LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Beneath a gray sky on a humid morning, I Want Revenge zipped through an effortless 4-furlong workout in 47 1/5 seconds for jockey Joe Talamo. Just as the colt got back to Barn 24, Stall 2 on the Churchill Downs backstretch, the clouds opened. If you believe in omens, and no one is more superstitious than racetrack people, beating the rain was a good sign.
“It was beautiful,” said Michael Iavarone, co-president of Long Island-based IEAH Stables. “He was so within himself, and it was great we got the work in before the rain. They told me he got his final eighth (of a mile) in 11 1/5 .”
Thoroughbreds can’t go much faster than that, and I Want Revenge’s third consecutive Tuesday workout here cemented his status as the favorite for Saturday’s 135th Kentucky Derby.
“I’ve had nothing but confidence in him all along,” Iavarone said. “He’s the type who doesn’t need the whip. He gives it all to you without being asked.”
Talamo, a 19-year-old phenom from Louisiana, shares Iavarone’s enthusiasm. “He’s so mature for his age,” Talamo said. “Right after the work, he relaxed and pulled himself up.”
California-based David Lanzman sold a half-interest in I Want Revenge to IEAH on March 30, five days before the son of Stephen Got Even overcame a bad start and traffic trouble in the stretch to win the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. “What he did in the Wood answered a lot of questions for everyone,” Talamo said.
Trainer Jeff Mullins said he’s enjoying his fifth trip to the Derby, in which he never has had a horse finish in the money. He also never had a 3-year-old with this much talent. “He’s really easy to train,” the 46-year-old Utah native said. “He’s a really good athlete and he does whatever you want.”
I Want Revenge’s first six races were on synthetic surfaces in Southern California, and he won only once. Talamo suggested a move to conventional dirt might help, and he was right. The colt dominated the Gotham by 8 1/2 lengths at the Big A, and his last-to-first Wood moved him to the top three on most Derby lists. The absence of Florida Derby winner Quality Road, scratched Monday because of a hoof problem, means I Want Revenge will be made the morning-line choice after today’s noon draw.
Lanzman sees I Want Revenge’s tactical speed and quick acceleration as major edges in a 20-horse field in a race that’s often roughly run. So does Talamo, who has been getting Derby advice from Hall of Famers Gary Stevens and Jerry Bailey and Churchill regular Robby Albarado. “It’s really important to be able to jump back into the race quickly when you get stopped, and that happens a lot in this race,” Talamo said.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I have a horse like this in this race,” he said. “It’s just incredible, and I’m taking it in and enjoying it all. I know it’s the Kentucky Derby, but you have to keep that in the back of your mind and remember that it’s a horse race.”
Lanzman, a former aspiring rock musician, is a Derby first-timer. His biggest win was with Squirtle Squirt in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He used to get annoyed when told that the Breeders’ Cup doesn’t compare to America’s Race. Not anymore.
“The Breeders’ Cup is the most important thing in the world to people in racing,” Lanzman said. “The Kentucky Derby is the most important thing to everybody.”