LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It was only Monday.
Just a small portion of the media horde that will descend upon Churchill Downs to cover the Kentucky Derby on Saturday had arrived. Yet the scene outside Bob Baffert's barn yesterday morning resembled a happy-hour victory bash.
Baffert's two Derby horses, Point Given and Congaree, had just completed their final serious Derby works, and they'd done it in blistering times. Both traveled five furlongs -- Point Given in 58.50 seconds, Congaree in 58.75 seconds, according to Baffert's stopwatch.
"Pretty awesome," Baffert said. "They look pretty tough, those two. It's a pretty strong pair I've brought here, a strong hand."
In Point Given and Congaree, the two likely favorites, Baffert holds his strongest Derby hand yet, and he's already won two Derbies -- in 1997 with Silver Charm and 1998 with Real Quiet.
Baffert sent Point Given to the track without the saddlecloth bearing his name. He said he didn't want fans watching the morning workouts to applaud when Point Given passed, possibly spooking Point Given or another horse.
He said he didn't want a repeat of a mishap four years ago involving Silver Charm. After winning the Derby and Preakness, Silver Charm remained at Churchill Downs to prepare his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.
As Silver Charm passed the grandstand, the morning railbirds erupted into applause. The sudden noise scared another horse, who nearly rammed Silver Charm.
"The stress level just came down; maybe I can sleep tonight," Baffert said after both horses returned safely to the barn. "You only get nervous when you've got a chance to win it. I'm nervous."
A P Valentine zips
A P Valentine, trained by another two-time Derby winner, Nick Zito, also turned in his final Derby work. He zipped five furlongs in 59 seconds.
After winning the Champagne Stakes last fall in perhaps the most impressive performance by any 2-year-old, A P Valentine has won only once this year. Zito said he believes the A.P. Indy colt, co-owned by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, is coming around at the right time.
A P Valentine finished a disappointing fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. That was his final prep for the Derby.
"It takes two good works to erase the memory of a bad race, and he's had two good works here," Zito said. "The horse is happy at Churchill Downs. ... I'm grateful for the chance to train a talented horse like A P Valentine. And I can't think of a better day for him to show his talent than Derby day."
Tincin is withdrawn
The haplass maiden Tincin was withdrawn from consideration for the Derby. His connections had been roundly criticized for seeking a spot in the field for a horse that had lost all seven of his races by a combined 129 3/4 lengths.
"He has come up with a cough, so he is out," said Steve LaRue, his trainer at Ellis Park in western Kentucky. "We started to take him to the track this morning, and he coughed five or six times. ... I'd cut off my left arm to run him. But if you can't breathe, you can't run."
Trainer John Scanlan arrived from Maryland to supervise the final preparations of Talk Is Money. "I have waited 30 years to get here, and this is cool," Scanlan said. "Even if it is bad, it's still cool." ... Tom Albertrani, assistant trainer of Godolphin's Express Tour, said that trainer Saeed bin Suroor and owner Sheikh Mohammed would not attend the Derby. He said they would instead attend the Sagitta 2,000 Guineas in England, in which Tobougg will represent Godolphin. ... The field of possible starters stands at 19. Still listed as "possible" are Keats, winner of the Lexington Stakes, and Arctic Boy, runner-up in the Rebel Stakes.
What: First leg of horse racing's Triple Crown
When: Saturday, 6:04 p.m. post
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.
Distance: 1 1/4 miles
Purse: $1 million
TV: Chs. 11, 4.