Likely Distaff favorite Fleet Indian was among the runners working at Belmont Sunday morning for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Likely Distaff favorite Fleet Indian was among the runners working at Belmont Sunday morning for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Rick Samuels

12 From 'Todd Squad' Work at Belmont Park

The "Todd Squad" was out in full force at Belmont Park on a windy Sunday morning. Twelve Todd Pletcher-trained horses had their final tune-ups for the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup World Championships. Also working were Henny Hughes, Invasor, and Pine Island.

Neither Pletcher nor trainer Kiaran McLaughlin were confident of getting their works in because of the heavy rains on Saturday, and they were prepared to put them off until Monday. But strong winds all afternoon and night helped dry out the training track, and both decided it was in good enough shape.

Pletcher started the fireworks early, breezing Breeders' Cup Classic – Presented by Dodge (gr. I) hopeful Lawyer Ron five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 with exercise rider Eddie King aboard. Pletcher will be saddling Lawyer Ron for the first time since the colt was transferred to his barn. The son of Langfuhr , who had previously been trained by Bob Holthus, was striding out nicely down the lane, and seemed very professional as he cut the corners sharply. He was particularly strong galloping out.

Pletcher has been galloping the colt in draw reins. Lawyer Ron has handled the change of equipment beautifully and is more relaxed.

"Eddie King has been doing a real nice job with him in the mornings," Pletcher said. "He's not an easy horse to ride, and we haven't been focusing on time as much as style and getting him to relax. The draw reins have helped keep his head down. He would carry his head pretty high, but he's been dropping it down a little bit, and he's been going straight and not leaning out. We've been able to slow his pace down and his gallops have been good. We know he can run; we're just trying to get him to where he basically doesn't run off with you the first part. I think that's going to be the real key to his success; if he can rate and sit behind some horses."

Pletcher said the riding assignments for Lawyer Ron and Flower Alley will be decided on Monday. John Velazaquez has first call on either horse, and he and agent Angel Cordero Jr. will have to make the decision.

Following the renovation break, Pletcher worked seven of his Breeders' Cup horses in succession, all five furlongs. Fleet Indian, the likely favorite for the Emirates Airline Distaff (gr. I), breezed in 1:02 4/5, with Spun Sugar (1:02 4/5) and Pool Land (1:02 3/5) also working for the Distaff. Spun Sugar had jockey Mike Luzzi up, while Velazquez was aboard Pool Land.

Two of Pletcher's hopefuls for the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I) also worked. Hopeful (gr. I) winner Circular Quay went in 1:01 3/5 in company with Pleasant Strike, and Futurity (gr. II) winner King of the Roxy breezed in 1:01 in company with Cotton Blossom, who is headed for Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Another Juvenile Fillies hopeful, Octave, went in 1:01.

At 9:45, Pletcher worked four grass horses on the inner turf course, which was listed as soft.  Pletcher sent out Honey Ryder and Wait a While who worked a half-mile and five furlongs in :50 2/5 and a bullet 1:01.3/5, respectively. Both are leading contenders for the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).

English Channel, one of the favorites for the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), worked six furlongs 1:03 3/5 while his rabbit, Icy Atlantic, went a half-mile in :50 3/5. 

"I thought they all worked extremely well, Pletcher said. "Yesterday, we didn't know what was going on with the weather. As the day went along, we kept monitoring the training track. Finally, at 9 o'clock last night we decided it was going to be all right. On Friday and most of Saturday, we had conceded we weren't going to be able to work until Monday, which was OK for a couple of horses, like Scat Daddy, who is going to work tomorrow anyway. But this was day we had set a long time ago.

"For the most part, all these horses have been running, and running well, so we weren't looking to change anything we've been doing. They were more or less maintenance works. There a very strong wind, and that kind of screwed with some of the times a little bit, but all the horses were moving well and breezed well, and they look like they all cooled out well. With wind like this, it makes it harder to determine how fast or slow they're going, because they were running into a pretty strong headwind down the backside."

Pletcher put his record 18 Breeders' Cup pre-entries into perspective.

"It goes without saying you have a lot more going on, a lot more responsibility, and a lot more at stake," he said. "So, you can't help but feel a little more under the gun, but this is what we do. This is the kind of position you try to put yourself in. If you're not looking for that, then you should be doing something else. Hopefully, we can have some luck on the day, and if we're fortunate enough to win a race or two, that's great. We understand that's not a given. Just because you bring favorites over there doesn't mean you're going to win. The best case scenario is that we have, what, 12 losers?"

Invasor, Henny Hughes, Pine Island Breeze
Kiaran McLaughlin shared the spotlight with Pletcher after the renovation break, working Breeders' Cup Classic contender Invasor and likely TVG Sprint (gr. I) favorite Henny Hughes.

McLaughlin said he was looking for a half-mile maintenance work from Henny Hughes and a five-furlong work in about 1:02 for Invasor.

Invasor, working after the renovation break, breezed his five-eighths in 1:01 3/5 in company with Paullinus, followed by Henny Hughes, who breezed his half in :51.

Invasor broke off just behind Paullinus and roared by him approaching the quarter pole, finishing about five or six lengths in front.

When Henny Hughes, as muscled out as ever, jogged by following his work, McLaughlin joked, "I wish he looked a little better.

"We know he can run, and he's fit," McLaughlin said in discussing the work. "He could go in :46 if we wanted him to. We're on a good schedule. Sunday is when we wanted to work, and it turned out well. I was very happy with Invasor's work. He's doing fantastic."

Shug McGaughey also was happy after watching Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama (both grade I) winner Pine Island breeze five furlongs in 1:01 1/5, galloping out three-quarters in 1:14, over the main track following the renovation break.

Scheduled to work on Monday is Classic hopeful Premium Tap and three more Pletcher horses – Scat Daddy, Friendly Island, and Awesome Ashley.

On Tuesday, Bernardini, likely favorite for the Classic will breeze five furlongs. Trainer Tom Albertrani also will work Distaff hopeful Balletto. Allen Jerkens is scheduled to work Sprint candidate War Front.

Two planeloads will depart JFK on Wednesday – the first at around 7 a.m. -- with the Pletcher horses occupying the second flight.