Here’s a look at initial inpressions of Kentucky Derby contenders through Friday, April 25. The work tab will really pick up starting April 26 and 27.
Hoppertunity’s work in tandem with stablemate Drill is one of the best of the Derby contenders so far. Granted, Drill “lost interest” as trainer Bob Baffert described it, but it was still impressive. Hoppertunity passed Drill in a solid effort, drew away from that running mate and came back with good energy. Also notable is the colt’s calm demeanor. He appears very professional, business-like. He handles the surface well.
Final time: 5f, 1:00.20
Splits: 12.40, 24.40, 36.20, out 6f in 1:13.20, 7f 1:26.20, 1 mile 1:41.60
General a Rod
General a Rod’s “pedestrian” work didn’t draw rave reviews, but it wasn’t notably bad. He worked alone and without blinkers and loped along leisurely, steadily. The slow work was a stark contrast to his five furlongs in :59.80 on April 17 at Churchill Trackside. He returned to the track in blinkers the next time out, and Mike Maker said he was still deciding about whether or not General a Rod will wear them for the Derby. My guess is if he wears them during a possible work next Wednesday, you’ll see him much sharper. I gave him an edge on rating because I believe the work’s final time wasn’t indicative of his ability.
Final time: 5f, 1:03.40
Splits: 13, 26.20, 39. out 6f in 1:17.60.
It can be tough to judge solo works, and it would be a better gauge if Tapiture had a work mate, but there’s no doubt that this colt loves this surface. He just glides over it effortlessly. This is a nice-moving horse who is very athletic and agile. He’s proven he can handle a tussle. He doesn’t appear to be skittish or easily rattled, as is the case with some Tapit progeny. His stride is impressive.
Final time: 5f, 1:02.80
Splits: 13.40, 25.80 & 38, galloped out 6f in 1:16.40.
Wicked Strong (at Belmont)
I did not see this work at Belmont firsthand, but by video analysis this effort looked stellar. Wicked Strong cruised over the track, looked very focused yet didn’t overextend. He looked a picture of health before and after the work; he is a lightweight colt but appears to have emerged from his Wood Memorial win in good shape. He will van to Louisville Saturday, which is expected to be a 14-hour trip, but apparently he’s vanned to Florida more than once with no problem.
Final time: 7f, 1:27.11
Splits: 13.30, 25.47, 49.91, 1:02.26, 1:14.51
Standouts at Churchill Downs
Who caught the eye this week? Definitely Intense Holiday tops the list. He covers a lot of ground in his gallops and appears very comfortable on this track.
Medal Count looks indifferent back at the barn, but as soon as he gets on the track, he perks up and appears to be a happy-go-lucky horse. He hasn’t lost any weight from running two races in the past month. Works this weekend by these two contenders should help answer questions.
Danza is one of the most stunning Derby contenders and he does fine on leisurely gallops, but we need to see his work Sunday before giving a stamp of approval.