast because that's what he wants to do and does it all on his own. That was evident this morning when Buddy picked up an unscheduled workmate in the stretch and rolled on by him as if he weren't there. With Gary Stevens up in the saddle, Buddy was on cruise control throughout and shaded :24 for the final quarter, while paying absolutely no attention to the horse inside him.
Although he's an even-tempered horse by nature, he's getting aggressive now and has taken a little chunk out of a couple of people in the past few days. He and Kafwain are currently vying for the title of least respected multiple graded stakes winner in the field. This is a tough, hard-nosed horse in competition and he is really the only horse who has shown he can take physical punishment in a race and shrug it off. If you tangle with this guy, you're likely going to get more than you dish out. What do you expect from a gelding raised in Idaho?
Speaking of Kafwain, he demonstrated his mental fortitude by keeping his cool when he got stuck behind the gate, while schooling, for more than 20 minutes after a horse was injured nearby and veterinarians had to attend to him. The son of Cherokee Run had his strongest gallop yet on Saturday, and he'll work again tomorrow, along with stablemate Indian Express.
With rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, D. Wayne Lukas moved Scrimshaw's work up a day, sending him out under the cover of darkness for a 5-furlong spin in 1:02 1/5. The son of Gulch took the turn for home very wide and was just loping along very easily down the stretch.
T.V. Smith, who's been playing catch-up with Offlee Wild since the colt got sick in Florida in February, has been trying to build up his stamina with long gallops. Today, the son of Wild Again galloped a mile and a half, then schooled in the gate before galloping another mile and a half. If he works sharply tomorrow and comes home strong, he is going to be an intriguing longshot pick, and a smart horse to fill the exactas and trifectas.
In the Blue Grass, he galloped out very strongly, way ahead of the two colts who beat him, and Pat Day had a heckuva time pulling him up. With the colt's blood still up and his mouth open, Day had to use a stranglehold on him. Remember, when it comes to stamina, you're not going to find a stronger pedigree in this field, so he can take this kind of training. His sire won the Breeders' Cup Classic; his broodmare sire (Seattle Slew) won the Triple Crown; his dam is a half-sister to the top-class stamina sire, Dynaformer; and his second dam is by another top-class stamina sire, His Majesty. This is the family of Monarchos, Brian's Time, Sunshine Forever, and Memories of Silver, just to name a few of the major stakes winners from this family. This is one horse to whom you might want to give a second look as a longshot play.
Mike Tomlinson said, because he has to work a filly at Churchill tomorrow, he will send Sir Cherokee over to work as well, instead of working him at Trackside as originally planned.
Also working tomorrow will be Lone Star Sky, whose status will be determined by the work. Being it's extremely rare to see a horse in this position work poorly enough to keep him out of the Derby, we're going to assume that Lone Star Sky will be in the starting gate on Saturday.
Another horse on the bubble is Lexington runner-up Eye of the Tiger, who turned in a sharp 5-furlong work this morning in 1:00 3/5. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said a decision whether to run in the Derby or not will be made early tomorrow morning.
It was strange seeing Domestic Dispute wearing a yellow bridle, as the former Bob Baffert colt galloped a mile and a half for new trainer Paddy Gallagher. Supah Blitz, a recent arrival from Calder, had a much stronger gallop today than he did yesterday, and will work tomorrow with regular jockey Rosemary Homeister aboard. Wood Memorial runner-up Funny Cide will work at Belmont tomorrow, then ship to Louisville late Wednesday morning. Blue Grass runner-up Brancusi will arrive on Wednesday or Thursday from trainer Patrick Biancone's barn at Keeneland. Outta Here, winner of the Delta Jackpot, arrived Sunday from California and just walked the shed this morning.