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Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte, resolute winner of Gulfstream Park’s $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, returned to the work tab Friday morning for his last local move before leaving this weekend to finalize preparations for the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Working in company with Bright Future, a 4-year-old son of Curlin from the same owners exiting an optional claiming allowance victory April 1 at Gulfstream, Forte went an easy half-mile in 50.28 seconds at Palm Beach Downs for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, according to Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch.
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The 2-year-old male champion of 2022 who ranks first on the Derby leaderboard with 190 qualifying points, Forte will head to Louisville, Ky. as a solid favorite off five consecutive wins including a powerful 4 ½-length season-opening triumph in the Fountain of Youth (G2) March 4 at Gulfstream.
“With Forte we were just looking for a nice, easy first work back. He ran in the Florida Derby 13 days ago and he’s getting ready to ship on Sunday to Churchill, so we just wanted to let him stretch his legs a little bit and not do too much,” Pletcher said. “It looked like he was just kind of in an open gallop out there, doing really well.”
Also breezing together for Pletcher Friday and bound for Louisville were Kingsbarns and Major Dude in a sharp 49.49 seconds for four furlongs, according to DRF. Spendthrift Farm’s Kingsbarns broke his maiden at first asking Jan. 14 at Gulfstream and is undefeated in three starts including a last-out victory in the March 25 Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.
Spendthrift also owns Major Dude, a two-time graded-stakes winner on the grass including Gulfstream’s Kitten’s Joy (G3) Feb. 4 that most recently ran second behind Two Phil’s in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) March 25 over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park.
Kingsbarns is assured a place in the Derby starting gate with 100 qualifying points, good for eighth overall. Major Dude is on the bubble with 40 points, ranking 23rd.
“We were looking for a little more from Major Dude and Kingsbarns. I thought they both went really well [with] good enthusiasm and energy in their gallop-outs and seemed to be moving well so, overall, very pleased,” Pletcher said. “I thought they all went according to plan.”
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Friday’s works were a relief for Pletcher after heavy rains swept through South Florida this week and threatened to disrupt their schedules.
“They’ve been doing well, they’ve been eating well, they’ve been galloping nicely. I was happy to get the works in on the day we scheduled,” Pletcher said. “We’ve had a lot of rain so I wasn’t positive that was going to happen, but the track dried out nicely and we had good conditions for it.”
Pletcher also reported that Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice exited his April 8 victory in the Blue Grass (G2) Keeneland in good order and will join his stablemates in Louisville over the weekend. Ranked fourth in the Derby leaderboard with 150 points, Tapit Trice has won four straight races including an optional claiming allowance Feb. 4 at Gulfstream to kick off his sophomore campaign.
“Tapit Trice came back super, really good energy. He’s been galloping the last few days at Keeneland,” Pletcher said. “He’ll ship over to Churchill after training on Sunday. Knock on wood, so far so good.”
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