After a front-running win Saturday in the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga Race Course, Moreno came out in good condition.
So did trainer Eric Guillot, who said his days of partying hard and late after a big win were well behind him.
“But I was a monster when I was,” he said.
At 10-1, Moreno was a monster emerging from the shadows of favored Palace Malice and reigning Travers champ Will Take Charge, wiring the field under jockey Junior Alvarado. After a night’s rest, Guillot said the 4-year-old is ready to return to training for his next spot.
“He came back great, jogged good on the road this morning at 6 o’clock, his legs look good, he’s sound and happy,” Guillot said. “We’re good to go.”
The next spot remains undetermined, though the Grade I Woodward on Aug. 30 at Saratoga remains an option.
“We don’t know yet,” Guillot said. “Woodward to Jockey Club to Breeders’ Cup, or skip the Woodward or Jockey Club. We might run him in both, it just depends on who runs where. We won’t know for another week.”
Barring some physical setback in the coming days, trainer Todd Pletcher said Palace Malice will aim for the Woodward.
Palace Malice had won his previous four races before finishing sixth in the Whitney, most recently the Grade I Met Mile. Saturday, though, the 4-year-old son of Curlin showed no real interest in competing.
“Sometimes, they throw a dud,” Pletcher said. “Right now, that looks like what he did. We’ll just have to continue to check him over and see, but right now we’ll just try again.”
Jockey John Velazquez guided Palace Malice four-wide through the final turn, and Pletcher said he felt there may be hope of a closing run, but the colt came up empty.
“We got pretty much the trip early on that we talked about in the paddock before the race,” he said. “I thought we would come away with a stalking-type position, and we got to that point, but, at the same time, I thought as I was watching the race unfold, I never felt like he was taking Johnny anywhere.
“Then he sort of fanned the far turn a little bit coming off the bend . . . but, I don’t know.
“At the top of the stretch, when they snuck away, it was pretty obvious at that point, but I still felt like in the middle of the turn he started to make a little bit of an impact, and I was hoping we were going to be able to overcome that.”
Guillot believes Moreno is built to go longer than a mile, possibly longer than 11⁄8 miles, though he has yet to win beyond that distance. He has been second twice in graded stakes going 11⁄4 miles — by a nose to Will Take Charge in the Travers last year and by three lengths to Zivo in the Grade II Suburban at Belmont on July 5.
“He galloped out five lengths in front,” Guillot said. “He’d like a mile and a half, but there aren’t any prestigious races at a mile and a half. I think his best two races have been the Travers, which is a mile and a quarter, and the Suburban.”
The Breeders’ Cup Classic is run at 1 1⁄4 miles, and Moreno was 10th in that race last year, but was injured during the race.
The win in the Whitney was just his third win in 20 starts. Moreno is 3-6-3 in his career and 1-1-1 from five starts this year. Guillot said he’s always close and just needs a break to go his way. The only times he’s not been close, it was because of injury or being misplaced by Guillot.
“You take away the Breeders’ Cup race, when he hurt himself, you take away the Met Mile, which I knew he didn’t even belong in and I knew was a mistake . . . he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Guillot said.