If there was any concern about the plodding time turned in by Wildcat Red in his final serious move before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), it was not showing on trainer Jose Garoffalo who seemed in good spirits after the morning breeze April 27 at Churchill Downs.
Honors Stable's Wildcat Red completed five furlongs in 1:04 1/5 as he prepares for the 1 1/4-mile Derby May 3 at Churchill. He completed the first furlong in :13 1/5 followed by splits of :25 4/5, :38 4/5, and :51 1/5. The multiple graded stakes-winning son of D'wildcat galloped out six furlongs in 1:20 3/5, according to the Churchill Downs publicity department.
"He's the kind of horse that doesn't need too much to do. I know most people like the clock, they were expecting a minute flat or a :59 or so, but I'm not too worried about it," Garoffalo said. "The nice thing about it is he finished strong, the last quarter of a mile was very strong. And after the wire, the gallop out was very solid."
Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Wildcat Red did complete a faster final quarter-mile, :25 2/5, than his initial quarter-mile :25 4/5. Still, anyone hoping to see a blazing time from the Besilu Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up was disappointed. In fact, slower than usual works have been a trend leading up to this year's Derby.
"I think one of the reasons is the track. I checked the track yesterday and it was kind of deep. That's probably one of the reasons," Garoffalo said. "And the other thing is most of the horses that are here have never been at this track so they're testing the track. Most of the Derby horses except one or two have never been here before.
"And I think that the training has been somewhat conservative this time. Everyone's learned some lessons after all this time; horses missing the race because of injury. I think we would have to think about being more conservative with our training, the intensity of the breezes. Sometimes we have the influences of the people who want to see bullet works all the time, but if you have a horse who works a bullet, it doesn't mean it's the best horse."
Bred in Florida by Xavier Moreau's Moreau Bloodstock International and Wilson Winter's Winter Racing Enterprise, Garoffalo purchased Wildcat Red for $30,000 at the 2013 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s June sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age for Honors Stable, which is Salvatore and Josie Martino Delfino.
Before Sunday's Churchill work, Garoffalo noted that he gets more out of his horses from galloping than from official workouts.
"I do not like the breezes too much. You have to keep them in shape with the gallops," Garoffalo told The Blood-Horse before the work. "These kind of horses, they try hard whatever you ask them. If my horse works a bullet, that will be okay, but I'm not looking for that. I just need to keep the horse fit the longest possible time--fit and sound, which is the secret in this business."
That said, Wildcat Red did earn a bullet in a three-furlong move one week before the Florida Derby (gr. I), a race he led into the stretch before finishing second, a neck behind Constitution. Garoffalo is confident Wildcat Red got what he needed in Sunday's move and will be ready when he starts in the Derby and faces other 3-year-olds.
"In the case of my horse, he needs competition," Garoffalo said. "He needs horses beside him."