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Pletcher works bevy of Cup hopefuls
ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Todd Pletcher said he pre-entered 12 horses for the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 6-7 at Santa Anita, and on Monday morning at Belmont Park half of them put in their most serious workouts for their respective races.
Quality Road, who Pletcher said was pre-entered in the $5 million Classic, worked five furlongs in 1:00.52 over the Belmont training track, according to Daily Racing Form, in company with the multiple stakes winner Harlem Rocker. With John Velazquez in the irons, Quality Road started about a half-length outside of Harlem Rocker and went in splits of 12.79 seconds, 24.66, and 35.89, meaning he got his last quarter in 24.63 while finishing on even terms. Quality Road galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.21. Harlem Rocker, who was officially given a time of 1:00.74, has not run since being disqualified from first and placed second in last November's Grade 1 Cigar Mile.
"Good, solid work; both horses went well," Pletcher said. "Quality Road, I think the horse is doing very well. He's a very relaxed horse right now. He's kind of push-button, doesn't do anything more than you ask him to do, but is there when you want it. I think he's got the right kind of mindset right now to get a mile and a quarter effectively."
Pletcher said Quality Road, who won the Grade 1 Florida Derby when trained by Jimmy Jerkens in March, has become more settled over the course of the summer. Pletcher received the horse in early June after owner Ed Evans made a trainer change.
In his first start for Pletcher, Quality Road won the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam in August at Saratoga. Since then he has finished third in the Travers and second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, both at 1 1/4 miles.
"He's starting to relax a little more," Pletcher said. "In company, he's more settled. It seemed like as we were leading up to the Amsterdam he was pretty zeroed in on being more aggressive and wanting to go a little quicker earlier."
Interactif, who could be favored in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, worked an easy half-mile in 49.18. It was his first work since he won the Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 11.
"I'm really excited about the way he's doing," Pletcher said. "The fact he ran good at Saratoga on that turf course, ran well at Keeneland on a soft turf course, is adaptable to pace scenario, and he's got the right kind of turn of foot to be effective in that race, so I'm really excited about him."
Another 2-year-old Pletcher is really excited about is Eskendereya, the Pilgrim Stakes winner who may have turned in the most visually impressive work of anyone Monday. Eskendereya, under jockey Javier Castellano, worked five furlongs in 1:00.48, according to track clockers, in company with Aikenite, who was timed in 1:00.49. The pair got their last quarter in 24.64, but Eskendereya galloped out magnificently. Pletcher timed Eskendereya galloping out seven furlongs in 1:27.80.
Pletcher said he would like to run Eskendereya in the Juvenile, but he also pre-entered him in the Juvenile Turf.
"He has gotten better and better and better throughout the course of the summer," Pletcher said. "We were seeing really good works on the turf before his first start and then his dirt works after the first start were good, too. When the Pilgrim came off the turf, we decided to go ahead and run. He obviously ran very well; even that day his gallop-out was really impressive. I thought working this morning it was really good. I really hope he gets in the Juvenile. I think he's an improving horse, and Giant's Causeways generally like that surface."
Pletcher said that Aikenite, who finished second in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, is not usually "an overzealous work horse, but this morning he was more focused than he generally is."
Ready's Echo, who was pre-entered in the Dirt Mile, worked four furlongs in 48.93. Join in the Dance, who was pre-entered in both the Sprint and Dirt Mile, worked five furlongs in 1:01.65, with a final quarter in 24.80.
The other horses Pletcher said he pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup were Rose Catherine (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Devil May Care (Juvenile Fillies), Cowboy Cal (Mile), Game Face (Filly and Mare Sprint), Dad's Crazy (Juvenile Fillies Turf), and Nite Light (Marathon).
Unbridled Belle to Turnback the Alarm
Pletcher worked several other horses Monday, including the Grade 1 winner Unbridled Belle, who will make the penultimate start of her career in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Turnback the Alarm Stakes here. Unbridled Belle, who finished second in the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont on Oct. 3, went four furlongs in 48.90.
"I thought she went really well," Pletcher said. "It seems like she came out of the Beldame in good order and is training as enthusiastically as she ever has."
Unbridled Belle, who has won 7 of 23 starts and earned $1.8 million in purses, is the assigned high weight at 120 pounds. Among those listed to face her are Dattts Our Girl, Dean Henry, Manitoba Miss, Way With Words, and Sweet and Flawless.
Following the Turnback the Alarm, Unbridled Belle is expected to make her final start in the Falls City at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving.
Other notable horses that Pletcher worked Monday included Munnings, who went a half-mile in 50.80 in preparation for the Cigar Mile, and the multiple Grade 1 winner Take the Points, who went four furlongs in 49.31 and is being pointed to the Hollywood Derby on Nov. 29.
Bush might be California dreamin'
While many horsemen are focusing on the Breeders' Cup, to be held in Southern California on the first weekend of November, trainer Tom Bush is considering the Golden State for two of his runners on the last weekend of the month. Bush is contemplating sending both Get Stormy and Banrock west for Grade 1 races at Hollywood Park.
Banrock, who won Sunday's Mohawk Handicap for his 12th victory in 30 lifetime starts, could be a candidate for the Grade 1 Citation at Hollywood Park on Nov. 27, while Get Stormy, winner of the Bryan Station at Keeneland on Oct. 18, could run in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby two days later.
After Banrock won the Mohawk, Bush said he would like to run the horse one more time this year but ruled out the Grade 2 Red Smith at Aqueduct because it would mean coming back in two weeks. He would have five weeks to the Citation, a race at 1 1/16 miles that is run three weeks after the Breeders' Cup.
"I wouldn't completely rule it out," Bush said of the Citation. "His races have been spaced out, and [five] weeks is just right for him. He's only run six times [this year], and I still think there's something left in him for sure."
Bush said Get Stormy came out of the Bryan Station in "fabulous" shape.