A thunderstorm drenched Churchill Downs as training hours opened on Monday, but trainer Steve Asmussen elected to send Zayat Stable's Nehro out for a scheduled 5-furlong work around 6:15 a.m. despite the rain.
The son of Mineshaft, a fast-closing runner-up in both the Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby, responded by gliding over the morning's sloppy footing and covered the distance in 1:02.80.
Exercise rider Carlos Rosas was in the irons as Nehro worked in fractional times of :13.20, :25.60, :38.20 and :50.40. He galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:177⁄8 in 1:32.
"He was smooth and easy all the way around," Asmussen said. "The weather comes into play a little bit and, as usual, Mother Nature doesn't care how important we think it is. ... We're just staying in a rhythm. The horse has had two hard races over the last month, and we're staying in a rhythm and following pretty much the same (training) pattern as after the Louisiana Derby."
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Nehro comes into the Kentucky Derby with one win in five career starts, but his two stakes efforts that followed a maiden win at Oaklawn Park have placed him among the most highly regarded Derby contenders.
Asmussen admitted that he is surprised that this colt turned out to be his Kentucky Derby contender, but his strong last month has put him in that position.
"That (Louisiana Derby bid) was 100 percent taking a swing," Asmussen said. "The horse stepped up and he ran a big race, and I think he validated that performance in Arkansas. Hopefully, we're still on the way up."
Corey Nakatani is scheduled to ride Nehro in the Kentucky Derby.
Midnight Interlude/The Factor: Trainer Bob Baffert sent his pair of Kentucky Derby contenders — Midnight Interlude and The Factor — out for gallops Monday at Churchill Downs.
Dana Barnes was in the saddle aboard both horses, and Baffert was especially pleased with The Factor, who is coming off a seventh-place finish as the strong favorite in the Arkansas Derby.
"The Factor galloped for the first time," Baffert said. "He'd just been jogging. I might work him Wednesday. He looked good out there."
Baffert said he has not made a firm decision on whether The Factor will run in the Derby.
"I'm just going to watch him," Baffert said. "He's still a very good horse."
Baffert was also pleased with the progress of Midnight Interlude, who ran to an upset win in the Santa Anita Derby. The son of War Chant is scheduled to work Tuesday during the special training period for Derby and Oaks hopefuls.
"He went from zero-to-hero," Baffert said. "The horse is just getting better with every out. He's tough and he can handle it — he can handle it mentally."
Archarcharch: With jockey Jon Court up, Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch galloped a mile and a half over a sloppy track after the morning renovation break Monday at Churchill Downs.
Owned by Robert Yagos, Archarcharch arrived back at Churchill Downs last Tuesday following his victory at Oaklawn Park.
Trainer Jinks Fires plans to give the son of Arch one work prior to the Kentucky Derby.
"He just ran a mile and eighth last Saturday," Fires said. "I am going to wait until the rain is over and when I feel the track is safe to work."
J P's Gusto: John O'Hara, racing manager for Gem Inc., said that no final decision has been reached on the possible Kentucky Derby participation of J P's Gusto, who ran eighth in the Arkansas Derby in his most recent start.
"He has been at the farm and has had a week off," O'Hara said. "If he comes to Churchill Downs, he would come over between now and Wednesday."