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Eskendereya breeze leads Pletcher pack
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - As if trainer Todd Pletcher won't have enough on his mind in the final two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, with as many as six potential starters in his barn including the current favorite, Eskendereya, now he has to stress about the weather too.
Pletcher handicapped both the weather forecast and track conditions, then called a couple of audibles on Saturday when scheduling important workouts for his quartet of Derby hopefuls still stabled at the Palm Meadows training center in South Florida. The day's works included five furlongs by Eskendereya in 1:02.25.
Pletcher originally planned on working Eskendereya immediately after the track opened for training at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and the trio of Rule, Mission Impazible, and Discreetly Mine the following morning. But with heavy rain in the forecast for Sunday, Pletcher decided to work the entire quartet on Saturday. Then, after showers pelted the area overnight, Pletcher opted to play it safe and postpone all four works a couple of hours until after the renovation break.
"Eskendereya was going to work Saturday anyway," said Pletcher. "I had him on a Saturday schedule prior to the Wood, and that turned out pretty good. The others would have gone Sunday, but considering the forecast I wanted to make sure I got their works in over a fast, safe racetrack and not have to toss and turn all night worrying about the weather."
The clockers' stand was overflowing with spectators by the time Eskendereya broke off at the five-furlong pole under exercise rider Patti Barry shortly after 9 a.m. Eskendereya maintained a steady pace throughout over a racetrack officially labeled fast but which was perhaps closer to good after the renovation break, completing his opening quarter-mile in 25.01 seconds and the final quarter in 25.13 into a stiff headwind before galloping out strong and pulling up six furlongs in 1:15.32.
"That was all I was looking for," said Pletcher. "He's a very fit horse, and I didn't want him to overdo it. I just wanted to see him get in a good five-furlong maintenance work and a strong gallop-out, and it went the way I expected."
Discreetly Mine followed Eskendereya with nearly a mirror-image performance, completing five-eighths in 1:02.22 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.66.
Mission Impazible and Rule breezed in company, with Mission Impazible gradually pulling away from his stablemate in the final sixteenth of a mile after completing five furlongs in 1:02.35 with jockey Chris DeCarlo aboard. Rule was timed the same distance in 1:02.69.
"Mission Impazible is an improving horse and he went very well," said Pletcher. "Rule wasn't as sharp but that's how he breezes."
Pletcher's top Kentucky Oaks contender, Devil May Care, also worked after the break, zipping five furlongs in 1:01.06 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.56 under DeCarlo. Devil May Care worked with blinkers and will run with blinkers on for the first time in the Oaks.
All four of Pletcher's Derby runners and Devil May Care will fly to Louisville on Tuesday and train at Churchill Downs for the first time Wednesday morning.
Joining Pletcher's Derby foursome on Saturday's tab at Palm Meadows was A Little Warm, currently 25th on the graded earnings list, who worked five furlongs in 1:02 after the break.
Amen Hallelujah, another prime contender in the Oaks, worked five furlongs on the turf between races at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Going in company with stablemate Candy Cane over the outer course with the rail out 108 feet, Amen Hallelujah was timed in 1:03.97 by Daily Racing Form.
Sidney's Candy works at Churchill
Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy, one of about a dozen Derby prospects already on the grounds at Churchill Downs, was the lone Derby worker Saturday at the Louisville, Ky., track, going five furlongs in 59.80 seconds under exercise rider Lupillo Alferez and over a fast surface.
Working in company with Via Verde, his John Sadler-trained stablemate, Sidney's Candy lagged a length or so behind before cruising past in the final furlong, galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.80.
"It gave me some goose bumps," said Sadler assistant Larry Benavidez, who watched frontside.
Joe Talamo, the regular rider of Sidney's Candy, originally was scheduled to be aboard for the work but could not make the necessary flight arrangements to be able to fulfill a full slate of mounts later that day at Santa Anita. Talamo is hopeful of making it in for the colt's final prerace workout next weekend.
The Sidney's Candy work came shortly after the regularly scheduled harrow break at about 8:30 a.m. Eastern, when only Derby and Kentucky Oaks candidates are being allowed to train during a window of about 15 minutes. The new policy went into effect Saturday, when the newly installed permanent lighting system also was used for training before dawn for the first time. Lights were illuminated on only one of every three poles in a concession to neighbors.
Endorsement goes five furlongs
Sunland Derby winner Endorsement also worked in company Saturday morning at Keeneland, going five furlongs in 1:01.60 and galloping out in 1:14 over Polytrack and with trainer Shannon Ritter aboard.
"He finished out strong and galloped out well," said Ritter.
Endorsement was scheduled to van Sunday to Churchill.
Maker pair out together
Mike Maker sent out the Lane's End Stakes winner, Dean's Kitten, out for work Saturday morning at the Trackside training center in Louisville in company with Age of Humor, who is on the unofficial also-eligibles list for cracking the 14-horse field in the Kentucky Oaks. Both horses went five furlongs in 59.80 seconds over a fast track.
Pleasant Prince to Derby trial
Pleasant Prince, the Florida Derby runner-up who was seventh in the April 10 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, will run next Saturday, April 24, in the Grade 3, $200,000 Derby Trial at Churchill, owner Ken Ramsey announced Saturday.
Pleasant Prince, to be ridden by Julien Leparoux, is one of maybe three Trial prospects who could make the 20-horse cutoff for the Derby by earning the $120,000 winner's share, with the other two being Eightyfiveinafifty and possibly Caracortado.
-- additional reporting by Marty McGee
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