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Pletcher's Gotham Day runners out in force
Members of Todd Pletcher's New York contingent took to the fast Belmont training track on Sunday to turn in final breezes in the lead up to Gotham Day, March 1, at Aqueduct.
Master Lightning, one of Pletcher's three sophomore colts under consideration for the Grade 3, $500,000 Gotham, breezed four furlongs in :49 2/5. Teen Pauline and Royal Lahaina, both probable for the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap, breezed in company and covered four furlongs in :48 3/5.
Both Master Lightning and stablemate Surfing U S A are probable for the Gotham. Sam F. Davis nose runner-up Harpoon is possible.
Surfing U S A and Harpoon, currently training at Palm Meadows, each clocked a bullet half-mile in :47 4/5 on Sunday over the Florida venue's fast dirt.
After winning an entry-level optional claimer by three-quarters of a length in December at Aqueduct, Master Lightning finished seventh in the Big A's Jerome on January 4 and a well-beaten fourth in the January 25 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park.
"(Master Lightning) was in hand and galloped out very strongly and looked very well," assistant trainer Byron Hughes said of Master Lightning's breeze. "His coat is shining and looks great."
Teen Pauline has won two straight at Aqueduct, taking the Affectionately by 4 3/4 lengths on New Year's Day and the Ladies Handicap by 10 3/4 lengths on January 25. Royal Lahaina was third and fifth, respectively, in those two races.
"They both went well and were in hand," Hughes noted. "They galloped out together and definitely are good work partners."
Pletcher trainees weren't the only ones taking to Belmont's training track on Sunday. Trainer Leah Gyarmati also tightened the screws on Gotham contender Deceived, who breezed six furlongs in company with Sweet Reason. Both sophomores were clocked in 1:16.
Deceived is set to make his first start against open company in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham for three-year-olds. In his past three starts, the bay son of Broken Vow broke his maiden by 7 1/2 lengths on December 7, finished third by 19 1/2 lengths 11 days later in the Damon Runyon, and won an entry-level optional claimer by 8 1/4 lengths on January 31. All three races were at Aqueduct and were restricted to New York-breds.
Sweet Reason, who won the Spinaway in September at Saratoga, is unraced since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in November at Santa Anita.
"She kind of opened up a little at the end, and he came back on the inside for the gallop out, so it worked out well for them, mentally," Gyarmati described the move. "They both thought they won."
Gyarmati said she put a lot of thought into her decision to have Deceived breeze six furlongs six days before the Gotham.
"It's hard when you're not able to train every day to jump up and do things," Gyarmati explained. "You don't want to go from jogging in the barn for four days to breezing a mile, so you kind of have got to compromise, but he's good and fit and has been running."
Gyarmati has not committed to a comeback race for Sweet Reason, but did say Aqueduct's Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle for three-year-old fillies on April 5 is possible.
"I'd like to make the Gazelle; I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to get there," Gyarmati admitted. "With the weather, I don't want to do anything stupid. I'm going to just train her until she's ready. When she's ready, I'm going to find something, and we'll go from there."