Updated on 03/10/2017 12:42PM

FOY's top three may scatter for final Kentucky Derby preps

Email
Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Trainer Antonio Sano said Gunnevera will be back for the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – The top three finishers, and the beaten favorite, in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park all emerged from the race in good order, their trainers said Sunday. It appears, however, that they may scatter for their final Kentucky Derby preps, with the victorious Gunnevera the only one certain to return to Gulfstream for the Florida Derby on April 1.

Trainer Antonio Sano on Monday said Gunnevera would return in the Florida Derby. On Sunday, he had left open the possibility of going “directly to Kentucky” for the Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Sano, who is based at Gulfstream Park West – the racetrack formerly known as Calder - said he was “very happy” with how Gunnevera had come out of the race.

“Very good, very sound,” he said.

Gunnevera received a 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory. He had finished a troubled second in the Holy Bull in his prior start.

Practical Joke, second in the Fountain of Youth in his first start of the year, has “everything on the table” for his next start, trainer Chad Brown said here at the Palm Meadows training center Sunday morning.

Practical Joke is a two-time Grade 1 winner, taking the Hopeful and Champagne last year, so Brown said he is not necessarily focused on running in a Grade 1 race the weekends of April 1 and 8. The only Grade 1 race those weekends is the Florida Derby, and while Practical Joke could certainly run there, the Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct – both Grade 2 races this year -- on April 8 are in play for Practical Joke, too.

Brown on Sunday morning said Practical Joke “looks great” exiting the race. He was very happy with how Practical Joke ran.

“He made a big move on the turn, but he probably felt that a little bit the last part given the layoff,” Brown said. “He should get a lot out of it.”

No firm decision on a next start has been made for Three Rules, who was a gallant third after setting a quick pace and disposing of the favored Irish War Cry, according to trainer Jose Pinchin, who on Sunday said Three Rules may be pointed to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 rather than the Kentucky Derby.

Pinchin said the Florida Derby was a “possibility.”

“He ran a heck of a race,” Pinchin said. “He had to do everything. Nothing was given to him.”

Irish War Cry, who faded badly to finish seventh as the favorite while suffering the first loss of his career, “certainly seems fine” trainer Graham Motion said Sunday morning at Palm Meadows.

Motion said in hindsight he believes Irish War Cry regressed off his big effort in winning the Holy Bull four weeks earlier. He said he also wishes he’d have instructed jockey Joel Rosario to “take a hold.”

“I was worried he might bounce coming off a big number, but I couldn’t see sitting on him for two months and he had trained so well,” Motion said. “I wish he had settled. You’ve got to learn to settle if you’re going to compete in these races, especially as the distances increase.”

Motion said “we’re going to have to regroup.” He said a final Kentucky Derby prep would not be determined for a bit yet, but that he was inclined to wait five weeks to run back, which makes the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass the likeliest possibilities.

“My disappointment is we really didn’t learn anything,” Motion said. “I’ll keep him here for two weeks and then decide what to do. Right now, five weeks looks more favorable than running back again in four weeks.”