Barn Notes from Churchill Downs
Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale's conditioning of Fusao Sekiguchi's Fusaichi Pegasus -- a combination of trots, gallops and seemingly slow works -- generated much discussion before his victory in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Drysdale has employed the same tactics this fall as the colt approaches the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), although he has competed just once -- a win in the one-mile Jerome (gr. II) on Sept. 23 at Belmont Park -- since his upset loss in the Preakness (gr. I) in mid-May. But Fusaichi Pegasus heralded his readiness for the Kentucky Derby with a strong final work that included an explosive run through the stretch. And he has concluded his training for the Classic in the same manner.
The 3-year-old son of Mr. Prospector completed his serious training for the 1 1/4-mile Classic with a seven-furlong breeze in 1:27 4/5 over a "fast" track. Exercise rider Andy Durnin was in the irons for the move, which was the fastest work of three at the distance.
Fusaichi Pegasus, as usual, went to the track with workmate Bodyguard. The work commenced on the first turn at the seven-eighths pole, with the Derby winner to the outside and about 1 1/2 lengths off his workmate. In their last work together, Bodyguard had actually finished about a half-length in front of his heralded workmate, but that did not happen Sunday. Fusaichi Pegasus moved alongside Bodyguard on the far turn and, when Durnin allowed him to run in mid-stretch, quickly burst away from his workmate and was several lengths clear at the finish. Bodyguard, also now owned by Sekiguchi, was timed in 1:28 2/5.
"He's as good or better than he's ever felt before," Durnin said. "I can't explain it, but there's hardly anybody who has ever felt anything like it before. I've been on a lot of horses in 18 years, but I've never had a feeling like that before."
"The work went as planned," Drysdale said. "He went well."
The work was the third for Fusaichi Pegasus since his victory in the Jerome. He worked a half-mile in :49 4/5 at Belmont on Oct. 2 and then an easy six furlongs in 1:16 4/5 at Churchill Downs on Oct. 23.
"The last work (at Churchill Downs) was much easier," Durnin said. "Although he did this one easy, Neil wanted him to just stretch out the last eighth of a mile a little bit and just actually let him get a little bit more wind into him the last eighth of a mile. Last time it was just a good strong gallop around there."
Fusaichi Pegasus will attempt to become the fifth Kentucky Derby winner to also win the Classic. The other Derby-Classic winners were Ferdinand (1987), Alysheba ('88), Sunday Silence ('89) and Unbridled ('90).