Grade 1 hero Always Dreaming, multiple Grade 2 victor Gunnevera and Grade 2 runner-up Patch each worked in Florida on Friday, two weeks before the trio are expected to take part in the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Always Dreaming breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:01.40 over the fast dirt at Palm Beach Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher. Jockey John Velazquez was in the saddle for the move.
It was the second work for the dark bay son of Bodemeister since he captured his stakes debut in the Florida Derby (G1) on April 1 by five lengths.
“I thought it was excellent,” Pletcher said. “We were looking for a nice, steady, solid stamina-building breeze. He was very relaxed, very happy, moving well, and galloped out great. I was very happy. He’s been training great, eating well, energy level has been good. We’re really excited about how he’s doing.
“We have a flight to Churchill on Tuesday and an important work over the track there. Hopefully, he takes to that surface the way he has to every other surface he’s been on and he stays healthy.”
Pletcher is likely to have multiple runners in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, including Patch. The Union Rags colt, who is missing an eye, broke his maiden in February and returned on April 1 to finish second in his stakes bow, the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.
On Friday, Patch breezed five-eighths in 1:01.45 at Palm Meadows.
“He’s not as impressive a work horse as Always Dreaming,” Pletcher noted. “He’s more of a workmanlike breeze horse. I thought it was a good, steady five-eighths, typical of what we saw from him all winter and spring.
“I was very pleased for him to go to Fair Grounds and finish a good quality second, closing ground at the end and galloping out in front. I don’t think with his pedigree – being by a Belmont (G1) winner (Union Rags) and out of an A.P. Indy mare (Windyindy) – that distance should be an issue. I’m a little concerned about his lack of experience, lack of seasoning, but so far he’s handled everything really, really well.”
Another of Pletcher’s Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Battalion Runner, is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Sunday. The gray son of Unbridled’s Song made his stakes debut in the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 8, finishing second, and Pletcher believes “there’s a couple reasons to think he will improve.”
“(The Wood) was his first race in 64 days and first at 1 1/8 miles, and I hope that brings him forward a bit,” he said.
Trainer Antonio Sano sent out Gunnevera on Friday to breeze five furlongs in 1:01 over the fast dirt at Gulfstream Park West. Jockey Edgard Zayas was in the irons as the Dialed In chestnut galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.20 in what could be his final major move for the Kentucky Derby.
“The horse did it very easy. I’m very happy. He galloped out good,” Sano said.
“Last week he was a little bit lazy. Today, he was a little bit better, but he’s kind of a lazy horse. He finished strong today. He went really good in the stretch,” Zayas said. “I think he’ll be good for the Derby now.”
Gunnevera amazed his trainer by ignoring a bucket of water following the work, and never took a deep break while cooling out.
“Never in my life have I had a horse that is like this after a race (or a workout),” Sano said. “He never breathes hard; (needs) no water.”
Javier Castellano piloted Gunnevera to victories in the Saratoga Special (G2), Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) and Fountain of Youth (G2), and has the call for the Kentucky Derby. The duo last teamed up for a third-place run in the Florida Derby.
Gunnevera is scheduled to van to Churchill Downs, leaving Gulfstream Park West at 8 a.m. (ET) Saturday and stopping in Georgia for six hours before continuing on to Kentucky. His trainer plans on flying into Louisville on Monday and sending his Derby charge to the track Tuesday.
“I’m nervous every day. I need to relax,” said Sano, who is unsure if he will schedule an official workout over the Churchill Downs surface next week. “I know the race won’t be easy with 20 horses, but my horse is very good.
“I think the mile and a quarter will be better,” he added. “I think there will be a lot of speed in the race. The stretch is very long. I think it’s better for me.”