Horse Racing

Audible grabs ticket to Kentucky Derby

Audible with jockey John R. Velazquez holds the lead on the final stretch of the Florida Derby to win at GulfStream Park in Aventura on March 31, 2018.
Audible with jockey John R. Velazquez holds the lead on the final stretch of the Florida Derby to win at GulfStream Park in Aventura on March 31, 2018. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Todd Pletcher said Audible is a little “lazy” when it comes to his morning workouts and doesn’t always put out his best effort. But he becomes another horse when the spotlight is on.

“At game time, he knows when to show up,” the trainer said.

With a sudden burst in Saturday’s Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, Audible punched his ticket for the May 5 Kentucky Derby with an emphatic win in the major steppingstone race for 3-year-olds.

Audible and jockey John Velazquez blasted past the tiring pacesetters entering the stretch and sprinted home to an impressive three-length victory over Hofburg.

It was nearly eight lengths further back to Mississippi.

“The way he ran today, he was definitely impressive,” Velazquez said.

The Pletcher-Velazquez combination won last year’s Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming, who came up short in one of Gulfstream’s undercard events on Saturday.

With Audible, they could be poised to make a return visit to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs in another month. The colt looked the part Saturday in running his winning streak to four in a row.

When Strike Power and Promises Fulfilled engaged in a ridiculously fast speed duel, it set up perfectly for Audible’s late charge. The colt motored past the two speedballs, then seized the lead from Mississippi at the top of the stretch.

Hofburg put in a mild bid but was no match for the winner.

“He proved a lot today and got beat by a good horse,” said jockey Jose Ortiz, who was aboard the up-and-coming Hofburg. “I followed Audible the whole way, and he behaved like a champ.”

When it comes to behavior, Pletcher said Audible and Always Dreaming are night and day.

“They’re both pretty athletic, good-moving horses,” Pletcher said in comparing the two. “Personality-wise, they’re very different.”

Always Dreaming is often full of himself. Pletcher said Audible is “just the opposite.”

The horse doesn’t care for practice.

“I guess some athletes are like that,” Pletcher said. “They don’t have to practice hard to perform well. But he’s shown up on race day every time. Once you get to know that, it makes you worry a little less.”

Coming off an impressive victory in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream in early February, Audible was sent off as the 8-5 favorite. He didn’t disappoint.

Audible isn’t the only Derby contender lurking in Pletcher’s barn. His arsenal also includes Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy and Rebel Stakes winner Magnum Moon.

He has hopes for a couple of his other 3-year-olds, as well.

It wasn’t quite the perfect afternoon for Pletcher, though.

The racing comeback of Always Dreaming was neither a triumphant one nor a disappointment, turning in a performance that fell somewhere in between with a second-place finish to 12-1 long shot Conquest Big E in the Hardacre Mile.

It was the Kentucky Derby winner’s first race in seven months, and his first at Gulfstream since winning last year’s Florida Derby. But Conquest Big E jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it.

Always Dreaming tracked in pursuit throughout but lost by three lengths.

“Gulfstream can be a tricky track when a horse gets loose on the lead like that horse did,” Pletcher said. “The horse on the lead never came back.”

The owners of Always Dreaming, who include Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola, decided rather than capitalize on the colt’s Derby victory and retire the him to stud, they would return him to the track for another year of racing.

“He won arguably the the most important race in the world, so we’ve got nothing to prove in that regard,” Pletcher said of the colt’s breeding potential. “But we’d love to see him come back and have a big year this year. This was the first step in that direction.”

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