Multiple Grade 2 hero Gunnevera readied for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on April 1 with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.80 over the fast dirt at Gulfstream Park West Saturday.
Jockey Leonel Reyes held the reins during the move as Gunnevera’s regular exercise partner, Edgard Zayas, was in Dubai riding Sharp Azteca to a third-place finish in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2).
Trainer Antonio Sano caught Gunnevera galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.
“It was very good for me. The jockey did exactly as I asked him and it went perfect,” Sano said. “He was very calm on my horse. The last two furlongs I got him in :10 4/5 and the gallop out was very good.
“Last week the horse worked very slow (five furlongs in 1:04.60). He is ready for the race,” Sano added. “He didn’t need more for the Florida Derby, so I breezed him looking ahead to the next one.”
Gunnevera currently sits atop the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 64 total points. The chestnut son of Dialed In captured the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) by 5 3/4 lengths to close out his juvenile campaign in mid-November and opened 2017 with a runner-up effort in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2). He returned to his romping ways last out, rallying for a 5 3/4-length score in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream on March 4.
“It’s exciting, and it’s pressure,” Sano admitted. “More people come by the barn for the horse. The owners call me every day. I think it’s normal. I feel that my horse is a good horse.”
Also working for the Florida Derby on Saturday was Three Rules, who clocked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.50 at Gulfstream Park.
Overnight rain moved through the area, but the track was rated as fast Saturday morning.
“It put a little moisture in the track and that’s really good for him. He’s fit and ready,” trainer Jose Pinchin said. “He went five-eighths this morning and galloped out good. Everything went perfect. It couldn’t have been a better work.”
Three Rules swept the Florida Sire Stakes last year as a two-year-old before ending the season with a well-beaten sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park on November 5. The dark bay son of Gone Astray returned February 4 in the Swale Stakes (G2), and was just caught before the wire to be second by three parts of a length.
He set a pressured pace in the Fountain of Youth before settling for third after being collared by both Gunnevera and Practical Joke.
“Looking back on it, it was a hell of a good performance (in the Fountain of Youth),” Pinchin said. “He got pressured from the go by Irish War Cry and then (Practical Joke) took him on real early and didn’t really give him a chance, but he ran real good. I thought it was a very good race.”
Swale fourth-place finisher Impressive Edge, who returned to capture a seven-furlong allowance/optional claimer by eight lengths on March 5, breezed five furlongs on Saturday at Gulfstream in 1:01.21 for the Florida Derby.
Trained by Dale Romans, the Harlan’s Holiday colt had exercise rider Faustino Aguilar aboard for the move. Impressive Edge was on track soon after Gotham Stakes (G3) winner J Boys Echo covered the same distance in 1:02.89 ahead of the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on April 8.
“They both worked good. They’re totally different horses – one worked fast, the other worked slow. But we know they can both run and they’re both fit and ready to roll,” Romans said.
Impressive Edge began his career under the tutelage of trainer Steve Asmussen, but finished sixth at both Churchill Downs and Saratoga. Once transferring to Romans, the dark bay colt broke his maiden by 4 3/4 lengths in his sophomore debut at Gulfstream before finishing fourth while making his stakes bow in the Swale.
“He’s done well,” Romans said. “He was the type of horse that wasn’t quite ready to win. He came to us in good shape. We got him and we didn’t need to do much with him.”
Three more sophomores got the go ahead for the Florida Derby after working at Palm Meadows Training Center Saturday morning, while another is considered probable after his move.
Dual Grade 1 winner Practical Joke is under “probable” status at this point for the race after breezing five furlongs in 1:00.90 for trainer Chad Brown.
The bay son of Into Mischief worked inside of stablemate and Grade 3 winner Shagaf, who hasn’t been seen in competition since being pulled up in last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1). Shagaf earned the same time as Practical Joke.
Brown said Practical Joke is “probable” for the Florida Derby, but added, “I want to speak to the owners and come up with a final decision… weigh our options.”
The conditioner was happy with the move by Practical Joke, who finished second while making his sophomore debut in the Fountain of Youth on March 4.
“It’s probable I will run, but it’s not certain,” Brown stated. “We’ll see how the horse comes out of his work. The other idea is maybe running in the Blue Grass.”
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) runner-up State of Honor took a spin around Palm Meadows in readiness for the Florida Derby. The bay son of To Honor and Serve was clocked in :48.30 for the half-mile move.
State of Honor sported blinkers in both his Tampa Bay Derby second and third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) one race before, but will have them removed for the Florida Derby, according to assistant trainer Norman Casse.
“We were looking for a more conservative work today,” Casse said. “He’s been a little too keen in his previous two races. We worked him without company today – he has never done that before. We wanted him to relax a little bit. If he’s going to have a chance to win the Florida Derby, he is going to have to relax a little more.”
Like State of Honor, Talk Logistics is now headed to the Florida Derby after his five-furlong breeze in 1:01.25 under jockey Joe Bravo Saturday., fourth in the Fountain of Youth, was given the go-ahead by his trainer, Eddie Plesa Jr., to start in the Florida Derby after working five furlongs in 1:01.25 with jockey Joe Bravo in the saddle.
“He did it perfectly,” trainer Ed Plesa Jr. said. “It was a maintenance work and just what we were looking for.”
Talk Logistics broke his maiden at first asking last July and thus far this year has been third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes and fourth in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth.
Unbridled Holiday will be making just his second start against stakes rivals when lining up in the Florida Derby. The Patrick Biancone trainee got the go ahead after breezing four furlongs in :48 from the gate at Palm Meadows inside of stablemate Dad’s Princess on Saturday.
“We had cheater (blinkers) on him because we’ve been very easy on him up to now, and we need to step up now,” said Biancone, who plans to add blinkers to Unbridled Holiday’s equipment for the Florida Derby. “He’s a horse that was born to be a mile-and-a-quarter, mile-and-a-half horse. He was always very forward physically, but mentally (backward). He had to run many races before he understood about racing.”
The bay son of Harlan’s Holiday will be making his eighth start in the Florida Derby. He ran fourth in the Armed Forces Stakes at Gulfstream last October but didn’t break his maiden until making his sophomore bow on January 16. Unbridled Holiday exits a third-place finish going 1 1/8 miles against allowance/optional claiming rivals.
The post position draw for the Florida Derby will take place 11 a.m. (ET) Wednesday at Ten Palms Restaurant at Gulfstream Park.