The battling New York-breds Samraat and Uncle Sigh both turned in solid works at Belmont Park April 18 and will have one more work there before shipping to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Samraat, a son of Noble Causeway, had a more leisurely move than Uncle Sigh, breezing an easy half in :49, although trainer Rick Violette caught him a bit faster in :48 3/5. Samraat, who has won five of six starts, got his opening three-eighths in :36 2/5 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.
"It was great," Violette said. "He did it easy and barely blew out a match. It was just a maintenance work to let him blow out some steam. All the hard work is done. He'll work a mile here next Friday or Saturday; he just has to go a bunch of :13s and get some exercise, and then he'll ship out on the Monday before the Derby. There's a Tex Sutton flight out of here with a planeload of horses."
Violette is feeling positive heading into the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
"I'm as confident as you can be. He's fit enough, he keeps showing up, and I wouldn't change a thing. He's got to beat 19 other horses, but he's certainly coming up to the race the right way. For getting beaten for the first time (in the grade I Twinspires.com Wood Memorial April 5), I thought it was a really good race and an educational race for him.
"He was surrounded for the first time and basically was off the bridle at the half-mile pole trying to put Kristo away before he could even go after Social Inclusion. A lot of horses would blow up doing that. And he never saw (eventual winner) Wicked Strong, who was way out in the middle of the track."
Samraat, owned by Len Riggio's My Meadowview Farm, won the first five starts of his career, including hard-fought victories over Uncle Sigh in the grade III Withers and Gotham stakes before suffering his first defeat in the Wood.
Uncle Sigh, who was fifth in the Wood Memorial after breaking slowly and dropping back near the rear of the pack, wore blinkers for the first time in his work and will wear them in the Derby.
The son of Indian Charlie, owned by Wounded Warrior Stables and Anthony C. Robertson, worked five furlongs in 1:00 flat under Nick Santagata in company, which was a bit faster than trainer Gary Contessa was looking for. Contessa said that Irad Ortiz Jr. will replace Corey Nakatani for the Derby.
"It was a very nice work," Contessa said. "I really wanted to test him a little bit with the blinkers on and I made him sit behind another horse on the inside and he never hesitated. He broke right through there and drew off to win by six or seven lengths. It was a little faster than I wanted. I would have liked to seen him do that and go in 1:01 or 1:02, but that's OK; he did it well within himself, with no whip and no hand-riding. Nick just let him do it on his own and he did it well.
"They told me he came home in :23 3/5, which is what we're looking for; that's what you want out of a horse like him. You want them to finish and continue moving forward. The blinker change was a question mark and I think he passed that challenge with flying colors. And he rated kindly behind that other horse, which is what he was supposed to do. Irad Ortiz begged me to work him, and I said, 'No, no, no, I want Nick Santagata; he knows the horse and he's going to tell me if the blinkers made a difference or not.' And Nick was thrilled; he said this horse is perfect."
Contessa said Uncle Sigh will work again next Friday and then van to Louisville that same evening, arriving at Churchill Downs Saturday morning.
"It's a 12-hour van ride; we van horses six hours when we race at Laurel, and 12 hours for this horse is no problem," Contessa said. "He's a good shipper; we'll put him in a box stall and he'll be there before he knows it."