Another busy morning for the Todd Pletcher barn at Churchill Downs was headlined by two five-furlong workouts Sunday from Mike Repole’s duo of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty in preparation for Saturday’s Grade I, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Working shortly after the renovation break, Uncle Mo breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 on a fast track and recorded fractions of :12.80, :24.80, :36.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.40 under John Velazquez, who was quite impressed with the 3-year-old son of Indian Charlie.
"The key was to get a steady work, finish well and gallop out well,” Velazquez said. “He went very good and it was exactly what we wanted and what we expected.”
Uncle Mo, who missed this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) with a liver ailment, returned to top form with a narrow defeat in the King’s Bishop (GI) and a dominating performance in the Kelso Handicap (GII). Pletcher was pleased with Uncle Mo’s work and believes he is coming up to another big race.
“The workout was perfect,” Pletcher said. “He went nice and steady and had an excellent gallop out. We have him coming into the race as well as he can be and there isn’t a horse on the grounds that looks as good as he does.”
One major question surrounding Uncle Mo is whether he will handle the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Classic, but Pletcher sees no reason last year’s 2-year-old champion would struggle going longer in Saturday’s race than he has before.
“He’s done nothing to indicate that he can’t get the distance, but until he does it you don’t know for sure,” Pletcher said. “But he’s coming into the race well and he’s the most talented horse in the field coming into the race.”
Working shortly after Uncle Mo was Stay Thirsty, who worked in company with Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) hopeful Rule. Under Javier Castellano, Stay Thirsty breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 and recorded fractions of :24.20, :35.80 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.20.
“I thought Stay Thirsty also went very well,” Pletcher said. “He went a little bit faster than Uncle Mo, but I thought they both looked excellent.”
Castellano, who rode Stay Thirsty to victory in Jim Dandy (GII) and Travers (GI) at Saratoga this summer, was pleased with the work.
“It was a very good, consistent work,” Castellano said. “He handled the track really well and pulled me the whole way.”
Rule, who started two lengths in front of Stay Thirsty, was credited with a five-furlong time of 1:01.20.
“His (Rule) work was OK,” Pletcher said. “As some horses mature they begin to know the difference between the mornings and the afternoons and he’s getting wise to it. So, the work wasn’t exceptional.”
The first Breeders’ Cup horse to work for Pletcher on Sunday was Dogwood Stable’s Aikenite, who worked in company with Shared Heart prior to the renovation break. Aikenite and Shared Heart started even and finished even through a four-furlong breeze in :47.80 and recorded fractions of :12.20, :23.80, :35.80 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.
Aikenite is pre-entered in the Dirt Mile and the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI), with first preference in the Sprint.
The final Breeders’ Cup hopefuls to work from the Pletcher barn Sunday were WinStar Farm and Rubio B. Stable’s Sidney’s Candy and Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor’s Finale, who breezed four furlongs on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course.
Sidney’s Candy, who will enter the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI), started and finished a length ahead of Finale (GII Juvenile Turf) and both were credited with a time of :49.80. The two recorded fractions of :13.60, :26.80 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.20.
“Sidney’s Candy worked exceptionally well,” Pletcher said. “He handled the course well and finished well. He’s coming into the race great, very settled and relaxed.
“Finale worked great and went very well for a 2-year-old working with a horse like Sidney’s Candy.”
FLAT OUT’S BULLET WORK LEAVES DICKEY FLAT-OUT PLEASED – Preston Stables LLC’s Flat Out showed his readiness for next Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) by working a bullet half-mile in :46.60 on Sunday morning with jockey Greta Kuntzweiler aboard.
Fractions for the work accomplished shortly after 7 o’clock over a fast track were :12.20, :23.80, :35.20 and out five furlongs in :58.80 and six furlongs in 1:12.40. The half-mile time was the best of 58 for the morning.
“I’m flat-out pleased,” trainer Scooter Dickey said with a laugh. “I told Greta to let him do what he wants to do, then cluck to him at the eighth pole and have him gallop out strong. We’re ready.”
Dickey said that Flat Out would gallop up to the Classic with jockey Alex Solis slated to get aboard for Friday morning’s activity. Solis has ridden Flat Out in his past four starts resulting in victories in the Suburban (GII) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI) and runner-up finishes in the Whitney Invitational Handicap (GI) and Woodward (GI).
Sunday’s work was the second bullet move at Churchill Downs for Flat Out since winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup at the Breeders’ Cup Classic distance of 1 ¼ miles. Flat Out has run twice here, finishing sixth both times.
“He had a bad trip the first time he ran here when he was a 2-year-old,” Dickey said. “In the Stephen Foster (Handicap), that was not a bad race. He was trapped down on the inside and couldn’t get out. All the others (that finished in front of him) came down the middle of the track. He made a good move, but the rail was dead that day.”
HAVRE DE GRACE TO HAVE FINAL CLASSIC WORKOUT MONDAY MORNING – Fox Hill Farms Inc.’s Havre de Grace, who arrived at Churchill Downs from Keeneland on Saturday afternoon, galloped on the main track under trainer Larry Jones after the renovation break Sunday morning and is scheduled for a five-furlong work Monday morning after the break with Gabriel Saez to ride.
Havre de Grace, who was pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic as well as the Classic, will be entered in the Classic on Monday according to Jones.
“We have had time to look at the weather and it doesn’t look like this weekend will be like Belmont yesterday,” Jones said, referring to the heavy snow that forced Belmont to cancel its program after three races Saturday.
Jones and owner Rick Porter had pre-entered the Ladies’ Classic as a backup in case Havre de Grace drew the one hole for the Classic, but Jones is not worried about a possible such draw.
“A lot of emphasis is placed on the (Kentucky) Derby with where the gate is,” Jones said. “With a 20-horse field, they use a second gate and the one and two spots are squeezed in toward the rail. With just one gate (for the Classic), the gate is moved out a bit from the rail and the one hole is more like the three.”
The 4-year-old daughter of Saint Liam has won five of six starts in 2011 with her lone loss coming by a nose in the Delaware Handicap (GII) at 1 ¼ miles. After the Classic, there may be more to come in 2012.
“Rick has every intention of running her in 2012,” Jones said. “At the start of the year, we wanted to get her in position for Horse of the Year because we felt like she had a shot. I have had some fast fillies, but she is just special.”
Winner of the Beldame Invitational (GI) on Oct. 1 by 8 ¼ lengths in her most recent start, Havre de Grace had her last work at Keeneland on Oct. 24, a five-furlong move in :58.60.
"She is doing really well and acting like she is feeling better than she ever has in the past two weeks,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it is the cooler weather, but she is very lively and acts like she is ready to do something.”
MOTT SMILES AS ROYAL DELTA DAZZLES, TO HONOR AND SERVE DRILLS – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s good weekend continued Sunday with strong works by Breeders’ Cup World Championships contenders Royal Delta (Ladies Classic) and To Honor and Serve (Classic).
Palides Investments’ Royal Delta, winner of the Alabama (GI) and runner-up to Classic contender Havre de Grace in the Beldame (GI), produced Mott’s biggest smile as she worked four furlongs in :47.80 under exercise rider Rudolph Brisset. The 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker was caught in fractional splits of 12:80, :25, :36.20 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.40 and six furlongs in 1:14.40.
“If you didn’t like that, you don’t like training horses,” Mott said. “That’s what you’re looking for. You just dream of getting up in the morning and coming out and seeing something like that. She went great.”
“The majority of a trainer’s job is to just to try to not do anything foolish and keep the horse out of trouble. It just makes you feel good when you see them go well and everything went right. I feel good about it and I feel good about the way she’s doing.”
After his glowing comments about Royal Delta, the Courier-Journal’s Jennie Rees told Mott that trainer J. Larry Jones had confirmed a short time earlier that Fox Hill Farm’s Woodward (GI) and Beldame winner Havre de Grace – a leading candidate for horse of the year – would be entered Monday only for a run against males in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
That elicited another grin from the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs.
“Hey, I think they made a great move,” Mott said with a chuckle.
The work by Royal Delta ranked tied the fifth-fastest of 58 moves at the distance.
Mott was also very happy with the move by Live Oak Plantation’s To Honor and Serve, who is coming off an impressive victory in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (GII) at Philadelphia’s Parx Racing.
The son of Bernardini breezed five furlongs under Brisset in 1:00.40. To Honor and Serve carved out fractions of :12.80, :24.60, :36.80 and :48.40. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.80 and 1:29.20 after his third work since his arrival at Churchill Downs better than three weeks ago.
“It was very smooth,” Mott said. “It was very professional about everything. I thought it was a better work than it was last week. We let him go off a little quicker today, so ultimately it was a little bit of a faster work. The gallop-out was very good and I thought everything worked out very well.”
The move ranked as the fourth-fastest of 33 at the distance.
To Honor and Serve started 2011 as a major contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), but was knocked off the springtime road to Churchill Downs by disappointing runs in the Fountain of Youth (GII) and Florida Derby (GIII) at Gulfstream Park and a minor physical problem. The colt returned to competition in early August with a sixth-place run behind Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GII) candidate Caleb’s Posse in the 6 ½ furlong Amsterdam (GII) at Saratoga, then reeled off sparkling wins in a Saratoga allowance race and the Pennsylvania Derby, both run at 1 1/8 miles.
“We were just unable to come into the (Kentucky) Derby and train him the way we wanted to,” Mott said. “I guess it’s to his advantage now that he had the time and it looks like he’s come back well and he’s coming off two real good races. So hopefully he’s coming into this in good order and the timing is right.”
Royal Delta and To Honor and Serve are members of a group of five horses that make up Mott’s 2011 Breeders’ Cup team. Drosselmeyer, winner of the 2010 Belmont Stakes and another Classic hope, and Birdrun, who is bound for the Marathon, worked Saturday.
Mott plans to worked Pam and Martin Wygod and William S. Farish’s Courageous Cat, a contender for the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile, on the Matt Winn Turf Course on Monday. The son of Storm Cat galloped over the main track early Sunday.
Courageous Cat won this year’s Shoemaker Mile (GI) at Hollywood Park and was runner-up to Goldikova in the 2009 Mile at Santa Anita.
SWITCH WORKS FIVE FURLONGS; CONFIRMED FOR FILLY & MARE SPRINT – C R K Stable’s Switch, who was pre-entered in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI) as well as the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI), worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 under exercise rider Edwin Orozco after the renovation break.
Fractions for the work, which was the second fastest of 33 at the distance, were :12, :24, :36 and out six furlongs in 1:14.20.
“I was happy with the work,” trainer John Sadler said of the breeze. “She is probably working better than last year when she ran in the (Filly & Mare) Sprint. That’s the race she will be entered in Monday.”
Switch, who has worked twice here since finishing third in the Thoroughbred Club of America (GII) at Keeneland on Oct. 8, ran second to Dubai Majesty in last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint.
BARN TALK – One of the first workers Sunday morning was Jerry Jamgotchian’s Satans Quick Chick, who covered a half-mile in :49, the 20th fastest of 58 at the distance. Pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (GI), Satans Quick Chick reeled off fractions of :12, :23.80, :36.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.
“I didn’t want her to do too much, just stretch her legs,” trainer Eric Reed said.
In the saddle for the work was jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. Homeister, who was the fourth-leading rider at Churchill Downs last fall with 16 victories, gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria Rose, on Aug. 21.
“I was in the gym the following week and hired a trainer,” said Homeister, who began getting on horses for Reed at the Thoroughbred Training Center and Keeneland in Lexington about a month ago. “It’s great to be fit again.”
Homeister will ride her first race back for Reed on Thursday at Woodbine and plans to ride horses for Reed during the 21-day Fall Meet that begins this afternoon and then go to Tampa Bay Downs for the winter.
WORK TAB – Other Breeders’ Cup pre-entrants working before the break were Silverton Hill’s Havelock (Turf Sprint): four furlongs in :49.60 (32nd best of 58 at the distance) under Chase Miller with fractions of :12.80, :25.40 and out five furlongs in 1:02.60; Myron Miller’s Ask the Moon (Ladies’ Classic): four furlongs in :50.20 (44th fastest of 58) with fractions of :12.40, :24.40 and out five furlongs in 1:04; and Cathy and Bob Zollars’ Daddy Nose Best (Juvenile Turf): four furlongs in :50.20 (44th of 58) with fractions of :13, :25.40, :37.80 and out five furlongs in 1:05.20. …
Working after the break were Chuck and Maribeth Sandford and Secure Investment’s Take Charge Indy (Grey Goose Juvenile): four furlongs in :48.20 (ninth of 58) with fractions of :11.80 and :35.20 with James Graham up; Kaleem Shah’s Irrefutable (Dirt Mile): four furlongs in :47.60 (third of 58) with fractions of :12, :23.80 and out five furlongs in 1:00.80 with Dana Barnes up; Don McNeill and Everett Dobson’s Caleb’s Posse (Sentient Jet Sprint or Dirt Mile): four furlongs in :48.20 (ninth of 58) with fractions of :12.60, :24.40, :36.20 and out five furlongs in 1:02.60; and William Cox’s Ann of the Dance (Juvenile Fillies Turf): four furlongs in :50.80 (53rd of 58) with fractions of :13.20, :25.60, :38 and out five furlongs in 1:04.20 and six furlongs in 1:18.20.
Working on a firm Matt Winn Turf Course were George Schmitt, Jason Cline and Charles Cline’s Cambina (IRE) (Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf): four furlongs in :51.60 under Julien Leparoux with fractions of :13.80, :27.60 and out five furlongs in 1:05.80; Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Coalport (Juvenile Turf): five furlongs in 1:02.20 with fractions of :12.20, :24.40, :37.80 and out six furlongs in 1:18; Mark Samuel’s Grand Adventure (Turf Sprint): four furlongs in :50.20 with fractions of :13.40, :26.60, :38.40 and out five furlongs in 1:04; Richard and Elaine Klein’s Country Day (Turf Sprint): four furlongs in :49.80 with James Graham up with fractions of :13, :26.40, :38.20 and out five furlongs in 1:04.60; and, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Holiday for Kitten (Turf Sprint): five furlongs in 1:03 with fractions of :13, :26.40, :39.40, :51.20 and out six furlongs in 1:17.80.
At the nearby Trackside Training Center, trainer Mike Maker worked five of his Breeders’ Cup pre-entrants over a fast track: Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Headache (Classic, five furlongs in 1:00.60, fourth best of 20 at the distance); Jack and Tom Conway’s Stately Victor (Marathon, five furlongs in 1:00.40, second best); Connie Apostelos’ Baryshnikov (Marathon, five furlongs in 1:00.60, fourth best); Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Gung Ho (Juvenile Turf, five furlongs in 1:00.20, best of 20); and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten (Turf, five furlongs in 1:03.60, 17th best).