It was Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) preview day at the California oval Monday as four of the eight or nine expected runners were put through their final drills for Saturday‚s $750,000 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prep. B. Wayne Hughes and Seabiscuit Partners' Atswhatimtalknbout went five furlongs in :58 4/5 under jockey David Flores in company with stablemate Red Wing Evan, who crossed the finish line in 1:00. The son of A.P. Indy was clocked in :11 1/5 for the final eighth and galloped out the extra furlong in 1:11 4/5, as timed by trainer Ron Ellis. "Mostly what we've been doing with him is maintenance," Ellis said. "I just had to keep him at where he was going into his last race and I think that's been a successful plan. He's definitely headed in the right direction, though. He's a really easy horse (when working); he's a perfect horse in that regard." Flores, who was back aboard the big bay colt for the first time since the San Felipe, felt a distinct improvement and anticipates a top effort Saturday. "He's definitely more coordinated and powerful," Flores said. "I never had to push him and he's always gone so easily for me. There's never any pressure with him because Ron has spent a lot of time with him and schooled him a lot. He's worked so hard to get him right, which makes my job that much easier. He‚s a good horse, but he's an even better horse because of the time Ron puts into him."Atswhatimtalknbout, a $900,000 2-year-old in training purchase, was beaten a nose in the San Felipe by Buddy Gil after rallying from the back of the pack in the early going of the 1 1/16-mile race. Overall he owns two wins, one second and one third from four career starts and earnings of $119,120. Trainer Bob Baffert will saddle three -- Domestic Dispute, Kafwain and Indian Express -- in the Santa Anita Derby and all worked on Monday morning. Phil and Sheva Chess' Indian Express posted the bullet for six furlongs when he crossed the wire in 1:11 3/5 under jockey Gary Stevens, substituting for regular rider Tyler Baze, who wasn't back from his trip to Dubai. Indian Express' move was the fastest of 17 who went three-quarters on the day. The Utah-bred son of Indian Charlie finished a fast-closing fourth in the Mar. 22 San Pedro Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby will be the colt‚s first start around two turns.
"(The Santa Anita Derby) was the plan all along," Baffert said. "He was supposed to go in the (Mar. 1) San Rafael Stakes, but I had to scratch him because of a minor injury that caused him to miss the race, but not any serious training. So the San Pedro was his prep for the (Santa Anita) Derby instead." Indian Express won both of his races in Panama by more than 10 lengths before making his North American debut in the San Pedro. His bankroll stands at $11,189. The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Kafwain, who finished second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) but was disqualified last week because a clenbuterol overage was discovered in his post-raced urine test, worked five-eighths in company with stablemate Requesto. "It was very good, but he always works good," Baffert said of the son of Cherokee Run's effort. Kafwain will be the most accomplished runner in the Santa Anita Derby as he will be making his 11th career start. He‚s also undefeated over the California oval, having won the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) by a nose in October and the Feb. 1 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) lengths. Overall he‚s earned $625,848, which includes money earned winning the Best Pal Stakes (gr. III) and finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and Del Mar Futurity (gr. II). Kafwain also finished second in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), but was disqualified to fourth for bumping with stablemate Domestic Dispute. Gary Garber's Domestic Dispute also received two thumbs up from Baffert after he was awarded the bullet for five furlongs in :58 3/5 under Dana Barnes. The chestnut son of Unbridled‚s Song is coming off a fifth-place finish, beaten three lengths, as the favorite in the San Felipe and will have new jockey Corey Nakatani in the saddle on Saturday. "Now it‚s all up to Corey," Baffert said. Domestic Dispute, who won the Jan 18 Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II), has earned $229,320 from a career line of 8-2-2-1.Meanwhile, B. Wayne Hughes will spread his Derby fever to fans at Santa Anita on Saturday and plans to give out 2,000 free "Atswhatimtalknbout" caps to the general admission fans. The black baseball caps feature Hughes‚ silks above the horse's name, which is embroidered across the front. Sean Feld, the son of bloodstock agent Bob Feld, has organized the giveaway, which will take place between the first and third races on Saturday, or until the supply runs out. "It'll be me and two other guys handing them out on the grandstand apron," the younger Feld said. "Basically, anyone who wants one can come up and get one from one of us on a first-come basis."