A trio of contenders for the March 31 Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) tuned up March 17 in Florida, led by Robert Baron's Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) winner Promises Fulfilled.
The four-furlong move was the first for the chestnut son of Shackleford since his frontrunning victory in the March 3 Fountain of Youth. Working alone, Promises Fulfilled covered the distance in :48.16 under the watch of trainer Dale Romans.
"He's just a push-button horse," Romans said. "He's doing everything the right way"
Promises Fulfilled, who won his first two starts before finishing third behind Enticed in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs last year, made an auspicious 2018 debut in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, where he grabbed an early lead from his far-outside post position and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over previously undefeated Strike Power. Reigning juvenile male champion Good Magic finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in third.
"That was a big deal. He ran a beautiful race. He's just a good horse. He should be undefeated. He shouldn't have lost the Jockey Club. He was just getting out so bad that day and fighting the jockey," Romans said. "He's a real talent."
Romans isn't concerned about Promises Fulfilled's ability to carry his speed over the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Florida Derby.
"At the end of the race the other day, he's drawing off. Nobody was passing him on the gallop out," Romans said. "I figure he can do anything."
Romans said Team Valor International and Gemstone Racing Stables' Storm Runner is also scheduled to run in the Florida Derby after a troubled, seventh-place trip in the Fountain of Youth.
"He had no chance in the Fountain of Youth, so we decided to give him another chance," Romans said.
Storm Runner breezed five furlongs in 1:00.92 at Gulfstream Saturday.
Among those expected to join Promises Fulfilled in the Florida Derby starting gate is Robert LaPenta and Madaket Stables' Catholic Boy. The son of More Than Ready breezed five furlongs in 1:00 at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla., Saturday morning with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons.
"Between Irad seemingly being happy with him and the way the horse breezed this morning, (I'm pleased)," trainer Jonathan Thomas said. "After the five-eighths work, he went ahead and had a very healthy gallop out."
Catholic Boy was a multiple graded stakes winner last year, with scores in the With Anticipation Stakes (G3T) at Saratoga Race Course and the Remsen Stakes (G2) over the Aqueduct Racetrack main track. He finished second in his 2018 debut, beaten a half-length by frontrunning Flameaway in the Feb. 10 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
"I think he's progressed well. He's put on weight since he ran. His energy level is good. By design, we gave him an extra week of not breezing. It came back a pretty healthy (Ragozin) number for him. He ran a 6, which was a lifetime best. I didn't have him fully cranked, so I think he got a lot out of that," Thomas said. "The way he worked this morning, it was swifter than normal for me, but he did it well within himself. I feel liked he bounced back pretty well."
Catholic Boy is scheduled to ship from Bridlewood to Gulfstream March 22 to complete his preparations for the Florida Derby.
"We'll train on the 23rd. Depending on how we're feeling, we could deviate breezing either the 25th or the 26th," Thomas said.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Audible also tuned up for his expected start in the Florida Derby with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.50 Saturday at Palm Beach Downs.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and SF Racing, the son of Into Mischief worked in company, inside Prince Lucky. Javier Castellano was aboard for Audible's fourth workout since winning the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes (G2) by 5 1/2 lengths.