While Kentucky was the logical center of gravity for Kentucky Derby (G1) works on Saturday, it wasn’t the only location for major moves. Exaggerator and Danzing Candy tuned up in Southern California, and Destin drilled at his Florida base.
Exaggerator and Danzing Candy were both recording their first works since the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (G1), where Exaggerator romped in the slop and Danzing Candy faded to fourth after setting a torrid pace. Both have apparently come out in good order, giving connections what they wanted to see in their respective moves on Saturday.
At Santa Anita, Exaggerator negotiated five furlongs in 1:00 and galloped out with good energy beneath Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux. At least, that’s what it sounded like from the vantage point afforded by Desormeaux’s improvised “helmet cam” – his smart phone affixed to broadcast via Periscope. Now all of us armchair jockeys were able to tag along.
Judging by how Desormeaux had to keep saying “easy” as Exaggerator was escorted by the pony beforehand, the Curlin colt was eager to get down to business. After breaking away on the backstretch, Exaggerator ramped up the tempo, hugged the rail on the far turn, and kept rolling down the stretch and past the wire. Finally slowing as they returned to the backstretch, Desormeaux had to persuade him to come to a stop; it appeared as if Exaggerator wanted to go after the horses who were now passing through to his inside.
Exaggerator then linked back up with his pony escort and made his way back to trainer Keith Desormeaux’s barn. You can hear Kent say he was just “galloping” out there.
After Danzing Candy’s debacle in the Santa Anita Derby, trainer Cliff Sise Jr. decided to take him back to San Luis Rey Downs and regroup. That gambit looks inspired now, for the San Felipe (G2) hero zipped six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.
According to Jeremy Balan of The Blood-Horse, Danzing Candy actually worked five furlongs in 1:00. His gallop-out was so strong that he was credited with a six-furlong move.
“Unbelievable,” Sise told Balan. “He was supposed to go 1:01 and went in 1:00 easy. He went almost :13 for the first eighth and the last half-mile was in :47. I think he likes it down here.”
Plans call for Danzing Candy to turn in his final serious pre-Derby work at San Luis Rey next Saturday, while Balan reports that Exaggerator is scheduled to embark for Churchill Downs Tuesday night and post his last tune-up there.
On the opposite coast, Destin also fired a bullet when breezing five furlongs in 1:00.32 at Palm Beach Downs. Workmate Savoy Stomp was supposed to give him company, but had to work to keep up early and couldn’t go with him as he drew away in the stretch. (As viewed on YouTube video tweeted by Dave Norton [@Play_Da_Ponies] by permission of Twin Creeks Racing’s Randy Gullatt [@rgullatt])
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Destin burst onto the Kentucky Derby scene with consecutive victories in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2). The son of Giant’s Causeway (and full brother to Creative Cause) is attempting to stretch out from 1 1/16 miles to the Derby’s 1 1/4 miles off an eight-week layoff.
Among the “bubble” horses, Laoban negotiated five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Keeneland. Currently ranked 23rd on the Derby points list, he’s looking to the Preakness (G1) as a fall-back position.
The same goes for Cherry Wine (ranked 25th), who was supposed to work at Churchill Downs Saturday. But trainer Dale Romans elected not to work him.
“He’s a little bit of a lighter horse; we don’t need to do much with him,” Romans said. “Right now our chances of getting in the Derby are not looking good so we’ll just try to think Preakness.”
Photo of Exaggerator from the Santa Anita Derby courtesy of Benoit.