Haskin's Derby Report: Pletcher on Parade

You want Derby works, boy do we have Derby works. A total of eight Derby horses had their final drills Saturday morning, many of them moved back a day due to the impending rain expected later today and tomorrow.

Heading the day’s activity was the Todd Squad, which is made up of Verrazano, Revolutionary, Palace Malice, Overanalyze, and Charming Kitten, who collectively have won or place in 15 stakes.

Of the Fab Five, Verrazano was the first to work, going five furlongs in company with Authenticity. The big, handsome son of More Than Ready broke smoothly and laid just off his workmate through fractions of :11 4/5, :23 1/5, :35, and :47. With no urging at all, he came home his final eighths in :12 4/5 to complete the five panels in :59 4/5, while finishing 1 1/2 lengths ahead his workmate. He then galloped out three-quarters in 1:13. This was a very good work for him, and as is often the case at Churchill Downs, he looked better than he did in his first work over the track and just seemed to be going smoother over it this time.

One of the top works of the day belonged to Revolutionary, who went off noticeably slower, going in :24 4/5 and :36 3/5 inside stablemate Charming Kitten. Turning for home, Calvin Borel, as is his custom, steered the colt closer to the rail and proceeded to hug the fence. Once he got Revolutionary to settle into stride, he cruised clear of Charming Kitten, who was unable to keep up. Revolutionary, as usual, switched over to his left lead inside the eighth pole, then quickly back to right lead, and finally back to his left lead crossing the wire. The son of War Pass has been doing this his whole life, and despite the lead changes, he flew home his final eighth in :11 3/5 and then dusted Charming Kitten in the gallop-out, pulling some six or seven lengths clear, while galloping out five panels in 1:00 3/5, which means he went :12 2/5 in the gallop-out. Back at the barn while getting his bath he was not blowing in the slightest. What I like most about this colt is how he always wants to do more before and after the wire, as if he’s just getting started.

Following Revolutionary came the tandem of Overanalyze and Palace Malice, who locked horns at the quarter pole, with Palace Malice, wearing blinkers again, on the inside. With Gary Stevens on Overanalyze and Mike Smith on Palace Malice, the two colts matched strides every step of the way. Overanalyze looked to be going a bit smoother than Palace Malice, but both colts were striding out beautifully, coming home their final eighth in :11 4/5 to complete the half-mile in :47 1/5 (clockers actually got Overanalyze, who broke off a bit behind) in :47 and Palace Malice in :47 1/5. Both colts then galloped out an additional eighth in :12 3/5, in what amounted to a good sharpener for each one. Pletcher said afterward that Palace Malice would wear blinkers for the first time in the Derby.

As for the other works, Normandy Invasion was the first one out on the track at 5:45, and he was sharp right from the beginning, breaking off quickly and zipping his opening eighth in :11 4/5 and three-eighths in :34 2/5. After a half in :46 3/5, he came home his final eighth in :12 2/5 to complete the five furlongs in :59 flat., out six panels in 1:11 4/5. This colt has been showing a lot of early lick and likely will show more speed than most people would anticipate. He needs to return to his running style in the Remsen and make his big move earlier, which he appears ready to do. What I liked most about the work was how smoothly he did it, with his ears up.

Right after Normandy Invasion came Mylute, and trainer Tom Amoss said beforehand not to expect anything flashy, just a nice easy maintenance half-mile, and that is precisely what he got. With Rosie Napravnik aboard, he pretty much cruised around there, getting his half in :50 3/5. He is not much of a gallop-out horse, and shuts it down after the wire, which accounted for the 1:05 4/5 gallop-out.

Black Onyx came out between 7 and 7:30 and worked a half in company with jockey Joe Bravo aboard. The son of Rock Hard Ten spotted his workmate a couple of lengths coming into the stretch and methodically wore him down, pulling away at the end, with the reins fully extended as if he wanted to do more. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:02 2/5.

The final pair to work were the Kenny McPeek duo of Frac Daddy and Java’s War, with Frac Daddy on the inside. After fractions of  :24 4/5, :37, and :49 3/5, Frac Daddy took a length lead into the final sixteenth, and even with the exercise rider looking back for Java’s War, he still finished ahead of his stablemate, while under wraps, completing the five panels in 1:02, with a final eighth in :12 2/5. I liked the way Frac Daddy moved over the track, and this looked to be a sneaky good work.

Itsmyluckyday arrived from Calder this morning just past 11 o’clock, while Goldencents got in a little after 1 p.m., along with Kentucky Oaks contender Beholder.

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