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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Code West outworked by Oaks filly Midnight Lucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Saturday’s workout mayhem led to a relatively calm Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, where a couple of Kentucky Oaks workers stole most of the thunder, at least temporarily, from this year’s Kentucky Derby field.

With half the prospective Derby lineup having worked on Saturday, many of those drills moved forward 24 hours because of weather and track considerations, only Code West breezed on Sunday and afterwards  his status as a Derby starter was deemed “very unlikely” by trainer Bob Baffert.

Although it did rain some in Louisville on Saturday and again briefly early Sunday morning, the racetrack was in good shape during training hours. In fact, the main track was a bit on the hard side and yielded very fast times following the renovation break.

Sunday at Churchill

57 degrees, track good

Work of the day

Midnight Lucky  (five furlongs in 59.04 seconds) will compete in the Oaks but she surely would have garnered plenty of consideration had she been running against the boys on Derby Day following what was arguably the most impressive workout from either an Oaks or Derby contender here this past week. Midnight Lucky, with exercise rider Dana Barnes up, broke off at the 4 1/2-furlong pole about four lengths behind Code West and cruised through an easy opening quarter in 24.42 and three-eighths in 36.36. Despite fanning about five or six paths wide leaving the turn, Midnight Lucky readily moved closer to her partner upon settling into the stretch before finally drawing even approaching the eighth pole while seemingly doing little more than galloping at that point. She then covered her final quarter in an eye-catching 22.67, which was all the more impressive  considering she still appeared to be merely loping along past the wire and into the turn.  Midnight Lucky held a half-length advantage over Code West when the pair completed their drill at the 7 ½-furlong marker and maintained that advantage during a strong gallop out, getting six furlongs in 1:11.92 before pulling up seven-eighths in 1:25.39. Although her final clocking may have been abetted by a fresh and fast racetrack, it was the visual perception and not the time which made Midnight Lucky’s performance this morning so impressive while re-enforcing the huge impression she made working here in very similar if not quite as spectacular fashion six days earlier.

Code West  (five furlongs in 59.80) went well but proved no match for Midnight Lucky. With jockey Mike Smith aboard, Code West broke off four lengths in front of the filly and also traveled at a comfortable early pace, posting splits of 24.74 and 36.60 for his opening quarter and three-eighths. He too finished well, a final quarter in 23.20, but was put to some urging to do so in an attempt to keep pace with the superior  Midnight Lucky through midstretch and to the wire. Code West also galloped out willingly, completing six furlongs in 1:12.70 before pulling up seven-eighths in 1:26.18.  Not a bad work but one totally overshadowed by the filly.             

Close Hatches  (four furlongs in 47.56) has had a great week and did nothing to dispel that notion during what really was little more than an easy maintenance work on Sunday.  Close Hatches completed her opening quarter in 23.02, was allowed to angle about four paths off the rail into the stretch, changed leads right on cue, then finished willingly without a hint of urging before galloping out five-eighths in 1:00.72. This was also a very nice move but one that was somewhat overshadowed coming just minutes behind Midnight Lucky.

Itsmyluckyday and Goldencents  made their first visits to the track on Sunday after arriving on the grounds the previous day. Itsmyluckyday did little but jog a mile the wrong way around 7 a.m. but made an extremely positive visual impression, neck bowed, during his brief tour of the course. Goldencents, the Santa Anita Derby winner, also had a relatively quiet first morning jogging next to a pony during the Derby/Oaks training session.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out all five of his Saturday Derby workers to jog a mile very early Sunday morning and all appear to have come out of their breezes nicely. Winning Cause  galloped in Pletcher’s last set prior to the renovation break and is scheduled to work Monday. His Derby status will become clearer after that workout.

Orb  made another super appearance on Sunday, one day in advance of his final Derby work scheduled for after the break on Monday. The Florida Derby winner galloped a strong 1 1/2 miles, briefly buck-jumping a shadow near the finish line, before changing back to his left lead and continuing on about his business without missing a beat.

Govenor Charlie  showed a little higher energy level when dropped down nearer the rail for his gallop early Sunday although he still seems to be stabbing the ground rather than reaching out smoothly as he goes. Oxbow  merely jogged on Sunday and did not look comfortable or to be travelling very smoothly himself during his relatively abbreviated session. Both Oxbow and stablemate Will Take Charge are scheduled to work on Monday.

Juvenile filly champ Beholder  also visited the local track for the first time in advance of the Oaks and turned in an easy gallop while equipped not only with blinkers but also ear muffs, which sources say are standard fare for her during training hours in California.

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