The center of gravity was at Santa Anita, where market leaders Accelerate, West Coast, and McKinzie all recorded their first moves back since their recent preps. One day after rain prompted the closing of the main track during training hours Saturday morning, the surface was rated fast.
Accelerate, who racked up his third straight win over a ring-rusty West Coast in the Awesome Again (G1), drilled a half-mile in :47.80. The John Sadler charge galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.20 with assistant trainer Juan Leyva aboard.
“He’s going to go further the next two weekends, so it was a good work,” Sadler said. “We were off one day on our timing because of the weather, but he worked really nice. I couldn’t be happier.”
Taking notice of Accelerate’s work was rival trainer Bob Baffert.
“I think Accelerate looked better today than he has,” said the Hall of Famer, who sent out his Classic duo of West Coast and McKinzie for works.
West Coast negotiated five-eighths in :59.40 in company with Lookie Loo, who clocked :59.80, respectively the second and third best at the distance on the day. Last year’s champion three-year-old male, West Coast galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 for jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
“He came out of it really well,” Baffert commented on how West Coast has taken the Awesome Again. “I didn’t have a choice but to run him in the Awesome Again. I had to do something. I couldn’t just bring him up to that race on works. He’s happy and he’s training well.”
West Coast’s gallop-out time was as fast as McKinzie’s six-furlong bullet in 1:12 with Joe Talamo. The one-time Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite who missed the classics exits a comeback score in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).
“McKinzie went nice, I’m very happy with his work,” Baffert said. “He’s doing very well.”
Tying McKinzie for the bullet was Sadler’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile favorite (G1), Catalina Cruiser. The unbeaten colt galloped out seven furlongs 1:25.20 under Van Dyke, also at the helm for stablemate Selcourt’s six-furlong exercise in 1:12.80 for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
Michael McCarthy’s City of Light, likelier for the Dirt Mile than the Classic, toured a half-mile in :50.00, while stablemates Axelrod (Classic) and Liam the Charmer (Turf [G1]) covered the same ground together in :51.40.
At Belmont Park, Classic contender Catholic Boy returned to the worktab after a recent fever. Getting the better of workmate March, the Travers (G1) hero finished five furlongs in 1:01.26. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano guided him though a gallop-out in 1:13 3/5.
“I thought the work was executed perfectly,” trainer Jonathan Thomas said. “We wanted a nice, long, rhythmic breeze, and I thought Javier did a great job getting him to relax early. The work started out in :12 and four (fifths), :13, and got faster from there and ultimately, it ended in a really nice gallop out.”
Thomas also spoke of last week’s brief hiccup.
“He had a small temp, what basically turned out to be a two-day virus that he got over, but it cost us a breeze last weekend,” Thomas said. “When you prep for the Breeders’ Cup, you really don’t want any hiccups, but in the grand scheme of things, he recovered very quickly.
“He’s such a fit horse and I find it hard to believe that one (missed) breeze would dismantle what we’re trying to do here. And the fact that he breezed as well as he did this morning lets me know that maybe missing the work last week was a blessing, I don’t know. He did everything the right way.
“With the weather that we had, there’s a chance we might’ve pumped the brakes and had a couple easy days anyway, but with what I saw this morning, I don’t think it’s really derailed us much if at all.
“I’d love to let him breeze over the racetrack (at Churchill) there twice, just get a feel for it and get adjusted to his surroundings. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of plane activity from New York to Kentucky. So, we’re going to van down, which is fine, but I prefer to do that two weeks out or 2 1/2 weeks out as opposed to one.
“Historically, he’s a horse that’s translated his form basically all over the country since he was two. He’s intelligent and I think it takes him a couple days to kind of soak everything in and relax. Everyone has their different methods, but this method seems to be one that’s worked for us, so I’d like to stick with it.”
Popular $3 million-earner Gunnevera worked five panels at his Gulfstream Park West base on Saturday, striding in 1:00.82 in tandem with stablemate Cometin. Gunnevera’s regular pilot, Edgard Zayas, was astride as he ramps up his Classic preparation.
“He did it very easy,” trainer Antonio Sano said of this second work back from a closing second in the Woodward (G1). “I needed the horse to have a more intense work today and get him stronger for the race. I wanted to wake him up a little bit. The work was very good and he is very happy.”
Godolphin’s Dubai World Cup (G1) star Thunder Snow, runner-up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in his Classic prep, stretched his legs in 1:04.60 at Churchill Saturday.
The bigger news from Santa Anita Friday was the upbeat news on Abel Tasman, who got back on track for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) after a shocking fifth in the Zenyatta (G1). An illness was blamed for the champion’s subpar effort, but she pleased Baffert in Friday’s five-furlong drill, in company with none other than stablemate Vale Dori, the upset winner of the Zenyatta. Van Dyke partnered Vale Dori in the work, while Talamo guided Abel Tasman, as they each posted 1:00.20.
“Both went very well,” Baffert said of his Distaff-bound duo.
“Whatever Abel had, she’s over it. She’s back and I’m very happy with her.”
So is her Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. Also the regular rider of Distaff rival Midnight Bisou, Smith is staying aboard Abel Tasman. According to a Sunday report by Daily Racing Form‘s Jay Privman, Hall of Famer John Velazquez now picks up the mount on Midnight Bisou.