Michael Tabor's Nokoma, runner-up in last year's Remsen Stakes, breezed a sharp 5 furlongs in 1:00 4/5 Tuesday for the March 16 Florida Derby. Trainer Todd Pletcher called the work "super."
"I got him coming home his last quarter in :23 3/5, and he was on cruise control," Pletcher said. "He seems to be a pretty confident horse right now. He's a different horse since they changed the track surface. He worked by himself this morning, and Cindy (Hutter) never even moved on him."
Nokoma began the year with a dull fourth-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes, but it was apparent he couldn't handle the deep, slow track. After a brief rest, he returned with an impressive allowance victory going 1 1/16 miles, which set him up perfectly for the Florida Derby.
Another Pletcher 3-year-old on the work tab Tuesday was Charioteer, who is coming off an 8 1/2-length romp in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race. The son of Silver Deputy, who is owned Peachtree Stable of Invisible Ink fame, will make his next start in Sunday's Louisiana Derby.
"I realize it's going to be a tough spot with Repent in there,"Pletcher said, "but he doesn't have to win it. The thinking is, if he's going to jump into the Derby picture, we need to get a pair of two-turn races in him. He has to show us he wants to go long, and it's time to get started. He has speed, and he's a gutsy, determined colt. We just have to slow him down in the mornings and get him to relax, which is why his works have been on the slow side."
Also on the work tab Tuesday was Risen Star winner Repent, who drilled 5 furlongs in 1:00 3/5 with new rider Jerry Bailey aboard. The son of Louis Quatorze is scheduled to ship to Fair Grounds Thursday, where he is expected to go off as the heavy favorite in the Louisiana Derby.
"It was just a maintenance breeze," trainer Kenny McPeek said. "I told Jerry to break off at the 4 1/2-furlong pole and work a half mile, but the clockers got him 5 furlongs, because he gallops to the pole so fast. I got him the half in :47 4/5. Jerry was very pleased. We wish the Derby was this week because he'd very tough to beat. But we've got to concentrate on this race first. I'll sit down and discuss the colt's habits and idiosyncracies with Jerry . We talked about getting him to switch leads, and he switched perfectly this morning."
Among those Repent be facing in the Louisiana Derby are Bob's Image, Easyfromthegitgo, Publication, French Assault, and Charioteer.
Another Florida Derby candidate to work Tuesday was Grey Beard, who finished up the track in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. The son of Unbridled's Song worked 6 furlongs in 1:13 4/5 for trainer Graham Motion.