Haskin's Derby Report: Pletcher on Parade

It sounds as if this could be the last nice morning we get in a while, and fortunately, most of the Derby works have been completed. As typical of Derby works, the good ones drew waves of excitement, while others were overblown as bad works. And some were, well, just works.

What separates Derby works from your typical works is that most people have not seen these horses work before and are unfamiliar with their habits and work patterns. Therefore, unless a work is noticeably poor and the horse makes glaring errors, it is best not to make too much of them. Once in a while, you’ll see an exceptional work, such as Smarty Jones or Barbaro or Animal Kingdom that get you excited and telegraph an equally exceptional performance on Derby day. And a really bad work that is out of character for the horse can steer you away from him. But in most cases, a work is just a work and another step toward getting to the starting gate.

For example, Vicar’s in Trouble’s work April 26 was frowned upon by many as being too slow, and also the colt wasn’t striding out well. But he generally is a quick, short-striding horse who has been down this road before. Last month, he turned in a sharp five-furlong drill in 1:00 3/5 at Gulfstream, but a week later worked a slow five panels in 1:03 3/5. Six days later, he easily won the Louisiana Derby. On April 12, he turned in a solid half-mile breeze in :48 1/5 at the Trackside training center. But yesterday he followed it up with a slow five furlongs in 1:03 4/5. Did he not like the track or was he following virtually the same pattern he did leading up to the Louisiana Derby? As I said, it’s best not to make too much of it unless it was out of character for the horse.

The morning of April 27 the highlight was Todd Pletcher’s four Derby horses working in pairs. We also had works from Ride On Curlin, Wildcat Red, and Chitu. Well, actually, one of the highlights that had everyone in awe was the outstanding work turned in by Oaks favorite Untapable, who showed off her amazing stride.

When it was all over, we had people raving about several of the works and frowning upon others.

The most eye-catching sight was Intense Holiday, striding out beautifully, leaving workmate We Miss Artie several lengths behind and quickly opening up by 15 lengths on the gallop-out. Considering it was only a half-mile work, was Intense Holiday’s work really that good or did We Miss Artie make him look that good? Well, considering Intense Holiday “galloped” out another eighth in :12 1/5, it’s pretty obvious he made We Miss Artie look worse than he really was. The latter worked in :49 1/5 and galloped out another eighth in a solid :13 1/5, so by itself this was a decent work. But it didn’t look like it compared with Intense Holiday.

Although it was an excellent work for Intense Holiday, and although it is not going determine whether he’s going to win the Derby, it does give his backers and connections confidence that he’s heading in the right direction and coming up to the race sharp and in the best shape possible. And if indeed his chiropractic work has helped alleviate his crossfiring tendencies, he is going to be extremely dangerous.

As for Danza, he had a much more formidable workmate in the hard-nosed Vinceremos, and by easing clear by 1 1/2 lengths at the wire, it was very impressive in its own right. One trait you have to love in this colt is his ability to save another gear for the end if you need to use it. He really levels off beautifully in that final sixteenth, as he demonstrated in the Arkansas Derby. And he can motor home. He closed in :12 1/5 in the Arkansas Derby and shaded :24 in Sunday’s work. And remember, Vinceremos has shown in his races how tough he is to pass. He likes coming back at his opponents, and you could see him trying to come back at Danza in the gallop-out, which was negotiated by both horses in :13 flat, with Danza pulling up six furlongs in 1:16.

Following Ride On Curlin’s work, most of the talk was about the slow time of 1:29 for seven furlongs, following a half in :51 3/5 and three-quarters in 1:16. This was more than two seconds slower than his two seven-furlong works at Oaklawn. This colt seemingly has finally reverted back to his come-from-behind style. We all saw his speed when he won a six-furlong allowance race this year over a deep, wet track and when he battled on the lead the entire way in the Rebel Stakes. Coming from far off the pace, as he likely will in the Derby, he doesn’t need to be tested for speed, and he did go from the half to the three-quarters in his work in :24 2/5. Another positive from the work was the way he cornered on the gallop out, hugging the rail. Horses who are tired would have a tendency to take that turn wide and not drop in that close to the rail, which usually requires a degree of athleticism.

And remember, when the track is slow as it was Sunday, the farther you go the more laboring the track becomes. There’s a big difference between a half-mile work and a seven-eighths work. Even with Danza, although he was caught pulling up in 1:16, you can see how much he slowed down the farther he went. Even Untapable, as impressive as she looked, only worked in :48 3/5. Of the 59 works at a half-mile, only one horse broke :48.
And many of the top works this morning were in company, while Ride On Curlin worked seven furlongs on his own.

So, the bottom line is, I wouldn’t get down on Ride On Curlin if you liked him before. Looking at the bright side, he did get fit working that far over this track. Wildcat Red, one of the fastest horses in the race, who worked :34s and :47s in Florida, worked five furlongs in 1:04 1/5, out six furlongs in 1:20 3/5 and looked like he was struggling with the track coming down the stretch. Chitu worked six furlongs in company from the gate and went in 1:13 1/5. Let’s see what happens over a wetter and faster track in the Derby.

We have two new horses on the grounds with the arrival of Wicked Strong and Uncle Sigh, who both vanned down from New York. Wicked Strong looked in good health as did Uncle Sigh. The latter looked well muscled and was alert and raring to go, as he was blinkered and headed right to the track. Normally, blinkers on for the Derby would be a turn off, but this colt seems to have turned the corner with them at least in his training. I loved the way he moved in his work the other day at Belmont Park. You just have to hope those blinkers don’t jump start him the way blinkers did Palace Malice last year. But just watching this colt, he seems very easy-going and sensible, so who knows?

General a Rod, who could have a new and interesting owner by Derby day if negotiations are finalized before then, had another strong gallop at 5:45 a.m., again wearing blinkers.

On Monday, we get the long-awaited arrival of California Chrome, along with Blue Grass Stakes winner Dance With Fate.


All photos are by Steve Haskin, please ask before taking.

Hoppertunity walks the shed Saturday

Wicked Strong and Jimmy Jerkens settle in after Sunday arrival

Newly arrived Uncle Sigh is all ready to train

Hoppertunity is looking good

Pletcher trio (L-R) Intense Holiday, Vinceremos, Danza

Danza gets the better of Vinceremos

Danza looks airborne with all fours off the ground

John Velazquez sitting chilly on Intense Holiday

How far did Intense Holiday gallop out ahead of We Miss Artie?

Wildcat Red finishes his work

Ride On Curlin found another gear after the wire


Leave a Comment:

Sail On

Super photos, Steve! Thanks so much!

Did you see Chitu lose his shoe?

27 Apr 2014 4:32 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Brilliant, in perspective analysis, and incredible photos. You are the best in the biz Steve. You must have a really good camera to go along with your eagle eye and knack for capturing the essence in a photo. It's interesting that Pletcher didn't put We Miss Artie's workout in perspective. He called it the worst workout he has seen from Artie and the best from Intense Holiday. I doubt if Ramsey minds the appraisal on Artie from Pletcher. I think he wants high odds anyway. Looking forward to reading how California Chrome and Dance With Fate look in comparison to the good looking ones already at CD

27 Apr 2014 4:47 PM

I watched the Santa Anita Derby again and my thoughts on California Chrome has not changed, he's still the best by a mile amongst the CA horses.   I watched it again specifically for Hoppertunity and I'm starting to lose interest in this horse.  I don't think he can get the 10Fs trying to stay with the speed.  I'm very much leaning towards tossing him off my tickets for the win and place spots.   I'm also not too thrilled that Baffert isn't talking about Chitu that much.  It's always Hopp and Bayern, even after Bayern lost the Trial, still no focus.   So it's either Baffert is trying to keep him under the radar on purpose or he really doesn't like this horse.   I've liked him for a long time now and I'm really happy he's in the Derby.   I will have a separate tickets with him singled for the win plus something I rarely do... WIN bet, I'm betting that Baffert has his money on him and not Hoppertunity.   I can't ignore that 1:27 1/5 workout at CD....typical Baffert workout, but unlike the norm, he's not talking much about him.

Intense Holiday is going back as my 2nd horse, John Velasquez can get this horse up for the win, no doubt about that.  I also like his recent workout.  I'm waiting for Todd to make the decision on Vinceremos.

Samraat / Intense Holiday / Chitu / Wicked Strong / California Chrome / Hoppertunity / General A Rod

27 Apr 2014 5:09 PM

This is CC's race to lose. He only has to avoid regressing and he wins. The rest of the field has to take a big step forward to have a chance to win. Short of some major issue at the start he should roll this field imo.

27 Apr 2014 5:36 PM

Hi Steve, thanks for putting the works in perspective. I think all the colts look great. They all seem to be feeling good, settled in and taking everything in stride (no pun intended). Thank you too for the report on Untappable. Hope California Chrome has a safe trip in and I am so anxiously waiting to hear what you think of him once you get to see him in person. Any thoughts on Commanding Curve you can share?

27 Apr 2014 5:52 PM

PS, I am still expecting Ride on Curlin to hit the board in the Derby. I am trying so hard to narrow my list down to 4 other than Cali Chrome and Ride on Curlin..having a real hard time though. LOL

27 Apr 2014 5:54 PM
Steve Haskin

Dr. D, my camera is a little Canon Power Shot, about the size of a pack of cigarettes; probably a bit smaller.

Rusty, I don't want to get into the chiropractic specifics until I speak to someone who is willing to share the info. The important thing is that it seems to be working.

I did not see Chitu lose his shoe. My eyesight isn't quite that good :)

27 Apr 2014 6:51 PM

Thanks as always your for insight, information and photos. Refreshing to see candid shots of the horses, people, barns and track. The motion/speed blurs give a great sense of the speed !. Nice variety. You credit yourself as photographer and politely state your terms. Well said !.  

27 Apr 2014 7:14 PM

Johnny Velasquez sitting chilly on Intense Holiday... hmmmmm... makes one think...

27 Apr 2014 7:21 PM

JayJay, I saw the interview with Baffert; he is keeping Chitu under the radar.  He knows he is sitting on a gold mine.  Chitu had the best work today; seems to love the track.  I have looked at all of the pedigrees of these horses, and Chitu has the best distance pedigree on the tail side.  He'll show up on Saturday. After Chitu and California Chrome, not sure yet; probably Vicar's In Trouble. Vicar's works are never all that great, but he always shows up. Ride on Curlin with Borel aboard may hit the board on a rail ride, which is the only way this horse will show up.  ROC will be bet down though, so....    

27 Apr 2014 7:54 PM
Birks Goldens

Thanks, Steve.  You're the best!

27 Apr 2014 8:21 PM

Excellent! like a best seller, interest continues to climb, reaching the climax on saturday. Photos better than words, which in your case its difficult.

Thank you Mr. Haskin

27 Apr 2014 8:27 PM

Just thinking out loud...CC will like the track better if it's a little wet versus dry, however, the way Hoppertunity is taking to it, so should Chromeo.

27 Apr 2014 8:46 PM

Thanks so much  - and love the photos.  When does Samraat arrive?

27 Apr 2014 8:56 PM

Thanks for the excellent updates; it's very much appreciated.

27 Apr 2014 8:59 PM

Jay Jay I could not agree more regarding Chitu..

Ive said all along Bob is being very coy with this horse..

I also have watched Hopps replays in the Santa Anita C.Chrome put him away no problem and to think C.Chrome was wound up..

Hopp beat who I ask??

He is starting to drop on my charts as C.Boy is rising.

Not hearing to much regarding Tapiture do we dismiss a horse that has won here because of a bad race and a bad ride??

27 Apr 2014 9:32 PM

This report solidifies my choice for intense holiday in my top 4. Love the fact that he has 2 of the top bris late pace ratings in the field and he got 2nd last race being on the wrong lead and cross firing. And Johnny V will have him in a great spot. Also, thanks for that report on ride on curlin. He is not one of my top choices, but I like how you said he was still chugging along and hugging the rail. I'll be back out Tuesday thru Thursday morning watching. How did Rosalind look today?

27 Apr 2014 9:37 PM
Paula Higgins

More great pictures Steve. Uncle Sigh looks like he was smiling. O.k. so Wildcat Red doesn't seem to love the surface that much and Intense Holiday clearly does. My picks may change by Weds. Can't wait to hear what you think of California Chrome and Wicked Strong. but one of the best horses there, although not in the Derby, is Untapable. Looking forward to seeing her run in the Oaks. I wonder how her stride compares to Zenyatta's?

27 Apr 2014 9:50 PM

Chitu loss a shoe on his foot that has a fungus problem that they have been treating on him. The fungus is said to not cause any discomfort, and they removed a piece of his right front hoof to allow it to dry out. How good is it that this was the shoe he loss? Baffert claims it is no big deal.

We Miss Artie looks like a turf router and probably should stick to that type of racing. Derby fever can cause bad decisions, and I wouldn't be surprised if they run, even with his apparent dislike for the surface.

If both of these horses make the starting gate, I would toss WMA and keep Chitu as possibly being in the top four.

Danza is looking unbelievably good, love that picture of him in the air, like he is flying over the track. Looking for big things from this guy.

Uncle Sigh is interesting with the blinkers. They say he had a tendency to look at his inside when being taken outside, so the blinkers are there so he will focus straight ahead. Love those Indian Charlie's, and with Pine Bluff on the dam's side, he might just be better suited for the Preakness.

I keep on wanting to toss Ride On Curlin, but he just keeps making me think he is going to run big.

I think now that Wildcat Red might just be one to toss.

27 Apr 2014 9:58 PM

Mary : Glad I'm not the only one.  As for ROC, I'm not quite sold on Borail.  It'll depend a lot on what post ROC gets, people will be betting on the fact that Calvin can get to the rail with this horse but that only works if ROC doesn't freak out coming through on the inside with a bunch of horses on his outside.  What happens if they get forced wide, I don't think Calvin is that great of a jockey outside as he is inside.  I'll decide after the post draw whether to use him or toss him.

Steve Haskin :  I'm with the others in thanking you for these observations, it helps a lot to get an "insider" view of the workouts.  Have you heard anything whether We Miss Artie will be running or not ?  I posted in the other blog that Todd isn't happy with his workout and that he is not sure whether WMA should be in the Derby and that he will have a talk with Mr. Ramsey.  

Now that Ring Weekend is out, I'm praying that Social Inclusion actually makes it (We Miss Artie and Vinceremos not going), to have add'l speed to go with WR.   I believe that the quicker the pace, the better chance Samraat has.   He's got tactical speed that can keep with a fast pace and will have the first jump on the other closers...hopefully hold off Intense Holiday and Chitu.  

27 Apr 2014 10:48 PM


Thanks for ther great photography.  The shot of Danza with all four off the ground is priceless.  Thanks for keeping us updated with your daily analysis.

CC/Wicked Strong/Hoppertunity/Intense Holiday/ and either:

 Danza / Candy Boy and will now throw in Commanding Curve.  Really need help on these 3, Steve.  My next toughest decision will be which of my Derby glasses to sip my mint julep(s) from this year.

Looking forward to your take on California Chrome's arrival and especilly Tuesday when he goes to the track.

I have never had Chitu in my top five or even top eight.  With all the buzz about his fungus foot problem, would not be surprised if Baffert pulls him.  Can not see him putting Bayern in which would put Pablo Del Monte in and add to the pace pressure.  Just my opinion.    

27 Apr 2014 11:28 PM

You would expect all the attention to be on the Pletcher runners even though Todd is 3 percent in the win column with his Derby starters.

Chitu has been training with a special shoe for a fungus issue; he loses the shoe and still goes 6 panels in 1:13 and change. Someone I know at the track said the horse did it effortlessly. Baffert claims the horse has had the hoof issue for some time and has been training with this special shoe for weeks. He told someone on HRRN that he will likely re-shoe Chitu with a regular shoe and it appears all systems are go.

I agree this one is way under the radar. And I agree with Mary about his pedigree underneath. He is lightly raced. Baffert describes him as very fast, muscular and a so-so work horse in the AM.

I think Baffert is being coy because he really does not know what to expect. I heard him say if Chitu takes a step forward from the Sunland he will be in the mix the entire race until the eighth pole (provided he breaks OK and gets a decent post). The rest will be up to Chitu if he runs.

Danza to me seems to be Pletcher's best horse...even after today where all the hype was on Intense Holiday. Danza seems to like the track fine and unlike his other runners, Danza is coming in off of any a 3 week rest from the Ark Derby (so he is fit and there is only so much Pletcher can do).

As for We Miss Artie, if he is sound, if the Ramseys want to run him that is there business. He appears to like poly, but he earned his way here. Barely...he is bred pretty nicely underneath.

27 Apr 2014 11:30 PM
El Kabong

Great shots and comments Steve. Those shots of vince and Danza are terrific. Help me out with something I am struggling with concerning Danza. I remember back in 2007 a talented colt out of a Deputy Minister Mare(Danza is out of a French Deputy mare-Deputy Minister back one) came into the Derby with two Graded wins at 2 turns, not one. He went on to be the talent of his class but he came up short in the Derby, well short, 8 lengths to the winner and 6lengths to second place finisher Hard Spun. I can't help but see some similar issues of foundation with Danza when it comes to asking him to go 10 F's this early. It seems a bit much to expect, especially if you consider that Curlin's sire gave him a better chance at liking the 10F distance. You may or may not remember watching Curlin train at CD, but has this comparison crossed your mind about Danza's chances and Curlin's defeat?

27 Apr 2014 11:34 PM

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your analysis. I reviewed the video of Intense Holiday's workout and even though it was visually impressive (especially the gallop out) he still showed a cross-gait at the top of the stretch (left lead/right hind). He did correct it in the last furlong but it's worth noting that it happened. The workout showed that he is physically peaking but I must say that it's easier to get away with cross firing after the first 4f of a workout than after the first 8f of a race.

Please keep the pictures coming and enjoy Derby week!


28 Apr 2014 12:24 AM

so nice to see you again today Steve. Always enjoy talking with you. Got to spend a lot of time with Ride On Curlin today. Talk about a live one. Little horse has muscles on top of muscles, very fit. He was cooled out in about the 3 trips around the barn and hardly breathing at all period, playing the whole time he was walking. Very excited for the connections and they were thrilled with him today. Was in a good spot to watch Hoppertunity and Chitu prior to the track opening. Both looked good as Derby horses should. Hoppertunity reminds me a lot of Mucho Macho Man. As a 7 May foal, he looks like he still has some growing yet to do but was very relaxed and enjoying the attention he was getting. Was ready to take this sweetheart home with me. Chitu seemed a little more 'busy'. I too was impressed with how Intense Holiday looked on the track today as well as Danza. I did notice that both of Todds 'inside horse' had very similar times (We Miss Artie/Vinceremos) which has me wondering if the inside was a little slower/deeper. From where I was standing and according to my pics, Vinceremos was going on a relaxed rein and was ahead of Danza for a bit but Danza was under a snug hold and just looked ready to pounce at any time. Chitu worked outside his workmate and looked very good coming back off the track following his go around. Hopefully get a chance to really watch some others on wed when I go back out. Stay dry tomorrow.

28 Apr 2014 1:48 AM

Correction on my previous post, I didn't mean to say that We Miss Artie and Vinceremos are not going.  I meant that Social Inclusion will make it if WMA and Vinceremos doesn't go which is very likely based on WMA's workout and Todd still deciding whether Vinceremos is going or not.

28 Apr 2014 2:17 AM
Rusty Weisner

The interest in Chitu baffles me.

28 Apr 2014 7:24 AM
Rusty Weisner

I've seen a couple of people offer negative appraisals of Wildcat Red.  Has he worked at CD?  Can anyone elaborate?

28 Apr 2014 7:29 AM
El Kabong

Feel bad for Ring Weekends connections, but I'm ecstatic that Dallas and Commanding Curve are in the KD. He belongs. This guy is coming along  and I had a feeling he would get in some how. We needed another closer in this event, so welcome aboard Mr. Stewart and the other CC!

28 Apr 2014 8:00 AM
Ted from LA

Hoppertunity, Wicked Strong, California Chrome, Medal Count, Intense Holiday.

28 Apr 2014 9:20 AM

Had to grin at your camera comment.  I just did a safari in Africa - everyone has been raving about my photos which also were done with a little Canon PowerShot!

Love the reports - always great insight!

28 Apr 2014 9:56 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures.  And thank you for the workout information.  Have a wonderful week.  

28 Apr 2014 10:12 AM


I really appreciate your astuteness and professionalism.  I've watched several of the works and observations of those works and I would rate your observations highest.  I'm surprised somewhat from I hear from experienced experts and, at times, it leads me to believe their objectivity is skewed for whatever reason.  So, thank you for, not only for your comments, but how you justify them.

28 Apr 2014 10:52 AM

I think after the derby it will be clear that the Florida Derby and Holy Bull were key races.

28 Apr 2014 11:20 AM

Hope all the horses arrives today in good order, good health and good attitudes.   Looking forward to the gallops.  Two days before the draw and then it's two brutal days of handicapping, then another torturous 3 hours on Saturday morning handicapping again depending on the track condition...and then the last minute handicapping depending on whether speed is holding or not.   I love this game...

Rusty : Why does it baffle you ?   And who are your top 6 right now, I don't think I've ever seen you post your horses, or maybe I have missed it...

28 Apr 2014 11:44 AM
steve from st louis

Steve: As woderful as your pictures are, most of these 3-year-olds are built like sprinters, as best as I can tell. Among your Derby contenders, who would you say is the one who is built more in scope like a stayer?

28 Apr 2014 12:15 PM
El Kabong

Rusty, Jay Jay,

What I don't like about Chitu is the obvious parachute to Sunland Derby. I don't like that his internal fractions are faster in the 9F race than in the 8.5. This is not a horse relaxing on the lead who can stay 10f's. Garcia reaction to working Hopportunity at Churchill seemed to be one of real envy at Mike Smith's mount. A loss to Candy Boy, a short victory over Midnight Hawk. All this points to this horse not being a serious contender. I'll let him beat me. NO SOUP FOR YOU CHITU!

28 Apr 2014 10:39 PM

Thanks for the great pictures, Steve, as well as the insightful comments, as usual.  I still like my Top 7 picks, I am still VERY enthusiastic about them, and I think I'm going to do well come Oaks and Derby Days.  I loved the pictures you accompanied with this article, my favorites being the picture of Danza suspended in mid-air almost as if he is flying; the picture of Uncle Sigh in his blinkers looking happy & friendly; and Wicked Strong posing regally in his stall.  Please tell Clare she's doing an awesome job with the trackside reports, I'm enjoying her professionalism in theses reports done in a friendly and informative fashion.  You, Steve, are doing your usual outstanding best.  I can't wait to read tomorrow's installments of your observations, which are always spot on the money.  It's good to be back posting on this website after an absence due to poor health.  I'm feeling happy, healthy and well again.  And it's certainly fun to be handicapping the Kentucky Derby again!  I love this time of year.  Thanks again, Steve.  Keep up the great work!

29 Apr 2014 9:00 AM
Rusty Weisner

Jay Jay,

I've posted my horses too many times to count.  They're posted right now at Keelerman's.

29 Apr 2014 10:45 AM

El Kabong :  Haha, fair enough.  I don't see the Sunland race as a negative, I saw it as the way to get in the Derby and he did it.   I have Candy Boy somewhere on my list only because Steve H said he is liking the track and Steve says he's looking really good.  Candy Boy was all out trying to get by Chitu in the Lewis and that was his first stakes race.   I still feel Chitu is just getting better and Baffert knows this, if not, I'll enjoy a "crow soup" with him in his stall... and proudly!   After the soup, I'll take my losing tickets to Baffert and ask if he'll refund it because he tricked me.

29 Apr 2014 11:38 PM
Greg R

For a fast track only: 1) California Chrome 2)Danza 3)Candy Boy 4)Medal Count 5)Dance With Fate.

I suspect that the much oohed-over Intense Holiday is one of the type that looks good running on the long FG stretch, but turns out to be a good, late-running 7-8 f. specialist, such as Pyro, which looked great coming from behind at FG and ended up a fine,one-turn horse.

Have yet to pick for off track.  Optimistic, I guess.

30 Apr 2014 11:38 PM

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