Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Hofburg pleased Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in his final work ahead of the Kentucky Derby (G1), negotiating a half-mile in company in :48.40 at Churchill Downs Sunday.
Debut-winning stablemate Villamay served as a target, but not for long. Hofburg ranged alongside on the far turn, eased clear in the stretch under a snug hold from exercise rider Penny Gardiner, and continuing willingly through a double gallop-out.
Churchill Downs clockers caught the Juddmonte homebred son of Tapit in fractions of :13.20, :24.60 and :36.20. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.20 and six in 1:14.80.
“He looked like he went off well and he joined his company a little bit early – the company was maybe going a little slow the first eighth of a mile – but he looked smooth as silk coming by me,” said Mott, who was stationed near the eighth-pole on horseback and monitored the “Big Board” video screen for the beginning of the move and gallop-out.
“Approaching the wire he looked really good, switched leads, went into the turn and galloped out well around the turn.
“He has a lot of energy. That’s not something we made him do, we just let him do it. We wanted him to work out pretty good around the turn and keep going and just have a steady gallop-out, which is what he did and he does that as well as anything.
“It was a nice, useful work, the kind of work that you like to see right on top of a race. He looked, visually, as good as you could look. The main thing is that they’re doing it easily, well within themselves, and he wasn’t being pushed to do it, he was just doing it on his own.”
“I was really happy with him,” former jockey Gardiner said. “He just did everything right. He’s handling all of the people around and he handles the track and does exactly what we want him to do.
“Everything was on his own. All I had to do was steer. You just get into a rhythm and a pace and you want everything to be smooth, a nice progression. He’s so willing and does just what you want.
“He’s definitely moved forward (since the Florida Derby). “It feels like he’s maturing and more focused. He knows what’s going on now.”
At Santa Anita, Lecomte (G3) winner Instilled Regard covered five-eighths in 1:00.80 with Derby rider Drayden Van Dyke aboard, overtaking workmate Magic Musketier (who clocked 1:01.20) in the process. Posting splits of :24.80 and :49, the Derby hopeful kept motoring on the gallop-out through six furlongs in 1:13.60.
The $1.05 million OBS juvenile went so well that he put Hall of Fame horseman Jerry Hollendorfer in an unusually jovial mood.
“It was a very good move for my horse – very good,” Hollendorfer said. “Drayden was up and he’s worked him before for me and we gave him a target to run at. He ran him down and looked good doing it.”
When asked the identity of the workmate, Hollendorfer went into wisecracker mode.
“Oh, it really doesn’t matter. Just another horse.
“Oh, wait, I forgot. It was Justify. Yeah, he ran down Justify and went right by him,” he chuckled, according to Churchill publicity.
Most recently fourth to Justify in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Instilled Regard is set to fly out on Monday.
Speaking of Justify, who jogged Sunday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has given another good bulletin on the early favorite for Derby 144.
“He looks great,” Baffert said Saturday. “He did it the right way (Friday’s seven-furlong drill in 1:25.20) so we’re happy and now we just have another week of waiting and keeping him happy, keeping him at that level.”
Baffert’s other Derby hope, multiple Grade 1-placed Solomini, worked six furlongs at Santa Anita Sunday in 1:14.60, a move that began at the five-eighths pole and finished entering the clubhouse turn. Shadowed by workmate Once On Whiskey on his outside, Solomini kept on doggedly to maintain his narrow advantage for Martin Garcia in fractions of :25, :49.80, and 1:01.80. The Zayat and Coolmore co-owned colt galloped out seven panels in 1:28.20 and rounded off one mile in 1:42.80.
“They stayed together,” Baffert said. “Solomini is a one-paced kind of horse, but it’s all good.”
“He worked really well,” Zayat Stables racing manager Justin Zayat said afterwards. “Bob told me he was happy with him and Martin really liked the work, which is always a good sign. The plan was to not do anything too stressful with him. Bob was just letting him stretch his legs a little bit.
“He changed leads at the right time this week, so that was good,” he said of the “quirky” colt who has been known to cling onto his wrong lead.
“Bob is a master at work. He’ll work him inside, outside, with older horses, just to show him something different. He’s got all the bases covered.
“We’re coming to the Derby with a horse that always runs a good race and he’s done it against all of the top three-year-olds – Bolt d’Oro, Good Magic, McKinzie, Magnum Moon. He’s a competitive fighter.”
Solomini’s regular rider, Flavien Prat, retains the mount for Derby 144, and his agent, Derek Lawson, said they’ve still got faith in the Curlin colt.
“I know a lot of people are indifferent about his chances, but we’re still high on him, and we’ve been high on him since the first time he rode him, so we’re looking forward,” Lawson said. “We will see how the race shapes up and see what happens.”
Baffert’s Derby Week team will take the Monday flight to Louisville, as will Mick Ruis’ Bolt d’Oro.
Monday is also arrival day for Mendelssohn, who’s jetting in from trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and UAE Derby (G2) hero is expected to pull through the Churchill gate at 5:30 p.m. (EDT). After clearing quarantine, he could get acquainted with the track Thursday morning.
In other travel news, Enticed was scheduled to van out of Palm Meadows Sunday and arrive at Churchill Monday, and Firenze Fire likewise began his van journey from Belmont Park.
Among the Derby contenders on the Churchill grounds, Combatant is to work for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen on Monday, and Lone Sailor jogged. Those who’ve posted recent moves observed Sunday rest by walking the shedrow – champion Good Magic; Todd Pletcher’s quartet of Audible, Magnum Moon, Noble Indy, and Vino Rosso; Dale Romans’ duo of Free Drop Billy and Promises Fulfilled; Flameaway; My Boy Jack; and Bravazo.
At Keeneland, the first horse on the “bubble,” Blended Citizen, also walked the shedrow. If the Doug O’Neill trainee gets a defection that allows him into the field, Kyle Frey would have the Derby mount.
Kentucky Derby, Oaks workouts streamed live
Churchill Downs, in conjunction with TwinSpires.com, is providing live online streaming of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks (G1) contenders’ workouts.
The live stream presented by TwinSpires.com will begin at 7 a.m. (EDT) daily through May 3 and is available at multiple sources including on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kentuckyderby; on Twitter via @KentuckyDerby; on YouTube at www.youtube.com/kentuckyderby; and www.kentuckyderby.com/works.
The live video will include graphics to identify each horse and commentary from an array of industry experts, including Churchill Downs Host and Racing Analyst Joe Kristufek, TwinSpires.com Racing Analyst Ed DeRosa, Brisnet.com Racing Analyst James Scully, and TwinSpires.com Clocker Brandon Stauble.