Runs Pletcher Derby Stable to Three
By Dick Downey
Photo by Lauren King
Todd Pletcher added a third runner with enough Kentucky Derby points to make the starting gate in Louisville as Audible crossed the finish line much the best in the Florida Derby.
Sent away from the starting gate as the 8-5 favorite, Audible and John Velazquez were content to stay nearly a dozen lengths, then almost nine lengths behind a fast early pace of 21.96 and 46.37 set by Promises Fulfilled, with Strike Power right on his heels. Those two were a half-dozen lengths ahead of the rest of the field early in the backstretch.
Going into the far turn, the pace was beginning to take its toll on the front runners, and MIssissippi, ridden by Julien Leparoux,made his move three wide to get within a length of the lead with six furlongs in the book in 1:11.68. He led through the turn while Audilble, who was fifth but only two lengths behind heading into the far turn, made a four-wide closing move much like he did while winning the Holy Bull Stakes. He got by Mississippi leaving the turn.
Bill Mott trainee Hofburg and Jose Ortiz were eighth of nine runners, 15 lengths back, early on, but they were only 3 1/2 lengths in arrears, albeit still eighth, going into the far turn. Hofburg went four wide on the turn and ran by Mississippi just outside the furlong marker to finish second, three lengths behind Audible. It was another 7 3/4 lengths back to Mississippi. Catholic Boy, who tried to mount a challenge at about the same time and in the same way as Audible and Hofburg, finished fourth, beaten 12 lengths.
The remaining runners across the finish line were, in order, Millionaire Runner at 116-1 odds, Tip Sheet at 117-1 odds, Storm Runner, Strike Power and Promises Fulfilled. The latter one washed out in the post parade.
The final time for the 1 1/8 mile was 1:49.48.
The race was worth 100 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, and that ran Audible's total to 110. Hofburg picked up his first 40 points, more than likely enough to get him to the Derby starting gate. Mississippi, also pointless going into the race, got 20 for running third. Catholic Boy's 10 points added to his previous total of 14, leaving him with the prospect of being on the outside looking in on Kentucky Derby day.
Audible rewarded his backers with $2 tickets $5.20 to win, $4.00 to place and $3.00 to show. Hofburg paid $7.20 and $4.40 to place and show; and Mississippi returned $5.00 to show.
The Florida Derby purse was $1 million, and of that $595,200 goes to the multiple owners of Audible: China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm.
Aubible is a New York-bred who was brought into the world by Oak Bluff Stables, LLC. By Into Mischief, he's out of Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time. After fetching $175,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August 2016 yearling sale, he was sold again for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2017 sale.
Audible has now won his last four races after losing his debut sprinting at Belmont Park last September. He broke his maiden against fellow New York-breds in November, demolished an open-company allowance field in December and was shipped to Florida before impressively winning the Holy Bull Stakes in February.
Pletcher trainees Magnum Moon, Noble Indy and Audible will take up three of the 20 spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate if they stay healthy. Audible will rejoin the other two at Palm Beach Downs Training Center before being shipped to Kentucky in time for at least one workout before the Run for the Roses. Magnum Moon is likely to start next in the Arkansas Derby on April 14, and Noble Indy won the Louisiana Derby last Saturday in his final Kentucky Derby prep race.
(Updated to show that Hofburg passed Mississippi just outside the eighth pole, not inside the eighth pole.)
Todd Pletcher (Audible, 1st): “The race unfolded with the pace that we were hoping for and we wanted to get some position into the first turn, which he was able to do beautifully. Just watching the race I was a little concerned at the five-eighths pole because he started to drop back a little bit, but I could tell Johnny wasn’t panicked. He kind of grabbed him up and sometime midway down the backstretch he started to pick up horses and I started to feel better and better. You could tell the pace up front had developed pretty swiftly so you felt like those horses were going to start to come back at some stage.”
John Velazquez (Audible, 1st): “It played out the way I thought it was going to be. I talked to Todd and we thought there were the two horses with speed and Julien [Leparoux]’s horse [Mississippi] who was wearing blinkers for the first time so we figured he’d probably come out running. I wanted to come out running and I had to use my horse to get position on the first turn. I was in the spot I wanted to be in going into the backstretch and after that I was pretty happy. The only thing that concerned me was when he got to the backstretch he started backing up a little bit. I thought I was overdoing it so I had to give him a little chance on the backstretch to regroup again and once he got his stride back together and when he started moving again on the backstretch I was very happy with the way he was doing it.”
“Once he got to the horses on the lead I just tried to keep him busy down the lane and he kicked pretty good. I didn’t ride him last time but he way he ran today he was definitely impressive. [The distance] didn’t seem to bother him at all. I think the farther he goes the better he gets. I used him a little too much going into the first turn but by the time I got to the backstretch I had to give him a little break where he got to be comfortable again and then he started rolling. I was pretty happy after that.”
Bill Mott (Hofburg, 2nd): “I think we’re all pleased. Naturally, winning would have been the only thing that would have been better but he ran well and he galloped out well. He took a lot of dirt and he was very professional. He did everything right. He was much more seasoned today when he came down here and was in the post parade and everything. He seemed to be more at home. We had him down here for a few days. He was here since Wednesday so he had an opportunity to train here and school in the gate. He was much better. He was the perfect gentleman and a professional today.”
“We’ve certainly got to think about that [Kentucky Derby]. He ran well enough and galloped out good enough. I guess we’ve got to take everything into consideration but we’re certainly not going to rule anything out at this point.”
Jose Ortiz (Hofburg, 2nd): “Perfect trip, he did it like a champ. He proved a lot today and got beat by a good horse. I followed Audible the whole way, good trip and he behaved like a champ. I’m really happy with how he’s progressing, I think he’s a really nice horse.”
Nick Tomlinson-Alleyne, assistant to trainer Mark Casse (Mississippi, 3rd): “We were really happy with the way he was coming into this race and he ran well. It was tough catching Audible and Todd Pletcher in a race like this, but our horse gave it a good try. We’re very proud of him and think he ran well.”
Julien Leparoux (Mississippi, 3rd): “I had a good trip. He broke sharp. They went very quick up front, but from my point of view I could drop into the first turn and he was traveling very good. At the half-mile pole he was loaded and he ran his race. He ran a great race.”
Jonathan Thomas (Catholic Boy, 4th): “He had a great a set-up. He [Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.] thought he could go with Audible, but when he asked – I won’t say he floundered, but he just didn’t go anywhere – he just kind of stayed on. He didn’t show the turn of foot I was hoping for. He had a great setup, perfect ride.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (Catholic Boy, 4th): “I got a perfect trip, I can’t complain. I had pace in front of me and I saved ground in the first turn like we wanted and when we got to the turn we stayed there and I waited and waited, and when I asked him he took some time to start going but he ran a good race.”
Edgard Zayas (Tip Sheet, 6th): “I had a good trip. My plan was to sit back and try to make one run. He finished strong and he’ll be a great horse here in the summer.”
Dale Romans (Storm Runner, 7th; Promises Fulfilled, 9th): “You live by the sword, you die by the sword. We went wire to wire last time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t regroup and go back in the Derby.”
Tyler Gaffalione (Storm Runner, 7th): “I had a great trip. We were able to save ground going into the first turn. The speed was going pretty quick in front of us and it set up nicely for us. When it came time to run, my horse just lacked that response, but he pulled up good and came back good, so we’ll look for another spot from here.”
Robby Albarado (Promises Fulfilled, 9th): “It’s crazy because our strategy has been documented and publicized, that we’re going to the front at all costs. Luis Saez [on Strike Power] knew I was going to the front and those were my exact instructions, but going 21, 46 [seconds] was just too much pressure early on and both finished galloping out together. We could have gone 24 and 48 and it still would have just been the two of us on the backside, so I don’t understand the logic there, but he came back good. I took care of him.”
Trainer Mark Hennig (Strike Power, 8th): “We kind of wanted to hold our position into the first turn, but they [Promised Fulfilled and jockey Robby Albarado] absolutely wanted the lead. I’m glad he [jockey Luis Saez] relented, or we would have been done at the half-mile pole. I thought it was important to hold our position going into the first turn but I thought the pace would be more reasonable.”
Luis Saez (Strike Power, 8th): “I had the one post and he just broke running from there. Man, that was too quick, too fast, so I took him back but it was pretty quick. I got a lot of pressure from the outside. When we came to the seven I just take a hold because it was pretty quick, but thank God he came back OK.”