June 7, 2023

Close Hatches zips a half-mile; Midnight Lucky bests Code West

Last updated: 4/28/13 4:48 PM

Close Hatches zips a half-mile; Midnight Lucky bests Code

Close Hatches descends from the blue hen mare Monroe
(Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

Juddmonte Farms LLC’s undefeated Close Hatches completed her serious Kentucky
Oaks conditioning Sunday morning with a half-mile breeze in :47 2/5, timed from
the half-mile pole to the wire, under exercise rider Joanna Trout.

Over a fast track that was drying out during the Oaks and Derby training
session, Churchill Downs clockers recorded splits of :11 2/5 and :23 1/5, as
well as a five-eighths gallop-out time of 1:00 2/5. The speed-laden First
Defence filly broke off sharply at the 4 1/2-furlong marker and, combining that
with her strong gallop-out into the first turn, effectively worked an effortless
5 1/2 furlongs.

“What you saw is what I expected given her work last week,” trainer Bill
Mott said. “We just let her go by herself. She’s aggressive and full of herself
so I thought she didn’t need company to breeze with; she’d do enough on her own.
I just told Jo to let her go off smooth, keep it as smooth as possible and to
let her have a normal gallop-out.”

Even coming into nine-furlong races such as the Oaks or her previous start,
the Gazelle, Close Hatches does not work longer distances.

“She’s on the aggressive side, but that’s her game,” said Garrett O’Rourke,
Juddmonte’s Kentucky farm manager. “That’s why we’re only going a half with her,
because she gets a lot out of her gallops every day. When you break her off
she’s immediately into her work and she gallops out well, too, so she gets a lot
out of her daily routine and her workouts.”

The training regimen does not suggest that Close Hatches will amend her
recent front-running style despite a predominance of speed in the Oaks. Her
class, though, should help her to carry that speed regardless of who else is on
the lead or how fast they go.

“It’s one of the greatest pedigrees in the stud book if you go back to, when
we got involved in it, (third dam) Monroe. She was all speed. Then we’ve got
Xaar, who was a champion two-year-old, but more of a miler.

“Then you look at the whole family and you’ve got Blush with Pride, from the
same family, and she won the Kentucky Oaks (in 1982). If you look at the whole
family, there have been Grade 1 winners sprinting, milers, middle-distance
horses, and there’s even a two-mile Group 1 winner in there, Chief Contender.
This is a family that’s just good. With any speed horse there’s a distance
concern but she’s already won the Gazelle and there’s no reason she can’t do it

Meanwhile, West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley’s Flashy Gray went back
to the track one day after posting a five-furlong move in 1:01.

“She came out good,” Mott said. “We gave her a mile jog just to get her a
little light exercise and get her out of the barn. She seemed to be feeling good
and we were pleased with her work yesterday. She worked in company — she’s a
little more laid-back than the other filly — so we put her in company and gave
her a little bit of a target. When asked, she drew away from her target the last
eighth of a mile and galloped out nicely.”

Midnight Lucky, who dusted Power Broker last Monday, has now subdued two male stablemates on the Derby points list
(Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

Trainer Bob Baffert had good things to say about Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul
Weitman’s Midnight Lucky Sunday after she breezed five furlongs in :59 3/5 with
exercise rider Dana Barnes in the irons, besting stablemate and Derby
prospect Code West.

Undefeated after two career starts, the gray filly prepped for Friday’s Oaks
with the fourth fastest of 42 works at the distance.

Starting about three lengths behind Code West, she turned in split times of
:12 2/5, :24 2/5; :36 3/5 and :48. She finished about a half-length in front of
Code West. The six-furlong gallop out time was 1:11 4/5.

In the aftermath of the work in company, Baffert sounded questionable about
Code West advancing to the Derby, but enthused about Midnight Lucky.

“She’s always worked well and we’ve always been high on her,” Baffert said.
“She’s an exceptional filly. She went really well today. She worked with Code
West and sat off him coming down the lane. She worked really well and I really
liked what I saw. She had to work well like that for me to throw her in with the
wolves. She looks like she’s doing well, so she’s going the right way.”

Baffert said he had the filly work with Code West to keep her focused. And
Baffert said the Oaks will be a real test for his Sunland Park Oaks winner.

“It’s probably the toughest Oaks field I’ve seen,” he said. “You could just
give the Eclipse Award that day.”

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