Steve Haskin's Derby Report: The Countdown Begins

Steve Haskin's Derby Report: The Countdown Begins
Photo: Anne Eberhardt
Kentucky Derby favorite Point Given, in his final workout Monday.
Tick...tick...tick. Nothing to do now but wait. This evening's draw for post positions will be the final stress test for the Derby trainers, after which they will just have to get by Thursday and Friday, and then racing's longest day – Derby Day. Then, it'll all be over in a heartbeat, and all the questions will be answered.

There was little activity this morning, as summer temperatures continue to climb by the day, bringing with them the forecast of possible thundershowers throughout the next few days. The morning's main action was Bob Baffert slipping Point Given past the hordes of onlookers virtually unnoticed. Because this was the colt's first trip to the track since his work on Monday, Baffert did not want a repeat of the incident that happened on the corresponding day last week, when a TV cameraman spooked the horse on his way back to the barn. This time, Baffert sent Point Given to the track earlier than usual and without his Derby saddlecloth, as he had done for his work. Baffert also instructed his assistant Jim Barnes to tell anyone who asked, that the horse would be going out following the break, as he normally does.

Point Given jogged to the chute and did rear slightly one time before breaking off in his gallop. He wasn't all that focused again, as exercise rider Dana Barnes tried to keep his head straight. Down the stretch, the big colt had his head turned toward the outside, as he's done on occasion during the past 10 days. According to one prominent trainer who has watched Point Given all winter at Santa Anita, it doesn't matter what this horse does. When it comes to the big day, he turns into a professional and dominates his overmatched opponents.

There was an all-star gathering of owners at Baffert's barn this morning, as Point Given's owner Prince Ahmed Salman arrived from Saudi Arabia, joining Baffert's two Derby-winning owners Mike Pegram and Bob and Beverly Lewis. Following the break, Baffert sent Congaree out for a light jog once around with the pony.

Other news

-- Actually, there wasn't much news at all this morning besides the announcement that Lexington winner Keats and Rebel Stakes runner-up Arctic Boy will run in the Derby The only worker was Talk is Money, who breezed three furlongs in :37 4/5. This is an attractive, striking chestnut, with a fluid way of moving.

-- With Talk is Money and Keats joining other speed horses and stalkers such as Balto Star, Millennium Wind, Songandaprayer, Express Tour, and Congaree, it should assure a very strong pace and a competitive battle on and near the front end. This evening's post position draw will be very interesting, with a lot of huddling and strategizing by the connections of the 17 horses that are expected to be entered.

-- Invisible Ink schooled at the gate this morning, and did everything perfectly. This is a colt who likely will ignored in the bettting, but he has been thriving here, and is doing everything the right way. He'll be a longshot on Saturday, but he's a colt who has overcome a great deal of adversity as a youngster, and as a racehorse, he takes everything in stride. With his style of running, he should get a good mid-pack trip, and it's just a question whether or not he's good enough to compete with some of the top contenders.

-- Startac made another grand appearance today, galloping at 9 o'clock. The one thing we like about this big, long-striding colt is how quickly he's acclimated to Churchill Downs. He's galloping over the track as if he relishes every bounce in his step. If his last two races were due to not handling the Northern California tracks, and he shows the punch here he did at Turf Paradise, he could surprise a lot of people.

-- Tom Albertrani said Express Tour likely will have a very easy blowout tomorrow that probably would not even be worthwhile timing by the clockers. The son of Tour d'Or may finish his gallop by picking it up from the wire to the half-mile pole. At this point, it looks as if Sheikh Mohammed and trainer Saeed bin Suroor will not attend the Derby, remaining in England for the Two Thousand Guineas.

-- Songandaprayer continues to train beautifully. The son of Unbridled's Song had another strong gallop to go along with his solid work last week. Trainer John Dowd decided to work the colt only once at Churchill Downs, feeling that's all he needs.

-- Tomorrow, we'll go over the post position draw, and how it may affect the running of the race, and what strategies the trainer will employ now that they know where they'll be breaking from.

Previous Reports:
Tuesday, May 1: Major Derby Works Conclude

Monday, April 30: Bob's Big Boys Burn Up Churchill Strip

Sunday, April 29: Fleet Four Fly Five Furlongs

Saturday, April 28: Express Train Roars Through Churchill

Friday, April 27: Monarchos Takes the Spotlight

Thursday, April 26: A Wind, A Songandaprayer

Wednesday, April 25: A Shiny, Crisp Dollar Bill

Tuesday, April 24: Point Given, Congaree Pass First Test

Monday, April 23: The Action Heats Up

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