Louie Roussel didn’t like the weather forecast for Saturday, or Sunday, and Monday for that matter. So, instead of having to shorten Recapturetheglory’s five-furlong scheduled work to a half-mile on Tuesday, he summoned jockey E.T. Baird and moved the colt’s work up to Friday.
Roussel, one of the most colorful characters, along with owner Ronnie Lamarque, to have taken part in the Kentucky Derby in the last 20 years, told Baird to go a nice, easy five furlongs in a around 1:00, but if the track was deep, then 1:01 or even 1:02 would have been fine. If the colt was moving comfortably over it, Baird was to ask him at the eighth pole, but if he felt the track was deep and he wasn’t comfortable, there was no need to take any chances and ask him to run. The son of Cherokee Run is dead-fit and this was meant as more of a maintenance drill. One of the colt’s main attributes is his bright, alert eye. He has good space between his eyes, which horsemen like to see to signify intelligence.
Recapturetheglory, who is coming off a four-length victory in the Illinois Derby (gr. II), broke off sharply, and Baird said he was flicking his ears through an opening quarter in :24 2/5. He then put in an :11 2/5 eighth to get the three furlongs in :35 4/5, while racing only a couple of paths off the rail. After a half in :48 2/5, he came home his final eighth in :12 4/5 to complete the five furlongs in 1:01 1/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.
After the work, Baird told Roussel the track was “real deep,” and after breaking off strong from the pole, the colt settled back into a nice, easy stride. Roussel read off the splits to him, and concluded by saying. “Perfect. Thank you so much. Good job. I’m really happy.”
Now, if Recapturetheglory, who will walk the next two days, keeps his head in the feed tub, Roussel will be able to relax and enjoy Derby week. “I’m glad to get it over with,” he said.
The other Derby worker this morning was Anak Nakal, who breezed a half in company in :46 3/5, the second fastest work at the distance.
We finally got a chance to get a good look at Steve Asmussen’s pair of Pyro and Z Fortune, who came out in the second and third sets. If looks are going to go a long way in determining the Derby winner, Asmussen has got to be feeling very good about his chances. For the past week, there have been rumors flying all over the country that Pyro was having problems. Even after the colt worked at Keeneland, the rumors persisted. From what we saw this morning, mainly from an overall physical standpoint, the son of Pulpit couldn’t be looking any better. He is a powerfully made colt, with a strong shoulder and hind end. His coat looks great and he moved well over the track, although he didn’t really gallop that far. The second he stepped foot on the track, with assistant trainer Scott Blasi alongside on the pony, he broke off into a strong canter and looked good the one time he galloped around. He’s not a long striding colt like Colonel John or Adriano. His action is much quicker, which probably accounted for his quick bursts of speed in the stretch of the Risen Star (gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
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No one knows how he’s going to rebound off his poor effort in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) or why he ran so badly. Was it strictly the Polytrack? But from his overall appearance, he certainly is eligible to return to the Pyro of old.
The horse that made the biggest impression this morning was stablemate Z Fortune, who is quite the physical specimen. He also galloped only once around, but he was moving beautifully over the track with his neck arched and hitting the ground with great authority. Many look at him as a smart longshot pick, and judging from what we saw today and his huge Thoro-Graph number in the grade II Arkansas Derby (negative 3/4), he just may be. He’s one we’ll be watching closely next week. One thing is for sure, from a physical standpoint, Asmussen will two of the best looking horses in the Derby.
The other horse that fills the eye with his grand looks is Adriano, who also galloped this morning. His next work will be of great interest. He made a gorgeous appearance grazing this morning. For a colt who totally blew his cool before the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), costing himself all chance, he couldn’t have been more content and relaxed as he picked grass with great relish. Some horses will act up grazing, with all the traffic on Longfield Avenue and the sudden noises. But Adriano never turned a hair and was oblivious to everything. His coat glistened and he looked in great health.
Colonel John seems to be moving better over the track each day, and his work, either tomorrow or Sunday, likely will create the biggest interest of any of the Derby starters, as it will be his first ever on dirt.
Possibly the most unassuming looking Derby horse is Court Vision, who basically comes wrapped in a small brown package. But, as they used to say, he’s all hickory. He goes out there and does his job race after race. On the speed sheets, he looks to be sitting on a career best effort.
The two Larry Jones-trained fillies, Eight Belles and Proud Spell, were due to arrive at Churchill downs from Keeneland at 2 p.m. this afternoon. Jones no doubt will be hounded by the media looking for answers regarding the Derby status of his fillies.
The Todd Pletcher pair of Monba and Cowboy Cal are scheduled to work at Keeneland Saturday or Sunday, depending on the weather, and ship to Churchill Monday.