Millenium Wind worked Thursday at Churchill Downs in preparation for the 2001 Kentucky Derby.

Millenium Wind worked Thursday at Churchill Downs in preparation for the 2001 Kentucky Derby.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Steve Haskin's Derby Report: A Wind, a Songandaprayer

It was a tale of two works at Churchill Downs this morning. The formula was something we see many times prior to the Kentucky Derby: two horses with similar running styles come off the same race, have two completely contrasting works, and both their trainers are ecstatic. It was a perfect example how different horses need different types of works.

The beaming smiles on the faces of trainers Dave Hofmans and John Dowd told the story following Millennium Wind's five-furlong work in 1:01 3/5 and Songandaprayer's deceiving :59 drill over the same distance. For Hofmans, Millennium Wind's work was twice as satisfactory, as the colt's troublesome feet returned unscathed, with no signs that he ran down to any great extent or opened up his cracked heels.

Both colts went out at 8:30 after the renovation break, with Millennium Wind the first to get it on. The son of Cryptoclearance looks to be in good health, as indicated by his dappled coat. This is an easy-going, intelligent colt who is very adaptable in the morning. According to his exercise rider Martin Derubin, he's a happy, willing colt, until he gets dirt kicked in his face. Then his hidden temper comes through and he wants to kick on the afterburners.. When he sees daylight, he's gone.

Millennium Wind broke off at the five-eighths pole and relaxed beautifully for Derubin, who had a nice easy hold on him. The colt went pretty steadily throughout, rattling off his opening two furlongs in :12 3/5 and :12 2/5. He has one of the smoothest, longest strides of any of the Derby horses, and was a picture down the stretch, as he lowered his head and shoulders and glided through the final furlong in :12 flat.

When Millennium Wind worked before the Blue Grass, he blazed the five furlongs in :58 4/5. This time, Hofmans told Rerubin not to move his hands at all, and the colt relaxed beautifully for him.

"I was very happy with the work, and with the way his heels look," Hofmans said. "I'd like to see the fungus subside a little more, but he certainly doesn't seem bothered by it. He had a hard race in the Blue Grass and we just wanted something easy today and let him experience that long stretch. I'll probably come back with another light work next Tuesday, and give him a lot of long, slow gallops. He's not a horse who needs the lead, and I would expect him to be in a stalking position."

Songandaprayer turned in one of the most impressive works of the week, cruising in :59 without even the slightest urging by exercise rider Jennifer Wolfe. The big, grand-looking son of Unbridled's Song jogged to the pole, continuously gawking off to his right. Wolfe tugged on the reins to try to straighten his head out before he got to the five-eighths pole. The colt finally did get his mind on running and broke off smoothly. Passing the three-eighths pole, he kicked in gear and really leveled off. By the time he hit the quarter pole, he was motoring, but still doing it all on his own. Wolfe kept him well off the rail, and continued down the stretch with her hands still perfectly still, well down on his neck. Despite the apparent ease with which he was going, he still hit the wire in :59, with Dowd getting him in :58 4/5. He zipped home his final two eighths in :11 and change.

"It wasn't the time, it was how he did it," Dowd said. "He was always well within himself. I figured he'd go between :59 and 1:00. This will be his final work before the Derby. I feel with nine days before the race, he should be peaking on Derby Day."

Dowd said he has named Aaron Gryder to ride Songandaprayer in the Derby. "After the colt came back from surgery last year, Aaron really helped out with him, and he gets along with him very well," Dowd said.

Other news

-- Point Given was back on the track this morning after walking the shed on Wednesday, and as Bob Baffert predicted, he was full himself, trying to rear on several occasions, while throwing his head around.

-- Balto Star made quite an appearance this morning, as he also was full of himself, trying to buck while jogging alongside the pony. The son of Glitterman is one of many Derby horses who look outstanding. He's packing a lot of flesh and muscle, and just carries himself like a classic horse. He definitely is one of the most eye-appealing horses in the race and sure doesn't look like a horse who was floundering about on Aqueduct's inner track this winter. Whoever tries to tackle this guy early is in for a long afternoon.

-- Despite his poor effort in the Blue Grass, A P Valentine still is giving his trainer Nick Zito reason to be quietly confident. After turning in a sharp work on Monday, the son of A.P. Indy has turned in two exceptional gallops. We love the way he's down into the bit and arches his neck. If he can bounce back and run to his works and looks, he could surprise a lot of people.

-- Thunder Blitz, the mad galloper, was at it again, rolling around the track at a rapid clip. He was so strong yesterday, trainer Joe Orseno, who was still in New York, heard he had run off and called exercise rider Keith Ricks, who told him it wasn't true. Orseno arrived this morning and saw the colt in action for himself.

-- Dollar Bill and Express Tour continue to gallop strongly, while Monarchos was back on the track following a day off to get ready for his scheduled work tomorrow. Trainer John Ward said the day off was a luxury he had given himself and the horse, and now it's back to business as usual.

-- If it sounds like just about every horse is looking and training beautifully, it's because they are. These are Derby horses, and they're supposed to be doing as good now as they ever have. This is their one shot to peak for the Kentucky Derby. But don't get too discouraged, next Friday, we will try to put all the pieces together and come up with the horses we feel are ready to peak from a physical and training standpoint, especially the ones who should be a price.

Steve Haskin's Daily Report, Wednesday, April 25

Steve Haskin's Daily Report, Tuesday, April 24

Steve Haskin's Daily Report, Monday, April 23