LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Unbridled's Song returned to the racetrack yesterday morning -- one day after a foot injury cast doubt on his participation in Saturday's 122nd Kentucky Derby -- and turned gloom and doom into zoom.
The Derby favorite, with jockey Mike Smith aboard, blazed a half mile in 46 seconds. That is faster than seven of the past 10 Kentucky Derby winners ran the opening half mile in their winning efforts.
The excitement of the quick workout was tempered by last night's draw, which landed Unbridled's Song at the extreme outside post in the field of 20.
"Maybe we have the kind of horse -- I hope we do -- that can overcome this," said Unbridled Song's trainer, Jim Ryerson.
They just might. The morning workout was so fast that Ryerson wondered whether it might be too fast. About 6: 30 a.m., in the dark and the drizzle, the rejuvenated Derby favorite recorded these impressive numbers: a quarter mile in 23 seconds, a half mile in 46 seconds and five-eighths mile in 59 1/5 seconds.
"That's maybe a little faster than you'd want," a relieved Ryerson said outside his barn at Churchill Downs. "But we had to get a line on just what he could take. . . . He's had a tough day and a half."
Two days ago, a somber Ryerson said he couldn't be sure the large, gray colt even would start in the Derby. An injury to his left front foot -- a tender heel and cracked hoof -- had forced Ryerson to call in a blacksmith and veterinarian and to postpone yesterday morning's scheduled workout.
But after Unbridled's Song was again fitted with new shoes -- he has tried on more the past two days than a finicky shopper -- Ryerson reconsidered and asked Smith to ride the colt onto the track.
"Jimmy told me, 'Don't go out there and baby him. Let's find out if he's sound,' " Smith said. "And he was just awesome.
"It wasn't just the time, but the way he did it. He pulled me around the track, and then I had a hard time pulling him up. I think he wanted to go around again."
The colt worked out wearing new bar shoes on both front feet, and Ryerson said he might race Saturday with them. On Tuesday, he had been fitted with another kind of orthopedic shoe, a Z-bar, but that irritated his heel, Ryerson said.
Although this saga of the shoe gets complicated, suffice it to say that Ryerson and his blacksmith are trying to find the most comfortable fit for the Derby star. The son of Unbridled injured his foot three weeks ago winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
He arrived at Churchill Downs the heavy Derby favorite. But the slow-healing injury threatened his status for the race. Assuming he suffers no ill effects from yesterday's workout, he will remain the favorite, although perhaps a tarnished one.
His owner, Ernie Paragallo, a self-made millionaire from Brooklyn, remained confident. He has predicted that his colt will win the Triple Crown.
Asked about the colt's speedy workout, Paragallo said: "That's slow for this horse. Mike never asked him."
If the jockey, Smith, had urged him, how fast could the horse go? Paragallo responded: "What's the track record?"
The veterinarian, Foster Northrop, also liked what he saw.
"He worked great and came out of the work great," Northrop said. "The heel looks good."
But away from Unbridled's Song's barn, where 19 other horses stand poised to topple the favorite, doubt percolated like strong coffee.
Former Marylander Sonny Hine, who trains the second choice in the Derby, Skip Away, said bar shoes on a Derby horse are not a good sign.
"It's just a patch-up; it's not normal," Hine said. "If I was betting horses, I wouldn't bet him."
Pub Date: 5/2/96