Proud Citizen's Fast Work Tops Among Derby Horses

Proud Citizen's Fast Work Tops Among Derby Horses
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
An ecstatic D. Wayne Lukas jumped off his pony and declared, "We are very much in the Derby."

Lukas was referring to Lexington Stakes winner Proud Citizen, who had just worked 5 furlongs in a quick :58 4/5 in the pre-dawn darkness of Churchill Downs in preparation for Saturday's 128th Kentucky Derby. "That was just what we needed," Lukas said. "He is a real pro, a very genuine horse. He is a very willing horse. Nothing he does would surprise me. He walks with class. He never has his head down."

Proud Citizen was one of 10 Derby contenders who worked Monday in the busiest work day of the week.

The horses and their respective workout times:

Blue Burner--5 furlongs, :59
Came Home--5 furlongs, 1:01
Easy Grades--5 furlongs, 1:01 2/5
Lusty Latin--5 furlongs, 1:01
Medaglia d'Oro--6 furlongs, 1:13 4/5
Sunday Break--6 furlongs, 1:14 2/5
Private Emblem--4 furlongs, :48 3/5
Proud Citizen--5 furlongs, :58 4/5
Saarland--5 furlongs, 1:02
Windward Passage--4 furlongs, :48 4/5

Also working the darkness shortly before 6:00 a.m. was Sunday Break, who may not get into the Derby if it is oversubscribed with more than 20 entries. The Japanese-bred son of Forty Niner trained by Neil Drysdale was timed in 1:14 2/5 for 6 furlongs. "He worked well," Drysdale said. "He was breezing very well. All is well other than the fact it doesn't look like he will get into the race."

Getting his first work over the Churchill surface was Saarland, winner of the Remsen Stakes as a 2-year-old last year. Saarland, who had worked 4 furlongs in :47 1/5 at Belmont Park last week, went 5 furlongs in 1:02.

"That is just what I wanted," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "I didn't want him to go too fast. He worked fast in New York. I wanted to have a little bit left for Saturday afternoon. As far as I am concerned all systems are go."

Getting in his second workout since arriving at Churchill Downs was Came Home, the Santa Anita Derby winner who went 5 furlongs in 1:01 Monday. "He is training with enthusiasm," said jockey Chris McCarron after Monday's work. "I am not bragging but that (time) is exactly what (trainer) Paco (Gonzalez) said he wanted. He felt great going over the ground."

Two Derby hopefuls trained by Steve Asmussen each worked 4 furlongs Monday. With jockey Donnie Meche aboard each, Private Emblem stopped the timer in :48 3/5 and Windward Passage, who also may not drawn into an oversubscribed Derby, got it in :48 4/5.

"I was pleased with their efforts," Asmussen said. "The track is in great shape. I had originally scheduled to work last week so we had some concerns about the weather. They are working hard and know what they are working on. They are traveling well and are as fast as they need to be. And they will need to be."

Asmussen said he has been anxious to get Windward Passage back to Churchill because of his affinity for the track. He had disappointing starts at Arlington and Keeneland before breaking his maiden impressively at Churchill. "Of course, at the time we didn't realize what kind of horse he would become."

Asmussen said Private Emblem has been training aggressively. "We are looking forward to him getting out there and getting tired," the conditioner said. "I think it is a great gambling race because of all the angles. Whoever wins it, everyone will be walking around back here and say they knew it. I just feel fortunate to be deserving of this shot with not just one horse but possibly two."

Trainer Bobby Frankel said Medaglia d'Oro is doing well and that he is not concerned about the length of time since his last race, a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial on April 13. "I never worry about running a horse off a layoff," Frankel said. "I think trainers are learning that fresh horses seem to run better."

Marco Ramirez, who flew in from California to work Medaglia d'Oro, said, "He is training better here than in California. He is handling the track well."

Trainer Ted West said he did not want a fast workout for Easy Grades, the Santa Anita Derby runner-up who worked 6 furlongs in 1:13 3/5. "We didn't want a real fast work this close to the race," West said. "This horse has been a lazy working horse. We have got him a little more focused."

West said short workouts sharpen a horse, but that longer works are better suited to the 1 1/4-mile Derby distance. Short works tend to lead a horse to use up too much of their energy too soonj in a race, West said.

"It is absolutely wide open," West said of this year's Derby. "I think there are 12 horses that could win it."

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