The final Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) tune-up for Black Onyx at Churchill Downs April 27 was less about time and more about attitude, said jockey Joe Bravo, who flew in from New Jersey for the work.
The son of Rock Hard Ten—Kalahardi Cat, by Cape Town, worked four furlongs in :48 3/5, the 12th-fastest at the distance out of 70 that worked.
"Time is not even the question, it was just the way he did it," said Bravo, who has ridden colt twice, won twice, and will be aboard May 4 for the Kentucky Derby. "The horse we were working with kinda' got away from us during the first part, but it always takes Black a little bit of time to get underneath himself. The way he came back, he closed a lot of ground. I tried to keep it as easy as we could."
Bravo said the colt seems to improve every time he sees him.
"Kelly has done a great job," the rider said, referring to trainer Kelly Breen. "He just keeps getting bigger and stronger."
"It was a good workout," Breen said. "We weren't looking to go too fast. We know what the horse is able to do and we want to just keep him doing what he did before his previous wins."
Black Onyx is coming into the Derby off a 1 1/2-length win in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park. The victory motivated owner Sam Herzberg to immediately pony up a $6,000 nomination fee for the Triple Crown series. Herzberg bought Black Onyx as a yearling for $125,000 through the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale from the colt's breeder Clover Leaf Farms II, which is owned by John and Susan Sykes.
Bravo first rode Black Onyx in a $75,000 optional claiming race at 1 1/16-miles on the Gulfstream Park turf Feb. 23, in which he edged away late to win by a 1 1/4 lengths. The jockey said he didn't think twice about flying into Louisville to work the colt.
"The biggest thing is knowledge," he said. "I've ridden him twice, but I don't know how good he is to tell you the truth. He's pretty nice."
Bravo has ridden in the Derby twice, in 2005 on Spanish Chestnut and in 2009 on Atomic Rain, which he rode for Breen. The trainer's last starter in the Derby was in 2011 with Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Pants On Fire, who finished ninth.
Staff Writer Claire Novak contributed to this report.