First Samurai Tunes Up for Blue Grass

Edited press release
With owners Bruce Lunsford and Lansdon Robbins III looking on, Kentucky Derby (gr. I) contender First Samurai completed his major preparation for Saturday's $750,000-added Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) with a strong half-mile workout on Monday at Churchill Downs.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano was in the irons for the first time aboard the son of Giant's Causeway  as he covered four furlongs over a "fast" track in :48.20, a move that ranked fourth of 26 on the day on a surface that was not yielding dazzling times. The Frank Brothers-trained First Samurai worked in the company of stablemate and broke off behind that workmate at the half-mile pole. He blew past his work partner in the stretch and galloped out strongly after passing the wire.

First Samurai covered the first quarter in :24.80, closed out the final quarter in :23.40 and galloped out five furlongs 1:00.80 -- a time that would have tied as the fourth-fastest move of the day at that distance.

"He went really good - really, really good," said Bejarano. "He was well in hand. He was really comfortable, switched leads on the turn and felt really, really relaxed. He worked very easy."

Brothers viewed most of the work from atop his pony after he accompanied the workmate to the half-mile pole and was pleased with what he saw.

"I knew he went pretty good the last three-sixteenths and he galloped out strong," said Brothers. "That was the most important thing."

Brothers said First Samarai worked in the company of other horses frequently during his winter training at Gulfstream Park.

"The only reason I did that today is that I wanted to get him slowed down the first part of it there," he said. "He's a good work horse, but I wanted Rafael to see that he could sit behind a horse and to make sure that he was slowed down. I told him to let him finish up down the lane. He's a lot better with another horse - especially if you don't know him."

With that major piece of work out of the way, Brothers will now focus on Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass, a 1 1/8-mile test that has been key Kentucky Derby prep through the years. Brothers saddled Claiborne Farm's Pulpit to win the race in 1997 and is anxious to see how First Samurai handles his biggest test on Saturday.

"I've been happy with the horse all winter, thank God, and since he's come up here he's done well," Brothers said. "That's all a trainer can say it that you're happy with your horse and he's doing well. It's just a question of if you have good racing luck and if he's good enough. But, so far, everything's been good."

First Samurai brings a record of 5-1-1 in seven races and earnings of $892,575 into the Toyota Blue Grass. His victory total includes a win via disqualification in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park in his most recent start.