April 23, 2024

Gunnevera leads slew of potential Florida Derby workers

Gunnevera winning the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on March 4 (c) Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography

Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Gunnevera was one of several potential Florida Derby (G1) participants that turned in workouts Saturday in South Florida. Trained by Antonio Sano, Gunnevera breezed five furlongs in 1:04.60 over a fast track at Gulfstream Park West.

“I’m very happy. The horse is 100 percent,” Sano said. “He’s very quiet, relaxed. He’s a very happy horse.”

Also the winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) last fall, Gunnevera will be joined in the starting gate by Fountain of Youth pacesetter and third-place finisher Three Rules, who galloped Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park.

“We just two-minute licked him. He’ll work next week,” trainer Jose Pinchin said. “We’ve pretty much decided [to run in the Florida Derby].”

Meanwhile, Champagne (G1) and Hopeful (G1) winner Practical Joke, who ran second in the Fountain of Youth in his seasonal bow, clocked a half-mile in :48.75 at Palm Meadows in advance of a start in either the April 1 Florida Derby or the April 8 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.

“I sort of want to see where everybody’s going in,” trainer Chad Brown said. “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.

“The horse worked super. He got a lot out of that race. I was very happy with his first race back.”

The Todd Pletcher-trained allowance winners Always Dreaming and Battalion Runner also worked Saturday at Palm Beach Downs. Working in company with graded stakes winner Theory, Always Dreaming went four furlongs in :48, while Battalion Runner went five furlongs in 1:01.20.

“Always Dreaming was coming into this work two weeks after a pretty easy win in a mile-and-an-eighth allowance race, so we weren’t looking for a really stern work from him this morning, though we got a very impressive work, I thought,” Pletcher said. “He did it very effortlessly. He was moving very well. I was happy the way he did it and very happy with the way he galloped out. It seems like he’s continuing to improve throughout the winter.

“Battalion Runner hadn’t run in a little while so we went a little further with him and asked him for a strong gallop out as well, which he did. He too worked very well.”

Pletcher hasn’t ruled out running both colts in the Florida Derby.

“We haven’t decided for sure and we won’t until their final preps next week, or what would be their final prep for the Florida Derby if that’s where one or two of them are going to run,” Pletcher said.

“I’ve got to get with the connections — they are common ownership in the two — and we will formulate a plan. We’ve also discussed the possibility of entering them both and seeing how big a field it is and what the post positions look like.”

Also working for Pletcher was Southwest (G3) winner One Liner, who covered a half-mile in :50.20 working in company with a maiden stablemate. The Blue Grass and Wood Memorial (G2), both on April 8, are under consideration.

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