Trainer Todd Pletcher saw three of his possible starters in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) breeze early the morning of Aug. 18 at Saratoga Race Course.
Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming ran four furlongs in :49 3/5 on the Oklahoma training track in company with Outplay, while Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) winner Tapwrit worked a half-mile on the same track in :50.24.
Always Dreaming, with John Velazquez up, breezed for the third time on the training track since he finished third in the Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G2) July 29. Outplay, the winner of the Curlin Stakes July 28, was officially clocked in :49.99.
"We were just looking for a good, positive work," Pletcher said. "They both ran Jim Dandy weekend and breezed well last week, so we just wanted a good indication that they are maintaining form and doing well. I thought they both finished up extremely well and galloped out strongly. All the things you were hoping to see."
The set worked right before heavy rain fell. Always Dreaming started behind Outplay and closed strongly to catch his workmate at the wire.
"He started off about a length and a half behind. Johnny was able to bide his time and move up to him. I had him the last quarter in :23 2/5, finishing up strongly and galloping out well," Pletcher said.
Always Dreaming finished 5 1/4 lengths behind Jim Dandy-winner Good Samaritan in his first start since an eighth-place finish in the May 20 Preakness Stakes (G1). In addition to the added distance the colt will get in the 10-furlong Travers, Pletcher feels the Saratoga main track is playing quicker than it did earlier in the meet.
"I would expect an improved performance, because he's now had a mile-and-an-eighth race under his belt," Pletcher said. "Right now, if the track continues to play the way it is currently, it's definitely tighter than it was Jim Dandy weekend. I would say it's playing at least a second to a second and a half faster at a mile and an eighth than it did at that time. In retrospect, (with) the freshening we gave Always Dreaming between the Preakness and the Jim Dandy, we were expecting the more traditional, livelier Saratoga track."
Outplay, owned by Repole Stable, is under consideration for both the Travers and the Sept. 23 Pennsylvania Derby (G1).
Tapwrit worked in company with Lucy N Ethel. The work was his fifth at Saratoga since he won the Belmont by two lengths.
"I thought he looked good," Pletcher said. "The track was playing fair. It wasn't super fast, but it was in good shape. We got lucky that we missed most of the rain and this track can handle moisture very well."
Jim Dandy winner Good Samaritan is still on schedule to work toward the Travers Aug. 19 or Aug. 20, according to trainer Bill Mott, but the time and day depends on whether the weather cooperates.
"Tomorrow or Sunday," Mott said. "But it has to do with the weather, of course."
Giuseppe the Great, second in the Jim Dandy, is also primed for the Travers, according to trainer Nick Zito. The Lookin At Lucky colt worked four furlongs in :48 4/5 over the Oklahoma training track Friday morning.
"It was great. He does everything," Zito said. "When they say 'professional,' that's all he wants to do. He just does what he has to do, and that's why he's so consistent. There are plenty of non-believers. I'm a believer in him. I'm not even hoping for hope. I'm pretty confident in what I've got, because he runs good all the time, he tries all the time, and I tell you he really passed the test last time."