Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Hofburg breezed a half-mile in :49.02 at Payson Park Training Center on Sunday as he readies for the May 5 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The Bill Mott-trained son of Tapit worked in company with multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire and stablemate Good Samaritan. Hofburg galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.37 and three-quarters in 1:15.30, according the DRF’s Mike Welsch, who classified the move as “terrific.”
It was the first major work by the chestnut sophomore since he followed a half-length March 3 maiden victory at Gulfstream Park with a rallying second in the Florida Derby 28 days later.
Mott wasn’t on hand for the work after missing a connecting flight Saturday night but had the breeze recorded. He spoke with assistant trainer and retired jockey Neil Poznansky, who is one of only four riders to take home both an Eclipse Award and Sovereign Award as champion apprentice jockey (1996), as well as fellow trainer Christophe Clement, also stabled at Payson Park, about Hofburg’s work.
“This is his first work back, he hadn’t breezed since the Florida Derby,” Mott said by phone. “We gave him plenty of time to recover from that race and we had been picking it up, picking it up and today was his first breeze and it sounded like it was good. It sounds like he went very well.
“I have complete confidence in my staff. They all pulled together very well and that’s why it went well this morning.”
Mott said Hofburg would ship to Churchill Downs before his next breeze, depending on the weather.
“That’s my initial thinking, not to say I couldn’t work him down here again one more time before I go,” he said. “I just want to wait and see. We’ll look at the entire situation and make what I think is the best decision.”
Hofburg currently sits in 18th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with the 40 points he picked up for finishing second in the Florida Derby. That was the Juddmonte Farms homebred’s stakes debut and first try against winners. The Kentucky-bred brings a 3-1-1-0 career mark into the 144th Run for the Roses.
“I understand he’s short on seasoning in comparison to any horse who’s had six or eight starts, but it looks like a few of them are not as hardened or seasoned as they would have been in the (19)70s or 80s,” Mott said.
“But this horse was very professional down at Gulfstream Park, he’s done everything right, and he takes the dirt well, and that’s a good thing, particularly when you’re not a so-called speed horse. You have to be able to take the kick back and stay in the race, so he seems to be able to do that. He did it well at Gulfstream, which I know is probably half the size of the (Kentucky) Derby, but he still handled it well.”
In other Kentucky Derby news, Magnum Moon returned to trainer Todd Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs base in Florida on Sunday, one day after capturing the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
“He ate every oat last night and showed good energy this morning,” owner Robert Low said in a text Sunday afternoon. “He flew out early.”
The bay son of Malibu Moon catapulted to number one on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with the win. He’ll bring a perfect four-for-four mark into the Run for the Roses under the Twin Spires on May 5.
“It’s very difficult to do what he’s done since January 13, (when he broke) his maiden (at Gulfstream Park), to now be four-for-four and win the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby and be a Grade 1 winner in his fourth start,” Pletcher said. “It’s a real tribute to the horse’s talent.”
According to Pletcher, “tentative” plans call for Magnum Moon to fly to Kentucky on April 23 and breeze once at Churchill Downs, “probably” eight days prior to the Derby.
Pletcher has four runners heading to the first Saturday in May – Florida Derby (G1) hero Audible, Louisiana Derby (G2) victor Noble Indy, Arkansas Derby winner Magnum Moon and Wood Memorial (G2) scorer Vino Rosso. His Derby contenders reside in four of the top five spots on the Leaderboard, with the Chad Brown-trained Good Magic the only outlier in number two.
“It would be hard to imagine that we could have a much better last month, but we’re just very fortunate and thankful and hope they can continue to train well and stay healthy through the Derby,” Pletcher said.
The Rodolphe Brisset-trained Quip finished second in the Arkansas Derby, one race after taking the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). That puts him in 10th on the Leaderboard with 90 points, but his participation in the Kentucky Derby is fluid, according to Elliott Walden, president/CEO and racing manager for breeder and co-owner WinStar Farm.
“I don’t know,” Walden said, when asked if Quip would be pointed for the Kentucky Derby. “He was second best today. He ran hard. Good effort and we’ll see what happens.”
Saturday saw the final two races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series take place in the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes (G3).
My Boy Jack captured that latter event at Keeneland to secure his spot in the Derby starting gate for trainer Keith Desormeaux.
“He ate up everything last night and this morning he is very bright and acting like he didn’t even run,” assistant trainer Julie Clark said. “He was a little tired after shipping here Wednesday, but now he is a happy horse.”
My Boy Jack is likely to ship to Churchill Downs on Saturday, according to Clark.
“We have a filly (Not Now Carolyn) coming in for the Doubledogdare (G3) on Friday (at Keeneland),” Clark said. “Even if she didn’t come, I’d like to stay here (at Keeneland) a few more days and let him chill out.”