Arnold Zetcher's Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE (War Chant) worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs on Monday.
Working in company with his five-year-old stablemate Mythical Power (Congaree), the Bob Baffert colt delivered fractions of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, :36 2/5 and :48 1/5 under jockey Martin Garcia. Inside the sixteenth-pole Midnight Interlude pulled ahead of Mythical Power, who was second-fastest of seven at the distance in 1:01.
"The track was in pretty good shape today. We got enough rain," Baffert said. "The last time I worked these horses it didn't rain enough and the track was sort of drying out heavy and mucky. I was really happy with the way they worked today because they went over it well."
The Derby will be Midnight Interlude's fifth career start, all of them this year. He made his debut on January 29 at Santa Anita, broke his maiden on March 20 in his third try and won the Santa Anita Derby by a head over Comma to the Top (Bwana Charlie) on April 9.
"Midnight Interlude has been improving every day since I've been here," Baffert said. "He's still green. He's learning how to run. I worked him with his workmate and once he got in front of the workmate he wants to shut it down a little bit. He's figuring it out, though. He's doing a little catch-up."
Baffert said that even though Midnight Interlude had the fast time and pulled away from his workmate near the wire he showed his inexperience.
"(The riders) had radios on them and I didn't want (Mythical Power) to do too much with him because he's running Friday," Baffert said, alluding to the Alysheba S. (G3).
"He just went five-eighths and the other horse kept going. That's why it made it look like that. But when he got in front of him, he wanted to shut it down. The workmate could have kept him going a little bit farther. He's a horse that needs a target. He's going to be running in the last part of it, but he does need a target but he sort of gets lost out there.
"In the Santa Anita Derby, when Comma to the Top just took off from him, he was completely lost for a few jumps and Victor (Espinoza) had to really get into him. Then all of a sudden he realized I've got to catch that horse. He's learning, but he only has four or five days to learn. But, believe me, he will have plenty of targets."
Baffert nodded and shrugged his shoulders at a question about Midnight Interlude going into the Derby without a work over a dry, fast track at Churchill Downs.
"I can't do anything about it, so I just have to deal with it," he said. "If it rains, at least he's been over a wet track. I know that one day when it was dry he galloped over it and he looked really good on the track. He's a horse that is coming along. He's learning as we go along, and we're learning more about him.
"He was happy. He handled it very well. So far, so good."