02/04/2013 3:41PM

Kentucky Derby preps see Pletcher and Baffert flex muscles

Shigeki Kikkawa
Flashback (above) led a Bob Baffert-trained one-two finish in the Robert Lewis, with Den’s Legacy second.

Between them, trainers Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert have 52 of the 369 horses nominated to this year’s Triple Crown, and their strength in numbers was on display again over the weekend, when both saw leading prospects in their barns record important victories.

Pletcher scored wins with Revolutionary in the Withers at Aqueduct and Verrazano in an allowance race at Gulfstream, to strengthen an already powerful hand that holds aces such as Overanalyze, Shanghai Bobby, and Violence. Verrazano got a Beyer Speed Figure of 105, while Revolutionary received an 86.

Baffert sent out Flashback to an easy win in the Robert Lewis at Santa Anita, with stablemate Den’s Legacy running on for second. Flashback got a Beyer of 92.

Those were the highlights of a sensory overload Saturday for Kentucky Derby prospects, which also included Falling Sky scoring a gritty victory in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay, earning a Beyer of 92, and Honorable Dillon capturing the Hutcheson at Gulfstream with a 94 Beyer.

Between now and the Derby on May 4, Pletcher – well-versed in the nuances of poker – will need to figure out how to play his cards.

Who has it better than him right now? Noooooooobody.

“It was a very good day,” Pletcher said of Saturday’s results.

Revolutionary was scheduled to travel from New York to Florida on Tuesday to join Pletcher’s main string at the Palm Meadows training center before his final prep for the Derby, likely coming four or five weeks out from the Derby. The Florida Derby at Gulfstream and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, both March 30, and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6 are all under consideration, Pletcher said.

Elliott Walden, president and chief executive officer of WinStar Farm, which owns Revolutionary, said the move to Florida is to allow for the likelihood of more consistent training.

“The reason to get to Florida is to get him out of the cold, take a break from it,” said Walden, who said the training track at Belmont Park, “due to weather, can be a challenge.”

“Your work schedule can get interrupted,” Walden said. “He missed a work before this race because the track was very, very dry. They kept moisture out of it because it was so cold. When you get to the last 90 days before the Kentucky Derby, you want to get in a more rhythmical training schedule.”

Scheduling is a little trickier with Verrazano, owing to the way the calendar falls in terms of upcoming preps.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” said Pletcher, who mentioned three possible races, all with caveats.

The Fountain of Youth is at Gulfstream on Feb. 23, but Pletcher wasn’t sure he wanted to come back with Verrazano in three weeks. The Gotham is at Aqueduct on March 2, but Pletcher also has Overanalyze ticketed for that race. The Tampa Bay Derby is March 9, but many trainers, Pletcher included, often have trouble getting a line on their horses when they run there.

For Baffert, the decision-making regarding Flashback is easy. He’s staying put at Santa Anita, with the San Felipe on March 9 his next likely start.

“He won’t leave town,” said Baffert, who on Monday said Flashback came out of the Lewis “real good.”

Den’s Legacy, the Lewis runner-up, likely will travel for his next race, but Baffert wasn’t sure where he’d be heading.

Last year, Baffert shipped often to Oaklawn Park, for the Southwest, Rebel, and Arkansas Derby. He anticipates doing the same thing this year, the travelers dependent on who’s doing best the week of those races.

“I’m going to nominate my horses to everything, and whoever looks great that week, that’s who’ll ship,” said Baffert, who said Super Ninety Nine, an impressive allowance winner last week at Santa Anita, also was likely to travel for his next race.

Falling Sky could be headed back to Tampa for the Tampa Bay Derby, according to trainer John Terranova, but he said races like the Gotham and the March 16 Rebel also are under consideration at this point.

All three of those races offer 50 points to the winner, 20 for second, 10 for third, and 5 for fourth, under the Derby’s new qualifying rules. The Sam Davis win was worth just 10 points.

“We’ll probably have a better idea in a week or so,” Terranova said Monday. “He came out of the race really well. He’s sound, happy. Everything’s good. He’s nominated to everything. We’ll just have to figure out what’s best timing-wise. I do like that we can get two more races into him before the Derby.”

Honorable Dillon is likely headed to a two-turn stakes race next, which will afford him his first opportunity to earn points to the Derby, being as the Hutcheson, a sprint, offered none.

“It’s a shame these Grade 2 stakes aren’t getting any points for the Kentucky Derby. I think it’s wrong,” trainer Eddie Kenneally said after the race.

– additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch