Trainer Todd Pletcher gave a very positive review of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming after the colt galloped once around Pimlico Race Course May 11, in preparation for the May 20 Preakness Stakes (G1).
With exercise rider Nick Bush aboard, Always Dreaming made one circuit of the track at 6 a.m., shortly after sunrise on a gray, damp, and subsequently rainy day in Baltimore. Always Dreaming shipped from Kentucky to Maryland May 9 and had an easy jog at Pimlico May 10.
"He continues to show us all of the positive signals that we're looking for," Pletcher said. "His energy level has been good since the race. He handled the ship well. His appetite has been good. I thought he had a real good gallop over the track this morning. It's kind of what we were looking for—a tranquil, quiet setting. He was focused and on the bridle, but he wasn't as super aggressive as he was at Churchill.
"It's one of those things. You want him to be a little bit aggressive, (but) not quite as much as he was at Churchill. That's why we came in early. I thought we'd have a quiet setting here."
While noting all the positives, Pletcher said the short time between the Derby and the Preakness is always a worry for horsemen.
"Like everyone coming back from the Derby, your biggest concern is trying to repeat a top performance in 14 days," he said. "Based off the strength of his race and the way he seems to have come out of it so far, we're really happy."
With just four starts and his races spaced out this year, Pletcher said Always Dreaming looks to be on an upward trajectory.
"I think he is continuing to improve, actually," Pletcher said. "The first two races were so easy for him that I don't think that we really took much out of him. The Florida Derby seemed to bring him forward another notch and I think the Derby was even a stronger performance than that. Just by his physical makeup, I think that he's a horse that hopefully can continue to even get better than he already is."
In addition to coming to Pimlico earlier than he did with Derby winner Super Saver in 2010, Pletcher has decided not to put the colt through a timed workout between the first two legs of the Triple Crown series.
"I don't think there is enough to gain out of a breeze," Pletcher said. "He's doing well. He's super fit. I'm not concerned about that. The obvious change is that we shipped in early. That was more just because I never felt like he relaxed on the racetrack when he was at Churchill. From my previous experience being here at Pimlico, I knew it was pretty quiet leading up to next week anyways.
"What we got out there this morning is exactly what I was hoping for. I think there was one or two other horses on the track while he was training and that quiet environment is going to allow him to fill back up."
Jerry and Ann Moss' Royal Mo stretched his legs during a morning gallop at Pimlico Race Course Thursday under the watchful eye of trainer John Shirreffs, who once again employed local aspiring jockey Taylor Leatherman to ride the son of Uncle Mo .
"He galloped very well today. Taylor did a terrific job with him. I asked her to let him pick it up at the end and he picked it up nicely," said Shirreffs, whose Preakness candidate jogged on his first trip to the Pimlico track Wednesday. "I thought Taylor did a perfect job on the horse for someone who hasn't had the opportunity to ride him very much. At this late stage, and with a horse as far along as he is, she did a super job."
Trainer Antonio Sano continues to vary the training for Gunnevera, the Kentucky Derby seventh-place finisher who won Gulfstream Park's Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2) and finished third in the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1). At Churchill Downs Tuesday, Gunnevera jogged two miles. Wednesday he jogged a mile with the pony and then galloped a mile, and Thursday he jogged 1 1/2 miles and had a slow gallop for a half-mile.
"My dad arrives here tonight," said Alessandro Sano, who has been overseeing Gunnevera's training while his father returned to Florida for a few days. "He has some different plans for the morning—a different routine. From there, we should be all set to go for Saturday morning (when he is scheduled to van to Baltimore from Louisville).
"We've been trying to mix up his training, so he doesn't get bored doing the same thing all the time," Alessandro Sano said. "So tomorrow it will be a different thing, just to keep the horse happy."
Because overnight and morning rain resulted in a sealed racetrack, assistant trainer Norman Casse opted to have John Oxley's Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Classic Empire jog a mile instead of galloping at Churchill. Casse runs the Kentucky operation for his dad, trainer Mark Casse. Classic Empire, the Arkansas Derby (G1) winner and last year's 2-year-old champion, is scheduled to resume galloping May 12. He is vanning to Baltimore May 14.
Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier had a routine gallop at Keeneland Thursday. He is scheduled to breeze Sunday and, in a change of plans, will van to Baltimore May 16 with Pimlico Special (G3)-bound stablemate Conquest Windycity, trainer Brendan Walsh said.
The Steve Asmussen-trained Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and 11th-place stablemate Hence both had easy days, cantering with the pony to the starting gate for their normal Thursday schooling session, where they stand and back out of the gate before completing a mile gallop at Churchill.
Both colts are scheduled to work easy half-miles May 15 and fly to Baltimore Tuesday. Assistant trainer Scott Blasi said the duo likely will wait for paddock schooling at Pimlico.