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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the irons, Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner Outwork had his penultimate breeze for the May 7 Kentucky Derby Friday morning at Belmont Park, covering a half-mile in :48 4/5.
Stepping onto the training track just after the second renovation break, the son of Uncle Mo was accompanied by a pony to the backstretch before being turned loose behind stablemates Spooked Out and Awesome Gent. Owner-breeder Mike Repole was on hand with trainer Todd Pletcher, who caught Outwork in splits of :12 3/5 and :24 1/5 before he caught and passed his targets, finishing about 2 ½ lengths in front and galloping out five furlongs in 1:01 4/5, up in 1:14 4/5.
“In his races, he’s been no worse than second [early on] and we wanted to teach him something, so we might as well let him take some dirt and put him behind horses,” said Velazquez. “He actually relaxed really well.”
Outwork will be making his fifth career start in the Derby. The colt broke his maiden at Keeneland a year ago, and returned at Tampa Bay Downs on February 13 to win an optional claimer. In his next start, he finished a length behind the Pletcher-trained Destin in the Tampa Bay Derby prior to his hard-fought Wood victory, in which he took the lead at the three-eighths pole and held on to win by a neck over the closing Trojan Nation.
“You certainly don’t want to experiment [by taking him back] in the Wood Memorial,” said Pletcher. “We felt it would have some benefits and it was a very well-executed breeze. We learned he doesn’t mind some kickback and he settled behind horses nicely. So check that off for things you don’t have to worry about.”
“When Todd’s happy with the work, I’m happy with the work,” added Repole. “It seemed like Outwork actually settled better behind horses than when he’s side-by-side. He went by Awesome Gent and Spooked Out like they were $10,000 claimers. And they’re stakes horses. It was fun to watch.”
Pletcher said Outwork would depart by van on Monday for Churchill Downs, and would likely have his final prep for the Derby next Friday.
Trainer Leah Gyarmati reported Friday morning that Adventist, who is 22nd on the Kentucky Derby points list, emerged from Thursday’s work in good order as his connections necessarily take a “wait-and-see” attitude as to his next start.
Adventist, who has finished third in the Wood Memorial, the Grade 2 Gotham and the Grade 3 Withers, covered a half-mile in :48 4/5 over Belmont’s training track.
“It was really a maintenance work,” said Gyarmati of the Treadway Stable color-bearer. “I was happy with the way he did it, and I thought his gallop-out was good, too.”
Adventist would need two horses to drop out of the potential Derby field in order for him to be guaranteed a spot in the starting gate. Gyarmati said there was a possibility the colt could be shipped to Churchill Downs to await that possibility, or he could remain in New York for the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 14, or await the Preakness on May 21.
“It will be up to [owner] Jeff [Treadway],” said Gyarmati. “There are a lot of options, and right now, they’re all open.”
Repole Stable’s Sudden Surprise, who won five of six starts as a 2-year-old, including four stakes victories, looks to get back on the winning track Sunday at Aqueduct as he heads a field of six for the $100,000 Times Square division of the New York Stallion Series.
Trainer by Todd Pletcher, the New York-bred son of Giant Surprise won the Funny Cide, Bertram Bongard, Notebook and NYSS Great White Way in December, returning in February to finish second in the Gander and sixth as the favorite facing open company in the Jimmy Winkfield.
At 9-5 on the morning line, he will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post position 1 in the 6 1/2-furlong race.
Expected to vie for favoritism as well are Bust Another, making his stakes debut after going 4-1-0 in his first six starts, and Dr. Shane, second to Sudden Surprise in December.
Bust Another, 5-2 on the morning line, drew post position 2 under Eric Cancel, while Dr. Shane will leave from post position 6 under Manny Franco.
Rounding out the field are Gaming (10-1), Lucky Lurie (6-1) and Timber (15-1).
The Times Square will be run as Race 3 on the Big A’s closing day card, with the $100,000 Memories of Silver as the featured eighth race on the nine-race card.
The stakes action at Belmont Park will kick off on opening day, Friday, April 29 with the 5th edition of the $100,000 Affirmed Success for New York-bred sprinters. Admission gates will open at 11:30 a.m. with a first-race post time of 1:30 p.m.
Contested at six furlongs for 4-year-olds and up, the Affirmed Success is expected to feature a rematch of the top three finishers of February’s Hollie Hughes for state-breds at Aqueduct Racetrack, led by Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stable’s 1 ½-length winner Drama King, who will look to continue his domination of the division for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
Drama King, a 4-year-old colt by Nobiz Like Shobiz, closed from off the pace to outgun David Jacobson’s Eye Luv Lulu, who bounced out of a subsequent loss in the Haynesfield six days after the Hollie Hughes with a five-length allowance score on April 7. Tristar Farm LLC’s Between the Lines is expected to make his first start since finishing third in the Hollie Hughes, 4 ¾ lengths behind Eye Luv Lulu, for trainer Joseph Lostritto.
Also expected for the Affirmed Success are Bond Vigilante, sixth last time out in the Caixa Eletronica; Loki’s Vengeance, seventh in the Grade 3 Tom Fool on March 12; Escape to the Moon, making his second stakes appearance of the year after a seventh-place finish in the Hollie Hughes; the consistent Little Popsie fromtrainer Bruce Levine; Weekend Hideaway, making his 2016 debut, and possibly Ostrolenka, most recently third in the Haynesfield.
A big field is likely for Saturday’s feature race, the $100,000 Elusive Quality for 4-year-olds and up at seven furlongs on the Widener turf course. Expected are Amerman Racing’s A Lot, coming off a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay; Bye Bye Bernie, most recently fifth in the Grade 2 Shakertown at Keeneland; Green Mask, last seen finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Hong Kong Sprint in December at Sha Tin; multiple stakes winner Kharafa, making his 2016 debut; King Kreesa, who closed out his 2015 campaign with a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile; the Irish gelding Mister Brightside, who will be making his first start at Belmont; Night Officer, who has registered a pair of thirds in Florida sprint stakes for new trainer Tom Albertrani; Sandy’z Slew, no worse than third in six of seven starts last year; and Spartiatis, sixth in the Tom Fool.
Commute, Mosler, Ready for Rye and The Great War are questionable.
Rounding out the opening weekend stakes is Sunday’s $100,000 License Fee for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs on the turf. Quaver, who came off a nine-month layoff to finish third in an optional claimer at Gulfstream; Shrinking Violet, second by a nose in the Grade 2 Monrovia in January at Santa Anita Park, and last year’s winner, Zindaya, are probable. Also under consideration are Disco Barbie and Monster Sleeping from trainer Dale Capuano, Lady Shipman, and Vicki’s Dancer.
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