Kentucky Derby contender War Emblem, purchased by The Thoroughbred Corp. after his win in the Illinois Derby (gr. II), sparkled at Churchill Downs Thursday in his first work for new trainer Bob Baffert.
The son of Our Emblem breezed five furlongs in :59 3/5 on a "fast" track under exercise rider Dana Barnes. Churchill Downs clockers caught War Emblem in fractions of :24 and :47 4/5 and the colt galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. The colt worked a day later than planned because Barnes' arrival from California was delayed because of weather-related air travel problems, but Baffert was pleased with the result.
"What I saw today I really like," Baffert said. "I feel a little bit excited about it (the Derby) now. You know it's hard to get pumped up when you haven't had a horse like this. You want to see what you can do with him. Today he showed me, just comparing him with other horses that I've brought here, that he has what it takes to go on to the Derby. So, I feel really good about it today."
Baffert said his staff has been working to learn about the stable's new member during his short time in the barn--and Baffert himself did not see the colt gallop until Wednesday. But Thursday's impressive work by War Emblem was clearly helpful.
"We've just had him for a little more than a week now and you don't know what kind of a chance you have until they work," said Baffert. "He handled the surface really well. He's been galloping really strong in the morning --he's one of those horses that gets out there and really strokes it. He's got little mind things about him that you've got to watch: you've got to break him off with a pony and he wants to do too much. We're trying to teach him to relax a little bit, but I think he's one of these horses where you can't really take too much of a hold of him, because then you'll cut his wind off and he won't finish up. So he's just one of those who's going to have to get out there and go as far as he can."
War Emblem brings a record of 4-0-0 in seven races into the Kentucky Derby. The Thoroughbred Corp's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) contender Habibti also worked on Thursday. The Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) winner breezed five furlongs in 1:00 under Barnes. She carved out fractions of :24 3/5 and :48 1/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 2/5.
In other Derby news, Ocean Sound, third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland, arrived at Churchill Downs Thursday morning following a van ride from the Lexington track...Lane's End Spiral (gr. II) winner Perfect Drift will work Friday, April 19 at Trackside Louisville. Trainer Murray Johnson said the Dynaformer gelding would work six furlongs in the company of 4-year-old stablemate Slough Creek. Joe Deegan will ride in the work that is scheduled just after the 8 a.m. (EDT) break for track maintenance...Kentucky Oaks contender Take Charge Lady is scheduled to work Friday morningfor trainer Ken McPeek. Jockey Tony D'Amico will be in the saddle for the breeze, which is scheduled just after the mid-morning break for track maintenance.