Zayat Stables LLC's NEHRO (Mineshaft) breezed four furlongs in :51 /5 over the sloppy Churchill Downs track Monday with regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas in the saddle. The work came at 6:10 a.m. (EDT) as part of trainer Steve Asmussen's second set of horses for the morning.
Nehro and Rosas were accompanied to the track via the Lukas gap by assistant trainer Scott Blasi aboard his pony, who stayed with Nehro as they backtracked into the stretch.
Nehro was headstrong galloping around the clubhouse turn and down the backstretch before Rosas let him go approaching the half-mile pole. The Arkansas Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) near-misser settled into the work and ticked off fractions of :13, :25 3/5 and :38 before finishing the final furlong in :13 1/5.
"It went nice and smooth," Asmussen said. "Didn't do a lot with him at all; Saturday will be three races in six weeks and we just hope he continues to progress. Obviously it's a big assignment, but the mile-and-a-quarter suits him."
Rosas did not push Nehro after the wire, galloping out five-eighths in 1:05 2/5.
"I think we're just letting him be happy," Asmussen said. "The horse hasn't always been a big work horse; I think the progression's been pretty slow.
"He took a big step from his maiden race to the Louisiana Derby. I think Mr. (Ahmed) Zayat showed a lot of confidence in him with that move. From the way he trained I was definitely wanting validation of the maiden race and, if anything, he's definitely backed that up."
Nehro's move may have lacked sizzle, but he never has been known to tip his hand in the mornings, which helped him remain largely under the radar this spring prior to a breakthrough second in the Louisiana Derby.
"The horse has got a great mind," Asmussen said. "He's stayed very consistent with his appetite and his attitude, but he's not one to impress you with his works."
Instead, Nehro impresses when it counts in the afternoons, as evidenced by his close finishes in the Louisiana Derby and the Arkansas Derby. Both of those races carried $1 million purses, meaning Nehro was two necks from an additional $800,000 in earnings.
With Nehro about to make his third start in what would be considered a short amount of time by today's standards -- and perhaps more to follow soon after if Nehro follows through with the other two-thirds of the Triple Crown -- Asmussen's focus right now appears to be simply keeping his horse content.
"The biggest concern is the same as always -- health, well-being, how they're doing," he said. "I think everyone is in the same boat in that they've got to be moving forward at the right time and run the race of their life to have success."
Which is precisely what many bettors appear to be counting on from Nehro, as evidenced by the number of public handicappers that have picked him on top in Kentucky Derby 137. Asmussen was asked if he liked training a contender that is a favorite of the pundits.
"No, you know me, I don't want any 'mooshers' on board," he said in reference to the nebulous group of prognosticators often invoked this time of year by the more common moniker 'wise guys,' before adding, "I think he can carry us, but I don't know if he can carry their bad luck."