Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile brought a smile to the face of three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert with a sharp five-furlong work over a fast Churchill Downs track on April 21.
Joe Steiner was in the saddle as the son of 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runner-up and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Empire Maker covered the distance in 1:00.80. The time was the fourth-fastest of 19 at the distance over a surface that seemed to be playing slower as the morning wore on.
Pioneerof the Nile, who made the recent Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) his fourth consecutive stakes victory, covered the distance in fractional times of :12.20, :24.20, and :36.40. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.40.
Baffert said the work was actually longer than the five furlongs credited to the colt by Churchill Downs clockers.
“He looked good; he skipped right over it,” said Baffert. “I ended up working him seven-eighths and let him gallop out strong. I got him in :26-and three, and he galloped out all the way down the backside. So it was a good little work and it was not really hard on him.”
Baffert is pleased with the way Pioneerof the Nile is getting over the sandy loam surface at Churchill Downs. He has raced exclusively on turf and synthetic surfaces in his eight career starts.
“It was nice and relaxed. I didn’t want to do too much,” Baffert said. “It looked like he skipped over it, because I know the track, with the rain, was a little bit deep. I had some other horses work and some horses struggled over it. But he has taken to it great, so far. I like what I see.”
Baffert said Pioneerof the Nile would work one more time before the May 2 Derby, most likely on Monday or Tuesday of next week. Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez will ride the colt in the Run for the Roses.
Pioneerof the Nile has a record of 5-0-1 in eight races and has earned $1,234,200.
Sid and Jenny Craig Trust’s Chocolate Candy tuned up for his engagement in Kentucky Derby 135 by working a mile in 1:42 with jockey Mike Smith up.
Churchill Downs clockers caught the Candy Ride colt in fractions of :12.60, :24.80, :37.20, :49.80, 1:02.20, seven-eighths in 1:28.60, and galloping out the mile and one-eighth in 1:57.
Both Smith and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer expressed satisfaction with the work.
“I liked it, it was a nice maintenance work,” Smith said. “He did everything I asked of him. He didn’t turn a hair. If he had gone a mile in 1:42 and was gasping and not coming back as well as I liked, I’d be a little worried. I am as happy as I can be. He handled the turns, which is an important part of it.”
Hollendorfer, who also had two other workers in Louisville that morning, said, “It was a nice work. I wanted to see how he handled the turns and he handled them well. The track was a little off, but I was very happy with the work.”
Hollendorfer was headed back to California after the works but planned to return April 25.
“He will work again either (April 27 or 28),” Hollendorfer said. “He’ll have a blowout of a half-mile or five-eighths.”
Robert C. Baker and William L. Mack’s Flying Private had a get-acquainted session with jockey Robby Albarado on April 21, working five furlongs in company in 1:01.20. Churchill Downs clockers recorded fractions of the work in :12, :24, :36.20 and out six furlongs in 1:16.
Flying Private worked in company with stablemate Lord and T.
“It was a very good work and I liked the way he handled the turns,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “He came off the turn very well and finished strong. Robby did a good job with the test drive.”
Albarado also was happy with the work.
“I had watched him run numerous times,” Albarado said. “This was my first time on him and I thought it went well. Wayne just wanted a nice maintenance work and he had some company. He gets a little lax when he works by himself. Overall, I think we accomplished what we wanted this morning.”
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner General Quarters galloped a mile and a half before the renovation break with exercise rider Julie Sheets up. Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy is looking at April 23 or 24 as the final pre-Derby work for General Quarters.
“It depends on the weather and how he gallops tomorrow,” McCarthy said. “If it warms up and the track dries out well, I’d probably go (April 23) and that would give him an extra day before the Derby.”
Julien Leparoux has the Derby riding assignment.
J. Paul Reddam’s Square Eddie arrived at Churchill Downs around mid-afternoon on April 21 following a van ride from Lexington’s Keeneland, where he had been stabled since running third in last week’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III).
Trainer Doug O’Neill, who was back at his Southern California base, said he would come to Louisville on April 26. He said that no riding assignment has been finalized for Square Eddie.
George and Lori Hall’s West Side Bernie galloped a mile and five-eighths with trainer Kelly Breen in the saddle before the renovation break. Stewart Elliott has the riding assignment on West Side Bernie.