Trainer Bob Baffert admitted his lone Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contender Sort It Out is no Bellamy Road, one of the favorites for Saturday's classic, but said the colt's workout at Churchill Downs Monday morning was the best he's ever seen of the horse.
Showing an affinity for the Churchill surface, Sort It Out zipped a half-mile in :47 1/5.
"He actually surprised me today," Baffert said. "He really was aggressive. That's probably the best he's worked in his life."
One of the most experienced horses in the Derby field with 12 career starts, Sort It Out has four wins, including the Whirlaway at Aqueduct.
In his last start the New York-bred son of Out of Place
ran second 3 1/2 lengths behind Todd Pletcher-trained Coin Silver in the April 23 Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.
"He's really moved forward a lot since he's gotten to Kentucky," Baffert said. "He looks much better. Some horses just do that when they come here. They start turning the corner and blossoming and that's what he's doing right now. He's really going to have to blossom in the next five days to keep up with those other heavy hitters. At least he looks like he has a chance to get a piece of the pie."
Baffert said Sort It Out is not "much of a work horse," and was impressed by his uncharacteristic aggressiveness Monday under rider Dana Barnes.
"That's not like him at all," Baffert said. "He's telling me that he's really enjoying what he's doing."
Baffert said the decision to run Sort It Out in the Derby rested on Monday's workout.
"I liked what I saw today," the trainer said. "He proved to me he does deserve a chance to run in the Derby. He brought a little excitement to the barn today, even though he's a long-shot."
With that in mind the trainer seems to be taking his underdog position in stride.
"It's one of those things where you have 20 horses and somebody has to fill the gates," he said. "So we're in there and you can't win it unless you're in it."
Baffert trains Sort It Out for Stonerside Stable and Preferred Pals. He will be seeking his fourth Derby win this year.