Cool Coal Man, who ran ninth in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), worked a half mile in :47 2/5 under exercise rider Megan Smillie at Churchill Downs April 24. It was the second fastest work of the day of 35 horses working at that distance.
“I was very happy—they were just galloping along the right way,” said trainer Nick Zito, who worked Cool Coal Man in company with maiden winner Chris Got Even. Julien Leparoux, who will ride the Mineshaft colt in the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I), was aboard Chris Got Even to observe his mount from a different angle.
“You always worry about the breeze before the Derby, but he did great—they were really comfortable,” said Zito. “I just wanted Julien to see (Cool Coal Man), and that’s why I had him work the other horse—just to see what’s alongside him and what kind of horse he’s got. Also, Megan gets on him all the time, so I didn’t want to change anything.
“One thing that’s really interesting is that he’s had three 1 1/8 mile races this winter,” continued Zito, referring the colt’s allowance victory at Gulfstream Park in January, his Feb. 24 Fountain of Youth (gr. II) win at the same track, and his unplaced Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) effort at Keeneland.
“We hate to make excuses for the Blue Grass, but he didn’t care for the Polytrack,” said Zito. “He won over Churchill last fall, so he definitely has a chance. He’ll get the distance. He’s gotten tons of conditioning in him all winter. You just never know in the Derby. I just hope we’re this year’s Giacomo.”
When asked how Cool Coal Man might handle a 20-horse field on the first Saturday in May, Zito didn’t seem fazed, citing Leparoux’s European background and experience with large fields, as well as his keen sense of direction as an advantage.
Cool Coal Man spent most of this year in the shadow of his stablemate, 2007 champion juvenile male War Pass, who is off the Triple Crown trail with a small fracture in the sesamoid of his left front ankle. Both colts are owned by Robert LaPenta.
Going into the Derby, Cool Coal Man sports a record of four wins from eight starts, and earnings of $307,531. A $200,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, he was bred in Kentucky by William S. Farish, E.J. Hudson Jr., and Irrevocable Trust.