By Ron Mitchell, Leslie Deckard,
and Margaret Ransom
The week leading up to Saturday's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) got off to a good start Monday, with four definite starters and one horse that is still knocking on the door breezing over a fast track at Churchill Downs.The Derby horses working Monday and there respective times were:
--Quintons Gold Rush, 5 furlongs, 1:01 2/5
--Lion Heart, 4 furlongs, :47 4/5
--Read the Footnotes, 4 furlongs, :47 3/5
--The Cliff's Edge, 5 furlongs, 1:01
--Rock Hard Ten, 5 furlongs, :59 4/5For most owners, trainers, jockeys and others who watched the workouts and mingled on the backside, the sunny skies were a welcome change from Sunday, when the track and Louisville, Ky. area were deluged by rain.The only Derby horse who breezed prior to the training break for track maintenance was Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) winner Quintons Gold Rush, who races for Padua Stables and the Sanan family."I just wanted him to relax and come home good," trainer Steve Asmussen said of the work, in which the son of Wild Rush went five frulongs in 1:01 2/5, with regular exercise partner Scott Blasi aboard. "He's a very talented horse. He just has to be good enough."One of the horses who could off as the Derby favorite, Robert LaPenta's The Cliff's Edge, worked after the break, getting five furlongs in 1:01 under exercise rider Maxine Correa. Noting that The Cliff's Edge and his workmate came upon two other horses working at the same time, which led to some momentary concerns, trainer Nick Zito said "It was an unusual work, but worked out well. They did a great job of handling it. He galloped out really strong."A son of Gulch bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable, The Cliff's Edge won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).With Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Birdstone also among the leading Derby contenders in his barn, Zito noted, "I've got two big horses coming up to the race. Both are grade I winners. Birdstone has tradition on his side, with his sister winning the Kentucky Oaks last year. And Cliff won the Blue Grass. I'm just really enjoyiing this."After shipping over from Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Lion Heart worked a half-mile in :47 4/5, under exercise rider Jean Claud. The fractional splits were :11.80, :23.80, and :35.80. He galloped out the five-eighths in 1:01.40.
The colt was schooled in the paddock before going to the track. "He seemed to like the track," said trainer Patrick Biancone. "He was excellent in the paddock. He handled the cameras very well. He worked fast enough; it was not too fast and not too slow. If perfect can exist, then he was perfect."Biancone said Lion Heart will remain at Keeneland, with plans to ship to him to Churchill Downs on Derby day.Mercedes Stables and Madeleine Paulson's Rock Hard Ten, who may not get into the Derby because his earnings in graded stakes rank too low for him to make the 20-horse cutoff, breezed five furlongs in :59 4/5, with jockey Craig Perret aboard. The fractions were :12, :24.20, :36.60, :48.20 and out the six furlongs in 1:13.20."He couldn't have done it any easier," said trainer Jason Orman. "Craig said he never moved his hands and he did it very easy."Noting that he has accepted the possibility the son of Kris S. who finished second but was disqualified to third in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) may not get into the Kentucky Derby, Orman said, "It may be for the best, afterall he has only had three starts. But we feel he is at a point where he could compete in the Derby."Rock Hard Ten was scratched out of Churchill Downs' opening day Derby Trial (gr. III) because of the possibillity he might get into the Derby. Rock Hard Ten, who ranks 22nd among Derby contenders by graded stakes earnings, will remain at Churchill Downs to prepare for the May 15 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) if he does not run in the Derby.