A pair of Kentucky Derby (G1) and Oaks (G1) hopefuls recorded breezes over Churchill Downs’ fast main track on Saturday.
Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) victor Promises Fulfilled readied for the Kentucky Derby with a half-mile move in :49 for trainer Dale Romans.
The chestnut son of Shackleford clocked splits of :12.40, :24.80 and :37 before galloping out five-eighths in 1:01.40 and three-quarters in 1:14.80, according to Churchill Downs clocker John Nichols.
“We had a really good morning,” Romans said. “He breezed very easy and galloped out strong. It was exactly what we wanted to see.”
This was the first work from Promises Fulfilled since the chestnut colt finished last-of-nine, beaten 35 1/4 lengths, in the Florida Derby (G1) on March 31 at Gulfstream Park. The sophomore dueled early through swift fractions before fading badly in the stretch.
“Things really didn’t go our way that day,” Romans said. “We’re regrouping and excited to move on from that effort. When you have a horse that is a son of a former star you trained, it’s always special to showcase them on the grandest stage.”
Romans also trained Promises Fulfilled’s sire, Shackleford, who ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby, captured the Preakness Stakes (G1) by a half-length over Derby winner Animal Kingdom and finished fifth in the Belmont Stakes (G1) during the 2011 Triple Crown season.
“The ultimate goal is always to win the Kentucky Derby,” Romans said. “I grew up my entire life on the backstretch of Churchill Downs in Barn 4. To win a Kentucky Derby would be the ultimate dream.”
Fellow Romans trainee Free Drop Billy, hero of last year’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and placed third in the April 7 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) most recently at Keeneland, galloped 1 1/2 miles Saturday morning. The chestnut son of Union Rags is scheduled to breeze next weekend.
One day before the Kentucky Derby, Romans will also saddle Coach Rocks in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The Oxbow filly earned her shot at the Run for the Lilies taking the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) last out.
On Saturday, Coach Rocks posted her first move since that March 31 contest when breezing a half-mile in :48.60 under the Twin Spires.
“She looked great this morning,” Romans said. “She came out of the (Gulfstream Park) Oaks well and she’s been training great at Churchill since we got her back here. The track has been a bit fast the last two weeks but it looked good this morning.”
Coach Rocks turned splits of :11.80, :23.80 and :36.20 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.80 and six furlongs in 1:16.20, according to Nichols.
The bay miss took seven tries to break her maiden, finally getting the job done by eight lengths in gate-to-wire fashion at Gulfstream on February 14. She returned next out to take her stakes bow in the Gulfstream Park Oaks.
“We’ve always had high hopes for her,” Romans said. “We ran into some back luck in her previous races but she’s always run well and continued to do so as the distances got longer.”
Also readying Saturday at Churchill Downs for the 144th edition of the Kentucky Oaks was Classy Act from the barn of trainer Bret Calhoun.
The dark bay daughter of Into Mischief breezed a half-mile in :47.20 as she waits to see if she can make the field for the Oaks.
Classy Act earned 30 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, thanks to a runner-up effort in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) and close fourth in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and currently sits in 15th on the Oaks Leaderboard. The Kentucky Oaks field is limited to 14 runners.
On Friday, Kentucky Derby contender Audible took a spin around the fast dirt at Palm Beach Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Into Mischief colt breezed a bullet half-mile in :48.74 working in company with Grade 3-placed stablemate You’re to Blame. Audible galloped out in 1:02.22 after recording his first move since capturing the March 31 Florida Derby by three lengths.
“For him I thought it was outstanding,” Pletcher said. “He’s not always an overzealous work horse, but today he seemed on his game and focused. I thought he did very well.
“He’s coming back in five weeks off a 1 1/8-mile race so I think we’re just trying to have him peak on the day and keep him fit without overdoing it. I thought this morning was an important step in that direction. I know sometimes he doesn’t work as well as others but leading up to this race you’d like all three of his works to be good and the first one was excellent.”
Prior to Audible’s move Friday, Pletcher sent out another Kentucky Derby hopeful in Noble Indy to breeze five furlongs in 1:01 at Palm Beach Downs.
It was the second work for the Take Charge Indy colt since he triumphed in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds on March 24 while sporting blinkers for the first time. Noble Indy wore blinkers during Friday’s breeze as well.
“It was a good, solid five-eighths,” Pletcher said. “He’s never been a horse that’s a fantastic gallop-out horse, but I think today was solid.”
Pletcher added the blinkers to “keep him a little more in tune, a little more focused.”
Audible and Noble Indy are but two of a Pletcher quartet heading to the Run for the Roses. The trainer also has Vino Rosso, a three-length winner of the April 7 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, and undefeated Rebel Stakes (G2) victor Magnum Moon, who was entered in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Pletcher said his current plan is to work Audible, Noble Indy and Vino Rosso next weekend before shipping to Kentucky on April 23.
“To me it’s always really key who handles the Churchill surface,” Pletcher said “It can be pretty quirky, so I think that final breeze at Churchill will give us a big clue as to who likes it. Hopefully they all do.
“That’s always one of my concerns because you see some horses who get there and don’t get a grip of that track. So I think the final work there will be something we’re looking forward to seeing.”