Since Saturday, a lot has gone on at Churchill Downs.
Impressive moves were put forth by Gun Runner and Creator and Wood Memorial winner Outwork, Tampa Bay Derby hero Destin and Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit made their first appearances on the grounds.
Of the new arrivals listed above, only Mor Spirit has recorded an actual work.
There is nothing flashy about the work until you look at the time.
Mor Spirit’s laziness in the mornings is well documented, which is why he is worked in company, but :59.80 is still a very sharp time for him. What is even more unorthodox is that he started off very quick. He and his workmate fired of their first three-eighths in :11.40, :22.40, and :34.20.
After the opening three furlong blitz, the pace slowed considerably. They went the half mile in 46 seconds flat, meaning the final furlong of the five-furlong drill was run in :13.20.
This is not the norm for a horse that people typically described as a one-paced plodder. Personally, I don’t believe the lack of finish was due to fatigue, but more from Mor Spirit doing just enough to stay ahead. Basically, had the workmate been able to continue on at a stronger pace, I believe Mor Spirit would have moved up to match it.
Japanese based Lani also took to the track yesterday, April 27, but I have to say I was far from impressed.
The horse galloped two miles prior to the beginning of the work, so the slow time of :37.4 is understandable. However, what I didn’t like was the amount of urging that he was given down the lane and the fact that he never switched to the proper lead.
In his work last week (below) you can see that he switched leads easily and on cue. In the UAE Derby, he also switched leads.
In the UAE Derby, he also switched leads.
His connections have mentioned that he can be quite studdish and doesn’t always comply with their plans for him in the mornings… or in the afternoon. With this information, I can’t say that I’ll endorse this colt for the Kentucky Derby. He may not even show up. And if he does, how can he be ready to fire his best shot if he refuses to train the way he needs to?
A horse I was very keen to see work in my last column was Creator and he did not disappoint.
Here he is breezing on April 25. The final time of 1:02.40 won’t blow anybody away, but I just love how this horse is moving. He is confident, he is reaching out and he is striding so effortlessly that he looks as though he is floating.
This was just a maintenance breeze, a little over a week after a very big effort in the Arkansas Derby, so there was no need for a flashy time. We’ll more than likely see a slightly faster drill next week, just to keep him sharp. However, I still wouldn’t expect it to be blazing.
Gun Runner, like his stablemate Creator, had an impressive drill, though his was much faster.
Click HERE to watch.
This was Gun Runner’s third recorded work over the surface and, in this one, you can tell that his trainer, the newly-minted Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, is really tightening down the screws.
The pace was solid at the beginning, as Gun Runner and his workmate recorded a series of steady 12-and-change furlongs, clocking the first half-mile in :48.20.
After that, Gun Runner quickened impressively, getting his fifth furlong in :59.80, meaning he got his internal eighth of a mile in a snappy :11.60. After that he increased his lead over the workmate, while stopping the clock in 1:12.20 for six furlongs.
In the video above, you can clearly see that he has no issues with the track. He is striding with power and authority, leveling off very well, and reaching out as if he is ready for more.
The final Derby worker, since my last report was Gotham Stakes victor Shagaf. Shagaf worked on Sunday, April 24, going half a mile in :48.40.
This work didn’t blow me away, but let me be clear: that isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it is best to just keep on chugging along and that is what Shagaf does best.
His action is a little high for my taste, but he switches leads very easily coming into the stretch, and on the gallop out, indicating that he is not having issues getting a hold of the track. He also came home his final eighth of a mile in a quick :11.80, which is definitely a plus.
Of the gallopers, I will start by saying that Mohaymen looks like is ready to run through a brick wall.
As you can see in this video, taken on April 25, he is giving his rider all he can handle and quite possibly more. For a horse that has been describe as “one cool customer” he sure looks like he is on the muscle and raring to go.
Mo Tom has still yet to wow me.
This video is from April 26 and, as you can see, he is still very stiff through most of the gallop. He still is running with his head in the air and he has a climbing action. He does level off slightly towards the end, but this does not look like a horse that relishes the going, in my opinion.
Suddenbreakingnews took his first spin around Chruchill Downs on the April 25.
He is not the smoothest of movers, but what I love is his expression. Ears forward and alert body language is always good sign. Also, watch this horse change his leads coming into the stretch. You can barely see him do it.
That is always a good sign. A horse that is having issues changing leads is a horse not comfortable with the surface, but this horse does it so quickly and smoothly that you barely notice.
Destin, the Tampa Bay Derby winner, made his appearance along with his stablemate, Outwork.
In this video, you can see that Destin got a little hot. It could mean something, but given the spring to his stride and his overall relaxed and happy body language, I wouldn’t read much into it.
Like I mentioned, he has a good springy rhythm to his stride, suggesting that he doesn’t mind the surface. He also has his ears up and is clearly taking in his surroundings. Considering that he has been working at the rather secluded Palm Meadows, before coming to the hustle and bustle at Churchill, a little gawking is understandable.
Outwork, like Destin, was gawking at the spectators all during this video. He didn’t get washy, like Destin, but the general expression is the same. A spring to his stride and an expression that reminds one of a goofy kid, just having a good old time.
The only thing with Outwork is that his “gawking” has nearly gotten him beaten in past races. So, while it is the norm for him, I’ll be looking to see if he focuses better in his coming exercises.