Trainer Todd Pletcher won three graded stakes races with older horses Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park, but he also has a wealth of talented 3-year-olds in South Florida.
Seven of the 32 sophomores Pletcher has nominated to the Triple Crown breezed Feb. 8 at Palm Beach Downs, including grade I winners Competitive Edge and Daredevil , Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) 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.
He had high praise for Champagne Stakes (gr. I) victor Daredevil as well as Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) runner-up Carpe Diem , who breezed Feb. 7. Let's Go Stable and WinStar Farm's Daredevil went five furlongs in :59.64, the best of 10 works Sunday, while Carpe Diem, owend by WinStar and Stonestreet Stables, clocked his five furlongs in :59.42 a day earier. It was 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 (gr. II) with him. I thought Daredevil worked extremely well this morning also. We're planning to go in the Swale Stakes (gr. II) with him."
Itsaknockout, a perfect 2-for-2 after taking maiden and allowance races at Gulfstream, is on track for the Fountain of Youth Feb. 21. The son of Lemon Drop Kid , who won his second start by a widening 5 1/4 lengths, was timed going five furlongs in 1:00.22. J S Bach, who broke his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths 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 (Stakes) (gr. III) or the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II). We'll make a decision, probably tomorrow, on that."
Materiality, a debut winner Jan. 11, is likely to return in a Gulfstream allowance later in the meet, Pletcher said. Al Shaqab Racing's Khozan, a half brother to two-time champion Royal Delta who opened eyes when decisively breaking his maiden at first asking Jan. 24, is possible for an allowance or a stakes race. Khozan breezed four furlongs Feb. 8 in :49 flat.
"I think he's on a similar program to what Constitution was on last year," Pletcher said of Khozan. "He broke his maiden, won an allowance, and then won the Florida Derby (gr. I). But we have a lot of options."
A schedule is still being worked out for Competitive Edge, who won the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course 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 Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack and Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park 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 Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 7 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 Triple Crown 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."