Three major contenders for Kentucky Derby 127 - John C. Oxley's Monarchos and Hero's Tribute and Mary and Gary West's Dollar Bill - turned in strong five furlong works at Churchill Downs Sunday as the colts prepared for their final prep races for the "Run for the Roses" at the Louisville track on May 5.All three horses breezed five furlongs over a "fast" surface on a warm, breezy morning just after the regular break for track maintenance.Florida Derby (GI) winner Monarchos was the fastest of the trio as he covered the distance in 1:00 1/5 under jockey Brian Beccia. The move was the fourth fastest of 21 at the distance. Hero's Tribute, also under Beccia, was timed in 1:00 2/5. Dollar Bill, ridden by regular exercise partner Joanne McNamara, worked in company with 3-year-old stablemate Benge B and completed the distance in 1:00 3/5. Trainer John Ward, who conditions both of Oxley's horses, was happy with the works over a surface that he described as "cuppy." He said Monarchos handled the track the better than Hero's Tribute."The instructions on him (Monarchos) were to let him go away, settle, and then turn in a little rally there at the last of it - and then not let him gallop out too hard," said Ward. "He did it all right, he galloped out good, and he came back good."
Ward said he thought Hero's Tribute, runner-up in the Iroquois and third in the Louisiana Derby (GII), "fought the racetrack a little bit" in his work."I thought he was more comfortable over the racetrack the other day when it was wet and packed," he said. "That supports my theory that he's going to like a little harder, faster racetrack. Considering that he didn't handle the racetrack that well, I thought that was a pretty representative work."
Monarchos, a son of Maria's Mon, is scheduled to run Saturday in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Hero's Tribute, a son of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, will run in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland on the same day. Ward said Sunday's works were more than just preps for next weekend's races.
"I thought these two works were probably Derby works," Ward said. "I don't see having to do much after the races next weekend for the three weeks going into the Derby. These horses might only work one time going into the Derby. They know Churchill Downs now."The breeze by Dollar Bill continued trainer Dallas Stewart's recent pattern of very solid training moves by the son of Peaks and Valleys. He said Dollar Bill does not need to do anything spectacular at this point."I thought he worked great," Stewart said. "He was well within himself and sat off a workmate. He was just on cruise and we never really asked much of him. He just drew a couple of deep breaths walking home, but he was also full of himself. He stood there (after the work) and got his bath and acted like a very fit racehorse."Dollar Bill's most recent race was a troubled fourth place finish in the Louisiana Derby. Stewart is anxious to see how his colt, who won the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall at Churchill Downs, competes in what bids to be a very strong field for the Toyota Blue Grass."I think we've got a fit horse," he said. "We'll see where we run Saturday. If we need to do a little more with him we can do that after the race. Dollar Bill's workmate, Benge B, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5.