Haskin's Derby Report: General on the Attack

Mike Maker has been looking forward to working General a Rod since his unexpectedly slow work last week. He has since compensated for the colt’s distractions by galloping him in blinkers, which has made him more focused and aggressive.

This morning, again wearing blinkers and with Joel Rosario aboard, the powerfully built colt turned in a half-mile work in :49 2/5, rattling off his eighths in :12 2/5, :12 1/5, :12 2/5, and :12 3/5. General a Rod was aggressive early as Rosario gave him a long run to the pole, keeping him well off the rail and grabbing a tight hold of the reins and keeping just enough restraint to prevent the colt from getting too aggressive early.

After breaking off at the half-mile pole, he still kept him off the rail over a drying out track that still had a good deal of moisture in it and had him about five-wide turning for home. General a Rod came home smoothly well off the rail, but jumped back on to his left lead nearing the wire. The clockers caught him galloping out five furlongs in 1:03 4/5.

This is one horse who doesn’t need any speed in his works. We know he’s fast and he’s tenacious and likes to battle on or near the front end. But that is not going to win him the Kentucky Derby. This was a solid enough work to help get him more focused than he was in his last work and to have Rosario get another feel of him before the race.

One horse who made a big first impression was Samraat, who is another with great presence. He has an absolutely beautiful head and a big, bright, kind eye and emits a great deal of class. He just jogged this morning, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how handles the track and how he does with his lead changes, which have been erratic in the past.

One of the gallopers who stood out this morning is a horse who I believe is going to be totally forgotten by the bettors and that is Candy Boy. I was impressed with his work in company the other day under Gary Stevens and how he accelerated taking off after his workmate, and also how he finished up. He’s a powerfully built colt, who was dead short in the Santa Anita Derby, in a race scenario not to his liking. Most feel as if he has too much to do to make up nearly nine lengths on California Chrome, but he does get a much better pace setup and has a race under him, and the Santa Anita Derby was not unlike 1996 when Snow Chief ran off and hid from Ferdinand, who also finished a well-beaten third. At this point at least, he’s an intriguing longshot possibility who should definitely love the mile and a quarter.

Another looker in this field is Dance With Fate, a Black Stallion type who moved very well over the track this morning.

The other forgotten and maligned horse in the field is Vicar’s in Trouble, and he appears to be doing better than many think. It’s going to be tough on Friday to sort through all the leading contenders and longshots and pick out the ones to concentrate on at the windows. If California Chrome comes up short, this is a total crap shoot, where most anyone has a shot to win if they run their “A” race. Off looks, there are several with whom I’ve been impressed, including Uncle Sigh, who is muscled out and carrying excellent flesh. So tune in on Friday and see how all this gets sorted out. I can tell you now it’s going to be a last-minute decision on how to attack this perplexing race.

A quick note on Harry’s Holiday: he was lathered up pretty badly coming off the track this morning despite fairly cool temperatures.

While everyone was over at California Chrome's barn, fellow traveler Dance With Fate takes a rest after the flight.

Wicked Strong is bright and alert as he takes a break from grazing.

Wicked Strong and Jimmy Jerkens.

General a Rod stood just like this for a good five minutes waiting for the track to open.

Samraat's demeanor catches your attention.

Samraat wins the most beautiful head and eye award. And notice those nice big ears.

Samraat regal demeanor is evident even after training.

Candy Boy has been on the muscle and feeling good.

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