Updated on 09/16/2011 6:52AM

Nokoma's goal? The Florida Derby


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - , a disappointing fourth in his 3-year-old debut, the Holy Bull Stakes, will try to earn a place in the Grade 1 Florida Derby when he returns against preliminary allowance company in Saturday's 10th race.

Nokoma became a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender when he finished a game second behind Saarland in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes in his juvenile finale. But his 3-year-old campaign started off on a sour note when he tired badly over a deep track to finish a well-beaten fourth behind Booklet and Harlan's Holiday in the Holy Bull.

"We're still in the ball game," Pletcher said referring both to the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby. "After the setback in the Holy Bull I just decided to take a step back with him and return to allowance company instead of running in the Fountain of Youth. We planned to run him last weekend, but he had a little upper respiratory infection two works back so I decided to wait another week. And one good thing about the Holy Bull is that the form from the race held up well in the Fountain of Youth. So Nokoma's race wasn't as bad as we might have originally thought."

Nokoma has turned in a pair of bullet five-furlong works over the past two weeks and appears much more comfortable over the racetrack since it was renovated earlier this month.

"The racetrack is much more to his liking right now," said Pletcher. "His last two works are a big improvement over the way he was going earlier in the meet. Naturally, we hope he'll win Saturday but as long as he runs well he'll go in the Florida Derby."

Macho Uno closing in on 2002 debut

Macho Uno moved another step closer to his 2002 debut after working six furlongs in 1:12.20 here Thursday.

"He's getting ready, but I've got nothing picked out for him just yet," trainer Joe Orseno said. "He's getting fit. This was his first three-quarters [of a mile] and it was a really good work for him. I broke another horse off about 10 lengths in front, and he was antsy to go get him. He worked every eighth in 11 [seconds] and change except the last, but I expected him to get a little tired. He galloped out a mile in 1:44."

Orseno said he plans to keep his two big handicap guns, Red Bullet and Macho Uno, apart for as long as possible this season. Red Bullet will make his next start in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 30.

"By other trainers' standards he might be ready after a work like this," said Orseno. "But it's a long year and I don't want to rush him."

Orseno also said he gave Red Bullet a little extra time off following his game but frustrating effort in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap earlier this month. Red Bullet finished second following a poor start then was disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Rize on the far turn.

Free of Love works

Free of Love had his first recorded work since finishing sixth in the Donn, breezing an easy five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Thursday.

"It was just a maintenance work," said trainer Rick Violette. "Right now I'm not sure what I'm going to do with him. The Creme Fraiche [Grade 3 on March 10] is a possibility, although I might test-drive him on the grass and breeze him over the turf next week."

Bonnie Miss a maybe for Dust Me Off

Trainer Allen Jerkens said he will consider running Dust Me Off in the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss following her impressive 5 3/4-length victory over On Parade and Miss Halory under preliminary allowance conditions here Wednesday.

"The Bonnie Miss is a possibility, or I might just wheel her back in a two-other-than allowance," Jerkens said.

Dust Me Off overcame a very poor start to win her career debut going six furlongs at Calder. She returned on the grass here last month but finished a well-beaten sixth after a most eventful trip.

"I ran her on the turf because most of her father's get are grass horses," Jerkens said referring to Dust Me Off's sire With Approval. "But that race was a throw out because she had bad luck all the way. She has the breeding to go long but I'll just wait and see before deciding where to run her next."


Dust Me Off wasn't the only impressive allowance winner on Wednesday's card. Her victory was preceded by Transcendental's 5 1/2-length victory over fourth-level allowance horses. It was her first start since finishing seventh in Philadelphia Park's Grade 2 Cotillion Handicap on Oct. 6.

"She bled in her last start at Philly, so I decided to bring her down here and freshen her up," said trainer H. James Bond. "I had to skip a condition to get her in but I guess this turned out to be a well-picked race. Once in a while you draw lucky."

Transcendental showed enough as a 3-year-old to compete in the Grade 1 Selene and Gazelle handicaps in which she finished sixth and fourth, respectively. Wednesday's victory was her fourth from just 10 career starts.

"She's had chronic back problems that have caused her troubles along the way," said Bond. "We give her massage and acupuncture treatments, and if I can keep her right she can be an awfully nice filly."

Bond also said his big three in the handicap division, Donn Handicap winner Mongoose, Ubiquity, and Pleasant Breeze, are all doing well.

"Mongoose is still on target for the Gulfstream Park Handicap. I'm trying to figure where I'll run Ubiquity next, although he will be nominated to the Creme Fraiche. Pleasant Breeze continues to work extremely well at Payson. I'm not sure where I'll put him, but he will run here at Gulfstream Park before we head north," said Bond.