Trainer Todd Pletcher was mulling his Kentucky plans for Constitution the day after the undefeated colt's courageous victory in $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park March 29.
Constitution returned to Palm Meadows, his satellite training base in Palm Beach County, the morning of March 30. The Tapit son will continue to train there in advance of the Kentucky Derby May 3, Pletcher said. For how long has yet to be determined.
"I'm not a 100% sure yet. I'm thinking about 12 days before. I'd like to have one work at Churchill," Pletcher said March 30. "I'll just have to see how the weather is here and how the weather is there. I'll have to see how things go about flight arrangements and things like that."
Constitution, making his stakes debut for owners WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, emerged from his victory Saturday in good order, Pletcher reported.
"He came out of it really well. He returned home to Palm Meadows this morning and seemed to be in good shape," said Pletcher while being honored as the leading trainer at Gulfstream's current meet for the 11th consecutive year.
Undefeated in three career starts, all coming during Gulfstream meet, Constitution saved ground behind pacesetter Wildcat Red before slipping through an opening along the rail turning for home. He won a terrific stretch battle with the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth winner by a neck.
The Kentucky-bred colt by Grapestock and Fox Hill Farms out of the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, ran 1 ⅛ miles in 1:49.16 under Javier Castellano, who was also honored Sunday at Gulfstream for winning his third consecutive jockey title
"He's a horse that has progressed a lot over the winter. He broke his maiden in January, won an allowance in February, and he won the Florida Derby in just his third start--that's pretty impressive," said Pletcher.
Florida-bred Wildcat Red also is headed to Louisville after finishing a stubborn second.
"It was kind of bittersweet, but good. We're happy with the horse," trainer Jose Garoffalo said. "The horse did his job. We trained the horse to win the race, but races are races. You can either win or lose. But the horse showed that he can go longer, and proved to a lot of people that they were wrong. In a way, there are a lot of positive points.
"We still have to evaluate the horse," he added. "We'll give him two or three days to check how the horse is doing, but according to the way he came back, everything seems that we're going to go to Louisville."
Wildcat Red has four wins and three seconds in seven starts, all at Gulfstream, banking $690,850 for owner Honors Stable. Garoffalo is not concerned about shipping the son of Grade 1-winning sprinter D'wildcat or running on a new track.
"We're going to be there maybe a week before and let the horse adapt to the track," he said. "He's the kind of horse that can run on any track. I'm not afraid of the track or if he's going to handle it. We will give him the opportunity to know the track."
Florida Derby third-place finisher General a Rod, beaten 1 ½ lengths, left Gulfstream Park early Sunday morning on a flight back to trainer Mike Maker's base in Kentucky, where he will continue on the Triple Crown trail.
The Roman Ruler colt emerged from the race in good shape, said Maker's assistant, Elesar Chavez.
Maker flew back to Kentucky after saddling Vicar's in Trouble to a win in the Louisiana Derby.
"He came back really good," Chavez said of General a Rod. "He came back like it was nothing. He was fine. I talked to Mike this morning and told him the horse came back really good, but he needed a little bit more teaching of how to pass the other horses. Mike said he was happy to be third, the way the horse ran."
General a Rod has raced once previously at Churchill Downs, finishing second to Conquest Titan in a first-level allowance Nov. 30 at one mile.
Florida Derby 6-5 favorite Cairo Prince may also be moving on to Kentucky, though trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he was extremely disappointed by the fourth-place performance, He was concerned about the Pioneerof the Nile colt having the necessary points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
"He's very happy and sharp out of the race," McLaughlin said Sunday morning. "But it's just been a tough, tough day."
Cairo Prince had not been out since a dominating victory in the $400,000 Holy Bull Jan. 25. He sat off the early pace under jockey Luis Saez and was never able to get into the race while losing by nearly four lengths.
"I haven't been able to say what went wrong. It's very disappointing," McLaughlin said. "We're disappointed, almost shocked at the results. But it is horse racing and it is what it is. He's fine out of the race and we'd like to go on if we can, but the points situation isn't favorable."
The Florida Derby had 170 points up for grabs in the system used in qualifying for the first leg of the Triple Crown with 100 for the win, 40 for the place, 20 for the show and 10 for fourth. With four major preps to be run over the next two weekends, Cairo Prince's 24 total points ranks him 16th and may not be enough to earn a spot in the 20-horse starting gate.
McLaughlin said he'd make no definite plans until talking with the owners of Cairo Prince, including majority owner Godolphin Racing.
"He's going to stay here right now, but that could change," McLaughlin said of Cairo Prince. "Plan A didn't work and we don't really have a Plan B. I'm going to have to talk to everybody, all the owners, and make a Plan B."
Giant Finish, with 10 points, was the final horse to qualify last year, the first in which Churchill Downs employed the current points system to determine the Kentucky Derby field.