As Elliott Walden pondered what he had just witnessed from Improbable during the colt's final serious workout in advance of the Kentucky Derby, the CEO and President of WinStar Farm couldn't help but get hit with a pretty ambitious case of déjà vu.
“He's feeling good and I think (trainer) Bob (Baffert) has him right where he wants him,” Walden said of Improbable, whom WinStar Farm co-owns along with China Horse Club International and Starlight Racing. “He reminds me of Super Saver when he came in here off Arkansas. The three weeks were a good three weeks.”
Super Saver famously gave the WinStar team its first Kentucky Derby triumph when he captured the Run for the Roses in 2010, three weeks after running second in the Arkansas Derby (GI). Whether Improbable can follow in those footsteps remains to be seen but the son of City Zip certainly inspired confidence with his five-furlong work in 1:00.60 at Churchill Downs on Sunday.
As Improbable headed onto the track during the special time slot reserved exclusively for Oaks and Derby runners, the chestnut bucked and played under jockey Florent Geroux – who is actually set to ride fellow Baffert trainee Roadster in the 1 ¼-mile classic. His good-feeling mood continued to show itself as he broke off just a couple lengths behind workmate Embolden, quickly catching up to that one and moving past his stablemate down the lane as he registered splits of :11.80, :23.60, and :36.40 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 and seven furlongs in 1:25.60.
“I don't think he was rank. He was just maybe a little bit keen and feeling good,” Geroux said. “He's very easy (to ride) actually. Down the lane he was responding exactly to what I was asking him to. I could have gone faster if I wanted to. I could have gone a touch slower if I wanted to. He was just very cooperative.”
WATCH: Improbable breezed 5F in 1:00.60 this morning with workmate Embolden in 1:01.20
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 28, 2019
Improbable captured all three of his starts during his juvenile campaign, capping off his 2018 season with a victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (GI). He finished second in both the Rebel Stakes (GII) and the Arkansas Derby (GI) but has seemingly thrived during his time in Louisville.
“He loves this track. I just love the way he kept on galloping out today,” Baffert said. “That's what we wanted to see. He gets over it well. He's not really big but he jumps a long way. Now I can relax. Now we have to wait for the draw. That's the last of the anxiety is the draw.”
Improbable's work Sunday was his second since arriving at Churchill following his loss to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby. He previously posted a four-furlong work in :48 on April 22.
One day after arriving from California and joining stablemate Improbable in Churchill Downs' Barn 33, reigning juvenile male champion Game Winner and Grade I winner Roadster went to the Churchill Downs track for the first time in their Kentucky Derby preparations.
Veteran exercise rider Humberto “Beto” Gomez was up on both runners, first taking Gary and Mary West's Game Winner out at 6:30 a.m. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI) hero jogged one lap the wrong way with the pony two days after working seven furlongs in 1:27 at Santa Anita Park.
The routine was much the same for Speedway Stable's Roadster, who came out during the 7:30 a.m. time slot along with Improbable. The Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner also worked at Santa Anita on April 26, going six furlongs in 1:13.80.
“They just jogged. They're not going to do much,” Baffert said of the duo.
Both Game Winner and Improbable have proven form over the Churchill Downs track with the former earning his Breeders' Cup triumph beneath the Twin Spires and Improbable capturing the Street Sense Stakes on the Breeders' Cup undercard. Roadster's Breeders' Cup chances went by the wayside last summer when he underwent throat surgery following his third-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity (GI).
“All three (of my runners) have different styles. Game Winner he's like the fullback, Roadster he's real light and lean but he gets over the ground well. I'm just happy to be here with three really nice horses.”
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