The Sunday morning surface.

The Sunday morning surface.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Friends Lake Slogs Five Furlongs in 1:03

Friends Lake, who has not started since winning the Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 13, worked five furlongs in 1:03 during heavy rain at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. Light rain started falling around 5:30 a.m., and the heavens opened up just after 6, rendering the track surface, already heavy with water from rains earlier in the week, to slop.

With exercise rider Amanda Roxborough up, the son of A.P. Indy was clocked in splits of :13, :26, :39, and 1:03. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:17.

"We went at 6 (a.m.) and the track looked OK, it was dry on the inside," trainer John Kimmel said about the work. "At first it was dry, then it was a sea of mud. Amanda kept him off the rail. It was a pedestrian work and we were pleased to get it done."

Kimmel said he clocked the last eighth in :11 2/5.

According to Kimmel, Friends Lake will walk the shedrow Monday, then gallop Tuesday. During Derby week, Friends Lake will school in the gate and in the paddock.

"We couldn't have picked a worse time," Kimmel said of sending his 3-year-old out right when the heaviest rain of the morning hit. "I was watching the weather from about 4 o'clock. But I'd rather do it today. We could have the same situation tomorrow. I just thought 'We gotta go now.'

"I brought him in fit," Kimmel continued. "The only blips have been with the weather. I wouldn't read too much into the work. We didn't want to compromise the horse, so we just let him cruise around out there. He's so right right now. I didn't want it to be too strenuous on his body."

New York-bred Friends Lake, bred and owned by Chester and Mary Broman, is out of Antespend, by Spend a Buck. He has three wins and a second from five career starts. He broke his maiden last August at Saratoga, then won the one-mile Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont in October, both against New York-breds. In his 3-year-old debut on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream, Friends Lake ran third behind Second of June and Silver Wagon in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III). He followed that with the Florida Derby (gr .I) win at 37-1.

Kimmel has been down the Derby road before, sending out Wheelaway to a fifth-place finish behind Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

"This horse is not a high-profile horse," Kimmel said. "The thing I remember about Fusaichi Pegasus is poor (trainer) Neil (Drysdale) had 30-40 people at his barn all the time. He couldn't have a moment to himself."