‘Pretty hairy’ lightning hits Churchill Downs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Tapiture was cool and poised in his final Kentucky Derby workout despite the rough conditions Monday at Churchill Downs.

The colt stepped onto the track shortly after 6 a.m. as thunder boomed, lightning crackled and torrential rain blew sideways. Some horses would be spooked, but not Tapiture.

He worked a half-mile in 50 seconds, a very respectable time considering the circumstances.

“I was glad to see him move so well over this racetrack this wet,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “We were fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with him here last fall. He stepped right back into a rhythm here this spring.”

Tapiture won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November. He ran three times this winter at Oaklawn Park, including a win in the Southwest Stakes and a fourth in the Arkansas Derby.

Kentucky Derby week got off to a miserable start after a severe overnight storm lingered into the morning and turned the racing surface into a sea of slop.

Training was halted for about 30 minutes around 6:45 a.m. as the maintenance crew used heavy equipment to pack down the top layer of dirt to keep water on the surface and prevent seepage into the base.

A lightning strike briefly knocked out a bank of lights near the far turn.

When training resumed, Hoppertunity was the only other Derby horse to work. Trainer Bob Baffert, seeking a fourth Derby win, sent the Rebel Stakes winner out for a half-mile drill in 48 seconds.

“A big relief,” Baffert said. “When I got here at 6:15, it was really coming down. I was panicking. There were ruts in the track. I was almost ready to call it off until tomorrow. Then it started to let up a little bit, but the lightning was pretty hairy out there.”

Hoppertunity finished second to probable Derby favorite California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.

Baffert has a second Derby runner in Chitu, the Sunland Derby winner.

The other Derby horses that hit the track at Churchill Downs merely went for jogs in the slop.

___

NO DERBY FOR BAYERN: Baffert ruled out a Derby run for Bayern following the colt’s disqualification from first place to second in the Derby Trial on Saturday night.

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