Preachinatthebar and Wimbledon, closest to rail, work at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Preachinatthebar and Wimbledon, closest to rail, work at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Baffert Pleased With Workouts by Derby Contenders

Edited from Churchill Downs reports
Trainer Bob Baffert worked his pair of contenders for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) together on Saturday morning at Churchill Downs and the efforts of both colts left a smile on the face of the three-time Derby winner.

James McIngvale's Wimbledon and Mike Pegram's Preachinatthebar worked five furlongs in company over a "fast" surface, with Wimbledon turning in the most impressive effort in a visually impressive work.

The two gray colts broke off together on the backstretch with Preachinatthebar, ridden by jockey Sal Gonzalez, Jr., to the inside. The 3-year-old duo were still side-by-side at the head of the stretch, but exercise rider Dana Barnes turned Wimbledon loose at that point and he lengthened his stride and easily pulled away from his workmate. Wimbledon was some five lengths in front of his stablemate when he hit the finish line.

Wimbledon covered the five furlongs in a sharp :58.40 and Preachinatthebar finished well to complete the distance in :59.40. Wimbledon's breeze ranked first among 59 at the distance. Preachinatthebar's work ranked as the day's fifth-best.

"I feel a lot better about them after this morning," said Baffert. "Usually I can tell if they have a chance by the way they work over this track. But they've got to stay like that and continue on, and we've got to have a lot of good luck with them. We've still got a few days to go."

Both colts were coming off poor races that had disappointed Baffert, but his spirits were quickly buoyed by the good efforts in their first serious works on the track over which the 130th Kentucky Derby will be run two weeks from today. Wimbledon, winner of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), had finished a dull fifth in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, while Preachinatthebar, winner of the San Felipe (gr. II), had faded to seventh and was beaten more than 30 lengths in last week's Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) at Keeneland.

Baffert was especially pleased with the work by Wimbledon and the way in which the imposing son of Wild Rush moved over the Churchill Downs track.

"He was really reaching," said Baffert. "He really liked the surface. You could tell he took a liking to it and that's the whole thing - the key to this race. I really don't know how they're going to handle it until I work them over this track."

The trainer's instructions to Gonzalez aboard Preachinatthebar were to give the son of Baffert's 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm a "maintenance" work and let him get a feel for the surface. "Preachinatthebar's next work will be much better," Baffert said. "I told him to just sort of cruise and don't worry about the other horse. But the other horse (Wimbledon) seemed to be enjoying it pretty much, so that was a good sign."

The setbacks suffered by Wimbledon and Preachinatthebar in their final Kentucky Derby preps had puzzled Baffert, but his spirits were lifted after Saturday's works.

"They were a devastating feeling for me, especially Wimbledon," said Baffert. "But he really doesn't like Santa Anita. He never did like that track and that's why I took him to Louisiana. He was a different horse there and this track was a lot like the Louisiana track today. He's never worked like that in California, so I was pretty excited about the work."

The work left Baffert second-guessing himself about Wimbledon's preparations for the Santa Anita Derby, but the memory of that disappointing run could clearly be wiped away by continued progress in the colt's training at Churchill Downs.

"I trained him wrong for the Santa Anita Derby," said Baffert. "I was very apprehensive in my training because I knew he'd gotten in and I'm so afraid of hurting these horses. I'm trying to get to the Derby in one piece and I thought that if I can just get through the Santa Anita Derby, I'll get down here and I'll tighten the screws on him and we'll be ready to go. So that's what we were doing today."

Baffert said he had not decided what the work schedule for Wimbledon and Preachinatthebar would be in the days remaining before Derby 130.

Wimbledon brings a career record of 2-3-0 in seven races and earnings of $430,980 into Derby 130. Preachinatthebar has compiled a record of 2-0-2 in eight races and earnings of $202,588.