Outwork had the slowest finishing time of any of yesterday's Triple Crown preps, getting the distance in 1:52.92----.32 slower than 3-year-old filly Lewis Bay took to win the Gazelle two races earlier on the card. Nonetheless, this was after water had had a chance to soak deeper into the track, rendering it deeper and more tiring. (By way of comparison, high-class older sprinters running in the Carter Handicap, USA-G1, immediately after the Wood took .29 longer to negotiate 7 furlongs than did the 3-year-olds running in the Bay Shore Stakes, USA-G3, right before the Wood, furthering the impression that the track was slowing down as the afternoon progressed.) Outwork also had to survive a prolonged speed duel with Matt King Coal, always a draining experience no matter what the pace. He was clearly a dead-tired horse in the final furlong, but considering everything, his race was probably better than the final time would indicate.
Exaggerator, on the other hand, posted a visually impressive win that was probably not as good as it looked. Running over a sloppy surface that he clearly relished, he benefited from a suicidally quick pace up front on the part of Danzing Candy, and he did not finish in particularly quick time. Granted, he was under no pressure in the final furlong, but neither was Wild About Deb, who won a 9-furlong maiden race for 3-year-olds in 1:49.02 compared to Exaggerator's 1:49.66 and ran his last furlong in :12.55 against :13.36 for Exaggerator. The logical conclusion is that either Wild About Deb is a very nice colt (certainly a possibility, since he was making only his second lifetime start) or that Exaggerator's performance was no compliment to the rest of the Southern California sophomore males, since the track did not appear to be slowing down much over the course of the day's card. And in fact, looking at the fractions, the ease of Exaggerator's victory appears to have owed quite as much to the complete collapse of the front-runners as to his own merits, given that it took him in the neighborhood of 37.7 seconds to negotiate the final three furlongs.
As for Brody's Cause, the son of Giant's Causeway remains an enigma. While he won the Blue Grass with authority, this was not a strong field, and neither his final time nor his closing split suggest an exceptional performance. This is good in one sense---you don't want to see a viable Kentucky Derby candidate cook himself in his final Derby prep, which Outwork may have done---but it does leave the question wide open as to how good Brody's Cause really is compared with other leading Classic contenders. There is also the possibility that Brody's Cause is a Keeneland specialist who won't deliver the same form at Churchill Downs, though the fact that he broke his maiden at the Downs is a hopeful sign for his fans.
Overall, it was an interesting weekend of racing, but one that leaves me curiously unsatisfied. Unless Saturday's winners continue to make significant progress between now and May 7, my feeling is that none of them will be more than the answers to trivia questions when the dust settles on Derby Day.