Both undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Shanghai Bobby and CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner Violence are on target for their respective 3-year-old debuts at Gulfstream Park, trainer Todd Pletcher said Jan. 4.
Shanghai Bobby is being pointed to the the Jan. 26 Holy Bull (gr. III) while Violence is expected to start his season in the Feb. 23 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II).
Shanghai Bobby, who has sewn up Eclipse Award honors as the leading 2-year-old male of 2012 for Starlight Racing, has adapted well to his surroundings at Palm Meadows Training Center, Pletcher said. He is moving along well toward his his highly anticipated 2013 debut in the $400,000 Holy Bull going 1 1/16 miles.
Shanghai Bobby last worked Dec. 30 at Palm Meadows, five furlongs in 1:01.79 breezing.
"Everything's going according to plan so far; he's still on schedule for the Holy Bull," Pletcher reported. "He's not a huge horse, but he's filled out nicely and grown up a bit."
The schedule for the newly turned 3-year-old includes just two races as preparation for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the Holy Bull and the March 31 Florida Derby (gr. I).
"That's what we've got in mind now, but things change," said Pletcher, Gulfstream's nine-time training champion. "We'll see how the first one goes and decide after that."
That schedule is subject to change because of Churchill Downs' new qualifying points system for the Derby. Should Shanghai Bobby not dominate his sophomore debut as expected, there's a possibility a third prep could be added.
According to the old system based on graded earnings, Shanghai Bobby would already have qualified for the 20-horse Derby field with his $1.6 million in graded stakes earnings during a juvenile campaign that also included wins in the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and Three Chimneys Hopeful (gr. I). However, little weight is now placed on 2-year-old victories, putting the son of Harlan's Holiday pretty much on the same footing with less accomplished colts.
Shanghai Bobby heads the leader board on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with 20 points, six more than his closest contender, Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) winner Goldencents, who will make his 2013 debut in the Jan. 5 Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park.
"In some ways (the system) is not dramatically different than the old one, other than the 2-year-old form isn't being considered at all," said Pletcher, who believes the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner should have an automatic berth in the Derby.
"It's easy for me to say that now because we've got the Juvenile champion, but I said that before. I thought it was the obvious flaw in the program. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner shouldn't have to worry about gaining points. But the rule is the rule, and everyone knows about it before the game starts."
Pletcher has set the $400,000 Fountain of Youth, also 1 1/16 miles, as the next start for Violence, the undefeated winner of the $750,000 Futurityl at Betfair Hollywood Park last month.
The son of Medaglia d'Oro shipped to the West Coast to defeat 10 rivals Dec. 15 in his third career start and first on a synthetic racing surface. He captured his career debut despite a hesitant start at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 19 before scoring by two lengths in the Nov. 4 Nashua (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack.
"I've been impressed with all three of his races, actually," Pletcher said. "For a maiden to run as well as
he did first time out at seven-eighths at Saratoga, I was impressed with that. He had a break, then came back to step up to a mile in the Nashua, then flew all the way to California and ran on a synthetic track for the first time. He's been very impressive so far."
There's a lot of upside for the Blackrock Thoroughbreds colorbearer, currently third on the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier list with 10 points.
"He's a big, leggy colt who is starting to fill out and grow into himself," Pletcher said. "He's got a wonderful disposition and a great mind. He's an easy horse to train."