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Kentucky Derby: Pletcher sends out all five prospects
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Every day is a logistical challenge for trainer Todd Pletcher, with all the horses for whom he’s entrusted, and though the stakes are magnified for the Kentucky Derby, his carefully planned workout scheme for Saturday morning at Churchill Downs seemed to go off flawlessly, as five of his prospective Derby runners, including unbeaten Verrazano, concluded serious preparation for next Saturday’s race.
Pletcher originally had slated those works for Sunday, but because of an increasingly gloomy forecast for Saturday afternoon, Pletcher decided on Friday to work all five Saturday morning and avoid the likely off track Sunday morning.
It was a sleepless night. “I woke up at 12:57 and made the mistake of looking at the radar,” Pletcher said.
Verrazano was timed by Daily Racing Form going five furlongs, in company, in 59.51 seconds. Charming Kitten (48.31 seconds) and Revolutionary (48.11) worked a half-mile together, and then Overanalyze (46.90) and Palace Malice (47.10) also went a half-mile with one another.
On a busy morning that also saw several Kentucky Oaks runners work, Derby works were also recorded by Black Onyx (48.59 seconds for a half-mile), Mylute (50.60 seconds for a half-mile), Normandy Invasion (58.89 seconds for five furlongs), and the Kenny McPeek-trained duo of Frac Daddy (1:02) and Java’s War (1:02.10), who went five furlong in company.
So, 10 horses – fully half the maximum field of 20 for next week’s Derby – had their final works.
Verrazano and Revolutionary, the most accomplished of Pletcher’s quintet, both seemed to work well, and received high praise from Pletcher.
“I thought Verrazano worked very well,” Pletcher said. “He relaxed breaking off, galloped out well, seemed to handle the track really well. He’s giving every indication he’s doing well and likes the surface.”
Pletcher said he “loved the way” Revolutionary worked, but was candid in his assessment of Charming Kitten, whom Pletcher said “seemed to spin his wheels the last 50 or 60 yards.”
Overanalyze “this morning, that was the best I’ve seen him breeze, ever,” Pletcher said.
Palace Malice, outfitted with blinkers, worked well in them with jockey Mike Smith and will add them for the Derby, Pletcher said. Pletcher said Palace Malice will wear French Cup blinkers, which have a relatively small cup.
“He seemed to focus better without making him too keen,” Pletcher said. “Mike said he seemed to take it well. He wasn’t too headstrong. He’s had a tendency to get a little distracted in his races.”
Smith had an easier time on Palace Malice than he did getting to Churchill Downs Saturday morning. Owing to a local road race, Smith was delayed 45 minutes leaving his downtown hotel, but he arrived before the scheduled time for the work, so there was no delay for Palace Malice.
“I was thinking, ‘I made it all the way here, and now I’m going to miss the work,’ ” Smith said.
Black Onyx, coming off a win on Polytrack in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, seemed to handle Churchill’s dirt surface well in his drill under jockey Joe Bravo.
“Even though the time wasn’t sharp, I thought it was visually impressive,” said Kelly Breen, who trains Black Onyx. “I thought it was a pretty impressive workout. Joe was afraid he was going to go in 47, so he throttled him down. But, overall, I couldn’t have asked for him to go much better.”
Mylute was out early, just after the track opened, for his work with jockey Rosie Napravnik, who will attempt to become the first female rider to win the Derby.
Normandy Invasion was the first Derby horse to work, right around 6 a.m., and seemed keen to get on with proceedings.
“He was a little eager going to the pole, not rank, but he seems to be in a hurry when he knows he’s going to breeze,” said his trainer, Chad Brown. “He was on his toes coming back with the pony, and he cooled out quickly. He’s really maturing to where he’s a strong horse all the way around.”
Brown said Normandy Invasion has become more eager since knocking off the cobwebs in the Risen Star, his first start of the year.
McPeek was honest in his assessment of both Frac Daddy, who seemed to work well, and Java’s War, who was clearly inferior to his stablemate.
Frac Daddy’s work “was really strong,” McPeek said.
“The best races of his career came at Churchill Downs,” he pointed out, referring to Frac Daddy’s second-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, which followed a maiden win here, both last fall.
Java’s War was sixth in the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall. He earned his way to the Derby with his late-running victory on Polytrack at Keeneland in the Blue Grass.
“His pedigree probably says more turf than dirt,” McPeek said, “and his race here wasn’t as good as some of the others, but I think he deserves a chance. His female family is grass, but who’s to say?”
Also Saturday, Goldencents arrived from California, and Itsmyluckyday from Florida.
– additional reporting by Mike Welsch
surprise! palace malice
I dont think any of Pletcher's horses will hit the board. Unless it rains for him like it did when 'Saver won a few years back. Rumor has it even Pletcher himself didnt have a wiining ticket on that horse. Not sure if he ever won again. LOL. Verrazano is a miler at best and will never get the Derby distance. His other horses are nothing to call home about. Revolutionary is his only shot ig he doesnt manage to break him before the race.
Hey Pletcher, There ain't enough Pepto Bismol in the World to make you sleep well.
I did see forecast chance of Rain, May 3rd and 4th. Post Position and Weather, u got that right.
Only clouds for Derby Day from what I have heard................
Forecast is rain for the Derby. This has always been my hope as I believe Overanalyze is the top mud horse in this race. I believe that will take some of the big names out of it. Verrazano, Orb, Normandy Invasion and It'smyluckyday will not like it.
Pletcher is due.