Rain, rain go away at Churchill Downs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The weather forecast wouldn't change, no matter how long Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sat in front of the television.

"The only time I got away from the Weather Channel was when Obama came on last night," Baffert said, referring to President Barack Obama's announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan.

Slop and all, Baffert had no choice but to sent out Midnight Interlude on Monday for the final workout before Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

"I really can't do anything about it," Baffert said of the wet track after the upset winner of the Santa Anita Derby went five furlongs in 1:00.80 in the company of a stablemate. "We just have to deal with it. If it rains for the race, at least he's been over a wet track."

That's something the colt rarely encounters at Baffert's home base in Southern California.

"He was happy. He handled it very well. So far, so good," he said. "When you work in the mud or the slop like this, the only thing you get out of it is that he went well. You can't grade the work because it's slop."

The biggest concern for Baffert, a three-time Derby winner, is the horse's lack of overall experience evident in the workout.

"Once he got in front of the workmate, he wanted to shut it down. He's still figuring it out. He's doing a little catch-up," Baffert said.

Midnight Interlude will be making only his fifth career start. He jumped up from his first win to capture the $1 million Santa Anita Derby by a head at 13-1 odds.

Monday's weather repeated the recent pattern of rainy days in Louisville. Another wet one is forecast for Tuesday before a clearing pattern is expected.

"I should have brought a rain coat," Baffert said. "I got them home in the closet with dust gathering on them."


FOUR MORE: Four other Derby horses worked in the slop Monday morning.

Blue Grass winner Brilliant Speed went five furlongs in 1:01.20, while Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go also went five furlongs in 1:02.

Santiva and Nehro had half-mile drills.

Santiva was clocked in 50.20 seconds over the track where he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November. Nehro, who missed by a neck in both the Louisiana and Arkansas derbys, went in 51.20.


A CHIP VISIT: Chip Woolley, the cowboy trainer from New Mexico who pulled off a stunning upset with Mine That Bird in the 2009 Derby, was a backstretch visitor at Churchill Downs on Monday.

"I got Derby fever," Woolley said of returning to the scene of his greatest triumph. "I came to watch everybody, and to see who is doing what."

Mine That Bird was a captivating story, as was his trainer. Despite a broken right leg broken from a motorcycle accident, Woolley hitched a horse van to his pickup truck and towed the gelding more than 1,500 miles from New Mexico to Kentucky. Woolley hobbled around during the Triple Crown series on crutches.

Following the Derby win, Mine That Bird was second to filly Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes.

"It was quite a run," he said.

Mine That Bird has since retired and Woolley has faded from the national scene. He is 4 for 78 this year, racing at Sunland Park in New Mexico and at Prairie Meadows in Iowa. He keeps an eye out for the next Mine That Bird.

"We haven't seen anything since, with the talent that it takes to get here," Woolley said. "We keep looking for the next one, going to the horse sales to see what we can up with."

Woolley is fully healed, no longer needing crutches to get around.

"I'm good, I'm back," he said. "I exercise a few of my horses."


NO HEAT: The $1 million Kentucky Oaks, the Derby's companion event for fillies on Friday, lost a top contender when R Heat Lightning suffered a knee injury.

"We detected heat in her right knee this morning and she was slightly off at the jog," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "It's unfortunate. She's a very talented filly and has been training great."

She will be evaluated later this week at a clinic in Lexington.

R Heat Lightning was a blowout winner in her last two stakes races in Florida. She was runner-up at Churchill in November in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.