By March, the colt was working like a racehorse, charging around Payson in a way that buoyed Attfield and the trainer's wife, Tracy, the colt's exercise rider. Still, no one knew what to expect of him in the Gotham. He had not run in almost five months and had missed two months of training over the winter. As things turned out, that mattered not a whit. The Man tracked the pacesetters down the long backstretch, moved to them on the turn and then threw a final quarter-mile at them in :24[3/5]. He won by seven. "A huge race," Attfield said.
Indeed, along with the powerful 3�-length victory by the filly Serena's Song in the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park on April 1, Talkin Man's Gotham was the most compelling performance by a 3-year-old this season. In the Wood he got away with a trotting-horse first half in 48 seconds, but he finished with a flourish, through a final eighth in :12[1/5]. And he did so on a day when the form was not holding among other leading 3-year-olds. An hour and a half before the Wood, in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky, Wild Syn, the longest shot on the board at 30-1, controlled an even slower pace under jockey Randy Romero, then sprinted away in the final eighth to win another major Derby prep by 2�. The favored Thunder Gulch, winner of the Florida Derby, faded in the stretch to finish fourth, losing by nearly five.
As the Kentucky Derby nears, unanswered questions abound. How will Talk-in Man, with Smith back in the irons, and Serena's Song, if she's entered, respond when they are swept along on the kind of fast early pace that is the hallmark of the Derby? Larry the Legend is injured and now out of the picture, but how will the rest of the leading California horses—Afternoon Deelites, Timber Country and Jumron—shake out at midstretch of the Downs? More vexing yet, how strong are the foreign invaders in what could prove to be a most international Kentucky Derby? From England may come Eltish, who finished second to Timber Country in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and from Japan may come Ski Captain, who has won three of four career starts in the land of the rising sun. How do they figure in Kentucky, the land of the rising confusion?
No telling. All Attfield knows is that he likes his horse's chances. "He's a fresh horse," Attfield said, "and he is a confident horse now."