Stablemates Sandiva, Mshawish, and Constitution, winners of Saturdays' Suwannee River (G3), Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1), and Donn Handicap (G1), respectively, are doing well following their big efforts, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.
“So far so good,” Pletcher said. “Everyone looks like they came out of it in good order.”
Sandiva and Mshawish, both Al Shaqab Racing color-bearers, prevailed as favorites in their respective races, while Constitution was the second-choice behind defending champion Lea in the Donn. Pletcher, who saddled 11 horses on the 13-race card, captured three of the day's four graded stake races with his runners.
“We were hopeful that we could have a big day,” Pletcher said. “We felt like we had some horses that were training very well. In Mshawish and Sandiva's case, they were both coming off stake wins at the meet, and Constitution, we knew he liked Gulfstream from last year. So we were optimistic, but at the same time, we knew they were difficult races to win.”
Sandiva, winner of the Tropical Park Oaks in her Gulfstream debut on Dec. 20, earned her first North American graded stakes victory in the Suwannee River, while Mshawish, in taking his third straight Gulfstream Park turf stake, came away with his first Grade 1 score while overcoming a rough trip under Javier Castellano, who teamed up with Pletcher for all three stake triumphs.
“We wanted to get some cover. We got that,” Pletcher said. “When you're in that situation, you have to get lucky and find a seam at some point, and it didn't look like he was ever going to get to find that seam, but he did. He was able to split horses and finish very well.”
Pletcher has not yet finalized a plan for the runners going forward, though he and WinStar Farm President Elliott Walden are considering a start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (Group 1) on March 28 for Constitution, who earned a 113 Beyer for his Donn win and remains undefeated in four starts at Gulfstream, including a win in the 2014 Florida Derby (G1).
“I need to talk to Brad Weisbord and Harry Herbert from Al Shaqab about firming up which direction we're going to go with Sandiva and Mshawish,” Pletcher said. “I talked to Elliott a little bit this morning about Constitution. We've kicked around the idea of Dubai, but we haven't committed to it yet. It's certainly one of the options.”
Pletcher also has a wealth of talented 3-year-olds in South Florida.
Seven of the 32 3-year-olds Pletcher has nominated to the Triple Crown breezed Sunday morning at Palm Beach Downs, including Grade 1 winners Competitive Edge and Daredevil, Fountain of Youth (G2) hopeful Itsaknockout, and talented debut winner Khozan. Pletcher was pleased with the works and is in the process of finalizing plans for the group en route to the Triple Crown.
Pletcher had high praise for Daredevil as well as Breeders' Futurity (G1) winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Carpe Diem (G1), who breezed Saturday. Both posted bullets; Daredevil went five furlongs in 59.64 seconds, the best of 10 works on Sunday, while Carpe Diem clocked his five furlongs in 59.42 seconds Saturday, the best of seven workers that morning.
“They're both training exceptionally well,” Pletcher said. “Carpe Diem's breeze yesterday was very impressive. He came out of it well, and we're planning to go in the Tampa Bay Derby with him. I thought Daredevil worked extremely well this morning also. We're planning to go in the Swale (G2, at Gulfstream on Feb. 28) with him.”
Itsaknockout, a perfect two-for-two after taking maiden and allowance races at Gulfstream, is on track for Gulfstream's Fountain of Youth on Feb. 21. The son of Lemon Drop Kid, who won his second start by a widening 5 ¼ lengths, was timed going five furlongs in 1:00.22. J S Bach, who broke his maiden by 8 ½ lengths on Jan. 17, also drilled five furlongs. His time for the distance was 1:00.94.
“I thought he breezed really well this morning,” Pletcher said of Itsaknockout. “He's on schedule for the Fountain of Youth. J S Bach, I was very happy with him this morning. He's either going to go to the Southwest or the Risen Star. We'll make a decision, probably tomorrow on that.”
While Materiality, a debut winner on Jan. 11, is likely to return in a Gulfstream allowance later in the meet, Khozan, a half-sibling to Royal Delta who opened eyes when breaking his maiden at first asking on Jan. 24, is possible for an allowance or a stake. Khozan breezed four furlongs Sunday in 49.00 seconds flat.
“I think he's on a similar program to what Constitution was on last year,” Pletcher said. “He broke his maiden, won an allowance, and then won the Florida Derby. But we have a lot of options.”
A schedule is still being worked out for Competitive Edge, who won the Hopeful (G1) as a 2-year-old. He breezed five furlongs in 1:00.22. A schedule is also being worked out for Blofeld, undefeated winner of the Nashua (G2) and Futurity Stakes (G2) last year.
“[Competitive Edge] is doing well,” Pletcher said. “We haven't decided on a first start [of 2015] yet. [Blofeld] is just going to start back galloping. We just need to get some foundation done first. He's still a little ways away from a breeze.”
Pletcher also noted that Far From Over, who captured the Withers (G3) yesterday at Aqueduct, exited his win in good order.
“He came back well,” Pletcher said. “Thankfully he didn't grab anything when he stumbled leaving the gate. I thought it was a pretty impressive effort to do that in his second start. I would say the most likely scenario is that he'll stay in New York and run in the Gotham.”
Mapping out starts for so many Kentucky Derby hopefuls can be challenging, but it's a situation Pletcher is familiar with. He says timing is the key when creating schedules.
“There's going to be certain cases where we're going to have to run more than one [horse in a prep],” he explained. “A lot of it is about timing. A good thing about this time of year is that there are preps pretty much every weekend, either here or in Tampa or Oaklawn or Louisiana, so we have some options to move them around. Then it's just about timing – when they ran last and what kind of schedule they're on.”
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