On Wednesday morning at Keeneland, connections gave Master Fencer ample time to settle into his routine before posting a half-furlong workout in 52 seconds flat.
After emerging from his barn shortly after 6:30 a.m., Master Fencer first headed to the Keeneland training track where he jogged and cantered a couple of laps before making his way to the main track. With exercise rider Yosuke Kono in the irons, he put in another easy canter once around before finally breaking off for his move.
"He's a pretty slow starter, so we meant him to warm up and get ready to go to the main track," Kono said via translator. "Even at the main track, we actually wanted to see how he can move his body to take action. So the first gallop, we did a stop and go because I wanted to see how he can respond to the break. So he did that twice and he responded well. For the breezing, he did the Japanese way, where we start slowly and then maybe the last two furlongs have a strong finish."
Master Fencer has been at Keeneland since rallying from last in the 19-horse field Kentucky Derby to cross the wire seventh before being elevated one spot via the disqualification of Maximum Security. He outran his 58-1 odds.
"To be honest, the plan was there, but it was all up to the result of the Kentucky Derby," Kono said. "Fortunately he ran well, he finished seventh and eventually became sixth. Because of that result, immediately after the race the owner decided to go to the Belmont.
"Where he was in the first turn and coming into the stretch we were kind of thinking 'Oh my God'. But eventually he used such an amazing late kick. We are really hopeful for the next race."
Master Fencer is slated to ship to Belmont Park on Friday.
"He's been doing better all the time," Kono said. "He eats well and he works well, so we're satisfied for now."
Pletcher to Give Spinoff Another Shot
Spinoff recorded his first breeze since the Kentucky Derby on Sunday morning with a half-mile work in 48.72 seconds, leaning trainer Todd Pletcher toward the Belmont Stakes.
"He worked well and seems to be training forwardly," Pletcher said. "He didn't seem to care for the surface on Derby day. He put himself in a decent tracking position, but when it was time for him to turn his head, he just kind of spun the wheels a bit."
Also targeting the Belmont from the Pletcher barn is Peter Pan third-place finisher Intrepid Heart, who came out of the gate in a tangle. After getting early urging, he finished six lengths behind winner Global Campaign as the heavy favorite in his stakes debut.
"He stumbled coming out of the gate but he's still lightly raced," Pletcher said. "I thought he galloped out well. He's bred top and bottom for the distance, and I'm optimistic that his pedigree will allow him to get the distance."
Pletcher stated that both Spinoff and Intrepid Heart will work Saturday morning.
Baffert Plans in Flux
Bob Baffert said he was close to finalizing his 3-year-old stakes contingent for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.
Game Winner,who finished sixth before being moved up to fifth last out in the Kentucky Derby, remains "under consideration" for the Belmont Stakes.
"He's continuing to do well coming out of the Derby," said Baffert. "We've given him a little bit of a break, but we should make a decision on if we'll definitely run in the Belmont or not by the end of this week."
Lazaro Barrera winner Mucho Gusto may come to New York for the Belmont Stakes day card.
"I thought that was a nice win from him," said Baffert. "We'll take a look at the Woody Stephens for him as well as the Easy Goer as possible targets next."
No Belmont Stakes for Plus Que Parfait
"I had to back off of him a little bit. We're looking for another spot for him but nothing is decided yet," said Brendan Walsh of Plus Que Parfait.