April 22 (UPI) -- The Kentucky Derby candidates already gathered in Louisville endured some trying weather during the weekend -- first heavy rain that scrambled Saturday training plans and then dense fog that settled in Easter morning.
The only early riser Sunday for an actual work was UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait, who put in a half mile that wasn't timed because the clockers couldn't see him.
"It was a shame about the fog," said trainer Brendan Walsh. "I had one of my assistants on the phone at the half-mile pole to warn me on the front side [that the work started] and I had him in 49 2/5. It was exactly what I wanted."
Most of the others assembled under the Twin Spires either galloped leisurely or walked the shedrow, even more leisurely. Monday's weather forecast was much more favorable. But, after the unpredicted deluge that swamped the 2018 Derby, skepticism remains about meteorological augury.
While Churchill Downs waited, weekend racing action centered on Laurel Park in Maryland where Saturday's $125,000 Federico Tessio Stakes is a proving ground for horses heading to the second jewel of the Triple Crown -- the Preakness Stakes.
Accordingly, Alwaysmining was always winning the Tessio as the overwhelming favorite. The Stay Thirsty gelding tracked an undemanding early pace, took over when asked by jockey Daniel Centeno and was gone, winning by 11 1/2 lengths, wrapped up. Trifor Gold and Bozzine were second and third as Alwaysmining finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.12.
Alwaysmining, trained by Kelly Rubley, now has six straight wins, all at Laurel Park. The Tessio victory carries an automatic berth in the Preakness and Rubly said, "As long as we come back okay, that's the goal ... You just hate to get overconfident, but this is what I had expected to happen so I'm really glad it came true. We're all very excited. It's a fabulous day."
The race is named for a famed Italian breeder, owner and trainer whose undefeated homebreds, Nearco and Ribot, are still found in the pedigrees of top Thoroughbreds throughout the world.
The 3-year-old fillies
Las Setas dueled with Our Super Freak through most of Saturday's $125,000 Weber City Miss Stakes at Laurel Park, finally prevailing by nose. It was another 4 1/3 lengths back to Pat's No Fool in third. Las Setas, a Maryland-bred filly by Seville, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.79 with Jevian Toledo riding for trainer Katharine Voss. Las Setas now has four straight wins, all at Laurel.
The race is a "Win and You're In" for the Black-Eyed Susan on Preakness weekend on Preakness weekend and Voss admitted to being excited about that prospect. "Obviously, if everything goes well, that's what we'd like to do next, but the water is much deeper there," Voss said. "If she got a piece of it -- it's a Grade II -- we'd be happy."
The 2-year-olds are getting going so it's not too early to think about Kentucky Derby 146, to be run May 2, 2020.
Maven became the first of American Pharoah's progeny to win in the United States as he scored at first asking Friday at Aqueduct. The Triple Crown winner had his first-anywhere winner April 13 at Naas in Ireland when Monarch of Egypt got his career off on the right foot for trainer Aidan O'Brien and his owners, Peter Brant and the Coolmore "lads". Maven was bred by his trainer, Wesley Ward and is owned by Richard Ravin.
Ward said he had hoped to be the first to collect a win for American Pharoah but told The Blood-Horse, "I'll always be second to Aiden. He's the greatest."
Ward, a pioneer in American incursions to Royal Ascot, said he hopes to take Maven to the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting June 20.