LOUISVILLE — Trainer Todd Pletcher's lineup for the Kentucky Derby is still being finalized, but the two horses who have consistently inspired the most confidence from him this spring continued to elevate his opinion of them during their first serious tour around Churchill Downs on Sunday morning.
The Pletcher-trained duo of unbeaten Grade I winner Verrazano and Louisiana Derby victor Revolutionary headed up a bustling morning in Louisville as several contenders put in what are expected to be their penultimate works prior to the first Saturday in May.
With Gotham Stakes winner Vyjack arriving on the grounds early Sunday morning, the majority of the top 20 horses are already at Churchill Downs for their final bit of tuning.
The sometimes tricky Churchill Downs surface didn't appear much of an issue for the main contenders that took to it Sunday. Verrazano worked 5 furlongs in company in 1:00.20 with Revolutionary also having a workmate as he covered 4 furlongs in :48.80.
Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion and Louisiana Derby second Mylute also breezed 4 furlongs Sunday, clocking in at :48.20 and 47.80, respectively — the latter being the second fastest of 81 moves at that distance. Rebel Stakes winner Will Take Charge also had Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas beaming as he worked a mile in 1:41.60.
Breaking off about a length behind stablemate Authenticity, Verrazano notched splits of :13, :25.2, :36.8 under jockey Gary Stevens as he finished up about even and galloped out a mile in 1:41.60.
"We wanted to sit him behind another horse, relax for a little bit, finish up good and gallop out strong," Pletcher said of the son of More Than Ready. "He accomplished all that and I thought he went great. He seemed to get over the track well."
Revolutionary's move served dual purposes as it marked the first time the son of War Pass had jockey Calvin Borel, who will ride the colt in the Kentucky Derby, at the helm.
The three-time Derby winning rider had nothing but glowing words for his new mount after they finished up about a half length in front of Red Rifle. Notorious for his ability to boot horses through holes most jockeys wouldn't attempt, Borel particularly loved the fight he saw in Revolutionary when the dark bay colt weaved his way to victory in the Withers Stakes in February.
"Beautiful, he did everything right," Borel said of the move. "You couldn't ask for no better. He's been through everything you would want a Derby horse to go through."
Setbacks notwithstanding, Revolutionary and Verrazano are locks for May 4 along with stablemates Palace Malice and Grade I winner Overanalyze. How deep Pletcher's arsenal will go, however, is still being sorted out.
Trainer John Terranova confirmed Sunday that Sam F. Davis winner Falling Sky was a go for the first leg of the Triple Crown and Bob Baffert trainee Den's Legacy — previously considered doubtful for a Derby run — is now back under consideration along with stablemate Super Ninety Nine pending their workouts this Wednesday at Santa Anita Park.
If both Baffert runners go, that would knock Pletcher-trainee Charming Kitten down to the No. 21 spot on the leader board as the first horse out.
With four Kentucky Derby wins on his legendary résumé, Lukas joked he had some sleepless nights ahead of him due to the excitement he feels over Will Take Charge.
The flashy chestnut son of Unbridled's Song has put in two straight mile works as Lukas tries to ready the colt to run off of what will be a seven-week layoff.
"I don't know if I'm good enough to pull that off," laughed Lukas, who added he plans to work his other expected Derby starter Oxbow on Monday. "But this horse is 17 hands and ... he was in such a growth spurt. So I thought if I gave him a lighter month that he might fill out and get a little stronger and it worked."
Trainer Chad Brown deemed Normandy Invasion "as fit as he's going to be" after his Sunday move and was especially pleased with the bounce in the colt's step as he came off the track.
Florida Derby winner Orb was also on the worktab Sunday, breezing 5 furlongs in 1.02:10 at Payson Park in Florida. The son of Malibu Moon was slated to ship to Churchill Downs where he will likely have his final pre-Derby move on April 29.
"This was the one we need to get behind us," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "What I really wanted to see was to see him finish good. I didn't want to see him walking the last part of it."