The track was fast, and so were the horses.
Within an hour at Pimlico today, four of the seven horse expected to run in Saturday's Preakness took to the track for their final big speed workouts.
They were dazzling, one right after the other.
Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold worked at least four o five seconds faster than he did in his pre-Derby breeze, and was impressive. But it was Corporate Report, who trailed him nearly nine lengths in the Derby, who stole the spotlight.
During Derby week the colt suffered a bruised foot. "But that' all behind us now," his trainer, Wayne Lukas, said.
The 3-year-old son of Private Account worked just minute before Strike the Gold and ran six furlongs in 1 minute, 11 1/5 seconds.
"I don't believe the time," Lukas exclaimed afterwards. "I don't own a stopwatch, so I didn't clock him myself. But he damn sure served notice where he's at. I think we're going to be awfully, awfully tough on Saturday."
It was Lukas who sent out Farma Way last weekend to win th Pimlico Special in track record time.
Corporate Report started off slow, getting the first eighth in 1 seconds, but picked up the pace as he went along, getting fractions for the subsequent eighths of a mile in :23 1/5 seconds, :34 2/5, :46, :58 and six furlongs in 1:11 1/5. He galloped out seven-eighths in 1:25.
Strike the Gold, not a good work horse, needed company to pu forth his best effort. Trainer Nick Zito sent out an older runner named Iroquois Drive to give him inspiration.
Iroquois Drive spotted Strike the Gold about 12 lengths according to rider Chris Antley, although some observers felt it -- was less, about eight lengths. Whatever, by the time the pair reached the top of the stretch, Strike the Gold caught the pace-setter and passed on by.
He was timed at six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. His fractions were :1 ,:24, :36, :47 4/5, 1:00, 1:12 3/5 and he galloped out seven furlongs in 1:28.
"Once he got past the other horse, he lost interest," trainer Nick Zito said. "But he struck gold. It was just what I wanted."
By contrast, on the Wednesday before the Derby, Strike th Gold worked a half-mile in 51 2/5 seconds and galloped out five furlongs in 1:05 4/5, ploddingly slow times.
Antley was enthused over today's work. "He felt great. There' always a question after a big race about how the horse came out of it," Antley said. "But I liked this work better than the one before the Derby. This is a special horse. He's very intelligent, and does everything right."
The first horse to work, just after sun-up, was Mane Minister, th third-place Derby finisher. He went five furlongs in 1 minute.
"He worked really good," his Mexican-born trainer, Pac Gonzalez, said. "I didn't want him to go real fast. He went every eighth in 12 seconds. We came from off the pace in the Derby, but we'll be closer to the front this time."
Best Pal was the last of the quartet to work. He went out abou 6:45 a.m. He was meant to go just a half-mile, which he did in 47 2/5 seconds. But the clockers caught him going five-eighths in :59 2/5 and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 2/5.
"He's fresh," trainer Ian Jory said. "I was just going to gallop hi into the race. But he's feeling so good, that I thought I better work him just to keep him on the ground [manageable]."
Railbirds liked everything they saw.
"What the horses did this morning," said Racing Form columnis Joe Hirsch, "insures a good race on Saturday. These were fast, productive workouts. The horses are sharp for the race. Anyone who enjoys the Preakness should be in high spirits."