LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After all the handwringing over the new points system employed by Churchill Downs to limit the Kentucky Derby field to 20 and all the concern over who would have sufficient points and who wouldn't, it was starting to look as if no points would be needed to get into the Derby.
Trainer Bob Baffert said Monday morning that Govenor Charlie and Code West would both skip the Kentucky Derby; connections for Tiz A Minister confirmed that he won't be on the plane scheduled to arrive here Tuesday from California; and trainer Todd Pletcher basically said five's enough, withdrawing Lexington Stakes winner Winning Cause from consideration.
That left Golden Soul, who has 14 points, as the 19th and final horse to get into the Derby field, unless, of course, somebody suddenly and unexpectedly dove into the deep end of the pool. Such dives, taken on impulse and without much planning, generally lead to a flop, of course, and to the unsightly mess of dreams splayed out over 1 1/4 miles. And so it was an auspicious time for some sanity to return to the Derby.
But, of course, that didn't happen. Late Monday afternoon, Fear of the Kitten, who has six points and is trained by Mike Maker, joined the Derby field.
As for Golden Soul, his trainer, Dallas Stewart, was delighted to get the opportunity to run in the Derby. Golden Soul, who rallied from 14th to finish fourth in the Louisiana Derby, looks like a horse that actually wants to run 1 1/4 miles, and the handsome chestnut has been training very sharply in recent days.
But several horses have looked good here at Churchill, most notably Orb and Verrazano, who have been atop ESPN.com's Kentucky Derby Top 10 poll all season. Orb has impressed with his poise and eagerness; his workout on Monday sparkled. And Verrazano, who's a jaw-dropping specimen, does everything effortlessly.
In this final poll prior to the Derby, Mylute returns, replacing Will Take Charge. Mylute, who'll be ridden by Rosie Napravnik in the Derby, worked sharply here last week. Will Take Charge, who hasn't raced since winning the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March, breezed five-eighths of a mile Monday in 1:01, a solid if unspectacular move.
Orb couldn't have been more impressive in his workout here at Churchill Downs on Monday. The Florida Derby winner breezed a half-mile, starting just behind stablemate Overwhelming, a 3-year-old maiden, and then easily moving clear by about four lengths in the stretch to complete the distance in 47.80 seconds. Throughout the move, exercise rider Jenn Patterson kept a firm hold of the long-striding colt, who galloped out five furlongs in about 1:01 and six furlongs in 1:14.80. Orb appears to be very happy and very strong, and he could be very tough to beat in the Derby.
Verrazano has had two good workouts here, the latest on Saturday, when he went to the track in the company of the outstanding mare Authenticity. He easily pulled away from her in the stretch and then galloped out strongly. A huge, heavily built colt, Verrazano doesn't necessarily look like a classic horse, but the unbeaten colt does everything so easily that he invites the imagination to speculate about how good and special he just might be.
The Louisiana Derby winner is another who has turned in two impressive workouts here, both of them with Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel riding. Saturday, Revolutionary skimmed the rail and ran the final quarter-mile in 23.40 seconds to complete a half-mile in 48.20. If he can avoid traffic-trouble in the Derby, he could give Borel his fourth win in the America's premier race.
4. Normandy Invasion
Normandy Invasion has been one of the most impressive workout horses at Churchill Downs, which could indicate he's approaching the effort of a lifetime. Monday, just two days after working a swift five-eighths of a mile and only a moment after a strong gallop, he was bucking and kicking as he left the racetrack.
The Santa Anita Derby winner was among the last Derby horses to arrive at Churchill. (Lines of Battle has yet to arrive.) But Goldencents seemed full of energy as he pulled his way through a strong gallop Monday. Goldencents has plenty of natural speed and could be the early leader in the Derby, but his trainer, Doug O'Neill, has been working on persuading the colt to control his speedy inclinations.
The Holy Bull Stakes winner was also a late arrival, getting here Saturday after a long van-ride from Florida. He jogged Sunday and galloped 1½ miles Monday, making a very positive impression. "His energy level is 100 percent," exercise rider Peter Shelton said.
Overanalyze and Palace Malice, two members of trainer Todd Pletcher's penta-powerhouse, worked a half-mile together Saturday. Overanalyze began about a length behind and never quite got by his stablemate as they finished together. Some observers thought Overanalyze worked better; some thought Palace Malice. Both are training well.
After he finished third in the Wood Memorial, Vyjack received treatments in the hyperbaric chamber at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center for an apparent lung infection. Since arriving here at Churchill, he appears to be doing well. He looked comfortable galloping 1½ miles Monday. The biggest question for him in the Derby could be whether he's capable of competing at the 1¼ miles.
He isn't under the radar so much as he's in the dark. One of the first horses on the Churchill track each morning before 6 o'clock, Mylute had a maintenance workout Saturday and appears to be quietly building up energy for the big day. He rallied strongly to finish a neck behind Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby.
10. Java's War
He won the Blue Grass Stakes with a powerful last-to-first move on Keeneland's Polytrack surface, but he gave what was arguably the worst performance of his career right here at Churchill, finishing sixth in last year's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. And in his preparations for the Derby, he hasn't shown any particular affection for the Churchill dirt. He appears to be better on turf or on a synthetic surface.
Also receiving votes: Will Take Charge (27), Palace Malace (25), Oxbow (17), Lines of Battle (10), Dreaming of Julia (3), Frac Daddy (1).
How they voted: To see how our experts voted, click here.