The 3-year-olds are coming to a track near you. Many of the top contenders on the Road to the Roses are training in South Florida.
The East Coast contingent is headed by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ Uncle Mo, the likely 2-year-old male Eclipse Award winner that arrived last month at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach.
The son of Indian Charlie is jogging, according to trainer Todd Pletcher, and will begin galloping soon. “If all goes smoothly, his first breeze will probably come at the end of January or the first of February.”
He isn’t sure when Uncle Mo will make his sophomore debut, but is leaning toward the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles on March 12.
“He’ll tell me when he’s ready,” Pletcher said. “All the races are in play. Right now we’ve got two preps targeted before the Kentucky Derby. That’s our strategy.”
The conditioner’s first Kentucky Derby winner last year had two preps. Super Saver ran third in the Tampa Bay Derby before finishing second in the Arkansas Derby.
Uncle Mo’s final prep most likely will be Aqueduct’s $750,000 Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles on April 4.
The five past winners of the Kentucky Derby had only two preps, unlike the usual three or four for many, many years. Big Brown in 2008 and Barbaro in ’06 captured the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Boys at Tosconova, runner-up to Uncle Mo in the BC Juvenile, has been training at Gulfstream Park since December. His third and latest workout was Friday when he covered five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 handily.
“We’re looking at the one-turn race at the end of January for him,” said Rick Dutrow, Big Brown’s trainer, referring to the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 30.
The son of Officer is among several 3-year-olds headed to that Grade 3: Mucho Macho Man, second in the Remsen last year at Aqueduct; Gourmet Dinner, fourth in the Hollywood Park CashCall Futurity in December; Sway Away, second in Del Mar’s Best Pal last year; and Black N Beauty, winner of a Gulfstream allowance contest on Friday.
Mucho Macho Man posted a bullet 59 seconds for five furlongs at Gulfstream on Saturday. “I was very happy with his breeze,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said.
Gourmet Dinner is coming off a bad trip in the CashCall. “The trip was long, the weather was bad and the track was what I would have called heavy if it were not a synthetic surface,” Steven Standridge said. “But the biggest problem we had was how long we walked around the paddock and the lack of time we had to warm up, only about three minutes, before going to the gate.”
Several colts are opting for the Fountain of Youth at seven furlongs on Jan. 26: To Honor And Serve, winner of the Remsen; Mountain Town, third in that race; and Santiva, victorious in the Kentucky Jockey Club last fall at Churchill Downs.
Some sophomores are training on the West Coast, including the one-two finishers in the CashCall that are pointing to Santa Anita’s $250,000 Robert E. Lewis at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 12.
Comma To The Top registered three consecutive victories in fall stakes at Hollywood, culminating with the CashCall. Runner-up J P’s Gusto previously ran sixth in the BC Juvenile after win four of five races.