George and Lori Hall’s West Side Bernie got a tour of Churchill Downs’ main track April 25, and drilled a half-mile in an easy :48 1/5. Trainer Kelly John Breen gave rider Stewart Elliott a leg up on the son of Bernstein just after the track reopened at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break.
Before the drill for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Breen said he wanted West Side Bernie to “show us he’s sharp and he’s on his game. I don’t want a tired horse going into the Derby.” He noted that was why he had not worked the dark bay or brown colt since his second-place finish behind I Want Revenge April 4 in the Wood Memorial (gr. I). Breen said was looking for about a :48 clocking.
West Side Bernie’s official splits were :12 1/5, :24, and :36 1/5. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.
“He knows it’s time to go,” Breen said. “I was anticipating a sharp work and I didn’t want him to get away from Stewart. He’s been feeling good since the Wood.”
“He was very comfortable,” Elliott said. “I think he went just like we wanted him to.”
Out of the Gilded Time mare Time Honored, West Side Bernie has a 2-2-1 slate from seven career starts and earnings of $407,360. Prior to his strong effort in the nine-furlong Wood (he recorded a 101 Beyer Speed Figure), he ran an even sixth on Turfway’s Polytrack in the March 21 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) and third in the nine-furlong Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 31 at Gulfstream Park.
West Side Bernie was bred in Kentucky by Polo Green Stable and Andrew Savas.
Breen came to Churchill Downs with six horses and had three entered for the opening day program.
“I don’t want to sit here all week and stare at one stall wondering if everything is OK in there,” he said.
While this is his first Kentucky Derby starter, Breen has been to Churchill before on Derby weekend while serving as an assistant to Ben Perkins Jr. They sent out Pent Up Kiss to win the Mamzelle Stakes May 1, 1997, and the following day Appealing Skier ran second, beaten a neck, in the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint.
It’s not the first Derby for Elliott, who is best known as the rider of Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Smarty Jones .
“I’m very happy to be here; I’m happy to come back,” Elliott said. “It’s always nice to have a horse to ride in the Derby and come back to Churchill Downs.”