Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Brother, Where Art Thou?

Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Brother, Where Art Thou?
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Haskin on Lawyer Ron: "This colt has a 'go' button and nothing else."
It's becoming an adventure waiting for jockeys to arrive for morning works. Unlike Kent Desormeaux, who never showed up for Sweetnorthernsaint's work on Saturday, Alex Solis did make it to Churchill Monday morning to work Brother Derek following a flight from Los Angeles to Cincinnati. The work was uneventful, but well worth the trip.

By the time Solis arrived, the track was pretty chewed up from all the activity following the renovation break. An embarrassed Solis said he got lost, and couldn't make it earlier, despite speeding down the interstate, while keeping a close eye out for state troopers.

When it became apparent Solis wouldn't arrive until after 9 o'clock, the Brother Derek camp tried to get Churchill Downs to harrow the track and allow the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner to work at 10:15. Publicist J.J. Graci contacted track superintendent Butch Lehr, who refused them permission, as did Churchill president Steve Sexton, neither wanting to allow special privileges for one horse.

Hendricks had strongly considered working Brother Derek five furlongs, but because of the condition of the track, which was beginning to dry out after overnight rain, decided to play it safe and only work a half-mile. The colt finally made it to the track at about 9:30.

No one knows Brother Derek better than trainer Dan Hendricks, but even he was fooled by the colt's work. Hendricks had told Solis to go in about :49, but after the opening quarter, he felt Brother Derek was going too slow. "Come on, Alex," he pleaded to deaf ears.

Solis was up in the saddle, with Brother Derek just cruising along in what Hendricks felt was nothing more than a high gallop. But the son of Benchmark was doing just what Hendricks wanted, even though he didn't know it. He moves so effortlessly, and glides so smoothly over the track, his speed is deceiving, as Hendricks discovered.

After an opening quarter in :25 1/5, Brother Derek was clocked his next eighth in :11 2/5 before coming home in :12 3/5 to complete the four furlongs in :49 1/5, which was just what Hendricks was looking for. More important than the time, Brother Derek cornered beautifully, sticking close to the rail, and changed leads smoothly. His ears were either straight up or flicking back and forth throughout the work, and Solis never moved his hands on him. He also cut the corner nicely while galloping out five furlongs in 1:03.

A professional clocker caught him a bit faster, with fractions of :12 3/5, :24 3/5, and a half in :48 3/5. But both times had him closing his final quarter in :24 flat.

This little half-mile breeze is not going to have any bearing on Brother Derek's performance in the May 6 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but it did show Hendricks the horse can handle the Churchill Downs strip, and handle it when it's far from its best. The work, combined with his flawless gallops, and his overall physical condition, indicated that Brother Derek is thriving at Churchill and should be ready to run his best race in the Derby.

Asmussen pair looking good

The Steve Asmussen-trained pair of Storm Treasure and Private Vow both turned excellent works early this morning when the track still had a good deal of water on it. Storm Treasure, a powerful, attractive chestnut, worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5, while Private Vow, working just after in the second set, went in 1:00 flat.

Private Vow broke off smoothly after wanting to get it on a bit, and was covering the ground well as he closed strongly under no urging at all. Storm Treasure came off the turn a bit wider, but that was by design, considering the condition of the track. He also was reaching out with authority, and the more you look at this horse, the more he's starting to look like an Impeachment, Invisible Ink, Closing Argument type, who can come home late and sneak his way into the exotics. His third and fourth quarters in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) were extremely quick, as he exploded from the back of the pack to blow by horses for second. The son of Storm Boot is just now coming into his own, and could surprise a lot of people on Saturday.

One horse who was on the muscle this morning was Barbaro, who was feeling good out on the track and coming off. This was first morning he was a bit of a handful coming off. The undefeated son of Dynaformer has bounced out of his stiff work on Saturday in great shape.

Lawyer Ron was back out at his usual time of 7:45, and also couldn't wait to get back in action. He again had his head cocked to the inside, with his mouth open. This colt has a "go" button and nothing else. Every morning and every race, you just press it and sit back and wait for the show to begin. Whether he wins or not, there is no more appealing horse in this year's Derby field.

Another longshot who steadily grows on you is Jazil. Following his excellent work on Saturday, the diminutive son of Seeking the Gold was out for a gallop this morning and went very smoothly, as he did in his work.

Barclay Tagg, still thrilled with Funny Cide's victory in Sunday's Kings Point Handicap, was asked if he had any concerns about running Showing Up in the Kentucky Derby off only three career starts and never having been farther than 1 1/16 miles. "I would if this wasn't such an exceptional colt," the normally conservative Tagg said.

Mike Trombetta, after flying home to Maryland to spend a few hours with his family yesterday, was back at Churchill Downs this morning, where he sent Sweetnorthernsaint out for a good solid gallop.

The award for the most hands-on trainer of a Derby horse goes to Steppenwolfer's trainer Dan Peitz, who practically lives with the son of Aptitude. Peitz can be seen constantly in the colt's stall, sitting on a bucket, applying sound wave, massage, and laser treatment. He also serves as hotwalker, and even gives the groom some time off on occasion and mucks out the stall himself.

Bob Baffert's pair of Bob and John and Point Determined are due to arrive tomorrow to join stablemate Sinister Minister.

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