By Kelsey Riley
Beneath a gloomy Louisville sky, Southwest Stakes (gr. III) winner Conveyance lit up the muddy Churchill track Tuesday morning, turning in five furlongs in :59 4/5. The move was Conveyance’s final major work in advance of the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Stepping on to the track at 8:30 a.m. under exercise rider Dana Barnes, Conveyance moved though a brief warm up with his ears pricked before zipping through his work in splits of :13, :25 1/5, :36 3/5, and :48. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 1/5.
“He worked well. He went off easily like we wanted him to, and he finished up really well through the stretch,” said Conveyance’s Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “He looked like his old self. I saw what I was looking for.”
If anyone knows what to look for in a Derby horse, it is Baffert. The 57-year-old Arizona native has garnered the Derby roses on three occasions: In 1997 with Silver Charm; 1998 with Real Quiet, and in 2002 with War Emblem. According to the Derby veteran, the hard part of preparing for the Kentucky Derby is over.
“This is the fun part now,” said Baffert. “Now you can just sit back and enjoy the festivities. Now we can relax. All the serious stuff is done now.”
Conveyance is one of two horses Baffert will be enjoying the Derby with this year; the other is early favorite Lookin At Lucky . While Conveyance will be the longer price of the pair, his record indicates he should not be overlooked. A winner of four of five starts, Conveyance most recently finished second in the March 28 Sunland Derby (gr. III) to Endorsement after setting the pace in the 1 1/8 mile dirt event. A perpetual front runner, Conveyance has set the pace in all five of his starts.
“Conveyance has shown from day one he has that natural speed, and the second time he ever ran he really showed it,” said Baffert. “He’s so much better on dirt.”
Conveyance, a son of Indian Charlie – Emptythetill, by Holy Bull, was a standout from the start, bringing $240,000 from Legends Racing at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. Legends Racing, which divides its horses between Hall of Famers Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito, campaigned Conveyance for his first two starts before selling him privately to Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum’s Zabeel Racing International. A great force in racing worldwide, the Maktoum family has never won the Kentucky Derby. This year, the ruling family of Dubai will bring a once-beaten speed horse who figures to give them a legitmate shot. But for now, all Baffert and the rest of Conveyance’s connections can do is wait.
“All we have to do now is keep him happy and healthy,” said Baffert. “From here on in, we’re just going to train him with little gallops and stuff. Now we’re just going to enjoy it."