“He had a good race at Keeneland (second in the 1 1/16m Breeders’ Futurity), and he’s doing well,” Pletcher said.
A maiden winner at Saratoga in his debut, Aikenite was third in the Hopeful, but showed some late run going 7f on that day.
Alan Garcia has been aboard in Aikenite’s last two starts and will get the mount from post 9 in a 13-horse field.
During the summer at the Curragh, Alfred Nobel won the Railway and Phoenix stakes, but his streak ended in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes on Sept. 12.
“We were very happy with him. We thought he was always a very good horse and we were a little disappointed in him in the National Stakes,” O’Brien said. “We ran him on very bad ground. He just labored because speed has always been his forte.”
John Murtagh will ride the colt in the Juvenile.
Aspire – The Tale of the Cat colt galloped at Santa Anita on Wednesday morning. Trainer Eddie Kenneally was expected to arrive later in the day to oversee the colt’s final preparations on Thursday and Friday.
Beethoven – Trainer Aidan O’Brien said putting blinkers on the Oratorio colt helped him win the Dewhurst Stakes on October 17.
“For me, the Dewhurst was a very strong run, solid race, no matter what anyone says,” O’Brien said. “For me, it was the strongest run Dewhurst in years.”
Beethoven has run 10 times this year, the most starts by any horse entered in the Juvenile. He will be ridden by Ryan Moore, who was aboard in the Dewhurst.
D' Funnybone – The winner of consecutive Graded stakes in New York since joining the Rick Dutrow Jr. barn, D’ Funnybone will face his sternest test to date in Saturday’s Juvenile.
“I’ve been very impressed with him,” Dutrow said. “He blew me away with that Saratoga Special race (10 1/2-length win). After that, he trained well going into the Futurity, and won that too. Looking at his two wins for us, he’s had everything go his way, so I’m hoping it happens again. We’re going to need things to go our way Saturday because it’s a very tough race with a very tough field.”
Leaving from post five in the field of 13, the 2yo son of D’wildcat has been installed as the 5-2 second choice behind the Bob Baffert-trained Lookin At Lucky (8-5).
“In my opinion, he (D’ Funnybone) has been the most impressive 2-year-old so far this year,” Dutrow said. “Even though Baffert’s horse has won four, it didn’t look like he was winning as impressive as our horse did.”
All of D’ Funnybone’s previous starts have come sprinting on dirt, so Saturday’s two-turn race over Santa Anita’s synthetic surface presents a new challenge.
“He’s had the right kind of time between his last (race) and the Juvenile,” Dutrow said. “We like going into the big races with a fresh horse, and we’ve got that. If he likes the track, they’re going to be in trouble.”
Eskendereya – The son of Giant’s Causeway from Zayat Stables is the other part of trainer Todd Pletcher’s uncoupled duo, but this one will be making his first start on a synthetic track.
“He’s a steadily improving horse,” said Pletcher. “Like most Giant Causeways, he seems to like different surfaces. He handled turf well in his first race (second in Saratoga maiden going 1 1/16m). When he was working at Saratoga in the summer, he handled the dirt very well, so we hope he’ll transfer that to the synthetic.”
Javier Castellano, who rode Eskendereya to victory in the off-the-turf Pilgrim at Belmont as a maiden, will get the mount in the Juvenile from post 9.
Lookin At Lucky – The 2yo son of Smart Strike jogged at Santa Anita Wednesday morning, having completed his final work before the Juvenile on Monday when he went 4f in 47 1/5.
Trainer Bob Baffert was disappointed by the colt’s draw of post 13 – the far outside – on Tuesday, and was realistic about his unbeaten runner’s chances of taking the race he won last year with Midshipman.
“The outside post is a bummer,” Baffert said. “I was pretty disappointed with that. One thing’s for sure, Garrett Gomez is going to have to put on a Hall of Fame type of ride to get him there. He’s gonna have to have a lot of luck.”
Lookin At Lucky won his last start, the Oct. 4 Norfolk, at Santa Anita under Gomez by 1 ¾ lengths. Gomez piloted Midshipman to his Juvenile victory last year.
“He knows the horse, it’s not like he’s getting on him for the first time,” Baffert said of the top-notch rider. “He can turn him on or shut him off, and when he’s been riding one a lot, I don’t have to tell Garrett anything. So we’ll see how it goes, it’ll be interesting to see what he’s made of.”
Noble's Promise – The Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity winner was the first of five 2yos to hit the track Wednesday morning for trainer Kenny McPeek, galloping an easy 1 ½ m under exercise rider Walter Blum Jr.
“I like to call him the little engine that could,” said McPeek “He was a modest purchase ($10,000) and has just exceeded all expectations. He’s very fast and loves his work.”
Noble’s Promise will be ridden by Willie Martinez, who has been aboard for the Cuvee colt’s last two wins. When asked about his tendency to remain loyal to riders when he may have the option of switching to a bigger name, McPeek said, “This is not a jockey’s game.
“It’s about the horses and good horses make good jockeys. I’m not interested in having a Hall of Fame rider making a mistake because it’s the first time he’s on one of my horses. Willie knows Noble’s Promise, (Robert) Landry knows just how he got Bridgetown (Juvenile Turf starter) to rate last time and (Mike) Luzzi has ridden House of Grace (Juvenile Fillies Turf starter) to perfection twice. To me that’s more of an edge to have a rider that knows the horse.”
Piscitelli – The Gregg Sacco trainee jogged 1m the wrong way this morning under the watchful eye of Rick Sacco, who is overseeing the colt in his brother’s absence.
“Gregg won’t be here until Saturday morning,” said Rick. “He’s saddling Sheza Crazy Girl in a $25,000 stake (Louisiana Jewel) at Delta Downs on Friday night for Mr. Brunetti (John, the owner of Hialeah Park), but he’ll be here for sure by Saturday to personally saddle this horse in the Breeders’ Cup.”
The Saccos and owner William Schettine hold Piscitelli in high regard despite the morning line odds of 50-1, the longest shot in the 13-horse field for the Juvenile.
“I’m a little surprised that he’s 50-1. He passed nine horses in the lane in his last race in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and he had a wide trip in his race before that at Arlington (the Arlington-Washington Futurity) and still finished third, beaten less than two lengths,” Sacco explained.
Evidently Kent Desormeaux also likes the colt’s chances as he will ride him in the Juvenile.
“Kent breezed him two times and was very impressed with him,” Sacco said. “He took off a couple of other horses to ride him and that says a lot.”
Pulsion – Pulsion, the second place finisher in the Norfolk here last out on October 4, galloped 1 ½m Wednesday morning and trainer Patrick Biancone said he remains right on schedule for Saturday.
The native of France chose the name for the son of Include and the Stravinsky mare Spring, and Pulsion is how one says “spring fever” in French.
“His mother is Spring and the Derby is run in the spring, so that’s how I came up with his name,” said Biancone.
Regular rider Mike Smith, who has worked the colt up to the race, gets the return call.
Radiohead – The son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg galloped around the main track Wednesday morning as he seeks the same prize won by his sire.
Brian Meehan trains Radiohead, who won the Norfolk Stakes in June and was second most recently in the Middle Park Stakes on Oct. 2.
Martin Dwyer gets the riding call again on Saturday.
Vale of York – The 2yo colt by Invincible Spirit was out for a main track gallop Wednesday morning with Godolphin stablemates Buzzword and Gladiatorus.
Vale of York won a stakes at Goodwood in September and last out was beaten a neck when second in the Gran Criterium at San Siro in Italy on Oct. 11. Ahmed Ajtebi again has the mount.
This will be his racing debut on a synthetic track, but Godolphin traveling manager Tommy Burns said the colt trains regularly on the stable’s Tapeta tracks in England and Dubai.
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor was due to arrive Wednesday afternoon.
William's Kitten – The 2yo son of Kitten’s Joy drew the far outside 12 post for Saturday’s Juvenile, but trainer Mike Maker is hopeful that the starting spot will not compromise his chances.
“We drew post 12 with Lisa’s Kitten (in the Juvenile Fillies Turf),” Maker said, “There’s not much you can do about it. You just have to try and make the best of a bad situation. He’s a closer, so hopefully we can take back, find decent position, and run at them late.”
A maiden winner at second asking over the Ellis Park turf on July 16, William’s Kitten returned to finish third in a conditioned turf allowance at River Downs.
“The idea was to try and take the Cradle route,” Maker said. “In the Cradle prep, a horse ducked out just when he was making his stretch run. He lost some momentum, but still ran third.”
Maker decided to run Scottkeith’skitten in the Cradle and ship William’s Kitten to Louisiana Downs for the Sept. 19 Sunday Silence. The race was washed off the grass, but the connections decided to take a shot on the “good” dirt, and it paid off with a runaway win.
“That (win) opened some doors,” Maker said. “He ran a creditable race on Polytrack in the Grey at Woodbine (Oct. 11), and didn't have the greatest of trips. Of the three males we brought, we think he's the most adaptable.”