Saturday, April 24 at Churchill Downs was highlighted by a wave of Todd Pletcher works in the slop, along with a sharp six-furlong drill by Sidney's Candy. Missing from the five Pletcher workers was the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) favorite Eskendereya, who is scheduled to work Sunday, April 25.
Pletcher said he’s not sure Eskendereya relishes the slop, but the weather forecast is ominous for Saturday afternoon and evening, which could leave the track in worse condition the following day. That would mean Eskendereya likely would work Monday, April 26 or even Tuesday, April 27. Because the son of Giant's Causeway is such a big robust colt, Pletcher feels comfortable working him closer to the Derby. Interactif also is scheduled to work Sunday, after which a decision will be made regarding his Derby status. A knockout work could very well put the San Felipe (gr. II) runner-up in the Derby.
As for Saturday’s Pletcher workers, the two that stood out were Mission Impazible and Devil May Care, who had two totally different types of works. But from start to finish, Devil May Care gets the work of the day.
Mission Impazible , who seems to be coming into his own, broke off about a length and a half in front of stablemate Rule, as Pletcher apparently is trying to get Rule to settle behind horses. He quickly ranged up alongside Mission Impazible going into the far turn, but he was already being pushed, while Mission Impazible was still under wraps under Kevin Willey.
Turning into the stretch, Mission Impazible looked like he was nothing more than a workmate for Rule to run at, as Willey barely moved his hands and remained high up in the saddle. But Rule still was unable to get on even terms, despite more being asked of him, finishing a half-length behind Mission Impazible. The third and fourth splits of :11 2/5 and :11 4/5 were the strongest, and Mission Impazible was not being asked at all through a final furlong in :12 4/5. Rule wasn’t asked for much of a gallop-out, as Mission Impazible continued on strongly, quickly opening up 15 lengths on him.
As mentioned in past columns, Mission Impazible could be a sneaky horse in the Derby. While his speed figures don’t compare with most of the top contenders, watch out for him in the exotics. The Derby could very well be his bust-out race.
If Saturday’s work was the main determining factor in whether Devil May Care goes in the Derby or Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), then it would be difficult to eliminate the Derby, based on what the Bonnie Miss (gr. II) winner showed in her five-furlong work in 1:00 1/5, the same time as Mission Impazible.
Breaking off slowly, she had her ears straight up for almost the entire work, with the rider’s hands never moving. She still was able to rattle off three consecutive eighths in :11 4/5, coming home her final furlong in :12 flat under wraps and flicking her ears back and forth. She then galloped out another eighth in a strong :13 2/5.
If Pletcher and owner Glencrest Farm have no concerns about the six-week layoff and having only two starts this year, then they cannot be faulted if they want to take the gamble and run her in the Derby. It is a gamble, with the Oaks looking like a great spot for her, but you can’t blame them after what Rachel Alexandra did against the boys last year. Pletcher said they may enter in both races and see what posts Devil May Care draws before making a decision.
Super Saver (:48 4/5) and Discreetly Mine (1:00 1/5) both went smoothly and seemed to handle the track fine. Super Saver did everything on his own, cutting the corner beautifully turning for home, and was striding out nicely at the end. His gallop-out was particularly strong.
Now for Sidney’s Candy, and a hat’s off to trainer John Sadler for being bold and aggressive enough to work the son of Candy Ride a strong six furlongs on this track. Many trainers would have backed off a little, but the colt needed a six-furlong work and Sadler decided to roll the dice.
Sidney’s Candy appears to have taken to the Churchill Downs track, although he seemed to be a bit tentative early on the sloppy surface, carrying his head high. He had no trouble reeling in his workmate, but still had his head up, as Joe Talamo shook the reins after turning for home. But with a horse to run at, he was motoring that second quarter, rattling off some swift fractions. Although he slowed down in the stretch, he did seem to level off nicely at the end. After going :35 1/5, :46 flat, and :58 4/5 for five furlongs, his final eighth in :12 4/5 was decent enough considering the quick fractions. He galloped out another eighth in a moderate :14 3/5, but was still keen to do more.
This horse’s strength is his quickness between the three-eighths pole and the quarter pole. That is where he separates himself from his opponents, and you can see that quickness on display with his blistering quarter in :22 flat around the turn. His three quarters looked like this — :24 — :22 — :25 3/5.
We managed to catch a glimpse of the stretch runs of Paddy O'Prado’s and Ice Box ’s works on Friday, and both looked terrific, especially the way they got down and were reaching out at the wire. Ice Box, a deep closer, was asked for speed and delivered it. He was being pushed along pretty good, but that is often Nick Zito’s style, especially with late-running horses like Birdstone and A.P. Valentine, who both worked fast while being asked. Ice Box was extremely impressive hitting the wire with great extension and continued to gallop out strongly with his ears pinned and still building up momentum.
Paddy O’Prado also was very strong down the stretch after fanning about five wide turning for home. Although he was allowed to do everything on his own, he was more than willing, and also was building up great momentum as he hit the wire, stretching out with authority.