CALEB'S POSSE (Posse) continues to quietly go about his business at Oaklawn Park as the overachieving three-year-old colt who won the Smarty Jones S. and finished second in the Rebel S. (G2) in his last start. Although Friday, he served notice that he's ready to make some noise in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 16 with a serious five-furlong breeze.
Under regular jockey Eddie Razo Jr., the bay colt built momentum around the turn before barreling through the stretch, hitting the wire with a five-furlong time of 1:01 1/5 and galloping out strongly.
"I wanted him to do more down the lane and it seems like he really looked good," trainer Donnie Von Hemel explained. "He broke off nice and comfortable and then I wanted him to let out a notch down the lane, and he did that more than willingly. Eddie says he didn't have to push him at all."
The workout was the third fastest of 31 drills at the distance on a crisp morning. Razo continues to be impressed.
"When I turned the corner at the quarter-pole I could really feel him take the bit," Razo said. "He was even sharper than last time. Donnie told he wanted a good work, and when I turned him loose, he really did that and galloped out real strong."
Despite winning the Smarty Jones in January, Caleb's Posse was 7-1 when he encountered a brutal trip in the Southwest S. (G3) on February 21. When he chased home lone front runner The Factor (War Front) in the Rebel, he was a 24-1 outsider. Razo thinks his colt has the tools to continue to outrun his expectations.
"Hopefully he can get the right trip because this horse is push-button," Razo said. "He can go inside. He can go outside. He can sit near the front. When you have the kind of turn-of-foot as he does, it makes it easy. From the first time I rode him, it's just been a matter of figuring out what we wanted to do out there."
While he stops short of saying he's ready to join the pace in a potential rematch with The Factor in the Arkansas Derby, Razo is among several contenders who are not intimidated by the high-cruising California invader.
"If somebody can go with him, it will make a lot of difference," Razo said. "I know he's a nice horse and he ran really well, and especially up the backside, that horse was just running along with his head up in the air and with the way the track was playing to speed, but hopefully next time somebody can go with him to at least make it a little tougher."
Caleb's Posse can blame some of his lack of respect on his stablemate, the regally bred Alternation (Distorted Humor). After flipping in the starting gate of the Rebel, necessitating a late scratch, the dark bay has repeatedly "gone to school" with sessions at the starting gate and in the paddock. Von Hemel indicated a workout that might help decide whether to take a chance on the Arkansas Derby would likely come this weekend.