Always Dreaming, the potential favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby, turned in the first of his three scheduled breezes leading up to the big event when going an easy half-mile in 49.90 with jockey John Velazquez aboard shortly after dawn Friday morning at Palm Beach Downs.
Velazquez flew into town from Kentucky on Thursday evening to keep his regular seat aboard Always Dreaming, who worked for the first time since his impressive 4 3/4 length victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby 13 days earlier. Always Dreaming broke off three lengths behind the Grade 1 placed turf specialist All Included, edged closer after an opening quarter-mile in 26.44 then began to ease away from his target while just cruising to the wire outside his mate who was under considerable urging trying to match strides at the end. Alway Dreaming continued strongly into the turn, galloping out five-eighths in 1:02.55 before pulling up six furlongs in 1:16.95.
"I thought the work was very good," Pletcher said. "I purposely set him back behind the other horse and thought he settled really well especially considering the first part was a little on the slow side. I liked the way he finished up the last quarter in 23 and change and galloped out impressively. Based on what we were seeing throughout the morning, the track's not super fast. The longer you're here, the more you kind of get used to this track. It's a little bit quirky in some ways. It can be a little inside biased. Sometimes it doesn't produce fast times. But we like it a lot. It's been a very safe surface for us. It seems like a lot of horses thrived throughout the winter here for us. And he's one of the exceptions in terms of horses who consistently win breezes whether he's on the inside or outside of horses."
Pletcher also worked another of his five potential Kentucky Derby starters about a half-hour later, sending out Louisiana Derby runner-up Patch to go four furlongs in :49.40 inside Caviar Czar, completing his final quarter in 24.37 under light urging before galloping out five lengths best in 1:03.03.
"That was pretty standard Patch breeze," said Pletcher. "He's not a horse who'll wow you in the mornings. I thought it was fine."
Pletcher currently has his five Derby hopefuls scattered in four different states with Battalion Runner currently at Belmont Park, Tapwrit at Keeneland and Malagacy at Oaklawn Park for Saturday's Arkansas Derby. His travel plans remain up in the air for both Always Dreaming and Patch as well as Battalion Runner, and are contingent on the long range weather forecast next week in Louisville.
Other notable members of the Pletcher stable to work Friday at Palm Beach Downs included Destin, four furlongs in 50.60 and Syndergaard, five-eighths in 1:02.32.