Kentucky Derby horses frequently run in the race the same way they have worked out for it.
“Remember Ferdinand?” asked trainer Rodney Rash, who was an assistant to Charlie Whittingham when Ferdinand won the Derby at 17-1 in 1986.
“Charlie kept telling everybody how great Ferdinand was doing after he arrived here, but nobody would listen to him. Charlie walked out of here with enough money to fill a wheelbarrow.”
If workouts translate to victories, then Brocco has at least closed the gap on Holy Bull for the 120th running of the race Saturday at Churchill Downs. The Santa Anita Derby winner has been in Kentucky since April 16, seven days after his California victory, and his three workouts have been consistently good, culminated by a fast 1:00 3/5 for five furlongs on Monday.
“It’s Brocco’s race to lose,” said Steve Young, another trainer. “I’ve been close to him here, and I can see up close how well he’s doing. If he runs his race, he’ll win.”
Young trains Irgun, the Wood Memorial winner who was forced out of the Derby because of an abscessed hoof. His opinion might not be entirely without prejudice; his twin brother, Gary, works as an assistant for Randy Winick, Brocco’s trainer. Gary Young helped Winick pick out Brocco for Albert and Dana Broccoli, who bought the Kris S.-Anytime Ms. colt for $210,000 at an auction of unraced 2-year-olds in Pomona.
Another horseman with a biased analysis of the Derby is jockey Gary Stevens, who has ridden Brocco to four victories and two seconds in six races, including last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Stevens, seeking his second Derby victory, won for the first time in 1988 with Winning Colors.
Winning Colors, who had also won the Santa Anita Derby, was the close second betting choice to Private Terms, who started the Derby undefeated in seven starts. Winning Colors broke quickly, sprinted to a 3 1/2-length lead after a half-mile of the 1 1/4-mile race, had the same advantage with an eighth of a mile left and outlasted Forty Niner, who missed by a neck at the wire.
The Hollywood Park-based Stevens, who worked Brocco on Monday, traveled to nearby Lexington on Tuesday to see Winning Colors for the first time since they finished next to last in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Gulfstream Park in 1989. The 9-year-old mare recently foaled a filly by Danzig and is soon to be bred to Storm Bird.
“I don’t think there was a lot of respect for Winning Colors the year she won,” Stevens said. “She was a filly, and everybody was saying that she couldn’t win at a mile and a quarter. We stole the race. She kicked away from the gate, and then I got her to gallop from the five-eighths to the three-eighths pole. That’s when (trainer Wayne Lukas) said to let her rip. That’s what I did, and even though she got the wobbles in the last sixteenth of a mile, she had enough left.”
Stevens doesn’t anticipate that Holy Bull will have that luxury.
“He’s getting a lot more respect than Winning Colors did,” he said. “I think that if Winning Colors had been 1-5 (odds), Forty Niner would have been at my throat at the three-eighths pole.
“Holy Bull’s run some awesome races, but I’m not going to ride my race around him. We’re not going to let him take us out of our game plan. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my horse. I want to be in contention when we hit the quarter pole, and I think my horse will be the best horse in the last quarter-mile of the race.”
Randy Winick, 44, is the son of retired trainer Arnold Winick. Randy was at the 1970 Derby, when his father finished seventh with Corn Off The Cob, and he was also here in 1972 for his father’s third-place finish with Hold Your Peace. Riva Ridge, the Derby winner in ’72, was a front-runner such as Holy Bull.
“The thing I remember about ’72 was the intensity of the crowd,” Randy Winick said. “My dad’s horse came to Riva Ridge several times, and every time he did (jockey) Ron Turcotte would just let out another notch. Riva Ridge was an awfully good colt.”
Winick hopes that at least one other horse--Ulises seems to be the best prospect--will go after Holy Bull early.
“If Holy Bull gets away with a 47 first quarter and is three (lengths) in front, he’ll be tough to catch,” Winick said. “We want to be in contention at the three-eighths pole, because that’s the way most horses win this race. I want Gary to have Holy Bull in his sights all the way Saturday. I don’t think Holy Bull will win, but if he does, I’ll take my hat off to him.”
Horse Racing Notes
Powis Castle, second in both starts this year, in the San Rafael at Santa Anita and the Jim Beam at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., worked five furlongs Tuesday in 1:00 2/5. . . . In other workouts by Derby horses, Kandaly posted a five-furlong time of 1:01 and Smilin Singin Sam had a 1:00 4/5. . . . Prospects for a fast track on Derby day are good.