When we last saw Vekoma on the racetrack, the Candy Ride colt was throwing his head to the right in the stretch of the Nashua Stakes (G3), and he proved a different sort of mover in his stride, too. See the photo above for example.
But the relatively easy 1 3/4-length score awarded the colt a 99 Beyer Speed Figure, and connections put Vekoma on the shelf to focus on a 3-year-old campaign toward the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
The break ended Saturday when the R. A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables runner worked three furlongs in 38.51 seconds at at Florida’s Palm Beach Downs.
“He’s a late May baby, and we wanted to give him some time to recuperate from his two races as a 2-year-old,” said trainer George Weaver. “He’s been doing fine and breezed well.”
A return to the work tab the second weekend of January has Vekoma on schedule to run two points preps. Weaver is plenty willing to ship, saying the first possible destinations are Fair Grounds’ Feb. 16 Risen Star (G2) an Oaklawn Park’s Feb. 18 Southwest (G3).
“Both of those races would be a push,” he said.
Either Gulfstream Park’s Feb. 2 Fountain of Youth (G2) or Aqueduct’s March 9 Gotham Stakes (G3) are more likely.
“He’s got a few more works to get through, and everything’s got to smooth,” Weaver said.
Weaver, a Louisville, Ky., native who served as an assistant to D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher before going out on his own, has saddled one previous Derby starter. Tenendur came from off the radar to run second in the 2015 Wood Memorial, then ran 17th at Churchill Downs.
That season, there was a lesson learned.
“Things can happen quickly leading up there,” Weaver said of the first Saturday in May. “The whole Kentucky Derby experience is about having the right horse at the right time. It’s hard to time those things.
“I’m not really worried about the fact that I’m only going to have two races prepping for the Derby (with Vekoma) if we decide to go there. If he’s good enough, he’ll be fine.”
A $135,000 purchase, Vekoma beat Chad Brown-trained Network Effect and Call Paul, a multiple stakes winner, in the Nashua. His debut victory also came in what appears to be a high-class race, with Epic Dreamer, who went on to be the Springboard Mile favorite in second and Mihos, the eventual Mucho Macho Man Stakes winner third.
Derby Scouting Reports
The second edition of our region-by-region look at contenders on the Derby trail published this week. Run down all the names to know and a few under-the-radar types:
— Kevin Kerstein (@HorseRacingKK) January 12, 2019
Admire — The Lecomte contender put in a final work toward his first Derby points race at Gulfstream Park, where Dale Romans bases in the winter, going 5/8 of a mile in 1:01.36. This one has drilled consistently now for five weeks.
Maximus Mischief — The unbeaten Remsen Stakes (G2) winner posted his first breeze of 2019 on Saturday, going four furlongs in 46.86 seconds at Gulfstream, where he’s expected to return to the races Feb. 2 in the Holy Bull (G2).
At Fair Grounds, a number of Lecomte contenders remained on course for the race with their final works Saturday: Hog Creek Hustle (4F in 47.80), Malpais (5F in 1:00.80), Mr. Money (4F in 48), Tackett (4F in 48.60) and War of Will (4F in 48).
In case you missed it…
Friday’s Derby Daily report featured an interview with West Point Thoroughbreds’ Terry Finley about Gunmetal Gray and the partnership’s other top 3-year-old prospects.