LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Chad Brown had reason to feel encouraged after the way Normandy Invasion covered Churchill Downs on Saturday in the final big workout leading into the Kentucky Derby.
The horse clocked 59 seconds over five furlongs to top Derby hopefuls on a busy day, followed by Mylute and Black Onyx. Todd Pletcher came away feeling good about the quality efforts turned in by the five horses he’s training including favorites Verrazano and Revolutionary, leading his high-quantity contingent.
Whether Normandy Invasion can snag attention from some of his more-publicized competitors over the next week remains to be seen. But he, Mylute and Black Onyx offered proof that horses in the second tier of the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings might be just as strong as those on top.
In the case of Normandy Invasion, Brown sees a horse showing that he’s capable of challenging expected favorites Orb and Verrazano.
Tied with Frac Daddy in 14th place with 44 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings, the horse’s comfort with Churchill Downs has become evident with two good workouts this week by himself. Running through traffic is another matter, but Brown sees potential there as well.
“The longer he’s here at Churchill, I see a horse that’s sharper and stronger,” Brown said. “He’s definitely settled in well.”
While the need to build toward the 139th Derby on May 4 explains the urgency shown Saturday by many of its entrants in practice, the weather forecast might be why horses seemed to be in a hurry.
Predictions of morning showers changed plans throughout the barns, leading many to move up workout schedules a day with some running before dawn in an effort to beat the elements.
“When we sent him out there, it still looked like there was a chance of rain,” Brown said about Normandy Invasion’s agenda. “I just didn’t want to take any chances. I only have one Derby horse, so for me, take the good track when you can get it and get it out of the way.”
Sunrise ultimately provided a silver lining for everybody with overcast skies and cool temperatures, allowing competitors to train normally on a fast track. That alone was enough to make trainers and jockeys smile, with the workouts providing more cause for happiness.
Trainer Tom Amoss kept Mylute’s 50.60 at four furlongs with Rosie Napravnik in perspective, even quoting former NBA player Allen Iverson’s famous rant about it being “practice” and not a race. At the same time, practice also showed a horse getting closer to being ready for the biggest race of his life.
“Today’s work was identical to the pattern that we used leading into the Louisiana Derby, and it went well,” said Amoss, referring to Mylute’s runner-up finish to Revolutionary.