With a large contingent of media and other observers on the backside on a cool morning, the two horses were among the first to work as the sun began to break through the horizon. The ground was slightly wet from light rain that fell overnight.
Pyro was timed in :49 4/5 for his four furlong work, getting fractional splits of :13 1/5, :25 3/5, and :38. He galloped out five-eighths of a mile in 1:03 2/5.
Z Fortune, runner-up to Zayego in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), did not go as fast as his stablemate, working the half-mile in :51. He had fractional times of :13 3/5, :26 1/5, and :38 4/5.
Asmussen, who saddled Curlin to finish third in last year’s Derby, analyzed the works for the media throng that gathered outside Barn 38 early Monday morning.
“Z Fortune went over the track well and went through the stretch nicely,” Asmussen said. “Pyro is a keener individual who is a lot more playful who also went over the track well. The track was in excellent shape this morning and they seemed to come out of it in good shape.”
Pyro, one of the early Derby favorites until finishing 10th in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), has won three of seven lifetime starts and earned $1,056,718. Previous to his race at Keeneland, the Pulpit colt who races for Winchell Thoroughbreds, had back-to-back victories in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), both at Fair Grounds. The Blue Grass, contested over a synthetic Polytrack surface that some horses do not like, was the worst performance in Pyro’s career.
Noting the slower time for Z Fortune, the trainer said one concern was how hard son of Siphon ran from the 13 post position in the Arkansas Derby. “We want to put a little bit back in him and have him at his best for the Derby and not for the work for the Derby.”
Owned by Zayat Stables, Z Fortune has won half his six lifetime starts, including the LeComte Stakes (gr. III), and earned $386,600.
For the rest of the week, Asmussen said his priority will be to focus on the horses’ “state of mind and comfort. They either are ready or they aren’t.”