Beep. Mike Trombetta, standing at the top of the steps to the clocker’s stand at Fair Hill Training Center on a sunny Easter Sunday suited for a postcard, started his stopwatch while holding binoculars to his eyes and a walkie talkie to his mouth. Out on the track, Kentucky Derby hopeful Win Win Win and workmate Two Swords lengthened stride as their trainer narrated eighth-mile splits to riders Mel Williams and Sarah Shaffer.
Beep. “Thirteen and two. Gradually start to pick it up.”
Beep. “Twelve and one.”
Beep. “Eleven and three. That was thirty-seven and two.”
Beep. “1:01 flat, Mel. Let him gallop out.”
Beep. “Thirteen flat.”
And that was that. Thirteen days before the Derby, Win Win Win breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01, and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:13 on the Tapeta synthetic track at Fair Hill. Delayed a day because of heavy rain Saturday morning, the work was everything Trombetta wanted even if his math wasn’t quite right (the three-eighths time works out to :37 1/5).
“I just wanted to get air in him, keep him chugging along. He just ran two weeks ago. To work like that and gallop out with good energy, he seems to come out of these things pretty unfazed.”
Afterward, Live Oak Plantation’s homebred son of Hat Trick walked back to the barn, had a bath, walked the shedrow – with several good-feeling steps while rearing up on his hind legs just to drive home Trombetta’s point about the attitude.
The trainer chose the Tapeta over Fair Hill’s dirt track because of the weather. Heavy rain blasted Fair Hill Saturday morning. Both tracks were fine Sunday – the dirt was fast – but Trombetta figured the Tapeta offered a better workout.
“I’ve got an hour commute to get here and I’m thinking what do I want to do?” he said. “When I got here and went up and looked at them, I felt – oddly enough – that he would get more out of the Tapeta work than the dirt work. On a normal day it would be the opposite. But it wasn’t a normal day because of yesterday. Both tracks are good, but I was looking at it from a perspective of which one would get a little more out of him.”
Win Win Win also has a familiarity – and a body of work – on the Tapeta.
“He worked on it all winter and established the form that he did,” Trombetta said. “And most importantly, he had shipped off of that to go to Tampa to win the Pasco. He went down there and galloped two days and ran. That has worked for him so I don’t want to monkey with it any more than necessary. It’s very familiar.”
The Derby is less than two weeks away.