Dunkirk Steps Up Pressure in Florida Derby Workout

Undefeated Dunkirk, the 2-for-2 contender for the Coolmore partnership of Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, posted his latest workout Saturday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center as trainer Todd Pletcher prepares him for his first career stakes attempt in the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Sat., Mar. 28 at Gulfstream Park.

The 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 under exercise rider Patti Barry. Pletcher caught the colt’s last quarter-mile in 23 4/5.

His owners paid $3.7 million for Dunkirk at the Keeneland September Yearling Sales in 2007 and so far, the colt has been very impressive in maiden and allowance-race victories Jan. 24 and Feb. 19 respectively.

The two performances have been enough to make Dunkirk co-favored in the Kentucky Derby (G1) future wager’s Pool 2 going into a major weekend of prep races.

“I guess it looks like the public has the same opinion of this horse that we do,” said Pletcher. “He’s been very impressive in his two starts and he has the pedigree to go along with the ability that he’s shown.”

Pletcher indicated Dunkirk’s next two weeks ahead of the Florida Derby would be “straightforward” with a final breezing workout slated for next Saturday, weather permitting.

Theregoesjojo Drills for Florida Derby

With two weeks to go until the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1), Samotowka Stables and partners’ Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) runner-up Theregoesjojo displayed what is becoming a trademark quick turn of foot in his latest workout Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park.

The 3-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Brahms coasted through most of his five-furlong drill under exercise rider Amanda Tamburello in company with maiden Glitterman’s Cartel until the eighth pole. That’s when Tamburello asked Theregoesjojo for his move. He responded by drawing away from his workmate in a matter of a few strides, crossing the finish line in 1:01 4/5.

Trainer Ken McPeek, in New Orleans to saddle Silver Wing Stable’s Free Country in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at the Fair Grounds, received updates by phone from assistant trainer Billy Wright and declared himself satisfied with the way the colt worked. Wright said he clocked Theregoesjojo’s final eighth in 11 3/5.

Theregoesjojo has a seven-furlong allowance race victory on his resume from earlier this meet when he defeated Quality Road by 2 ¾ lengths Jan. 10. The two reversed that exacta in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28, with Quality Road scoring by 4¼ lengths in the one-mile rematch. Both are expected back for the Florida Derby on Sat., Mar. 28.

Beethoven Rocks for Florida Derby

John Oxley’s leading 3-year-old contender Beethoven is getting stronger each day and displayed some of that Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park with a five-furlong workout two weeks out from the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Sat., Mar. 28.

“He looks like Sylvester Stallone,” said trainer John Ward. “He is really muscling up right now.”

Ward sent the Kentucky-bred son of Sky Mesa into Saturday’s drill looking for some of that strength, but also some controllability. After a jog, and then galloping once around Gulfstream’s 1 1/8 miles main track with Graded stakes-placed Dr. Pleasure acting something like a pony, exercise rider Bulent Muhcu shook Beethoven into action and they cruised through steady fractions to an official clocking of 59 4/5.

Ward caught the seven-furlong gallop out in 1:27, but said he told Muhcu by radio to back off the colt through the stretch.

Beethoven was very nervous in the paddock before his most recent start when third in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and developed a considerable sweat ahead of that race. He was sweaty again Saturday morning and stopped three times from the barn to the track, but Ward is dismissing those things as signs his athlete is developing.

“He’s like one of those basketball players that never plays well in the first six minutes of a game,” he said. “Those guys don’t get going until they’ve got a sweat going and they’re all warmed up. He’s like that too.”

Ward also showed off one of the things that he feels is helping Beethoven reach his athletic potential. After two laps around the shedrow following the work, Beethoven is turned loose in his stall where he takes two enthusiastic rolls in his bed of hay.

“It helps him loosen everything up and gets everything back in alignment,” said Ward. “He gives himself a full-body shake. He’s like a dog getting back from a bath. It’s good for his whole body and it shows that he’s got everything in the right place and feeling good after a tough work like that.”

Ward said Beethoven would be back on track next Saturday for his final workout before the Florida Derby. After winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29 to close out his 2-year-old campaign, the colt finished fourth in the Holy Bull (G3) after drawing the outside post going 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 31. He was then third in the Fountain of Youth while cutting back to a one-turn mile. Ward is happy with the way the schedule has unfolded in the last two months.

“We changed up the days between his works for his last race,” he said. “Now I’ve got him back on a seven-day (workout) schedule. He’ll come back next week with one of his slow, easy works. Then we just look forward to a fair draw in the Florida Derby.”

Biker Boy Takes Next Step in Wednesday Allowance Feature

Fox Hill Farms and Richard Brand’s 4-year-old Biker Boy has made only four career starts for trainer Nick Zito, winning the last three, and will likely be favored to make it four in a row in a seven-furlong allowance feature Wednesday at Gulfstream Park.

Jockey John R. Velazquez gets a return call on Biker Boy after they teamed up to win a seven-furlong allowance over the track and distance here on Feb. 1 by 5 ½ lengths in his first start since an allowance victory on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 3, at Churchill Downs last spring.

A $170,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Came Home, Biker Boy won that one-mile race on a ‘muddy’ track in his first start since breaking his maiden going seven furlongs at Gulfstream in mid-March, his second career start after a third-place debut at Churchill in his lone start as a 2-year-old.

The most serious threat to Biker Boy in the field of six drawn for Wednesday’s feature could be Zayat Stable’s 5-year-old Forefathers, a Zito-trained stablemate of Biker Boy with Alan Garcia named to ride.

A son of Gone West, Forefathers placed in Graded stakes the last two years when trained by Bill Mott and makes his second start this season since being placed with Zito. He finished third in a one-mile allowance on Feb. 12 behind Bribon with some trouble in the race.

Completing the field for Wednesday are Rose Family Stable’s Hal’s My Hope, Jose A. Rivera II; Estate of Paul Robsham’s Hometown Boy, Cornelio Velasquez; Luis Olivares’ Green Vegas, Eibar Coa; and Vincent Scuderi’s Formal King, Jose Lezcano