Master David, breezing at Churchill Downs Tuesday.

Master David, breezing at Churchill Downs Tuesday.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Master David, Minister Eric Work Toward Derby

By Dan Liebman and
Evan Hammonds

As Saturday's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) draws closer, the number of horses working at Churchill Downs in preparation for the season's first classic diminishes daily.

On Tuesday, Master David worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 under jockey Joe Deegan. The fractions were :12 3/5, :25, :37 1/5, :49 1/5, and the colt galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 3/5 while working with stablemate Coded Warning, who was timed in 1:01 3/5.

"That was perfect," trainer Bobby Frankel said, noting that the colt worked with another horse in an effort to keep him focused. "He gets a little lazy late in his works, but he is OK in the first part. He seems more relaxed at this track. He's a tough little guy."

In reference to the 2003 Derby, in which Frankel-trained Empire Maker was bothered by a bruised hoof before eventually finishing second, Frankel said, "Just like everything went wrong last year, everything is going right this year."

A Kentucky-bred son of Grand Slam, Master David has two victories, four seconds and a third in seven starts, finishing second in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) after winning the Sham Stakes.

Also on the track after the maintenance break was another California-based Derby contender, Minister Eric. Pat Day, who will ride the son of Old Trieste in the Derby, was aboard for the first time.

"He did just what we wanted," Day said. "He got over the ground good. He was very aggressive with the pony going onto the track, but once the pony girl turned him loose he was nice and relaxed."

Regarding a strategy for Saturday's Derby, Day said, "It's a wide open race. There is plenty of speed, so I would like to be in a stalking position during the race."

"I could only see part of the work from where I was but at this stage maybe you're better off not seeing," said trainer Richard Mandella. "This work was just to let him get a feel of the track and (for) Pat to get a feel of him. We are just lucky to be here with him. He had surgery the first of November for a knee chip and has had three starts since. Now, here we are in the first of May."

Minister Eric has victories in a maiden and an allowance race to his credit in eight starts, and finished second in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and Del Mar Futurity (gr. I).