Peacock Racing Stables' multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera recorded an easy five-furlong leg stretcher March 18 in his first work since capturing the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park March 4.
With trainer Antonio Sano looking on and jockey Edgard Zayas in the irons, Gunnevera was in maintenance mode as he covered five-eighths in 1:04 3/5 at Gulfstream Park West as he readies for the April 1 Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1).
"It was just an easy work," Sano said. "He's just doing super good right now.
"When Edgard worked him before the (grade 2 Saratoga Special) last summer, he told me he thought he was something really, really special. That's why we took him there, and he won the race. Edgard has been working him for a while, so he knows what to do. We're very grateful for him to be working the horse, and he worked him today and said he felt great."
The 64 qualifying points Gunnevera has amassed on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard all but assures that as long as the son of Dialed In remains in good form, he will be the first horse Sano has saddled in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Close as it is on the calendar, May 6 might as well be light years away when dealing with the day-to-day concerns that come with having a leading Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) contender. Still, it is starting to become real for Sano, a racing legend in his native Venezuela.
"I think it will be even more real after the Florida Derby," Sano said. "But we are beginning to feel that pressure, you know. But we're not complaining."
Bred by Brandywine Farm and Stephen Upchurch, Gunnevera has graded stakes wins over three different tracks. He took the Saratoga Special in August and won the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3) in November to close out his juvenile campaign. The chestnut colt boasts a record of four wins from eight starts and has earnings of $1,075,200.
Grade 1 winner Practical Joke , runner-up to Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth, joined his burgeoning rival on the Saturday worktab with a half-mile breeze in :48.75 at Palm Meadows Training Center.
Owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, the son of Into Mischief clocked his first workout since his making his seasonal bow in the Fountain of Youth and is also under consideration to run back in the Florida Derby.
"The horse worked super. He got a lot out of that race. I was very happy with his first race back," trainer Chad Brown said. "I've narrowed it down the either the Florida Derby or the (grade 2) Blue Grass (Stakes at Keeneland April 8). I sort of want to see where everybody's going in. I'm going to go as far as to enter him in the Florida Derby and see where he draws and how it shapes up. I'm not going to totally commit to that until I see all that."
Practical Joke captured the Hopeful Stakes (G1) and Champagne Stakes (G1) last year and concluded his 2016 season with a third-place finish in the Nov. 5 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park.