Champion Shanghai Bobby breezed five furlongs at Palm Meadows Training Center Sunday morning in preparation for a scheduled start in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby at Gulfstream Saturday.
Working in company with stablemate Palace Malice, the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning juvenile champion was timed in 1:00.82, the sixth fastest of 30 works recorded at the distance.
“I thought he worked well, consistent with what he normally does. He's not an overzealous work horse, but I think we got a good tightener and everything has gone according to plan,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Shanghai Bobby raced to the outside of Palace Malice, who was also timed in 1:00.82 and was about a half-length ahead of his stablemate at the finish line.
“I thought Palace Malice worked super, finished up great and galloped out strong. It seems like he's been doing really well since the Risen Star,” said Pletcher, who plans to send the third-place finisher in the Risen Star (G2) back to Fair Grounds for next Saturday's Louisiana Derby (G2). “I'd say he's improving, but he's always trained really well and we've had really high hopes for him and he has performed.”
Shanghai Bobby went undefeated in five starts last year, capping the season with Grade 1 victories in the Champagne at Belmont and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. The son of Harlan's Holiday suffered his first career loss in his 2013 debut in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream on Jan. 19. After setting the pace, Shanghai Bobby was defeated by Itsmyluckyday by two lengths.
With the addition of speedy sprinter Merit Man to the list of probables, Shanghai Bobby likely won't find himself on the lead as he did from his inside post in the Holy Bull.
“I think it's fine. We'd actually prefer a target. If (Merit Man) goes to the lead, fine,” Pletcher said.
Shanghai Bobby, who ranked 11th on Churchill Downs' new points list for Kentucky Derby qualifying Sunday morning, likely needs an on-the-board finish to clinch an entry into the 20-horse field.
“I'm not worried about the points,” Pletcher said. “I figure if he runs good enough, it won't be a problem.
Although there seemed a possibility that the Florida Derby field might come up short a few weeks ago, the list of probables has expanded during the past week with a field of nine or 10 or more likely.
“I never expected it to be a short field. None of these fields come up short with Derby points on the line,” Pletcher said. “I expected it to be a big field and post position won't be a big deal for me.”
In addition to Shanghai Bobby and Palace Malice, several other Pletcher-trainees were sent to the track to prepare for Kentucky Derby preps, most notably Verrazano, currently the early favorite for the Run for the Roses.
The son of More than Ready, who captured the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) by three lengths in only his third lifetime start, was timed in 49.79 seconds while working a half-mile in company with Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) winner Discreet Dancer.
“You could say ‘maintenance' except that the gallop-out was pretty awesome. It was pretty impressive,” Pletcher said.
Verrazano, who captured the first two races of his career at the Gulfstream Park meeting by a combined 24 lengths, is scheduled to run in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct on April 6.
“I thought he went super. He was well in hand,” Pletcher said. “He's coming up to the race in good order.”
Dreaming of Julia, scheduled to run in next Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), breezed an easy half in 50.90 seconds.
“It was a good steady work. The half-mile time doesn't look impressive, but I clocked the last three-eighths afterwards and it was impressive,” Pletcher said. “She galloped out great and she's coming up to this race well.”
Meanwhile, Pletcher, well on his way to his 10th straight training title at Gulfstream, was pleasantly surprised to be able to find another five-furlong turf allowance for fillies and mares to pop up for Wednesday's card. Stopshoppingmaria, who has won three straight races at the distance on turf, has been entered for Wednesday's $70,000 featured fifth race.
“She's had a great winter here. I didn't really expect to have another opportunity to run her here, but when this race came up, I figured she's 3-for-3 doing it and she's got another chance, so why not try it?” Pletcher said.
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