Trainer Todd Pletcher worked three of his Travers (G1) hopefuls Friday morning at Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track, including Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming and Belmont S. (G1) hero Tapwrit.
Third in the Jim Dandy (G2) in his most recent start, Always Dreaming covered four furlongs in :49.60 under John Velazquez. He worked in company with Outplay, winner of the $100,000 Curlin on July 28. The latter covered the same distance in :49.99.
“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 of Always Dreaming.
“We were just looking for a good, positive work. 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.
“I would expect an improved performance because he’s now had a mile and 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 (G1) and the Jim Dandy, we were expecting the more traditional, livelier Saratoga track.
“I think we’re coming into the [Travers] with a fresh, fit horse who has given every indication that he’s in good form. I think the time has agreed with him and we’ve gotten enough out of his training, hopefully ready to fire his best race.
“I’ll talk to Mr. [Mike] Repole and, first of all, determine if we’re going to run Outplay here or in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1),” Pletcher said. “I think Outplay has really progressed. The Curlin was a big win for him; the way he did it was great and the way he’s training since then has been even better.”
Tapwrit, unraced since winning the Belmont, worked in company with Lucy N Ethel and finished up a half-mile in :50.24
“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.”
In other Travers news:
Multiple Grade 2 winner Gunnevera turned in his final major work for the Travers at Gulfstream Park West on Friday, covering five furlongs in 1:00.
“He was very relaxed, just an easy work,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “He doesn’t need much, just maintenance. He’s ready. We only want to keep him happy.
“He’s really, really good and we’re very happy with him. He looks the way he looked before he won the Fountain of Youth (G2).”
Winner of the Saratoga Special (G2) and Delta Jackpot (G3) last season, Gunnevera make a winning comeback in the August 6 Tangelo at Gulfstream Park. Gunnevera was scheduled to van up from Florida on Friday night and is expected to settle in at Saratoga on Sunday.
Also working on the Oklahoma training track on Friday was Jim Dandy runner-up Giuseppe the Great, who covered four furlongs in :48.80 for trainer Nick Zito.
“There are plenty of non-believers. I’m a believer in him,” Zito said. “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.”