WinStar Farm’s Colonel John, one of the favorites for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), solidified his status with a scintillating five-furlong bullet work over the main track at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. Under exercise rider Karine Lhuillier, Colonel John got the trip in :57 4/5.
Colonel John, winner of the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in his last start, broke off at the three-quarter pole and lowered his body and really picked it up at the five-eighths. He was clocked in splits of :12, :23 1/5, :34 3/5, :46. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:11 1/5. His final quarter was in a snappy :23 1/5.
Looking on was Elliott Walden, a former trainer and vice president of WinStar Farm.
“He went very well,” Walden said. “I don’t think it was too fast considering we’re six days out (from the Derby). We feel very comfortable about it.
“The track is very ‘live’ this morning,” Walden continued. “We had quite a few horses work fast today. I clocked (Oaks hopeful) Proud Spell in :58 and one. Eight Bells went in :58 and one, too. Good horses work fast. He handled the dirt – that was a good indicator. The rider never moved and she felt he handled the surface well.”
The main concern with Colonel John’s Derby chances lie in the fact he has not run a race over a dirt track with all six of his previous efforts having come over synthetic surfaces in California. A winner of four of six starts, with two seconds, Colonel John broke his maiden in his second start during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita last October, then won the $105,000 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park, and finished up his 2-year-old campaign with a runner-up effort in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I).
This year, the son of Tiznow , out of the Turkoman mare Sweet Damsel, won the Sham Stakes (gr. III) by a half-length over El Gato Malo, then came from ninth to win the Santa Anita Derby by a half-length over Bob Black Jack.
“The way this horse is going, you just hope you can stay together the next six days and we have a chance,” Walden said outside Barn 41. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Colonel John is trained by Eoin Harty. As an assistant, for Bob Baffert, Harty has been to the Derby before with winner Silver Charm and Real Quiet. Real Quiet's bid for the Triple Crown was stopped at the wire of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) by Victory Gallop, who was trained by....Elliott Walden.