Shanghai Bobby
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Shanghai Bobby
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Shanghai Bobby in Final Florida Derby Tuneup

Champion colt works in company for Pletcher with Louisiana Derby-bound Palace Malice.

Champion Shanghai Bobby  breezed five furlongs at Palm Meadows Training Center on the morning of March 24 in final preparation for a scheduled start in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).

The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby will be contested March 30 at Gulfstream Park.

Working in company with stablemate Palace Malice , the 2012 Eclipse Award-winning juvenile was timed in 1:00.82, the sixth fastest of 34 works recorded at the distance.

"I thought he worked well, consistent with what he normally does. He's not an overzealous work horse, but I think we got a good tightener and everything has gone according to plan," trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Shanghai Bobby raced to the outside of Palace Malice, third-place finisher in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II), who was also timed in 1:00.82. Shanghai Bobby, who races for Starlight Racing, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, was about a half-length ahead of his stablemate at the finish line.

"I thought Palace Malice worked super, finished up great and galloped out strong. It seems like he's been doing really well since the Risen Star," said Pletcher, who plans to send the son of Curlin  back to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for next the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), which is also March 30. "I'd say he's improving, but he's always trained really well and we've had really high hopes for him and he has performed."

Palace Malice, owned by Dogwood Stable, has a win, two seconds, and a third from four lifetime starts with earnings of $111,135.

Shanghai Bobby went undefeated in five starts last year, capping the season with grade I victories in the Champagne at Belmont Park and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. The son of Harlan's Holiday suffered his first career loss in the Holy Bull (gr. III) at Gulfstream, his 2013 debut Jan. 19. After setting the pace, Shanghai Bobby was defeated by Itsmyluckyday  by two lengths.

With the addition of speedy sprinter Merit Man to the list of probables for the Florida Derby, Shanghai Bobby likely won't find himself on the lead, as he did from his inside post in the Holy Bull.

"I think it's fine. We'd actually prefer a target. If (Merit Man) goes to the lead, fine," Pletcher said.

Shanghai Bobby, who currently ranks 11th on the Churchill Downs new points list for Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) qualifiers, likely needs an on-the-board finish to clinch an entry into the 20-horse field.

"I'm not worried about the points," Pletcher said. "I figure if he runs good enough, it won't be a problem."

Although there seemed a possibility that the Florida Derby field might come up short a few weeks ago, the list of probables has expanded during the past week with a field of nine or 10 likely.

"I never expected it to be a short field. None of these fields come up short with Derby points on the line," Pletcher said. "I expected it to be a big field and post position won't be a big deal for me."

In addition to Shanghai Bobby and Palace Malice, several other Pletcher trainees were sent to the track to prepare for Kentucky Derby preps, most notably Verrazano , the early favorite for the Run for the Roses.

The son of More Than Ready , who captured the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) by three lengths in only his third lifetime start, was timed in :49.79 while working a half-mile in company with Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) winner Discreet Dancer.

"You could say 'maintenance' except that the gallop-out was pretty awesome. It was pretty impressive," Pletcher said.

Verrazano, who captured the first two races of his career at the Gulfstream Park meeting by a combined 24 lengths, is scheduled to run in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack April 6.

Revolutionary , another Pletcher candidate for the Louisiana Derby, worked in company with stablemate Overanalyze . WinStar Farm's son of War Pass breezed a half-mile in :48.20, fourth fastest of 43 at the distance.

"I thought he went super. He was well in hand," Pletcher said of the Withers Stakes (gr. III) winner. "He's coming up to the race in good order."

Repole Stable's Overanalyze ran fifth as the favorite in Aqueduct's Gotham Stakes March 2, his first start of the year. He was also credited with a time of :48.20 for the half-mile breeze, his second workout since the Gotham.

In other Florida Derby news, Merit Man worked an easy five furlongs in 1:04 from the get at Gulfstream Sunday morning.

Bruce Chandler, James Glavin, and Robert McKee's son of With Distinction had Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard for trainer Bob Hess, Jr. The Florda Derby would be the first start around two turns for Merit Man. He has won three of five races and is coming off a fourth in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II Feb. 2 at Gulfstream.

"I put him in the gate to sharpen him up a little. He can get a little lazy," Hess said. "We weren't looking for a lot of speed and he galloped out strong."