Indian Charlie might be the 2-1 favorite for Saturday's 124th Kentucky Derby, but with only four career races he doesn't have a lot of experience with different track conditions.
So with Saturday's forecasts calling for two more days of rain, and with Churchill Downs already turned into a swamp, the handicappers' dilemma was whether Indian Charlie could contend with running the 1\-mile test for 3-year-olds over a sloppy track with a mudpack plastered to his face.
But in his morning workout Thursday, the big colt seemed to run with the abandon of any 3-year-old let loose on a rainy day.
"I was just gonna jog him, but I galloped him because I wanted him to get a feel for this," said trainer Bob Baffert, who said he told the exercise rider " "to pick up the pace at the [ pole and just see if he gets into it.' And he loved it, and so I see no problem."
Of course, there weren't any horses flinging glop in Indian Charlie's face during his morning workout. But he was impressive to most tracksiders, who failed by a wide margin to match his glee for the muck and mire.
Two of the three speed horses _ Artax (12th gate) and Old Trieste (14) _ were saddled with outside post positions in Wednesday's confused draw, in which a do-over was needed as trainers selected their starting positions based on a drawn order. Artax is 12-1 in the early betting line.
The other speedster, Chilito, took the excellent 5-hole in the gallop for the $1-million winner's prize.
Old Trieste (15-1) hammered home his speed credentials this week with the fastest workout in Derby history, 1:09 flat over 6 furlongs.
"He needs to be the pacesetter," Mike Puype, Old Trieste's trainer, said. "I can't see it any other way, considering the way he's training. He's training just great and showing me where he needs to be in the race and that's up front. It's going to be tough to deny him off the pace."
Indian Charlie will break from the eighth gate.
THE GENDER ISSUE: Trainer Kathy Walsh didn't think the question was impertinent, just old-fashioned. She had been asked if it was special becoming the eighth woman to saddle a horse in the Derby. "So many other people are deserving to be here, men and women," said Walsh, who trains Hanuman Highway. "But really, this horse doesn't know me as a woman or a man. He just knows me as an individual. I don't mean this as a put-down on women, but I think the respect I might get has more to do with getting a horse to the Derby than what sex I am." No female trainer has won the Derby.
DEFYING TRADITION: After a sluggish 5-furlong workout in 1:04 2/5 Monday, H. Graham Motion bucked tradition and worked Chilito another 4 furlongs Tuesday. "He went a little slower than I had anticipated, and just decided after watching him cool out that he didn't get as much out of the work as I wanted," Graham said after the gallop Thursday. The last Derby starter to work on consecutive days was Dixieland Heat, who finished 12th in a 19-horse field in 1993.