During the crisp, clear early morning of Sunday, April 29, less than a week before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Eclipse award winning trainer Todd Pletcher watched the final workouts of three of his contenders, all of which he said he was satisfied with as they completed their respective five-furlong runs over Keeneland's Polytrack surface.
At nearly the same time, Pletcher's Sam P. was working at Churchill Downs.
Pletcher commented that Any Given Saturday, who completed the distance in 1:01 1/5, looked relaxed during the workout.
"I thought it was great--he looked perfect," he said, adding that the way the horse worked was of "textbook" quality leading up to the first Saturday in May.
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero was in the irons aboard Any Given Saturday, as well as Pletcher's other two Derby hopefuls that worked Sunday, Circular Quay and Scat Daddy.
Owned by the partnership of Bill Casner and Kenny Trout's WinStar Farm and Anne and Satish Sanan's Padua Stables, Any Given Saturday is by Distorted Humor out of the A.P. Indymare Weekend in Indy.
The colt, who took this year's Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, will enter the Derby off a third-place effort behind winner Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct. In the Derby, Garrett Gomez will get the mount on Any Given Saturday, who has earned $299,213.
Pletcher worked Circular Quay in company with the favored Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) filly Rags to Riches during the second set of his worktab.
"He looked awesome," said Pletcher of Circular Quay, who was clocked in 1:00 1/5. When asked if the colt was fully prepared for the Run for the Roses, he answered simply, "He's ready right now. This is the best he's been here so far--he's gotten progressively better (with each work)."
The millionaire son of Thunder Gulchhas won four of seven starts, including the March 10 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, which served as his final prep for the first Saturday in May.
Out of the Belong to Me mare Circle of Life, Circular Quay also captured the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) and Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) as a juvenile. He is owned by Michael and Doreen Tabor.
Pletcher called Sunday's workout "a good education for Rags to Riches--she's used to being on the outside." The daughter of A.P. Indyran along the rail next to Circular Quay.
With a pair of large binoculars under one arm and his stopwatch poised, Pletcher focused next on the workout of his strapping, dark bay Johannesburgcolt Scat Daddy.
"He has a long stride--he covers a lot of ground," said the trainer, who was impressed with the colt's final time of :59.2.
"He was a happy horse out there today--it just shows how talented he is--he worked :59.2 so easily. I don't think a big field (in the Derby) will bother him at all."
Out of the Mr. Prospector mare Love Style, Scat Daddy has posted an impressive career record so far of five wins from eight starts. The colt, who is owned by Michael Tabor and James Scatuorchio, won the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) and Champagne (gr. I) as a juvenile.
This year, he has captured two important Derby preps, the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby (both gr. I). The highest earner of the trio of Derby hopefuls worked by Pletcher on Sunday, he has made $1,334,300.
"Scat Daddy was the most aggressive of the three," said Cordero of the colt's workout.
Of the Run for the Roses, Cordero added, "There are so many things that can go wrong from now until the Derby. It's a scary process--just trying to get them there. We were very lucky that this track took all the weather and we didn't have to miss a day of training--they all love training on it."
Referring to all the contenders he is helping Pletcher prepare for the big dance, he said, "Our dinner is almost cooked. Now we've just got to keep the fire going."
Meanwhile, over at Churchill Downs, Pletcher had his assistant, Mike McCarthy, send his fifth Derby colt –- the Cat Thiefchestnut Sam P. –-through a five-furlong exercise in 1:00.20 (third-best of 32 at the distance) in company with the filly Awesome Ashley right after the morning renovation break. The trainer considered attempting to make the 75-mile dash between Keeneland and Churchill to catch the drill, but in the end decided it wasn’t going to be in the interests of the horse.
“I told Mike to go ahead and work him,” he said. “If they waited for me to get over there they were going to have to send him out late in the morning on a chewed-up track and that wasn’t going to be best for him.”
With the heavy lifting now done, the three-time Eclipse Award winning Pletcher said it was now his plan to get down to the little bits and pieces that sometimes can get lost in all the Derby commotion.
“Now it’s just the details,” he said. “Getting them shipped over there. Getting them settled in. Some paddock schooling. The little things that make it all right.”