TDN Weekend

Florida Derby Contenders Breeze

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Gunnevera | A Coglianese

Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera (Dialed In), coming off an emphatic 5 3/4-length victory in the Mar. 4 GII Xpressbet Fountain of Youth S., worked five furlongs in 1:04.60 (video) at Gulfstream Park West Saturday in preparation for the Apr. 1 GI Xpressbet.com Florida Derby.

“I’m very happy,” trainer Antonio Sano said after the work. “The horse is 100%. He’s very quiet, relaxed. He’s a very happy horse.”

Gunnevera, a $16,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, captured last year’s GIII Delta Downs Jackpot S. and GII Saratoga Special. He was second behind Irish War Cry (Curlin) while making his sophomore debut in the Feb. 4 GII Lambholm South Holy Bull S.

Fountain of Youth runner-up Practical Joke (Into Mischief) also breezed Saturday, covering a half-mile in :48.75 (9/61) at Palm Meadows.

“The horse worked super,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He got a lot out of [the Fountain of Youth]. I was very happy with his first race back.”

Practical Joke is also likely to make his next start in the Florida Derby, but is also being considered for the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Apr. 8.

“I’ve narrowed it down the either the Florida Derby or the Blue Grass,” Brown commented. “I sort of want to see where everybody’s going in. I’m going to go as far as to enter him in the Florida Derby and see where he draws and how it shapes up. I’m not going to totally commit to that until I see all that.”

Also preparing for the Florida Derby, Three Rules (Gone Astray) put in a strong gallop at Gulfstream Park Saturday.

“We just two-minute licked him,” explained trainer Jose Pinchin. “He’ll work next week. We’ve pretty much decided [to run in the Florida Derby].”

Three Rules, who swept the Florida Sire Stakes series last year, was a pacesetting third in the Fountain of Youth and was second in the Feb. 4 GII Swale S.

Pletcher Duo Possible for Florida Derby…

The Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) and Battalion Runner (Unbridled’s Song) both worked at Palm Beach Downs Saturday in preparation for a possible start in the GI Xpressbet.com Florida Derby Apr. 1.

With John Velazquez aboard, Always Dreaming breezed a best-of-20 half-mile in :48 flat (video) in company with GSW sophomore Theory (Gemologist), who makes his seasonal bow in next Saturday’s Spectacular Bid S. Owned by MeB Racing Stables, Viola Racing Stables and St Elias Stables, the dark bay graduated at third asking at Tampa Bay Downs Jan. 25 and captured a nine-panel allowance in Hallandale next out Mar. 4.

“Always Dreaming was coming into this work two weeks after a pretty easy win in a mile-and-an-eighth allowance race, so we weren’t looking for a really stern work from him this morning, though we got a very impressive work, I thought,” Pletcher said. “He did it very effortlessly. He was moving very well. I was happy the way he did it and very happy with the way he galloped out. It seems like he’s continuing to improve throughout the winter.”

Also ridden by Velazquez, “TDN Rising Star” Battalion Runner covered five furlongs in 1:01.20 (3/8) in company with Vees Boy (Unbridled’s Song) (video). A second-out graduate at Gulfstream Dec. 31, the St Elias Stables runner scored an impressive victory in a 1 1/8-mile allowance there Feb . 3.

“Battalion Runner hadn’t run in a little while so we went a little further with him and asked him for a strong gallop out as well, which he did,” Pletcher commented. “He too worked very well.”

As for the Florida Derby, Pletcher said, “We haven’t decided for sure and we won’t until their final preps next week, or what would be their final prep for the Florida Derby if that’s where one or two of them are going to run. I’ve got to get with the connections–they are common ownership in the two–and we will formulate a plan. We’ve also discussed the possibility of entering them both and seeing how big a field it is and what the post positions look like.”

The seven-time Eclipse winner also worked undefeated GIII Southwest S. winner One Liner (Practical Joke) Saturday in preparation for either the GII Wood Memorial S. at Aqueduct or the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. at Keeneland, both of which are Apr. 8. The bay covered a half-mile in :50.20 (12/20) in company with Caviar Czar (Medaglia d’Oro) (video)

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