While many Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contenders were in action Saturday in one of the three major prep races, Perfect Drift and Ethan Man simply put in morning works in Louisville.
Lane's End Spiral Stakes (gr. II) winner Perfect Drift breezed five furlongs in 1:02 2/5 on the muddy Churchill training track, while West Point Thoroughbreds' Ethan Man went the same distance in 1:01 2/5 on a sloppy Churchill Downs strip.
Joe Deegan was in the irons for Perfect Drift's exercise. He guided the son of Dynaformer through fractions of :25 2/5 and :51, before the gelding came home his final furlong in :11 2/5. Perfect Drift then galloped out six furlongs in 1:15 2/5.
"When he was a younger horse, when you sort of asked him he'd explode -- he'd just give it all and give you a big surge," trainer Murray Johnson said. "Now, as he's gotten older, when the rider asks him he's learned to respond more gradually and pick it up gradually. Joe just gets a lot better feeling on him and says that he's so strong and he's not in a big hurry to go on with it. He picks it up and just keeps on motoring."
Johnson will work Perfect Drift six furlongs on Friday in company with stablemate Slough Creek. He remains high on Perfect Drift's chances in the Derby.
"The way he's training he's gotten more professional than before the Spiral, so we should be in good shape." Johnson said.
Unlike Perfect Drift, who has won a nine-furlong race and finished a game second in two other two-turn stakes, Ethan Man has yet to race beyond seven furlongs. The bay son of Glitterman won the Swale Stakes (gr. III) last out for trainer Pat Byrne and will stretch out for a start in the 1 1/16-mile Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) April 20.
"It was an easy effort -- he basically just stretched his legs," said Byrne. "He's ready to run next week and I certainly don't want to look for any more speed, so he's ready to go."
Byrne had considered running Ethan Man in the Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill on April 27, but opted for Keeneland's race to see how the colt handles two turns.
With Kevin Willey in the saddle, Ethan Man ran his first quarter-mile in :25 before going a half-mile in :49 1/5. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:15 1/5.
"This track is good when it gets a little water on it," Byrne said. "It was sealed good and I knew it would be tight. It was heavy, because we've had quite a bit of rain. We were looking for 1:01-and-change and that's what we got. He worked on his own and galloped out on his own."