It sure felt like summer as several Derby horses schooled this morning and afternoon.
The handicapping is over, the works are over, most of the gallops are over; the only thing left in addition to the dreaded draw, of course, are the schooling sessions.
We didn’t get to see as many schoolers Wednesday as we would have liked. The ones we did see today were Union Rags, Creative Cause, Went the Day Well, Liaison, Rousing Sermon, Done Talking, and Trinniberg.
The afternoon was extremely hot and humid and provided a good test for these horses. Although he was lathered up noticeably under his saddle and on his neck coming off the track this morning following his gallop, Union Rags was by far the star of the paddock, schooling before the third race.
Union Rags - Photo by Steve Haskin
The son of Dixie Union never turned a hair, as they say. He stood in the saddling stall for about 20 minutes and barely moved a muscle. He was the quintessential perfect gentleman. He didn’t walk around the paddock, he moseyed. He never sweated up and did everything about as perfectly as you could ask. For those who saw him this morning, this probably was reassuring, but we’ve heard that he sweated up quite often in Florida, so it’s likely that’s just him. The fact that he was perfect in the paddock was much more important.
Creative Cause came out before the second race, and his two handlers did all they could to keep him on the ground. Although he was really on the muscle and quite a handful, once again we’ve heard that he did this all the time in California, so it’s just him. Trainer Mike Harrington, at one point, hosed him down, although he really wasn’t sweating much, as he was the day before. That’s why those second day schooling sessions are important. In the stall, they kept him facing the wall and he was fine, standing motionless each time they brought him in.
Creative Cause - Photo by Steve Haskin
Went the Day Well, who schooled the same time as Union Rags, was just the opposite of Creative Cause. He was perfect walking the paddock, but got a bit antsy every time they brought him in the saddling stall. This was the first time we’ve really seen him close up, and he’s a powerfully built colt; strong in the shoulders and hind end. Walking the paddock, however, he seemed dwarfed by the massive presence of Mucho Macho Man, who has indeed grown into a man.
All in all, it was a good schooling session for Went the Day Well, who looked terrific galloping this morning, moving with good energy.
Rousing Sermon schooled before the fourth race and did well for most of the time, but then started getting a bit wet on his body and under his belly. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said the colt was not used to the humidity and would be fine tomorrow, as many horses are the second day. As he finished up his walking around the paddock, he started getting on his toes. But he was fine in the stall, so we’ll see how he does tomorrow.
If there is a horse who has really flourished at Churchill Downs it is Liaison, whose coat looked fantastic, as it did this morning when he was out for his jog. He’s starting to dapple out a bit and just has a great look to his coat. We’re certainly not saying he’s going to win; just beware of those horses who start improving dramatically at Churchill Downs. And he did look very good in his workout on Monday.
Liaison - Photo by Steve Haskin
Done Talking just goes about his business in a professional manner, whether it’s galloping or schooling. He didn’t turn a hair doing either today, much like his trainer, Hamilton Smith. Trinniberg did everything right and had a good schooling session.
A quick look back at this morning’s activity. This was the first appearance of Gemologist and El Padrino and both had excellent gallops. Gemologist, who is two-for-two over this track, showed his affinity for it with a very smooth gallop, his ears pricked. And he looked great coming off the track.
Gemologist - Photo by Steve Haskin
The other Florida shipper, Take Charge Indy, was into the bit, galloping with his neck arched, and he also made an excellent appearance.
Take Charge Indy - Photo by Steve Haskin
The strongest galloper continues to be I’ll Have Another, who again was rolling around there, but was on his wrong lead when he went by us. Also strong was the newest addition to the field, Optimizer, who is another who seems to love this track.
It’s hard to find fault with any of these horses. Alpha had good energy again and Prospective continues to impress, while way under the radar. Done Talking goes about his business in a professional manner.
So, now that we’ve cleared everything up for you, you all have your selections, right?
Tomorrow, we’ll go into more detail on the post position draw and how it should or could affect the race. There was a great deal of drama played out, especially toward the end, when the connections of several horses had to sweat it out, with the dreaded one-post still lurking out there. As it turned out, the Ballydoyle colt, Daddy Long Legs, drew the short straw, with only him and Hansen left. That means there is going to be a lot of activity going on from post 14 out, and from post 1 to 6, which we’ll get into tomorrow.
Bodemeister - Photo by Steve Haskin
Union Rags - Photo by Steve Haskin