Lantern Hill Farm’s homebred Motor City, winner of the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last October, posted his first published workout of 2012 Tuesday, drilling four furlongs in :49.70 at Palm Meadows Training Center for trainer Ian Wilkes.
Motor City was given some time off following his three-quarter length triumph in the Iroquois, which marked his fifth career start. The fact the gelded son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense already had a good amount of race foundation under his belt allowed Wilkes the luxury of not having to rush the bay youngster as he makes the crucial transition into his 3-year-old season.
“Some horses need more training and some horses…they’ve already got the maturity,” Wilkes said. “Motor City has already run five times so it wasn’t critical that we had to get him going early. This horse from what I’ve seen is a more mature horse right now. He’s a stronger horse and today the work he did, I got exactly what I wanted but he did it very, very easy. That was the main thing. ”
Though he has yet to make his seasonal bow, Motor City’s chances of becoming a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender have received a boost in recent weeks. The Larry Jones-trained Mr. Bowling, who finished third behind Motor City in the one-mile Iroquois, returned to score a bang-up victory in the Grade III LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds on January 21.
Wilkes doesn’t have a target race picked out just yet for Motor City’s seasonal debut, but says a late February/early March spot is likely. As a former assistant to Carl Nafzger, Wilkes has successfully been through the Derby grind with his mentor’s 1990 winner Unbridled and Street Sense. Perhaps the biggest lesson he learned along the way was not to force a promising horse into doing something they’re not ready for.
“What comes first is the horse,” Wilkes said. “We gave (Motor City) some time off because we just weren’t happy with how he was doing and maybe it puts us behind. But you know, I would love to win the Derby and I think this horse has the attributes to be a Derby horse. But I’m not going to sacrifice a horse for one race. He’s a gelding and if he takes us there, we’ll go.”