LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Jeremy Noseda may have been the last participant to arrive for Saturday's 136th Kentucky Derby, but his decision to send Awesome Act to Churchill Downs earlier than planned has resulted in an eruption of confidence in the rest of his connections.
Awesome Act completed preparations for the Derby with a solid half-mile workout in 48.44 seconds Tuesday morning over a muddy Churchill main track. Jockey Julien Leparoux was aboard for the move, in which Awesome Act went his first quarter in 24.70 seconds and his last quarter in 23.74. He worked in company with Peace Town, a Maryland-bred stakes winner, starting out 1 1/2 lengths behind before finishing a head in front.
Not known for galloping out strongly in his works, Awesome Act galloped out well Tuesday, getting five furlongs in 1:01.15 and not losing contact with his workmate as he has done in the past.
"Today he did very good, actually," Leparoux said. "Usually, he doesn't gallop out. Today he was nice, and he finished up on the bridle."
The work was Awesome Act's second over Churchill's main track. On April 20, he went six furlongs in 1:13.55. That work came four days after Awesome Act arrived by van from Belmont Park, where he had been stabled and trained since March 3.
Awesome Act won the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 6 and then finished third, 9 3/4 lengths behind Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial on April 3. Following the Wood, Noseda said he would keep Awesome Act at Belmont to train for the Derby and ship to Kentucky on Tuesday of Derby week.
But after consulting with Tom Ludt - whose Vinery Stable owns half of Awesome Act with Susan and Paul Roy - as well as trainer Steve Asmussen and his assistant Scott Blasi, the decision was made to ship Awesome Act to Kentucky early.
"He's been very fair and honest to consult with me and Steve and Scott because he's never done this before," Ludt said of Noseda, who has never started a horse in the Derby. "I told him, 'It's just my opinion - I think you need to get the horse in here and get him settled and get him on this track.
"I think if you ask him tomorrow, he'll tell you it's a really good idea," he said.
Noseda was scheduled to arrive in Kentucky on Tuesday from England. His previous trip here to watch Awesome Act's April 20 work was canceled because of a restriction on air travel following a volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Wayne Tanner, Noseda's assistant, said he believes it was wise to get Awesome Act to Churchill early. Tanner, who is the regular exercise rider of Awesome Act, said the horse moves and feels better here than he did over Belmont's training track.
"The best he's ever been is here," Tanner said. "Different horse than at Belmont - moves better, more comfortable on the track. It's a little deeper at Belmont, and he didn't get a hold of it. He gets a hold of this track a lot better than he ever got a hold of Belmont."
Awesome Act's affinity for Churchill combined with the defection of Eskendereya because of a leg injury has certainly increased Awesome Act's chances come Saturday.
"Obviously, you want your horse getting better versus kind of showing you signs that he's flattening out or peaked," Ludt said. "I don't think this horse has peaked. We want him to peak on Saturday."