November 30, 2023

Always Dreaming gallops at sloppy Pimlico; Royal Mo waits to work Sunday

Always Dreaming took a nice hold without being too aggressive (Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue)

A rainy Saturday morning in Baltimore didn’t affect Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, who pleased trainer Todd Pletcher with his strong but controlled gallop.

Once again with draw-rein expert Nick Bush in the saddle, the Bodemeister colt covered 1 1/4 miles on Pimlico’s sloppy, sealed track, exactly a week ahead of the Preakness (G1).

“Always Dreaming I thought actually went really well,” Pletcher said. “He took a nice grip but was settled, relaxed, got over the ground really well.

“It seemed like he was really just perfect this morning. He was enthusiastic enough, but he didn’t overdo it. I think there was one horse on the track while he was out there and I don’t think he ever saw that horse. It was kind of that quiet environment that we were hoping for.

“I was concerned because anytime that you train on a sloppy surface they can get a little more excited with all the noise that comes along with that, but he was really good. Especially after having a jog day, I thought he was even more settled than I expected him to be.”

On Friday, Pletcher had restricted Always Dreaming to jogging, escorted by the pony, on account of the track condition. But on Saturday, the horseman found the surface in good shape to resume galloping.

“Yeah, I was concerned because I had looked at the radar overnight,” Pletcher said. “I couldn’t tell exactly when it started raining, but it looked like it rained most of the night and it was raining when we got here this morning. I was pleasantly surprised how good the surface was this morning when I walked out on it at 5:30.

“I thought that in spite of the rain overnight that the track was actually smoother this morning than it was yesterday morning.

“It had a nice seal to it and was pretty consistent all the way across the track. I was really, really pleased with the way he went this morning.”

Plans call for Always Dreaming to return to the track 6 a.m. (EDT) Sunday for a routine gallop and a gate schooling session.

Watch Pletcher’s complete interview, courtesy of Maryland Racing’s YouTube channel:

The sloppy track did prompt trainer John Shirreffs, however, to push Royal Mo’s Preakness work back to Sunday morning. Instead of going out in the rain, the Bob Lewis (G3) winner jogged around the stakes barn shedrow.

“I’m hoping,” Shirreffs said of plans to get in a five-furlong move at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. “We’re not going to get a lot more rain, and they’ll be working the track all day, so I think it looks good.”

Still to be determined is who will steer Royal Mo in his breeze. Shirreffs is asking Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, who has the Preakness mount, for input.

“I just texted Gary Stevens to see if he had any suggestions of someone he knows who would like to work the horse.”

Saturday afternoon update: Fountain of Youth (G2) victor Gunnevera arrived at Pimlico after his van ride from Churchill Downs. At the wheel was Larry Kelly, a former trainer-turned-helper to trainer Antonio Sano.

“No problems,” Kelly said of the trip. “He loves to ship. You can see when you stop, he’s taking everything in.”