Five contenders for the upcoming $1.5 million Whitney (gr. I), including favored Palace Malice , were out for published workouts the morning of July 26.
Also working Saturday in advance of the Aug. 2 Whitney at Saratoga Race Course were Departing, Moreno, Golden Ticket , and Itsmyluckyday .
Palace Malice made a surprise visit to the main track, breezing five furlongs in :59 4/5. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher.
After recording the third swiftest of 49 drills on the morning, the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) winner galloped out willingly around the clubhouse turn.
"I called an audible," Pletcher said. "He was going to work tomorrow, but I didn't like the (weather) forecast. It was a little, little dicey. It could start raining early tomorrow morning, and I didn't want to take a chance of working on a sealed racetrack or off racetrack. We moved it up one day in perfect conditions, and I'm glad I did. He worked great, and I can sleep tonight."
Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice, a 4-year-old son of champion Curlin , is undefeated in four starts this year. The winner of the Jim Dandy (gr. II) last year and fourth in the Travers (gr. I), the bay colt has worked five times at Saratoga in preparation for the Whitney.
Palace Malice has six graded stakes victories in his career, including last year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) . Pletcher would love to add the Whitney, one of the most prestigious races for older horses in the country, to his resume.
"It's a huge race," Pletcher said. "The horse is doing fantastic. He's off to a great start this year, and we're just hoping for more of the same from him. He's been super consistent and impressive. We know he likes Saratoga from the way he ran here the last two years, so we're excited about the Whitney."
Claiborne Farms' Departing, with jockey Robby Albarado in the irons, breezed a half-mile in :48.79 on the main track after the renovation break.
"He did it the right way," said trainer Al Stall of the 4-year-old gelded son of War Front . "He got off in close to :13, and came home in :35 and change on his own power."
The Whitney will be Departing's first start at Saratoga. Winner of the Illinois Derby (gr. III), West Virginia Derby (gr. II), and Super Derby (gr. II) at 3, he enters off a third in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) June 14 at Churchill Downs.
Departing arrived in Saratoga shortly after the Foster.
"He trained well here as a 3-year-old and went right back to his old stall and just started acting very good," said Stall. "He's always been a forward, willing, honest horse to deal with, especially up here, so he appears to be on track."
Another Whitney-bound horse, the speedy Moreno, turned in a sizzling workout immediately after Palace Malice went out, going five furlongs in :58.91 under jockey Junior Alvarado. It was the best of 48 works at the distance.
After a last-place finish in the Metropolitan, Southern Equine Stable's 4-year-old Moreno bounced back with a strong second behind Zivo in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) July 5 at Belmont Park.
The gelded son of Ghostzapper was one of the stars of the Saratoga meet last summer, with a third-place finish in the Jim Dandy and missing by a nose at 32-1 in the Travers (gr. I).
Trainer Eric Guillot was thrilled with the work.
"Exactly what I wanted; not even taking a breath," Guillot said back at the barn as Moreno cooled out. "You can't outwork him in the morning."
Alvarado shook the reins and showed Moreno the whip around the eighth pole to keep his mind on business.
"As soon as you fall asleep a little bit on him, he comes right back to you," Alvarado said. "He galloped out nice and started pulling up and heard horses coming, and he started picking it up and picking it up."
Golden Ticket, who is slated to make his first at Saratoga since dead-heating for the win in the 2012 Travers, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.87 over the Oklahoma training track with exercise rider Danny Ramsey aboard.
Trainer Ken McPeek said he is trying to duplicate the training regimen he used for Golden Ticket going into the 2012 Travers.
"It was just a basic breeze," said McPeek. "Danny worked him going into the Travers a couple of seasons ago, and we've emulated the same workout pattern. The horse is happy and doing well and is solid on all fronts."
Owned by Magic City Thoroughbred Partners, the son of Speightstown has banked $1,269,090.
"He's 1-for-1 over this racetrack, so we're hoping he takes to it again," said McPeek.
At Monmouth Park, multiple grade III winner Itsmyluckyday completed his formal preparations for the Whitney with a half-mile breeze in :49.40 under regular rider Paco Lopez.
The 4-year-old Lawyer Ron colt galloped out five-eighths in 1:02 for Eddie Plesa, who trains Itsmyluckyday for his wife, Laurie, and Trilogy Stable.
"He went perfect," said Plesa by phone from Monmouth. "It was just exactly what I was looking for."
Itsmyluckyday won the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (gr. III) and was second in the Florida Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) last year before being hurt contesting the Pegasus (gr. III) in June at Monmouth.
Diagnosed with a pelvic stress fracture, Itsmyluckyday did not race again for nearly nine months until coming back with a fourth-place finish behind Palace Malice in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) March 8.
Since then, Itsmyluckyday has reeled off three consecutive stakes wins, most recently taking the Salvator Mile (gr. III) July 6 at Monmouth.
"Initially I was looking to keep him here (at Monmouth) and take advantage of the two remaining stakes we have," Plesa said, "but the more I got to thinking about it, the horse couldn't be doing any better. For him to make it in his next career as a stallion, he needs to win a grade I. I know we have to run against the best, but we're not scared to do that."
Plesa said Itsmyluckyday is scheduled to ship to Saratoga July 30. Lopez will come up to ride in the Whitney.