Derby week at Churchill Downs began with warm temperatures, sunny skies, a crowded stable area and a full slate of workouts on Monday, April 30.
Among the seven contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) putting in workouts to kick off the week, two were sent out by trainer Steve Asmussen. Both Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Curlin, who could be favored in the Derby, and Zanjero worked four furlongs in :48 2/5. That was the co-11th fastest time of the day for 52 horses working the distance.
“He breezed nicely and I feel very comfortable about how he feels over this racetrack,” Asmussen said of Curlin. “His state of mind has been very consistent.”
A son of Smart Strike, Curlin is undefeated in three career starts, including impressive runaway romps in the Rebel Stakes (gr. III) and Arkansas Derby. Trained by Helen Pitts for his career debut, Curlin broke his maiden at first asking by 12 ¾ lengths. His Rebel and Arkansas Derby victories came after being sent to Asmussen.
“The horse exudes confidence and has a great presence about him,” Asmussen said of Curlin. “Anybody in this game would be excited about having this horse, regardless of where they were standing. With it being five days before the Derby and the buildup to it, the horse is handling it very well.”
After beginning his career racing for Bill Gallion and Shirley Cunningham's Midnight Cry Stables, the colt now races for his initial owners as well as Jess Jackson, Satish and Anne Sanan's Padua Stables, and George Bolton.
Noting that Zanjero had an allowance victory at Churchill last fall, Asmussen said that also erased any concerns he had about the Cherokee Run colt’s affinity for the Churchill surface.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Zanjero broke his maiden on the Polytrack surface at Keeneland before his Churchill allowance triumph last fall. This year, he has finished third in all three previous efforts—Risen Star Stakes (gr. III), Louisiana Derby (gr. II), and Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I).
As for Illinois Derby (gr. II) runner-up Reporting for Duty, who sits outside the top 20 on the graded stakes earnings list, Asmussen said, “It’s musical chairs right now. The horse is doing well. If he’s excluded from the Derby, he will go on to the Lone Star Derby the following Saturday.”
Reporting for Duty worked five furlongs in 1:01 3/5, seventh-fastest of 11 workers at the distance.