Things have finally begun to heat up at Churchill Downs, with a bevy of works being reported this week.
Most notably were Mohaymen and Gun Runner; however, there were quite a few others, such as Outwork, Mor Spirit and Nyquist, that were getting in their preparation elsewhere.
Concentrating on the works at Churchill — which allows us to see who best handles the quirky surface, and who falters on it — can give a handicapper an incredible edge come Kentucky Derby Day. And let’s be honest: in a field of 20, we need every edge we can get.
Over the course of the week I would give the award of “best on-track presence” to Mohaymen.
Mohaymen got his work out of the way on April 20, avoiding the hustle and bustle of the Saturday Morning workers. What I love most was the colt’s enthusiasm during the work. Every time his rider gave him some rein, Mohaymen would stretch out his neck asking for more.
Down the stretch he got some small reminders to keep up the pace, but I’m not sure he really needed any. He was already striding out impressively, reaching for the wire, looking like he could go on forever.
The final time was a sharp 46.80 seconds, which earned him a “bullet” for fastest work of the day at the distance (four furlongs). He also blistered his final eighth of a mile in 11.60 seconds, after setting an ambitious pace to begin with.
In his gallop on the 22nd, he was again very eager, hauling his rider around the track, especially once they came into the stretch.
After such a dull performance in his final prep, this is the type of action I like to see from a horse that used to be a top ranked Kentucky Derby prospect.
Gun Runner has posted two impressive works since his arrival in Kentucky. Unfortunately, there aren’t many videos to help us evaluate the works themselves.
Churchill did post a video of his gallop this morning and, I must say, the Candy Ride colt looks to be in fine fettle.
As you can see, it is a normal, easy gallop, but that is what makes it so good. The horse is relaxed and comfortable with his surroundings and the surface. He is also striding out well — not too eager, but patiently waiting for the rider to give him his cue.
Brody’s Cause had an unimpressive gallop just on April 22. I would have described his stride as small and choppy. He didn’t seem to be striding out well, but, in his workout on the 23rd, he improved.
He was striding out much better and his gait was much smoother that day. His final eighth was caught in :12 flat, and it what was even better is that he did it with no urging.
Fellowship also looked very impressive in his work.
It was his first time working under the care of Mark Casse and he definitely “wowed.” Fellowship worked in company with stablemate Awesome Banner and simply overwhelmed him in the stretch. His stride was smooth and fluid, as he stopped the timer in 1:00.40 for the five furlongs.
What was even more impressive is that he came home in 23.60 seconds, while under very little pressure.
Mo Tom, on the other hand, was not a horse I was very impressed with:
In this short clip of his work, you can see that he has a higher head carriage, which to me signals that he doesn’t really want to extend himself. The splits for the work are also unimpressive, as he slows his pace down considerably in the stretch.
He started out strongly, at least in regard to the clock, going his first three splits in :11.30, :23 flat, and :34.40. He then got his final eighth of a mile in 12.6 seconds, which was much slower than his previous splits.
To be clear, that isn’t necessarily slow, but considering how fast he went early, you never want to see a horse finish that much slower.
Personally, I like to see a work get stronger towards the end, not drastically weaker.
Switching gears just a little, I’d like to say that of the gallopers who have yet to work, Creator has caught my eye:
As you can see he looks picture perfect.
He is eager without being too aggressive. His stride is smooth and he is reaching out eagerly. This video was shot on April 22 — it was more of the same on the 23rd.
After watching him gallop, I’m greatly anticipating his first work at Churchill Downs.
This week was light, compared to what we will see over this coming week. Horses will begin to flood into Churchill downs, and the number of gallopers and workers will skyrocket. Expect and even more extensive report next weekend, when I recap this coming week’s action.