Kentucky Derby contender Buddy Gil.

Kentucky Derby contender Buddy Gil.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Buddy Gil Passes Key Derby Test; 'Ats' Also Works

Santa Anita Derby winner Buddy Gil passed a key test in his quest for the Kentucky Derby when the gelding worked at Churchill Downs on Monday, April 21.

While the son of Eastern Echo was timed in 1:11 4/5 under jockey Gary Stevens, more important to trainer Jeff Mullins was the five-furlong split of :59 3/5 and the fact he did not bleed during the training regimen. Buddy Gil was placed on the "bleeders' list" in California after blood was detected in his nostrils following a victory in the Santa Anita Derby. In order to be removed from the bleeders' list and eligible to race under rules established by the California Horse Racing Board, Buddy Gil was required to work five-eighths of a mile in 1:03 or less without bleeding.

"He went fast enough and he didn't bleed and he didn't cough," Mullins said of the certification by Dr. Ben Baker of the Kentucky state veterinarian's office.

Mullins, who says he and Stevens believe the post-Santa Anita Derby bleeding was the result of the gelding ingesting a lot of sand rather than the respiratory bleeding that results in being placed on the bleeders' list, noted there were some complications associated with Monday's work. Because Kentucky tracks normally do not race on Mondays that day is a non-working day for the state veterinary personnel. Mullins said Baker agreed to perform the post-race exam so that the information could be relayed to California regulators. "It was getting to be kind of a hassle," Mullins said.

In the work, Buddy Gil posted fractional times of :11 4/5, :23 3/5, :35 2/5, :47 2/5, and :59 3/5. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25 4/5.

Mullins said he is more confident in Buddy Gil's chances of wearing the garland of roses than he was with Lusty Latin, his first-ever Derby starter who finished 15th last year at 22-2 odds.

"I think I have a little more pressure on me this year because I have a better chance (of winning)," Mullins said. "I am sure he is going to give 110% and if that is not enough, then it's not enough. We have got a horse who really doesn't make many mistakes and Gary has a lot of confidence in him. I don't think anything is going to bother him. I think he is bullet-proof."

Stevens also exudes confidence in his mount's ability. "He has got a determination like Silver Charm had," Stevens said of the colt he rode to victory in the 1997 Derby. "He is not supposed to lose. It's in his mind."

While most of the other Derby contenders stabled at Churchill galloped Monday, Atswhatimtalknbout worked a mile in 1:41 2/5, with fractions of :13 3/5, :26 2/5, :39 2/5, :52 1/5, 1:05, 1:17 2/5, and 1:29. Exercise rider Raul Vizcarrando was aboard.

The Santa Anita Derby fourth-place finisher was not equipped with blinkers Monday, as he was in an April 16 work at Churchill when he was timed in :49 3/5 for four furlongs.

"He's right on schedule," said trainer Ron Ellis. "He went the last half-mile good, in :49 2/5. "He went more comfortably today. I felt that if the blinkers are going to help him, they are going to help him more when he's working in company. I will problem work him with blinkers and in company next week. I am not completely convinced about the blinkers helping him."

The Bobby Frankel-trained pair of Empire Maker, the probable Derby favorite, and Peace Rules are not scheduled to work again until Derby week.