B. Wayne Hughes' and Biscuit Stable's Atswhatimtalknbout worked a mile in 1:46 4/5 over a fast track at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning, which was five to six seconds slower than trainer Ron Ellis was looking for.
After several days of apparent progress by Atswhatimtalknbout, who has been recovering from a bruised foot, Ellis now has major questions to answer regarding the colt's status for the Belmont Stakes.
Ellis had hoped for an "easy" mile in the range of 1:40 or 1:41 in what was the colt's first work since bruising his right front foot, a portion of which is now covered by a fiberglass patch to reinforce a quarter crack. The quarter crack developed after an abscess in the injured area of the foot opened and drained. In addition to Ellis' concern over the injured foot, Atswhatimtalknbout lost the shoe on his uninjured left front foot during Wednesday's work.
"It wasn't what I wanted by any means," said Ellis. "He went awfully slow, but we'll see. He lost a shoe during the work and that probably didn't help him much."
Atswhatimtalknbout had been fitted with glue-on bar shoes on both front feet following the discovery of his foot bruise last week. The colt had trained in similar shoes over the winter at Santa Anita, but Ellis and his farrier, California-based Wes Champagne, had been concerned that the shoe - which is made of metal and plastic - would not work as well over the Churchill Downs surface.
"We'll regroup and see how he is the next couple of days and maybe come back on Sunday if he looks good," said Ellis. "If he doesn't, we'll pack him up and take him home and fix him up."
Ellis said he was not sure at what point Atswhatimtalknbout had lost his shoe. "How early he lost it, I don't know - but it certainly didn't help him," he said. "He didn't look like he was getting a hold of the ground real well in those (shoes), although he had galloped all week in them and had done real well. He didn't look like he was handling it when he went to stride out and try to a get a good grip of the ground."
Ellis planned to keep a close watch on Atswhatimtalknbout and the injured foot before his scheduled flight back to California Wednesday afternoon. Although Wednesday's work by the colt was clearly a disappointing effort, Ellis was not yet ready to give up hope on a run in the June 7 Belmont, the final jewel of the Visa Triple Crown.
"I'm still more concerned about the quarter crack that he has and we'll evaluate that tomorrow and the next day," Ellis said. "If he's training really well on it, what I'll do is put him company on Sunday and work him five-eighths. If he's in company I'll be able to see how well he's doing or not doing. The big thing is I don't want to get him hurt trying to train up to this one race because he's a really good horse and he's going to develop as he gets older."