Buddy Gil, upstart winner of the Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) on turf and the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) on the main track, worked five furlongs in :59 seconds on Santa Anita's fast maintrack under Gary Stevens in preparation for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 5.
Stevens, who has won the Santa Anita Derby a record eight times, took Buddy Gil's work matter-of-factly.
"He worked good," Stevens said. "You can set your watch by him. He's going to work 58 and change every time he goes out. He does it very professionally. He didn't need anything special this morning and I didn't ask him do anything, and he still went :58 1/5 and it felt like he went in 1:01, so his mind is staying good and knock on wood, everything's good."
Scott Guenther, co-owner of the Jeff Mullins-trained Buddy Gil, was on hand for the workout and expressed similar sentiments.
"He went really good this morning," Guenther said. "I talked to Gary and he couldn't be more happy with him. The horse did it all on his own. It was a deep track this morning and according to Gary, he went about two seconds faster than he thought he'd gone on him. He just did it easy and he came back and wouldn't blow out a match."
Despite the fact that Buddy Gil had traffic problems through the stretch run of the San Felipe and still managed to beat Atswhatimtalknbout, albeit by a nose, Guentheradmits Atshwhatimtalknbout is the probable favorite for the Santa Anita Derby.
"Our horse might be underestimated a little bit," Guenther said. "But what we're asking for this time of the year is just a horse that continues to improve and stays sound, and that's what he's done. He's getting better every day. I reminded Gary that he's won the Santa Anita Derby eight times and he said he hopes he makes it nine."
Trainer Jim Cassidy is the first to admit he'd be taking a flyer with Iron Lad, an Irish-bred colt that is winless in his two United States races but is considered a possibility for the Santa Anita Derby.
"I'll be honest with you, I'm fishing," said Cassidy, a 57-year-old native of the Bronx. "I'm also thinking of running the horse at Keeneland ($100,000 Transylvania Stakes, Gr. III, one mile on turf) on April 4. I'm flip-flopping between the two races. The colt is doing really well. In his first start here going seven-eighths against Ocean Terrace, Laffit (Pincay Jr., his rider) was very impressed with the way he ran first time on the dirt.
"And last time, I had Mike (Smith) on him in the San Rafael and he said, 'We made a mistake taking this horse back. Believe me, Jim, this colt belongs with these horses.' Otherwise, I wouldn't be even venturing this sort of thing. I don't know who I'll get for a pilot. I'm still mulling it around."
Iron Lad has a 1-1-2 record from 12 starts, with earnings of $37,786.