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Current Stamps Breeders' Cup Ticket With Bourbon Win
10/7/2018

Making his stakes debut, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta's  won a three-way photo finish to take the 0,000 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (G3T) Oct. 7 at and stamped his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T).

, installed as the 7-5 favorite after finishing second in the Summer Stakes (G1T) at , took the early lead, posting moderate times of :23.59 and :48.82 for the first half-mile while tracked by .

War of Will continued to dominate rounding the second turn in the 1 1/16-mile turf test and was racing well down the lane before first being overtaken by  and then Current, who unleashed a quick turn of foot under Jose Ortiz, aboard for the first time. As War of Will faded along the inside, Current won by a scant nose over Henley's Joy, with another late closer, , another nose back in third.

Stopping the timer in 1:45.10 over the firm course, Current paid .80 for the win, with Henley's Joy returning .80 for place and Salvator Mundi paying .60 for third.

The victory was the second in three starts for Current, a son of   who finished third at  in his debut and then broke his maiden at  for trainer Todd Pletcher. Bred in Kentucky by Hinkle Farms, the colt produced from the Storm Cat mare Crosswinds was purchased by Whitehorse Stables & Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners for 5,000 from Hinkle Farms at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

"He's been training very professionally," said Pletcher's assistant, Ginny DePasquale. "We've really thought a lot of this horse. Todd thought he had a good future, so he sent him here and, of course, he was right. We're really happy about today."

"When we straightened for home, I felt like he started running," Ortiz said. "I put him in the clear, but when I hit him left-handed, he drifted out in the two or three path. But he was running. Inside the eighth pole to the wire, I was hoping I'd get there. It was so close, I didn't know if I had it. He broke OK. He was very relaxed the whole time, and that's the point—get your horse to relax. He kicked home very well."

"I had a good trip, sat inside, waited for a spot, and asked him in the stretch," said Tyler Gaffalione, rider of runner-up Henley's Joy. "He finished up strong. He just didn't get the bob (at the wire). I had a lot of confidence when we hit the wire. I was a little worried because (Current) was running strong late. When we galloped out, he ran by us pretty quickly, but I was just hoping we got to the wire quick enough."

 

Army Mule Retired to Hill 'n' Dale
10/6/2018

Undefeated grade 1 winner , who raced in the colors of St. Elias Stable, has been retired from racing and will stand stud duty at Hill 'n' Dale Farms for 2019, the farm announced Oct. 6. The horse will stand for a ,000 fee.

An 5,000 2-year-old purchase, the son of   broke his maiden impressively for Todd Pletcher at , where he demolished the field by 8 1/2 lengths. Sent off as the clear favorite in his next start at , Army Mule reaffirmed his talent with a 7 1/2-length romp in 1:08.87, which was :0.75 off the track record established by Eclipse Award-winning sprinter .

His crowning achievement came at  in his stakes debut, the Carter Handicap (G1), where he drew off and stopped the clock for seven furlongs in 1:20.94. The race established him as the leader of his division and earned him a 114 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest up to a mile in 2018.

"From the moment I watched the video of his work at the Timonium sale, I was determined to have Army Mule in our stable," said St. Elias owner Vinnie Viola. "His performance on the track, culminating in a dominating win in the Carter Handicap with his 114 Beyer, confirmed our decision to bid aggressively for him. Army Mule retires as an undefeated grade 1 winner. Our confidence in him was rewarded, and with his racing performance and beautiful physical, we look forward to Army Mule going on to a great stud career at Hill 'n' Dale, where we are excited to support him."

"Army Mule was a special talent," Pletcher said. "He was a pleasure to train, with a terrific disposition and gorgeous conformation. He had a high cruising speed that allowed him to win a grade 1 sprint, but I also believe he could have carried it over a route of ground had he been given the opportunity."

"Army Mule won his first three starts by more than 22 lengths," said John Sikura, president of Hill 'n' Dale Farms. "His facile win in the Carter in near-track-record time left no doubt he was a generational talent. When breeders see the horse in person, they will be overwhelmed by his presence and understand why he was the talk of the Maryland 2-year-old sale, making 5.000. Undefeated, brilliant and beautiful, the same qualities we saw in   and  . Breeders will love him."

Army Mule was bred in Pennsylvania by Hope Hill Farm out of the Crafty Prospector mare Crafty Toast and was a ,000 purchase by Scanlon Training & Sales from Bill Reightler's consignment to Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale in 2015. He was pinhooked by Scanlon to the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, where Crupi's New Castle Farm signed the ticket. 

 

Tapwrit Entering Stud at Gainesway
10/1/2018

Classic winner and and millionaire   has been retired from racing and will enter stud at Gainesway for a ,500 stud fee in 2019, the farm announced Oct. 1.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray son of three-time leading sire   captured 's one-mile Pulpit Stakes as a 2-year-old. At 3, he set a new stakes record in the 1 1/16-mile Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), winning by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:42.36. He then followed a troubled sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) with a two-length score in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1). Tapwrit's 103 Beyer Speed Figure is the second-highest figure for a Belmont winner in the last decade, behind only  's 105.

"Tapwrit always showed a great deal of ability, but in the Belmont Stakes he demonstrated the class and competitiveness you need to win a classic race," Pletcher said. "With his outstanding physical and pedigree, Tapwrit certainly has the credentials to be a top sire."

Tapwrit was a .2 million yearling purchase by Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert V. LaPenta from Denali Stud's consignment to the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale. He is out of Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner and multiple graded-stakes producer , who is also the dam of 2018 Del Mar Derby (G2) winner .

Eclipse president Aron Wellman said: "Tapwrit gave our partners one of the greatest highs a racehorse owner can have when he won the Belmont Stakes. Tapwrit remains the most expensive yearling Eclipse has ever acquired and formed a partnership for—a strong, well-made, beautiful yearling by champion sire Tapit out of a grade 1-winning 2-year-old. He rewarded our confidence in him, and I look forward to him rewarding breeders in his new career at stud."

Tapwrit is available for inspection at Gainesway from 1-2 p.m. daily.

"We are excited to be standing a classic-winning son of Tapit," said Gainesway president Antony Beck. "Physically, Tapwrit is as impressive of a stallion as you will find. He's going to have beautiful yearlings and make a tremendous sire."

 

Channel Cat cruises in Bald Eagle Derby
9/29/2018

Channel Cat is hickory. Just 17 days after he won the 0,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs over 1 5/16 miles, he won the 0,000 Bald Eagle Derby over 1 1/2 miles on Saturday at Laurel Park. And he won it easily.

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Feargal Lynch guided Channel Cat to a 5 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Bald Eagle Derby.

Channel Cat, Feargal Lynch riding for Todd Pletcher and Calumet Farm, collared pace-setting Neepawa on the far turn and put him away in a matter of strides. He opened a clear lead and widened it to the finish, winning by 5 3/4 lengths over late-running Admission Office. Nakamura finished third, and claims of foul by the jockey of fourth-place Neepawa against the top two finishers both were quickly dismissed by Laurel stewards.

Todd Pletcher trains Channel Cat for his breeder, Brad Kelly’s Calumet Farm, and Channel Cat – by English Channel out of Carnival Kitten, by Kitten’s Joy – has thrived since Pletcher stretched him to longer distances the second part of this season. Channel Cat was a solid fourth going 10 furlongs in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, second to the good older horse Focus Group in an 11-furlong allowance race, and winner last out at Kentucky Downs before comfortably staying 12 furlongs in his first try Saturday.

Neepawa went out to set splits of 25.85 seconds, 51.33, and 1:17.23 which, on a standard course, would be slow, but Laurel’s turf Saturday, called yielding, was radically tiring, and not just by American standards.

“The only place I’ve ridden this soft is Sligo on the west coast of Ireland, which is a bog when it’s wet,” said Lynch, who has plied his trade globally.

Channel Cat didn’t mind it and was only galloping along while tracking the pacesetter.

“He was a bit off the bridle, but he was asleep,” said Lynch. “He wasn’t using up much energy. It was only when I set him alight at the three-eighths pole that he started running."

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And Channel Cat has yet to run a distance over which he stops running. He was timed in 2:40.07, a relatively meaningless clocking under conditions this extreme, and paid .20 to win.

 

Channel Cat proves best in Dueling Grounds Derby
9/12/2018

FRANKLIN, Ky. – Channel Cat turned back a sustained stretch bid from Cullum Road when posting a hard-fought victory Wednesday in the 8,000 Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs.

Luis Saez was in from New York to ride Channel Cat, a Calumet Farm homebred trained by Todd Pletcher. The colt was always close to the pace in the 1 5/16-mile race, forging to the front for the long stretch run before prevailing under strong urging.

“I was going to ride him a different way, like covered up,” said Saez. “But he broke so sharp, and he was right there in the clear, and he was pulling all the way, I just said, ‘I’ll take it,’ even though I was trying to get him settled as much as I can.”

After Channel Cat struck the front near the quarter pole, Cullum Road, a 19-1 shot under Tyler Gaffalione, loomed boldly to his outside – but Channel Cat held sway to win by a head.

“He is really a fighter,” said Saez.

Channel Cat, by English Channel, returned as second choice after finishing in 2:15.51 over a turf course rated good. Captivating Moon was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third, with Bandua, the 9-5 favorite, finishing fourth in a field of 10 3-year-olds.

The stakes victory was the first for Channel Cat, whose two wins from 10 prior starts had come in a maiden and first-level allowance race. Two starts back, the colt had been a respectable fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.

Pletcher, who watched the Dueling Grounds Derby from the Keeneland Yearling Sales in Lexington, was the leading trainer here in 2009 with a 5-for-8 record but was represented by only four starters from 2010 through 2017. Channel Cat was his fourth starter of the 2018 meet.

The Dueling Grounds Derby and its sister race, the Dueling Grounds Oaks, anchored a 10-race Wednesday card that was held over from Sunday, when racing was canceled because of heavy rain.

 

La Fuerza Ships to Finger Lakes, Takes Aspirant Stakes
9/8/2018

Barry Schwartz's  shipped in to  Sept. 8 and impressively won the  to score his second stakes victory in the fourth start of his career.

The   colt trained by Todd Pletcher went off at 1-4 in the field of seven for the six-furlong sprint for New York-bred colts and geldings, but didn't look like such a sure shot in the turn.

After a break from the rail under jockey Christopher DeCarlo, La Fuerza was a half-length in front through a first quarter in :22.69, but second choice  made an early move to take command in the turn and opened up a 1 1/2-length lead through a half-mile in :46.68. Patiently handled by DeCarlo, La Fuerza remained on the rail in the turn, angled out in the stretch, and easily went by Kadens Courage. He finished off the six furlongs in 1:12.97 in a three-length victory.

Bred by Stonewall Farm, out of the  mare , La Fuerza won his debut June 22 at , then took his second start, the Rockville Centre Stakes, July 14 at Belmont. Prior to his first start at Finger Lakes, La Fuerza finished fifth in the Funny Cide Stakes at . He now has 2,910 in earnings.

A race later at Finger Lakes,  edged  by three-quarters of a length to take the  for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies. She covered the six furlongs in 1:12.94. Sassy Agnes is the first black-type stakes winner for her sire,  , who stands at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in New York. 

 

Always Dreaming Retired to WinStar Farm
9/5/2018

Always Dreaming, winner of the 2017 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1), has been retired from racing and will join the stallion ranks at WinStar Farm, it was announced Sept. 5.  

A son of  , Always Dreaming was campaigned for most of his career by Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stables, MEB Racing Stables, Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds. WinStar Farm, SF Bloodstock, and China Horse Club joined the ownership group for the dark bay colt's 4-year-old season and stallion career.

"He was brilliantly fast, and he has everything you want in a stallion—looks, pedigree, and performance," said Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm. "We dream about the Kentucky Derby every day, but the race I really liked was the Florida Derby. When I saw the teletimer, I was amazed. We are excited to add a potentially breed-shaping stallion from the Unbridled line, which has proven to be today's preeminent classic sire line."

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Always Dreaming broke his maiden by an eye-catching 11 1/2 lengths in January of his 3-year-old season and rattled off four consecutive victories, culminating with his triumph in the Kentucky Derby. He captured the Florida Derby by five lengths in his stakes debut, finishing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.47—the fastest since Alydar in 1978.

That Florida Derby performance made Always Dreaming the favorite for the Kentucky Derby, which he won by 2 3/4 lengths, the largest margin of victory in the Run for the Roses in the last half dozen years.

"He was one of the most athletic horses I have ever trained," Pletcher said. "He has a terrific bounce to him. I compare him to a panther—a fluid mover."

"When we think about investing in a stallion, I want them to be athletic, fast, and out of a top mare," said Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock. "Always Dreaming has it all."

Bred in Kentucky by Gerry Dilger and Mike Ryan's Santa Rosa Partners, Always Dreaming was a 0,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale Book 1 purchase from the first crop of Bodemeister. He is out of grade 3-winning, grade 1-placed, and multiple grade 1-producing Above Perfection and is a half brother to grade 1-winning juvenile .

Always Dreaming concluded his racing career with a record of 4-2-2 from 11 starts and earnings of ,415,860. He went winless in five starts after his Kentucky Derby victory. He has taken up residence at WinStar, where he will begin his new career as a stallion in 2019 for a stud fee of ,000.

 

Opry is Grand in Winning With Anticipation Stakes
8/29/2018

Todd Pletcher-trained colt rallied from last to break his maiden in graded company.

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 rallied from last in the stretch before closing strong from the outside in the final furlong for an impressive maiden-breaking effort Aug. 29 in the 0,000 With Anticipation Stakes (G3T) for juveniles at .

Owned by Gaillardia Racing and Cheyenne Stables, Opry broke last in a six-horse field as  went to the front on the Mellon turf course labeled firm, going an opening quarter-mile in :23.29 and the half in :47.91.

Under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, Opry stayed behind the pack along the backstretch, falling nearly six lengths behind the pacesetter, before gaining ground close to the far turn. Near the eighth pole, Castellano set down Opry, who surged from the far outside to overtake the entire field, outkicking even-money favorite by 1 1/2 lengths, completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.00.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said the   colt who ran third in his Aug. 11 debut at the Spa—a seven-furlong race moved off the turf—didn't break well but still was impressive running on turf for the first time.

"I thought he'd break a little better than he did his first time out with that experience, but he clearly didn't. Talking to Javier after, he said even though he was pretty far back, he felt like he had a lot of horse and he was finding a good rhythm, so he felt very confident down the backside," Pletcher said. "The plan was to run him on the dirt when we initially entered him, and he drew the also-eligible. That race came off the turf, and we decided not to run even though we could've drawn in. 

"We entered him back, and the race came off the turf again, and so I figured he trained well enough on the dirt that we needed to get him started," he added. "He ran a respectable race that day, and I'd been impressed enough with his turf works to think it wasn't crazy to enter here. For now, we'll look to stay on the turf and see what he does." 

Off at 7-2, Opry paid .80 on a win wager. He improved his career earnings to ,700.

"He broke a bit slow out of the gate, but he didn't panic," Castellano said. "This was his second start and first time on the grass. I wanted to let him figure it out by himself a little, and this is a nice horse. Todd told me in the paddock that he really liked this horse and the way he's worked on the grass. … I really liked the way he finished. He came on really strong and was impressive. After the wire, he continued to gallop out past the field. I think this is a horse to look out for in the future on the grass." 

Somelikeithotbrown, a New York-bred trained by Mike Maker, bested Joyful Heart by 2 1/4 lengths for second in his stakes debut.

 

Sombeyay Gives Pletcher Seventh Sanford Triumph
7/21/2018

For all of its giant-killer reputation, there are certain ingredients that, when mixed together at , more often than not produce a reliable result. The combination of a Todd Pletcher-trained juvenile showing up in the entry box for the 0,000 Sanford Stakes (G3) is one pundits can pretty much take to the bank.

The seven-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner celebrated his seventh triumph in the Sanford Stakes July 21 when Starlight Racing's caught  at the wire to prevail by a neck in the six-furlong test.

Pletcher has been regularly using the Sanford as one of his favorite launching pads for young talent since he saddled   to victory in 1999. Though the field of seven who went to post Saturday was fairly wide-open on paper, 5-2 favorite Sombeyay made sure the dominant barn kept its reign going.

Where the son of   just missed getting up in the June 8 Tremont Stakes, his closing kick was timed to perfection by jockey Javier Castellano in the Sanford. As  was pushed by Strike Silver through fractions of :22.26 and :45.49, Sombeyay raced along on the inside in third, with  to his outside.

When Bano Solo started to weaken in the stretch, Strike Silver took over and, for a few strides, looked home free to the wire. Sombeyay had tipped out by that time and steadily chipped away at that rival's advantage en route to earning his second win from three starts in a final time of 1:10.35 over a fast track.

"He's not a particularly impressive work horse in the mornings. He's always run better than he breezes," Pletcher said. "I'm perfectly happy with that as long as he's happy and healthy and continues to perform in the afternoons. But he's not one that would blow you away in the mornings. I think in these early 2-year-old races, experience is huge. Having two starts compared to others with only one, I think that helped today."

Sombeyay got some early foundation this spring when he broke his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths at first asking at  April 27. His runner-up effort in the Tremont was impressive in its own right as he stumbled at the start and was next to last but rallied to fall just three-quarters of a length short of .

"Today, I didn't want to be too far back," Castellano said of his mount. "It worked out the way we wanted today. When I asked, he took off. I loved the way he finished. He's a good come-from-behind horse. It was very satisfying."

Strike Silver was 3 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher , with Bano Solo fourth. , Lexitonian, and completed the order.

Bred in Kentucky by J. D. Stuart and Mueller Farms, Sombeyay is out of the stakes-placed   mare Teroda and was purchased by Starlight for 0,000 out of Taylor Made Sales Agency's consignment to the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Taylor Made Bloodstock Investments pinhooked the colt as a weanling from the 2016 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, where he was consigned by Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services.

"I think the (grade 1, 0,000) Hopeful Stakes (Sept. 3) would be the next logical step with three starts under his belt if he was tearing the barn down," Pletcher said.

 

La Fuerza cruises to Rockville Centre victory
7/14/2018

ELMONT, N.Y. – As good as he looked on paper entering Saturday’s 0,000 Rockville Centre Stakes, La Fuerza looked even better winning the race for New York-breds as the 2-5 favorite at Belmont Park.

Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

Manny Franco piloted La Fuerza to a 4 1/2-length win in Saturday's Rockville Centre Stakes at Belmont.

Shuffled back to last approaching the top of the stretch in the five-horse field, Manny Franco tipped La Fuerza four paths wide at the top of the lane and without being hit, La Fuerza glided to a 4 1/2-length victory over Bustin Mach Four. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Red Zinger in third. Hushion and What the Luck completed the order of finish.

There were two foul claims in the race. Dylan Davis, who had to steady second-choice What the Luck at the quarter pole, claimed foul against Bustin Mach Four for interference. Mike Luzzi, the rider of fourth-place finisher Hushion, claimed foul against Joel Rosario and third-place finisher Red Zinger. Both foul claims were dismissed.

La Fuerza, named for a wine made at the Jonata Winery in Southern California – Jonata is the dam of La Fuerza – is now 2 for 2. In his debut, La Fuerza overcame a bad start and made an eye-catching middle move to win by 7 3/4 lengths.

Saturday, Franco was attempting to save ground on La Fuerza while sitting just behind a modest pace set by Hushion and pressed by Bustin Mach Four. When Red Zinger made a four-wide move to the leaders around the turn, Franco let him go by before swinging to the outside.

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“Joel was in my sights, I knew he was going to move to try and keep me in there, so I say 'Let me grab my horse now and take him to the outside,'” Franco said. “I got shuffled a little bit, but I knew I had horse.”

La Fuerza, a son of Flatter owned by Barry Schwartz and trained by Todd Pletcher, covered the six furlongs in 1:12.27 and returned .90.

Schwartz said La Fuerza would likely get a chance against open company in a race like the Grade 2, 0,000 Saratoga Special on Aug. 12.

“I don’t breed these horses for New York-bred races,” Schwartz said. “He’s out of a Kentucky mare by a Kentucky stallion, why do you have to think New York-bred?”

 

Prince Lucky Scores in Easy Goer Blanket Finish
6/9/2018

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, coming off a decisive defeat to  in the LARC Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Stakes (G1) day at , opened up the stakes action on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 9 at  with a late-charging victory in the 0,000 Easy Goer Stakes. Last year's Easy Goer winner, , went on to be voted champion 3-year-old male of 2017.

 

Prince Lucky was reserved early in mid-pack in the Easy Goer as  spurted to an early lead pursued by . After an opening quarter in :23.27, Lunar Beauty maintained his advantage and passed the half-mile mark in :46.26. Off the turn, grabbed the lead with Prince Lucky and Dark Vader in close attendance. Four runners briefly lined up across the track and Prince Lucky, in between horses, prevailed by a neck over Rugbyman in 1:41.41 for the 1 1/16 miles. Dark Vader was a nose farther back in third, with favored Mask checking in fourth.

 

"He had a very good work last week and we decided he was in sharp form and that we would take a shot," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "We castrated him after his first start for us (the grade 3 Sunland Derby March 25) and I think that started to turn around his behavior. He was exemplary in the paddock and post parade and I think it has allowed him to get his mind completely on his business."

 

Prince Lucky is a gelded son of --, by  , bred in Pennsylvania by Daniel McConnell, who also campaigns Prince Lucky. Prince Lucky took the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes late last year but finished well back in both the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and Sunland Park Derby before hitting the board in the Sir Barton behind the brilliant performance by Ax Man. John Velazquez provided the winning ride in the Easy Goer.

 

Prince Lucky returned .00, .80, and .60 to his backers. Rugbyman was good for .30 and .60, while Dark Vader paid .80 to show.

Prince Lucky has won half of his eight lifetime starts and has earned just north of 0,000.

 

Gidu punches ticket to Commonwealth Stakes
5/26/2018

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Chelsea Durand

 

Gidu returned .90 as the 2-5 favorite in the Paradise Creek at Belmont on Saturday.

In a race that likely earned him a trip to England and the Group 1 Commonwealth Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting in June, Gidu held off a late run from Curlin’s Honor to win Saturday’s 0,000 Paradise Creek Stakes by a neck at Belmont Park.

It was one length back to Masked in third. Ambassador Jim and Black Stetson completed the order of finish in the compact five-horse field.

For Gidu, it was his third win from five starts with two runner-up performances. Prior to the race, trainer Todd Pletcher said he and owner Ahmed Zayat said a good performance Saturday would earn Gidu a trip to the Commonwealth, a six-furlong race that is run on a straight course on June 22.

“Coming into this we were thinking about going to Ascot if this went well, and it went well enough to continue to consider that,” Pletcher said.

Gidu, a son of the magnificent Great Britain-bred Frankel, had not run in 11 weeks, or since taking the Columbia Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10.

Velazquez was expecting to sit third behind Masked and Black Stetson, but only Masked went for the lead. Velazquez hustled Gidu to be second and stalked Masked through a half-mile in 22.05 seconds and a half-mile in 44.31.

Gidu had to work to get by Masked, which he did at the sixteenth pole, but then Curlin’s Honor, under Javier Castellano, was coming. Gidu held him at bay for the victory.

Gidu covered the seven furlongs in 1:20.44 over firm turf and returned .90 as the 2-5 favorite and getting an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

 

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“He hadn’t run since Tampa, so he was a little more keen than I wanted him to be, but he put up a good fight,” Velazquez said. “Nice horse, he just needs to relax a little bit.”

Added Pletcher: “He kept finding a little more. I thought it was a good race considering he hadn’t run in a while.”

 

Hi Happy Breaks Through in Man o' War Stakes
5/12/2018

They always knew he had it in him.

La Providencia's homebred Argentinian Triple Crown winner , a four-time group 1 winner and 2015 Horse of the Year in his native country, first raced in the United States in November of 2016 and was never started outside graded company.

Eighteen months later, he continued his steady improvement for trainer Todd Pletcher, notching his first top-level North American win when he held off fellow grade 1 winner  May 12 to take the  at .

Off a 2 3/4-length victory in the March 31 Pan American Stakes (G2T) at , the 6-year-old Pure Prize runner tracked  through most of the 1 3/8-mile test on the inner turf, as that rival set opening fractions of :23.95, :49.50, and 1:15.15.

Angled out into the stretch by Luis Saez, Hi Happy chipped away at One Go All Go's lead as Sadler's Joy, last through the early going, put in a late run in the middle of the track. Hi Happy ran down the pacesetter in deep stretch, then stayed clear of Sadler's Joy to win by a half-length in a final time of 2:14.79 on good turf.

"It was just a perfect trip, exactly what we were hoping for," Pletcher said. "He delivered a big performance. We're very proud of him."

Hi Happy won six straight races in his native country, topped by the 2015 Carlos Pellegrini (G1) over older horses. But after he was sent to the West Coast, he failed to win in four starts in graded company for trainer Felipe Souza, including a fourth on dirt in the 2017 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1). He was away from the races from April of 2017 until Feb. 10, when he made his first start for Pletcher and finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1T). He has since rattled off two in a row in similar fashion, both times tracking One Go All Go before making his winning move.

"He was perfect. He broke pretty good, pretty clean, sharp," Saez said. "He was right there in the perfect position. We had a feeling we would be right there, but everything came so well. When we came to the three-eighths, he was ready to run. I felt the other horses coming, but he never gave up. He was always trying, so I just kept going with him and he finished very strongly."

Sent off as the 9-5 favorite in an eight-horse field, Hi Happy returned .90 on a win wager. One Go All Go held for third, a half-length behind Sadler's Joy. , , , , and  completed the order of finish.  and  were scratched.

Hi Happy achieved millionaire status with the win, pushing his record to eight wins and two thirds from 13 starts for earnings of ,092,961. Pletcher said the million Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (G1T) June 9 at Belmont is a possible next target, which would set up a rematch with the Tom Albertrani-trained Sadler's Joy.

"He ran well," Albertrani said of the runner-up. "He finished strong, and he had a good trip. Nothing to be ashamed of. The horse comes running every time, just a matter of getting in front by a half or losing by half. We're still looking forward to running in the Manhattan."

 

Patch Victorious in 4-Year-Old Debut
5/12/2018

Off the fourth in the Aug. 5 West Virginia Derby (G3) that capped his sophomore year, one-eyed fan favorite  returned to racing May 12 with a  allowance win.

The Todd Pletcher-trained   colt broke from post 2 in a field of nine and raced midpack, seven lengths behind early leader , who set fractions of :23.48, :46.91, and 1:11.10 through six furlongs. Angling out seven wide in the stretch as he rounded the turn, Patch dug in and drove to the wire to win the 1 1/16-mile event by a neck in a final time of 1:42.61.

Patch captured the hearts of racing fans last year with his runner-up finish in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) and a start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), where he finished 14th before going on to run third in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1).

"He's never funny about his off side," Pletcher said. "He's very confident about himself and very self-assured."

The Calumet Farm homebred out of the winning A.P. Indy mare Windyindy lost his left eye because of an ulcer as a 2-year-old. He has a 2-2-1 record in seven starts, with earnings of 1,520. 

"If every horse had his heart, it'd be a lot easier," said winning rider John Velazquez. "He tries hard. He gives you every bit he can. ... He keeps finding more and more."

 

Maraud Prevails in American Turf With Late Move
5/5/2018

 made a strong move down the middle of the  turf course rated yielding to capture the  for 3-year-olds under the Twin Spires May 5.

The son of champion   out of the   mare Unbridled Empire won his second graded event after winning the Palm Beach Stakes (G3T) at  in March. He was fifth in the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania Stakes (G3T) in his most recent start before the American Turf.

The bay colt is owned by Treadway Racing Stable and was bred in Kentucky by John and Frank Penn. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden to victory by John Velazquez.

 was fastest into stride from the inside gate but was hounded every step of the way by  from the 2 post. They passed the opening quarter mile in :23.79 and went the first half in :48.39 pursued by . There was no change in the order up the backstretch. Favorite  made a move coming off the second turn as Speed Franco cut the corner and briefly opened up turning for home.

But the scene changed down the lane as Maraud, , and  stormed down the center of the course, while  was making a big move at the hedge. Arawak ultimately did not get cleanly through on the inside, however, and Maraud prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:47.52 for the 1 1/16 miles. Captivating Moon and Untamed Domain dead-heated for the place spot, with Arawak checking in fourth.

"I didn't think my horse liked the soft turf, so I took him back and made one run with him," said Velazquez. "He showed me something and came through for me."

Maraud returned .80, .40, and .20. Captivating Moon was good for .40 and .40, while Untamed Domain paid .60 and .80.

"I thought Johnny (Velazquez) gave him a clever ride," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "We were concerned about the weather today, and I'm glad we decided to take a shot." 

With four wins in seven lifetime starts, all on turf, Maraud nearly doubled his lifetime earnings in the American Turf to 7,770. He has won three of four starts this season.

 

Magnum Moon Stays Perfect With Arkansas Derby Win
4/14/2018

Magnum Moon Stays Perfect With Arkansas Derby Win

Son of Malibu Moon is unbeaten in four starts.

·         By  

 

There are clearly lessons  still needs to learn, as evidenced by the fact that as he reached the  stretch April 14, both his focus and his stride started to wander.

That the son of   looked every bit like the novice he is while never once appearing to be in danger of losing, however, was the most noteworthy part of the Todd Pletcher trainee's performance.

Magnum Moon, b, 3/c
Malibu Moon — Dazzling Song, by Unbridled's Song

Owner: Robert E. & Lawana L. Low
Breeder: Ramona S. Bass, LLC (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Luis Saez
Information provided by  at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes
 stands at Spendthrift Farm for ,000 (2018).

Sale History
KEESEP2016 • 0,000 • Consignor: Claiborne Farm, agent • Buyer: Robert E. & Lawana L. Low.

 

In a barn bursting with top contenders for the first leg of the Triple Crown, it is the colt who didn't even start his career until January who has accumulated the most qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). Despite facing pressure from on the front end and then drifting out several paths in the lane, Robert and Lawana Low's Magnum Moon proved much the best with a gate-to-wire, four-length victory in the million .

After picking up the 100 qualifying points bestowed to the winner of Saturday's 1 1/8-mile test, Magnum Moon now sits atop the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 150. Considering how green he was still acting in the stretch, you could argue that if the bay colt gets his mind right by May 5, he could the top dog in a Pletcher armada that includes Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) winner , Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2) hero , and Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) victor .

"I thought (his race) was very good," said Pletcher, whose charges occupy four of the top five positions on the points standings. "Very pleased with the outcome. (I was) a little concerned that he drifted out the last part, but it looked like he sort of halfway thought about jumping over the tire marks when he went by the eighth pole where the gate was and sort of skipped over those.

"I think he was maybe just drifting away from that. Aside from that, I thought he finished with good energy and was pulling away from some nice horses."

Unraced as a juvenile, Magnum Moon began his assault on the so-called 'Curse of Apollo'—no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without a start as a 2-year-old—when he broke his maiden at first asking at Jan. 13. Following an allowance optional-claiming win at  Feb. 15, Magnum Moon let it be known he was a legit contender in a 3-year-old class packed with talent when he captured the March 17 Rebel Stakes (G2) by 3 1/2 lengths over grade 1-placed .

Even with Solomini back in for the Arkansas Derby and graded stakes winner Quip shipping in for his first try in a top-level test, Magnum Moon was sent off as the clear 4-5 favorite in the nine-horse field Saturday. Jockey Luis Saez said it wasn't necessarily the plan to go to the lead, but his mount took him there when he broke sharply out of post 6 and outran Quip for the advantage going into the first turn.

"I thought there was going to be a little speed," Saez said. "We were in a good position. He broke really sharp. I'm not going to choke him. I am just going to stay there, and he was very comfortable into the turn. He was traveling pretty good. When I came to the stretch, I felt like he was looking at the gate marks, so when we got there, I touched him a little and he went on."

Quip stayed right off Magnum Moon's neck through fractions of :23.34 and :48.60, and he was about on even terms with the pacesetter as they rounded the far turn.  and Solomini tried to join the fight with three- and four-wide moves, respectively, but Magnum Moon made all those challenges futile as he reached the stretch.

"He had me worried to death when I saw we were on the lead. But Luis (Saez) gave him a masterful ride," Robert Low said.

Added Pletcher, "He showed his versatility. He's won a number of different ways now, and I think he's proven that he's the kind of horse that doesn't need the race to unfold a certain way, that he's able to kind of make his own race."

Magnum Moon covered the distance in 1:49.86 over a track rated fast, with Quip holding on for place money. Solomini, who needed a top-three finish to secure enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field, got his head down over Combatant for third despite not switching leads in the stretch.

"He didn't break as sharply as we would have liked. He was third-best today," said Justin Zayat of Zayat Stables, which co-owns Solomini with Coolmore partners. "The winner is a really nice horse. We'll talk to (trainer) Bob (Baffert), but I thought it was a good race, and now it's on to Kentucky."

Bred by Ramona Bass out of the Unbridled's Song mare Dazzling Song, Magnum Moon bolstered his earnings to ,177,800 while remaining unbeaten in four starts. He was purchased by the Lows for 0,000 from Claiborne Farm's consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.

 

Unbridled Mo Upsets Unique Bella in Apple Blossom
4/13/2018

Unbridled Mo Upsets Unique Bella in Apple Blossom

Favored Unique Bella missed the break, rushed up to the front, and finished second.

·         By  

 

Red Oak Stable's homebred  pulled off an impressive upset April 13, when she closed late to win the  at .

After 1-5 favorite  missed the break, she rushed up to challenge early leader  in the first turn and dueled with the leader wide in the backstretch and entering the final turn. The Todd Pletcher-trained   mare, who had tracked the pace in fourth, made her bid on the outside and powered past the favorite under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.

Unbridled Mo, b, 5/m
Uncle Mo — Unbridled Waters, by Unbridled

Owner: Red Oak Stable (Stephen Brunetti)
Breeder: Red Oak Stable (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Information provided by  at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes
 stands at Ashford Stud for 5,000 (2018).

 

"I was sitting fourth, and at the five-eighths (pole), I took her out a little bit, and then she came on pretty good," Santana said. "At the three-eighths pole, I was just waiting for the turn for home because I didn’t want to move too soon. When I turned for home, I asked her, and her class won out.”

Unbridled Mo finished in 1:43.94 on a good (sealed) track to secure her first grade 1 win by 2 1/4 lengths over Unique Bella. Farrell, who had a 2 1/2-length lead through a first quarter in :23.41, had that lead cut down to a head through a half in :46.94. The pressure from Unique Bella, who took over and held a one-length lead through six furlongs in 1:11.40, took a toll, and Farrell came in last of seven, 10 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

"(Unique Bella) squatted in the gate. I was trying to stand her up. The next thing I knew, they opened the gates and she squatted back," said jockey Mike Smith. "She totally missed the break. I wish I could have stayed last. If I could have, I would have. She was very strong and very fresh. After she got left, she just wanted to catch up. I could have thrown her down, but I never had to do that, and I wasn't about to start. It was just unfortunate."

, who won the Bayakoa Stakes (G3) on a wet track at Oaklawn two starts back, also loomed at the top of the lane behind the gray favorite, but she flattened out in the final furlong and lost third by a neck to . , , and Farrell completed the order of finish.

The Apple Blossom was Unbridled Mo's seventh win from 10 starts and fourth graded victory. In 2016, she won the Monmouth Oaks (G3), and she scored the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) and Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) in 2017. The Apple Blossom was her second start of 2018, following a fourth-place run in the Royal Delta Stakes (G3) Feb. 19 at .

"We thought, ultimately, a grade 1 was sort of the only thing missing on her résumé," Pletcher said. "She's a very consistent mare. We knew that there's a very short-priced favorite we had to beat. We felt like if she'd won—even if she was second or third—it would be a positive result. (We) decided to go ahead and take a shot, and (we're) very happy that we did."

Bred in Kentucky out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Waters, Unbridled Mo now has 0,880 in earnings for Red Oak Stable owner Stephen Brunetti.

"This is our first time we've ever been to Hot Springs, and I'm sure we'll be back again," Brunetti said. "We were going back and forth between a couple of different races, and Todd told us how well she was training and he said, 'Let's take a shot in the Apple Blossom.' You never knew what would have happened with Unique Bella. She was shipping, and it was a sloppy track. (It) just all worked out for the best."

 

Vino Rosso Wears Down Enticed to Take Wood Memorial
4/7/2018

Vino Rosso Wears Down Enticed to Take Wood Memorial

Son of Curlin rebounds from Tampa Bay Derby loss.

·         By 

 

In a word, 's journey to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) has been bumpy.

Back in November, when Vino Rosso lived up to his sharp morning works and won at first asking for owners Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola of St. Elias Stable, the son of   seemed a bona fide Derby candidate. But after a tumultuous third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and a fourth in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), the horse named for red wine dropped to a distant fourth behind the likes of , , and Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) winner  in the pecking order among 3-year-olds in trainer Todd Pletcher's talent-laden barn.

Vino Rosso, ch, 3/c
Curlin — Mythical Bride, by Street Cry (IRE)

Owner: Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable
Breeder: John D. Gunther (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: John R. Velazquez
Information provided by  at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes
 stands at Hill 'n' Dale Farms for 0,000 (2018).

Sale History
KEESEP2016 • 0,000 • Consignor: Glennwood Farm, agent • Buyer: J.J. Crupi, agent for Mike Repole & St. Elias.

All of that changed April 7 when Vino Rosso put the disappointment of his two  losses behind him. Returning to top form, the chestnut colt survived an inquiry for, yes, bumping in the stretch to post a three-length victory over 6-5 favorite  in the million  and give Pletcher a quartet of Derby starters.

"I've got memories of losing in this race at 1-9 (with   in 2011) and winning a photo two years ago with  ," Repole said. "This is a special race for me. I grew up coming to Aqueduct ... and I was involved in one of the biggest upsets in the race. Now I've won two out of three years. That's how it works."

How it worked for Vino Rosso was he received 100 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, punching his ticket to on the first Saturday in May. Coming into the Wood, Vino Rosso had just seven points and was 38th on the leaderboard.

Enticed, who received 40 points for finishing second, already had a Derby berth wrapped up with 63 points coming into the 1 1/8-mile Wood. According to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, the Godolphin homebred will continue on to the Derby.

"I'm sure there will be no change (in Derby plans)," McLaughlin said. "He ran a great race."

Gary and Mary West's , coming off a maiden win at for trainer Bob Baffert, was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and picked up 20 points. He will need a slew of defections to compete in the opening leg of the Triple Crown.

, who competed in all four New York preps for the Derby, was fourth, picking up 10 points to bump his total to 39 and put him on the Derby bubble. Having the winner of last year's Champagne Stakes (G1) in the field triggered a 0,000 bonus and pushed the purse to million.

Vino Rosso kept alive Viola's dream of capturing the Run for the Roses in back-to-back years after being a part owner of 2017 winner .

"It's unrealistic to think about winning the Derby two years in a row," said Viola, who also won the Carter Handicap (G1) with  on the April 7 card. "But like the horse who won it for us last year, I'll be dreaming about it every day (until May 5)."

In Vino Rosso, Viola, who also owns the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers, will head to Louisville with a much different runner than Always Dreaming, who was no worse than second at any call in the Derby. Vino Rosso figures to be charging from the back of the pack. The son of the Street Cry mare  rallied from sixth in the field of nine to capture the Wood as the 4-1 third choice (.40).

"He finished up great. We kept feeling we were seeing a horse with that kind of talent, and he had been training well. We felt the mile and an eighth was something he was looking for, and I think even farther will be better for him. This was the performance we were hoping for," said Pletcher, who notched his fifth win in the Wood.

, runner-up to Enticed in the Gotham Stakes (G3), sprinted away to a six-length lead after a half-mile in :46.68, but as he shortened stride on the far turn, Enticed and Restoring Hope went by, followed from the outside by Vino Rosso and jockey John Velazquez.

At the top of the stretch, a determined Enticed and a surging Vino Rosso came together as Vino Rosso drifted in a bit and the rivals bumped. After Vino Rosso pulled away in the final furlong and crossed the finish line in 1:49.79, jockey Junior Alvarado on Enticed lodged a claim of foul that was disallowed.

"I got bumped three times. I got pinched on the rail. This was way too much. I didn't even bump him once. I don't know what to say. This is unacceptable. If somebody else rode that way, he would have been taken down. It's not the right thing. I got bumped three times, I got fouled. What else do I need to get?" Alvarado said.

In the eyes of the winning connections, the stewards made the right call.

"There's no question there was some contact. Johnny's interpretation was (when) he came over close to him, and the other horse kind of touched him, he touched him back," Pletcher said. "No question there was contact. I thought it was mutual, but I don't think it affected the outcome of the race."

Vino Rosso, bred by John D. Gunther in Kentucky and bought for 0,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, earned 5,000 for his victory and improved his record to three wins in five starts with career earnings of 0,500.

While the win was the second in the Wood for the trio of Pletcher, Repole and Velazquez, who won the 2016 Wood with Outwork, the victory added to a remarkable partnership. According to Equibase statistics, horses owned, trained, and ridden by the trio have teamed for 30 stakes wins and more than million in earnings entering this year. Velazquez alone had more than 1,600 wins and 9 million in earnings with Pletcher-trained horses entering January.

The Wood has produced 20 winners of the Kentucky Derby, but none since Funny Cide in 2003. In 2000,   became the last horse to win both races.

Last year's Wood played a key role on the Triple Crown trail as , who was third, won the Preakness Stakes (G1) in his next start and , who won the Wood, finished second in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1).

 

Army Mule Rolls in Carter Handicap
4/7/2018

Army Mule Rolls in Carter Handicap

Friesan Fire colt drew off to a 6 1/4-length win at Aqueduct Racetrack.

·         By 

 

A horse like  can test the patience of an owner and trainer, but the lightly raced colt surely made up for lost time in a huge way and in a rather prestigious spot.

The 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of   lived up to every bit of the potential trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Vinnie Viola saw in him as he romped to a 6 1/4-length victory in the  at  April 7. The decisive win in the seven-furlong test was just the third start of his career and his stakes debut.

Army Mule, b, 4/c
Friesan Fire — Crafty Toast, by Crafty Prospector

Owner: St. Elias Stable
Breeder: Hope Hill Farm (PA)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Joe Bravo
Information provided by  at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes
 stands at Country Life Farm for ,000 (2018).

Sale History
FTMMAY2016 • 5,000 • Consignor: Scanlon Training & Sales, agent • Buyer: Crupi's New Castle Farm.
FTMSEP2015 • ,000 • Consignor: Bill Reightler, agent • Buyer: Scanlon Training & Sales

"I think this horse can be special for the sport," said Viola, who races under the banner of St. Elias Stable and also owns the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League.

Army Mule, an 5,000 purchase as a 2-year-old, surely looked "special" in the Carter, as he scooted through a hole along the rail on the turn under jockey Joe Bravo and overpowered 10 seasoned rivals to increase his combined winning margin to 22 1/4 lengths.

In second behind the 2-1 shot was , the 9-5 favorite who finished third in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1).  was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third.

Army Mule won in 1:20.94 on a track labeled fast, but Viola described it as "heavy and dewy."

"I don't even think the track is that fast today, and to go (1:20.94) is something very special," said Pletcher, echoing Viola's opinion. "The sky's the limit with him. He's a super-talented horse. It's a matter of keeping him healthy.

"You never expect to win a grade 1 by that many lengths, but he was training really well coming into it, and he showed exceptional ability in his two races. It's not a move we make that often from a non-winners-of-one to a grade 1 stakes, but his last race was so powerful."

Army Mule arrived at Pletcher's barn last year as a 3-year-old and posted an 8 1/2-length win in a  maiden race April 30. Any thoughts about his future plans were put on hold when Army Mule's knee acted up, and he did not return to the races until Jan. 31, when he registered an even more impressive 7 1/2-length score in a  allowance optional-claiming race.

"He had a flare-up in his knee. It wasn't a surgical issue. We just had to give him time," Pletcher said after his third win in the Carter. "When you have a horse break his maiden like he did, and with Saratoga around the corner, you starting thinking (about the future), but it's a tribute to Vinnie's patience as an owner that we gave him the time he needed. I told him he's a very talented horse, and we have to stop and give him a break, and the patience paid off today."

After his colt successfully handled the prodigious jump in class, Pletcher said the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1) June 9 at Belmont would be an appropriate target.

"The way he finished at seven furlongs today, it makes sense to have the Met Mile on the radar," the trainer said. 

For Viola, the Carter underscored what he first saw in Army Mule at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale, when he purchased the eye-catching colt.

The winner's share of 0,000 lifted Army Mule's earnings to 1,400.

"It's a bit of a contrarian path in developing a horse from a nondescript sire, but when you think about horses as athletes, the moment we saw him, Dennis O'Neill and myself, he was a premier athlete," Viola said.

Bred by Hope Hill Farm, Army Mule was originally purchased for ,000 by Scanlon Training & Sales at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale.

Jockey John Velazquez, who was on Awesome Slew in the Carter but rode Army Mule in his April 2017 debut, succinctly expressed what happened Saturday.

"I had a great trip," he said. "I into ran a monster."

Perhaps a "special" monster.

 

National Flag Makes Grade in Bay Shore
4/7/2018

National Flag Makes Grade in Bay Shore

Pletcher-trained colt clinches first graded stakes win.

·         By 

 

WinStar Farm and China Horse Club International's  used a rush along the outside to win the , covering seven furlongs in 1:23.16 on the main track April 7 at .

The Todd Pletcher-trained colt captured his first graded stakes victory despite getting squeezed at the start by 6-5 favorite  to his outside and  to his inside. After settling, the   colt ran five-wide down the backside as A Different Style set fractions of :22.82 for the opening quarter-mile and :45.77 for the half-mile. 

Jockey Flavien Prat, unhurried up to this point, angled National Flag to the inside and gave him his cue to run. Forced to search for room, Prat angled his colt seven-wide into the stretch, passing the pack in mid-stretch to score by four lengths under a hand ride. 

"I was concerned after the rough start," Pletcher said. "He had never really been in that position. He got hit pretty hard from both sides and I was afraid at that point. You never know how a horse is going to react from getting bumped that hard in the beginning. It looked like he gathered himself up and Flavien rode a smart race from that point. He didn't panic and just gave him time to get his legs up and underneath him. He produced and put in a big run down the lane.

"He's always been a beautiful horse and a fantastic looking yearling, you can tell by his price tag (a 0,000 Keeneland September yearling)," Pletcher continued. "He's one that we've always liked, and has always shown speed. A little bit of it was us figuring out how he needs to be ridden and not rushing him. He showed promise last year and he benefited from a little bit of a break afterwards."

National Flag's victory was the third of his career, and second in a row after driving clear to win a non-other than allowance March 3 at . The Kentucky-bred faded to fifth after getting bumped at the break in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sep. 4 at .

National Flag returned .90 to win. 

The Bay Shore was one of a few options Pletcher and his connections had for his fifth career start, but distance and timing led to the decision that proved a winning one for Pletcher.

"We had kicked around the idea of possibly going to the Lexington Stakes (G3), and then we just thought at the last minute that the horse is doing well and he was just coming off a big effort at seven-furlongs," Pletcher said. "Let's stick with what he knows. At some point down the road we might stretch him out. We'll probably look for a one-turn mile next or something like that. We'll play it by ear and see how he comes out of this."

Engage, who was making his fourth career start and first since drawing clear to win the Futurity Stakes (G3) Oct. 14 at , rallied hard through the stretch, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of for second.

 finished fourth, followed by A Different Style, , and  remained last in the seven-horse field.

 

Hi Happy Notches First Stateside Win in Pan American
3/31/2018

Hi Happy Notches First Stateside Win in Pan American

Argentine son of Pure Prize returned to winner's circle for first time since 2015.

·         By 

 

La Providencia's homebred , who took the 2015 Carlos Pellegrini (G1) in his native Argentina, returned to the winner's circle for the first time since that score to land his first stateside win in the  March 31 at .

The 6-year-old Pure Prize runner took over from frontrunner  after tracking second with a furlong left to run in the 1 1/2-mile test and carried on to a 2 3/4-length win under Luis Saez.  

After showing the way through fractions of :23.96, :49.21, 1:13.79, and 1:38.15, One Go All Go held for second by a half-length over , while defending race winner and 9-5 favorite  came in fourth.

Hi Happy won six straight races in his native country, four of them group 1 events, but failed to win in four starts in graded company when he was sent to the West Coast, including a fourth in the 2017 Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1). He was away from the races from April of 2017 until Feb. 10, when he made his first start for Todd Pletcher and finished third in the 1 1/8-mile Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes (G1T).

 "We felt that he ran well at a mile and an eighth last time, and today we felt with that race under his belt, he would perform," Pletcher said.

Hi Happy finished the distance in 2:23.85 on a firm turf course and returned .80, .60, and .80 at odds of 2-1.

"Everything went perfect," Saez said. "We sat second. At the half-mile pole, I asked my horse, and he kept battling. When we made the straight, he just took off."

Earlier on the card, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's homebred , making her first start since finishing fifth in the Matriarch Stakes (G1T) at  in November, set a fast pace and had just enough at the finish to hold off  to win the .

A 4-year-old daughter of  trained by Christophe Clement and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Lull went to the front and set fractions of :22.44, :45.06 and 1:08.56 while being chased around the first turn and backstretch by  and . Entering the stretch, Ortiz and Lull opened up a two-length advantage and were just able to hold off Res Ipsa, who closed from last, by a nose.

The winning time was 1:33.14 over a firm, 1-mile course.

"Jose is a great rider, that's why he rides so much for us," Clement said. "We were a touch worried because it was her first time back, but we knew she was big enough to win. She's top-class. Six, seven furlongs, a mile is probably her best. She's a wonderful filly to be around. Belmont day is definitely on our radar for her."

"Christophe told me she has speed and just not to take a big hold, and if she wants to be there (on the lead), let her be there," Ortiz said. "We were expecting softer fractions than that, but she was going fast but very relaxed. That was important in getting home."

 

Audible Makes Florida Derby Statement
3/31/2018

Audible Makes Florida Derby Statement

Audible comes home strong to take the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park

The Holy Bull winner backed up that effort with an emphatic triumph March 31.

·         By  

 

One of the knocks on  in the weeks since he first stamped himself as a contender on this year's Road to the Kentucky Derby was that he didn't exactly sell his potential.

His morning training has a workman tone rather than a tease of brilliance. And in a time when every move a top 3-year-old makes can be scrutinized by every self-described expert on the internet, his workouts leading into the  were commonly described as mediocre at best.

Audible, b, 3/c
Into Mischief — Blue Devil Bel, by Gilded Time

Owner: China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Starlight Racing, WinStar Farm
Breeder: Oak Bluff Stables, LLC (NY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: John R. Velazquez
Information provided by  at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes
 stands at Spendthrift Farm for 0,000 (2018).

Sale History
FTFMAR2017 • 0,000 • Consignor: Crupi's New Castle Farm, agent • Buyer: China Horse Club & WinStar Farm.
FTNAUG2016 • 5,000 • Consignor: Winter Quarter Farm, agent • Buyer: J.J. Crupi, agent for 4H.

 

Those trying to dissect the form of the son of   over the next five weeks will have to stick to analyzing his moves outside of race day because, once again, he saved his best for when the real running began.

Audible doubled down on the form he flaunted during his breakout victory in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull Stakes (G2) when he sat well off a hot pace March 31 before advancing outside and kicking on in the lane en route to a three-length triumph over  in the Florida Derby at .

"You'd love for horses like this to breeze well all the time and put on a show in the morning, but once you get to know them and their personalities ... we felt like he was training as well as he ever had," Pletcher said of the colt who gave him his fourth Florida Derby win in the last five years. "We were cautiously optimistic."

There was every reason for Audible's camp to feel good about the colt's ability heading into Saturday's 1 1/8-mile prep race, which offered 100 qualifying points to the winner toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).

When he captured the Holy Bull Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths over  during his season debut, it marked his third straight win since running third in his debut at in September. With each race, he has shown different levels to his game—from being able to sit in the first flight off the pace, to handling himself between rivals, to showing he could take back and rally if others wanted to push the issue up front.

It was the latter strategy that was called upon in the Florida Derby as  and —the 1-2 finishers in the Xpresssbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2)—dueled right out of the gate for the lead, with the former working hard to register the opening quarter-mile in a wicked :21.95. With the top two wearing each other out while opening up about five lengths on third-place  down the backside, jockey John Velazquez let Audible drop back to eighth while keeping him outside as the half-mile went in a taxing :46.37.

"We wanted to get some position into the first turn, which he was able to do beautifully. I was a little concerned at the five-eighths pole because he started to drop back a little bit, but I could tell Johnny wasn't panicked," Pletcher said. "He kind of grabbed him up, and sometime midway down the backstretch he started to pick up horses, and I started to feel better and better. You could tell the pace up front had developed pretty swiftly, so you felt like those horses were going to start to come back at some stage."

As Promises Fulfilled rounded the far turn, the toll of those fractions showed and he backed out as Mississippi made his surge to the front with Audible looming to his outside. That threat from Audible turned into reality a few strides later when he took command at the head of the lane and put daylight between himself and a game Hofburg, who made a rally of his own after being near the back of the nine-horse field.

"Once he got to the horses on the lead, I just tried to keep him busy down the lane, and he kicked pretty good," Velazquez said. "I didn't ride him last time, but he way he ran today, he was definitely impressive. (The distance) didn't seem to bother him at all. I think the farther he goes, the better he gets."

Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Audible covered the distance in 1:49.48 over a track rated fast. Hofburg, a half sibling to grade 1 winner  who was making his graded stakes debut, was 7 3/4 lengths clear of Mississippi and picked up 40 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

"We've certainly got to think about that (the Kentucky Derby)," said Bill Mott, trainer of Hofburg. "He ran well enough and galloped out good enough. I guess we've got to take everything into consideration, but we're certainly not going to rule anything out at this point."

Graded stakes winner  finished fourth, while Promises Fulfilled faded badly and ended up ninth.

"You live by the sword, you die by the sword," said Dale Romans, trainer of Promises Fulfilled and seventh-place finisher . "We went wire-to-wire last time, but that doesn't mean we don't regroup and go back in the Derby."

Audible's victory capped a stellar day in general for Gulfstream Park. The Hallandale Beach, Fla., track reported it generated a record total handle of ,909,070.

The previous record for the highest single-day handle at Gulfstream excluding Breeders' Cup was this year on Pegasus World Cup Day when reigning Horse of the Year   won and fans wagered .9 million. Saturday's handle was also a Florida Derby Day record, eclipsing the record of .082 million in 2017.

Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners, Audible earned his fourth win in five starts while improving his earnings to 2,920. He was bred in New York by Oak Bluff Stables out of the Gilded Time mare Blue Devil Bel and now has a chance to give his seven-time Eclipse Award winning-trainer some déjà vu.

Last season, Pletcher brought  to the Kentucky Derby off a sublime Florida Derby victory and watched that colt progress right into the blanket of roses. Though Pletcher also has graded stakes winner  and  poised for May 5, Audible is invoking some positive comparisons to his classic-winning stablemate.

"It was similar to what we did with Always Dreaming last year. We knew we had to perform well in the Florida Derby or we weren't going to accumulate enough points to get in, but we also all felt like if you don't run well in your final prep, then you're probably not going to Churchill anyway," Pletcher said. "The most important thing is we thought he ran a huge race in the Holy Bull ... that we could hopefully take another step forward by giving him some space between those races, and the fact that the Florida Derby is a grade 1 is super-important to a stallion like he's going to be."

 

Noble Indy Takes Louisiana Derby
3/24/2018

Noble Indy Takes Louisiana Derby

Son of Take Charge Indy latest classic prospect for WinStar, partners.

·         By  

Noble Indy (inside) fights off Lone Sailor to capture the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course

Noble Indy (inside) fights off Lone Sailor to capture the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds Race Course

 

 

Last month,  used his time at  to show what a baby he still was, tantrums and all.

WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden called him "a real brat" in the paddock prior to the Feb. 17 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2), and when it came time for the son of  to go through a hole after racing on the lead in his first two starts, he got a bit intimidated as others went on to take the accolades.

Noble Indy, b, 3/c
Take Charge Indy — Noble Maz, by Storm Boot

Owner: Repole Stable (Mike Repole) and WinStar Farm LLC (Kenny Troutt)
Breeder: WinStar Farm, LLC (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: John R. Velazquez
Information provided by  at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes
Take Charge Indy stands at KRA Jeju Stud Farm.

Sale History
KEESEP2016 • (,000 RNA) • Consignor: Denali Stud, agent.

 

He finished a solid third place in his graded debut, but, most important, he received an education. When he returned to the New Orleans track March 24 and had his mettle tested in the stretch of the million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), the bay colt showed how quickly he had learned his lessons and how much room for growth there still is over the next six weeks.

Noble Indy put the lengthy Fair Grounds stretch to good use Saturday when he battled back on the rail in the final furlong after being passed by  in the lane to edge that one by a neck and put 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) on his young résumé.

It takes guts to snatch a victory from what looked to be strong jaws of defeat, especially considering Noble Indy raced right on top of a pace that favored his late-running challengers. That he got keen with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez while rating second through fractions of :22.97 and :46.64, lost his lead after turning into the stretch, and still was able to find another gear says a mouthful about how far he has come for trainer Todd Pletcher in a short period.

"Todd has done a great job with him. He won his first two starts and came here and got a real education ... but he grew up today," said Walden of the colt WinStar Farm owns in partnership with Mike Repole. "He's still only run four times. He's bred for (the Kentucky Derby), and as we saw today, distance is not a problem."

What may be a happy problem for the WinStar team is a case of whiplash while tracking all their hopefuls on the Kentucky Derby trail. In addition to Noble Indy, Kenny Troutt's operation has partial ownership of Holy Bull Stakes (G2) winner , Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) victor , and budding phenom , with  set to start in the March 25 Sunland Derby (G3).

"It's been a great day," grinned Walden, who also watched —also owned by WinStar in partnership—win the New Orleans Handicap (G2) earlier on the Fair Grounds card.

Despite the presence of  and — the 1-2 finishers in the Risen Star—and Southwest Stakes (G3) winner  in the 10-horse field, Noble Indy had the faith of the betting public, who made him the 5-2 favorite. Though he bumped the gate at the break, he moved well into the first turn as 141-1 longshot  set the early pace.

With Bravazo to his outside in third, Noble Indy stalked in the two-path and kept begging Velazquez to let him do more. Velazquez complied, allowing the colt to range up and take the lead at the half-mile pole, opening up two lengths on the field as they reached three-quarters in 1:11.47.

"He had to fight the whole way," Velazquez said of his mount, who was racing with blinkers for the first time. "Going into the first turn, I had to use him to get position, then I grabbed him back in the middle of the turn. He got keen on the backstretch and ... at the half-mile pole, I put my hands down and tried to give him a nice break. I decided not to fight him anymore and let him run down the lane."

Velazquez said Noble Indy never saw Lone Sailor coming with his three-wide bid in the stretch, and for a handful of strides it looked like a storybook ending was on tap. Lone Sailor is campaigned by trainer Tom Amoss for G M B Racing, the stable owned by the late New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle. Tom Benson passed away March 15 and was laid to rest in New Orleans March 23.

"The best horse probably won today, I won't deny that. But our boy stepped up and ran a great race, and I'm happy for G M B," Amoss said. "I went running after work this morning, and a voice kept saying, 'Do you believe it can happen?' As a trainer ... I tried to ignore that, but now I'm going to answer that voice. They were right.

"I'm not going to get spiritual about this whole thing, but I really felt like Mr. Benson was with us today."

Though Noble Indy fought back to cover the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:50.28 over a fast track, Lone Sailor picked up 40 qualifying points, likely locking himself into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

My Boy Jack came with a sustained run down the middle of the track but leveled out and ended up third.  was fourth with Snapper Sinclair fifth. Bravazo came home eighth.

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Noble Indy is out of the multiple stakes-winning Storm Boot mare Noble Maz. He debuted Dec. 3, winning by 8 3/4 lengths over seven furlongs at , and he took an allowance optional claiming test going 1 1/16 miles over the same track in his season debut Jan. 11.

"He's still green," Velazquez said of Noble Indy. "But when he saw that other horse, he came back and fought."

 

Ivy Bell Overcomes to Win Inside Information
3/17/2018

Ivy Bell wins the Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park

Ivy Bell wins the Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park

Coglianese Photos/Lauren King

A stumble at the start and heavy traffic late did nothing to deter  March 17 at , as the  mare overcame with a late-closing victory in the .

Making her first start for Mathis Stable, Madaket Stable, and trainer Todd Pletcher, the 5-year-old dark bay mare earned her first graded stakes score in her first try at the grade 2 level.

"We felt confident coming in. She had been training well," Pletcher said. "She's had a little history of some quirks around the gate and the paddock. I'm glad she behaved well today. She still broke a little bit on her nose, but she recovered quickly and found a good spot and delivered from there."

Ivy Bell, who finished first or second in six of her last seven races for her former connections, stumbled out of the gate from her rail post position but was well within range of a pace contested by , , and .

Those three raced three deep along the backstretch and into the far turn through fractions of :23.63 and :47:03. , who captured the Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3) last time out, joined the fray four wide leaving the turn into the stretch as Javier Castellano waited for room aboard the Pletcher trainee. When a hole failed to open in the wall of horses, Castellano swung Ivy Bell five wide at the eighth-pole, and the veteran mare kicked in powerfully past Jordan's Henny to win by a length as the even-money favorite.

"I was just worried that she found the seam too late. That was a pretty impressive turn of foot she turned in the last eighth of a mile," Pletcher said. "That's not always easy to do at Gulfstream, to make up that much ground the last part of the race."

"I had a perfect trip. That's what I was looking for," Castellano said. "I saved all the ground, I tipped outside. I was kind of concerned a little because everyone hooked up in the same spot, but I had so much confidence. I really liked the way she worked and the way she finished. I felt comfortable the way she did it. Todd did a phenomenal job, and I know she's going to move forward. I rode with a lot of patience and had good results today."

The final time was 1:23.29 on a fast track. Jordan's Henny held for second, a neck ahead of a game Mines and Magic.

Ivy Bell, bred in Kentucky by T/C Stable out of the Forest Wildcat mare Fallseed, notched her fifth win and 12th in-the-money finish in 16 starts. She has sprinted exclusively during her career, but Pletcher said a stretch-out in distance is a possibility.

"We have a couple options. We'll see how things go. There's a seven-furlong grade 1 at Churchill, and there's also a mile and a sixteenth race there as well. She's always run well at Churchill in the past. That's an option," Pletcher said. "She's impressed us in her training that she can run further than seven furlongs."

 

Magnum Moon Shines Brightest in Rebel Stakes
3/17/2018

Magnum Moon draws off to win the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park

Magnum Moon draws off to win the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park

Nicole Marie

Less than 24 hours after one of the last holy grails in sports fell,  took on one of the longest-standing obstacles in Thoroughbred racing.

If this is the year a No. 16 seed can dethrone a top seed for the first time in the NCAA men's basketball tournament—as the University of Maryland-Baltimore County did to Virginia March 16—the curse of Apollo, which has reigned since 1882, may be ripe for the picking this season.

In the stretch of the  at March 17, Magnum Moon presented himself as such a candidate, when he drew off from multiple grade 1-placed  to score a 3 1/2-length victory and remain unbeaten in three starts. 

While the Bob Baffert-trained  has gotten buzz off his two victories, as one with the potential to become the first horse who did not race as a 2-year-old to win the first leg of the Triple Crown since Apollo, Robert and Lawana Low's Magnum Moon has gone one better, by capturing a prep race and earning 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).

In his debut at  for Todd Pletcher Jan. 13, the son of   earned his connections' confidence with his quick progression in his first two outings—faith he solidified Saturday in his first try against stakes company.

"We were confident but nervous," Robert Low said. "He got the job done. Todd is very organized. We knew he had him ready for the race."

Magnum Moon had already shown versatility, when he won his maiden outing by 4 1/2 lengths while racing on the front end, then proved he could rate when he wheeled back to take a Feb. 15 allowance test at .

Against a solid group of nine challengers in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, the 3-1 shot used a couple different tools en route to his emphatic win. With  hustled to the lead out of the inside post, Magnum Moon settled in the three-path, with grade 1 winner  to his outside and Solomini to his inside, as the opening quarter went in :23.42. As Title Ready left the half-mile in :47.15, Magnum Moon advanced to third outside of  and reeled in the pacesetter as they moved around the final turn.

"He was traveling pretty good," said winning jockey Luis Saez, who gave up the mount on Sporting Chance to ride Magnum Moon in the Rebel. "He broke good and was in the right spot. When he came to the stretch, he just kept running and never stopped. He proved today that he can really run."

Magnum Moon took command as they settled in for the stretch run, which left even-money favorite Solomini and jockey Flavien Prat to fend off  for place honors. The winner covered the distance in 1:42.68 on a track rated fast.

"We felt like we had a very talented colt," Pletcher said. "(We were) very pleased with his first two races, but this was a step up in class and running against accomplished, seasoned colts. We were confident that he was training very well, coming into it in great shape, and just hoped he could handle the continued rise in class."

Solomini, who made his first start since he hit the wire first but was disqualified to third in the Dec. 9 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (G1), got going again late after falling back to fourth in the stretch.

"He had a good race. ... We had a good trip," Prat said. "We got on the inside, and that's not the best for him, but then I wasn't going to keep him off. And he made a nice run. ... He ran a good second."

Combatant, second in the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes (G3), got another on-the-board placing, as Title Ready and Sporting Chance were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Magnum Moon was bred in Kentucky by Ramona Bass, out of the unraced Unbridled's Song mare Dazzling Song, and was a 0,000 purchase by his owners from Claiborne Farm's consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Pletcher indicated a return trip to Oaklawn for the April 14 Arkansas Derby (G1) is "likely and logical" for Magnum Moon. From there the next target is expected to be a shot at history May 5.

"There's nothing like seeing it actually happen," Pletcher said. "You can always prepare for it and hope for it and all that. It's still up to the horse to go there out and prove it. Very proud of him for doing it today.

 

Horses a Timeless Pursuit for J. J. Pletcher
2/15/2018

By Chris McGrath

Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, 1968. J.J. Pletcher, 30 years old, is trying his luck with a few Quarter Horses–and by now some Thoroughbreds too–applying skills first learned helping his uncle, a weekend rodeo roper, in Texas. And here was this guy, D. Wayne Lukas, drawing attention to himself round the backside–and not just with those unbelievable white chaps of his.

“We used to call him Mr. Clean,” Pletcher remembered, half a century later. “That was some guy on an advertisement for cleaning fluid, so that’s what we called him, Mr. Clean, everything had to be just right. Got to know him pretty well. He was getting big at that time. He had a gift for gab, for lack of a better word; didn’t spoil the story for lack of material, put it that way. And he could back up a lot of it. He was good at what he did.”

Well, all the world knows that now. And, of course, there would be another charismatic defector from Quarter Horses a couple of decades later. But if Lukas and Bob Baffert represent the gleaming twin peaks, nobody celebrating the transfusion of Quarter Horse lore into the modern Thoroughbred should be leaving Pletcher in their shadow.

Not just because it was his compass, through nature and nurture alike, that set his son Todd on the path to records beyond even Lukas or Baffert; nor simply because it was Lukas who took Todd under his wing, as he was learning the trade. Year by year, Pletcher Sr. retains a far more tangible role in his son’s success.

For one thing, it was his seasoned eye that picked out many of the horses who first made Todd’s name. To this day, moreover, he supervises the conversion of each new draft of raw recruits into battle-ready cadets at his Payton Training Center in Ocala.

One way or another, then, he has stitched another deep Quarter Horse seam into the manual of training Thoroughbreds in the 21st Century. I mean, really deep. Listen to Pletcher, in his soft tones, conjuring memories of the old days; of an adolescence in the care of his grandparents, small farmers in the Texas panhandle.

“Those county fairs in the summertime…” he mused, sitting at the desk of his office at Payton. “Maybe a ,000 purse, 220 yards, 350 yards, a distance race would be a quarter of a mile– that was a marathon. But it was fun. And you learned a lot. You’d take your pick-up and trailer, load your horse and go; unload, tie it up to a tree, probably it was a bit like it must have been in Ireland 100 years ago. It was the farm during the week, and race on the weekends. These little bush tracks round Texas, there’d be three or four horses in the race and you’d bet a little on the side.”

Yes, the odd wager was essential. Because there was no real money to be made otherwise.

“You had to enjoy it to do it, because you barely could make a living,” Pletcher said. “That’s why you had to get out of the business, why they switched to Thoroughbreds: out of necessity. And then Wayne went to New York and started putting these horses on the front end–and they just somehow kept going. These guys had been training them to come from behind for 100 years, they didn’t know what had happened. All of a sudden he had it figured out. Pretty smart. Wayne probably changed the Thoroughbred industry as much as he did the Quarter Horse one.”

Pletcher’s own impact, if barely less profound, would be in a lower key. He dismisses his record as a trainer of Thoroughbreds–“won a few races, enough to keep a few clients, but nothing big”–but one of his patrons did have some land in Florida. And, when Pletcher tired of the track life, he accepted an invitation to establish a training center down there in 1985. It was the right time to put down some roots. Pletcher’s wife  Joan able to start what has itself become a thriving business, as a realtor specialising in equine facilities.

And then there was Todd, heading off to college in Arizona.

“He was raised on the racetrack, more or less,” Pletcher said. “Being an only child, he was at the barn when he wasn’t at school. He wanted to learn all the time. He could have done whatever he made up his mind to do, he was that smart. Everybody could tell you that, seeing this little kid with such personality, such work ethic. And he always knew what he wanted to do.”

So every summer during college Todd would be sent to one of his father’s old track buddies: Charlie Whittingham, Henry Moreno and, of course, Lukas–whose barn Todd joined, full-time, on graduation. Father and son drove non-stop from Texas to New York, taking turns at the wheel, and Todd started work next morning.

During the next seven years, against that unique Lukas whetstone, Todd sharpened the instincts and knowledge already absorbed from his father. In the meantime, as in every life, there were the usual unreadable shifts of fate. On the one hand, the Lukas team also included Gerard Butler, who would go on to train Group 1 winners in Europe and is now assistant to Pletcher Sr. On the other, there was the terrible day when the loose Tabasco Cat galloped over Jeff Lukas, the trainer’s son and right hand man. Todd found himself assuming many of that tragic figure’s responsibilities.

By the time Todd set up his own barn, in 1996, his father was also at a crossroads following the death of the patron who had brought him to Florida. They sat down together.

“You gotta have young horses in this game,” Pletcher told his son. “Gotta have them coming in every year.”

So they agreed to set up their own breaking and pre-training complex; it would be named after Pletcher’s first grandson, Payton, born the year after the 80-acre, 96-stall facility was built.

Pletcher had been going to sales forever, of course, but just about the first he attended for their new venture was Keeneland September 1998. He went to look at a horse way out the back hill, happened to look across–and there he was: a son of Southern Halo.

Joan saw him coming back with sparkling eyes. She knew that look. “Pletch, what have you seen?” she asked.

“I seen this horse, he’s put together so good! He’s not big but, I mean, he just has this lift in his walk.”

Signed for by Edward Rosen at 7,000, the colt was taken on by James Scatuorchio. Pletcher took him down to Florida, broke him, and found him such a natural that he reckoned him ready for a 4 1/2-furlong race at Keeneland in the spring. Todd objected that he didn’t even have a name yet.

“Todd,” Pletcher Sr. said. “This horse can run.”

“So he called up Scat,” he recalled. “And he said: ‘Scat, where you at?’ And Scat said: ‘I’m in France.’ ‘We gotta name this horse, there’s a race for him next week, last day of the meet.’ ‘Well, is he ready to run?’ And Todd said: ‘He’s more than ready.’ And Scat’s wife was sitting there with him, and she said: ‘Well, call him More Than Ready!’ Won nine lengths. And paid .00. I’ll never forget it. We all made a little. We loved those kind of deals, you didn’t have to do anything sneaky but now a horse breezes one time it’s in every publication in the United States!”

Though he did hang on for fourth in the Kentucky Derby, More Than Ready really blossomed when dropped in distance, notably in the GI King’s Bishop S. Pletcher’s only regret–in view of the horse’s long record of accomplishment at stud, in both hemispheres–is selling his share. No matter: it was only the beginning.

Back at the same sale in 2003, way down the catalogue, Pletcher fell for a diminutive colt by Smart Strike. So diminutive, in fact, that Todd and the rest of their team teased him about it. “Didn’t have a lot to look at,” Pletcher admitted. “But I liked the horse, for some reason; he was just very balanced. He was selling Saturday, everybody left Friday, I made two bids and bought him for ,000. So I called Scat and said: ‘I bought this little horse–but if you don’t want him, I’ll keep him.’ He said: ‘No, no, I want him.’ And I’ve kicked my ass many times for not saying I’ll have half. English Channel. Won million, champion grass horse, won the [GI] Breeders’ Cup [Turf]. No, he wasn’t very big. But he was the gutsiest S.O.B. you ever saw.”

And then, two years later, the horse that would embed Scaturchio’s nickname in the lexicon of the breed.

“Horse was next to last for sale that day,” recalled Pletcher. “Scat came out to the bar and told Todd: ‘I’m going to 150. No more.’ ‘Yes Scat.’ Got to 0,000, Todd just kept on bidding. Bought him for 0,000. And Scat just said: ‘Man!’ We just decided, we stayed that long we were gonna buy him. We’d have sold him to somebody, if Scat didn’t take him. The good part was that Scat, next day or so, said: ‘I’m giving you and Todd half this horse.’ That’s why we’re living in a nice house. Just the kind of guy he is, there’s very few people like him.”

As Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) began to shine on the track, the Pletchers sold their half to another valued client in Michael Tabor. There was still a breeding stake in the horse, however–and what might that be worth now, had Scat Daddy not dropped dead aged just 11?

“He was so well balanced, one of those you knew he was a runner just by looking at him,” said Pletcher, shaking his head. “Best moving horse I ever broke. I breezed him coupla times and I rang Todd and said: ‘I’m sending you this horse; I’m not gonna keep him here. He’s too good, I’m not messing him up.'”

Two old allies, Tabor and More Than Ready, have meanwhile opened a new chapter in the latter’s son Verrazano, now trying to fill the breach left by Scat Daddy at Ashford.

“Think we’ve got a chance with him,” Pletcher said. “Watch him, his covers sold pretty good.”

And so the legacy continues to grow. Who can say how far any of these sires might have gotten, without Pletcher to find them? Without Pletcher, to give them a grounding; and, of course, to have given their trainer an education of his own?

At 80, true, he greatly values the prodigious energy and talent of Butler. (“Just like Todd,” he says. “A workaholic, daylight to dark.”) But nor can there be many keener eyes in the game, having sifted crop after crop for so many decades.

“You look at a good Thoroughbred, you’ll see a lot of Quarter Horse in there,” Pletcher said. “Well balanced, a big ass on him, a lot of drive. When you bought a Quarter Horse, you didn’t want it muscle-bound or too skinny, you wanted that balance. So I think that’s one of the reasons Baffert and Lukas done good, too–it helped those guys a lot.

“You do train them so different, of course. With Quarter Horses, they had to be ready to go when you said go; Thoroughbreds, you’re trying to get them to relax. But whether you’re training jumping horses, trotters, whatever, basically it all still boils down to soundness, and getting into their heads.”

So here he is, testing the fruit of his judgement once again. The latest bunch of youngsters started breezing at the start of the month, and wheat will soon be sorted from chaff. Todd, needless to say, is getting his daily bulletins.

“It don’t take long to spot a runner,” Pletcher shrugs. “Most of the real good ones have a good brain. They wouldn’t run off or flip over or do something crazy. But the better the education they get as yearlings, 2-year-olds, the better chance they’ll have as racehorses.”

But the vagaries of life, especially the horseman’s life, remain ever in mind. After a lifetime of horse-trading, from the Texas fairgrounds to Scat Daddy, Pletcher never forgets the gambler’s prayer.

“Dear Lord,” he recited, smiling. “Help me break even.”

 

Audible Much the Best in Holy Bull
2/2/2018

Audible wins the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park

Son of Into Mischief rolls to a 5 1/2-length win in first graded test.

By  

At the start of the ,  had to straighten himself out after taking contact from the longest shot on the board. On the final turn, he had a grade 1 winner breathing down his neck, threatening to give a lesson in what really comes with a step up in class.

But the good ones know how to shake off such challenges, and in the 1 1/16-mile test at  Feb. 3, the latest wunderkind from the barn of Todd Pletcher proved his mettle. In his first try against graded company against some of the more well-regarded members of his class, it was Audible who looked most professional of all in a statement-making outing on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

It wouldn't be prep season without a Pletcher-trained youngster throwing down an eye-catching run at Gulfstream, and Audible fulfilled the tradition in emphatic fashion Saturday for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and SF Racing. After racing three-wide down the backstretch, the son of   turned back a challenge from  on the far turn, then thoroughly humbled all eight of his foes with a 5 1/2-length victory.

The Holy Bull offered qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale towards a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and succeeded in luring a field considered among the saltiest of the preps thus far. In addition to Free Drop Billy, graded winner  came in with 9-5 favoritism off his victory over fellow entrant  in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at  in November. Instead, it was Audible who ran off with the lion's share, which vaulted him to 12th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

Bred in New York by Oak Bluff Stables out of the winning Gilded Time mare Blue Devil Bel, Audible was purchased by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club for 0,000 from Crupi's New Castle Farm at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-olds in training sale. Though he didn't try stakes company in his three starts as a juvenile, he did show signs of being one to monitor once the march towards the first Saturday in May started to heat up. After breaking his maiden second-time out in a one-mile test at  Nov. 15, the bay colt stalked-and-pounced his way to a sizzling 9 3/4-length allowance win over the same track and distance Dec. 6.

"We actually brought him down (to Florida) a little bit later because we were entered in the New York-bred stake, and then all the bad weather hit in New York and it got delayed and carried over," Pletcher said. "Maybe it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The original plan was to run him in the New York-bred stake and then bring him down, but when all the bad weather hit we came up with a different strategy and it seemed to work out well today.

"He shipped in great and trained really well when he got here, so it kind of made it an easy decision that this was an easy race to target."

Audible showed in his two prior wins he was handy enough to rate wherever needed. That tractability was on display in the Holy Bull, when the eventual winner recovered from a bump with 108-1 longshot  at the start and settled between horses three-wide in second as  led the field through an opening quarter-mile in :23.59.

Jockey Javier Castellano had Audible tracking third as they reached the half-mile in :47.14, and confidently began asking for a sustained run approaching the final turn. With the weakening pacesetter dropping out of it just past the three-eighths pole, Audible then had to deal with Free Drop Billy rolling on his outside in that one's first start since running ninth in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

The battle ended in quick order, with Audible putting the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) winner away at the head of the lane and drawing off handily to hit the wire in 1:41.92 over a fast track.

"I love the way he did it today, compared to our last race, because his last race he was still developing and a bit laid back," Castellano said of his mount. "I really had to ride him last time out. ... Today he was sharp and had tactical speed in the race and we could move and he'd give me everything I asked of him. I love these kinds of horses ... where you can move quick and can put them in a good position.

"It's only a mile and sixteenth today, but the way he galloped out was amazing. I look forward to the next race."

Free Drop Billy was a clear second-best under Luis Saez, finishing 7 3/4-lengths in front of Dale Romans-trained stablemate Tiz Mischief in third. Enticed had no response after a ground-saving trip under Joel Rosario and ended up fourth, well clear of  in fifth.

"He ran hard. He tried hard. The winner was tough," Saez said. "Maybe after the layoff he got a little tired, but he tried. I think he'll be ready for his next start."

Added Rosario of Enticed, "I got a good trip. He just didn't give me a run."

Audible improved his record to three wins from four starts with 7,720 in earnings.

 "I think the question now is do you run him two more times or one more time and we'll let him tell us kind of how he bounces out of this," Pletcher said. "He's a very kind horse to train, very easy on himself in the morning. I love the way he came over here and handled everything. He was perfect in the paddock, post parade, gate—all those little intangibles that really help with horses that are pointing for big days."

 

 

 

Tommy Macho Wins Hooper
1/1/2018

Tommy Macho wins the Fred W. Hooper Stakes at Gulfstream Park

Paul Pompa Jr.'s  powered to the front around the far turn and fended off game longshot  to snap a six-race losing streak in the Jan. 27 at .

Tommy Macho was the 2-1 favorite in his season debut for trainer Todd Pletcher. Unraced since running fourth in the Sept. 23 Kelso Handicap (G2) at ,  it was the sixth victory and third at Gulfstream for the 6-year-old   horse, who won the Hooper in 2016 and took the Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) in January of 2017, which was his most recent win until Saturday.

 was fastest from the gate and took the field through a quarter-mile in :24.09 and a half in :46.57, as jockey Luis Saez had Tommy Macho poised to strike in the clear three wide. As three-quarters went in 1:10.79, the eventual winner surged to the lead approaching the stretch. He was followed by 15-1 Conquest Big E, who chased down the lane as they separated from their rivals, but was unable to get by.

"That stretch run was really impressive," Saez said. "He was really ready for this race today. He broke well, we got a perfect position, and when we hit the stretch, he just took off." 

Tommy Macho ran the mile in 1:36.10 over a fast main track to win by three-quarters of a length over Conquest Big E. He returned .20, .40, and , while the runner-up brought .60 and .20.  (.40) finished third, another 4 1/4 lengths back, with  fourth. , , , , and Moves Like Alicompleted the order of finish.

"He's a cool horse," Pletcher said. "I give the horse a lot of credit. He loves Gulfstream. He loves the one-turn mile. He's been awfully good to us. We'll probably skip the (Feb. 24 Hal's Hope) and go to the race on March 31 (the grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile)."

 

Tommy Macho was bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis, out of the   mare Starstream, and sold for ,000 to Juan Naciff through the War Horse Place consignment to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall 2013 yearling sale. 

 

Bal Harbor Takes Flight in ,000 Smooth Air
12/9/2017

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Red Oak Stable homebred Bal Harbour came with a steady drive down the center of the racetrack to reel in stubborn longshot Whereshetoldmetogo and win Saturday’s ,000 Smooth Air by a neck at Gulfstream Park.

The one-mile Smooth Air was the second of three stakes featuring 2-year-old males and one of six overall for juveniles to kick off an all-stakes 11-race Clasico Internacional del Caribe program being held outside Latin America and the Caribbean for the first time since its inception in 1966.

Bal Harbour (.60), a narrow second choice at 2-1 to Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate Coltandmississippi, completed the distance in 1:38.01 over a sloppy and sealed main track. Whereshetoldmetogo, well-beaten by Bal Harbour in the Sapling Stakes Sept. 2, was 6 ¾ lengths clear of Stronger in third.

It was the second straight stakes win for Bal Harbour, a chestnut son of multiple Grade 1 winner First Samurai, following his 1 ¼-length triumph in the one-mile Sapling, his most recent start. Pletcher also won last year’s Smooth Air with Fact Finding.

“He’s had a pretty active 2-year-old campaign and we wanted to freshen him up a little bit,” Pletcher said. “We thought that since he had already handled the mile, we didn’t want to shorten him up and this would be the logical place to bring him back. He’s trained well and with the rain we didn’t feel it’d hurt his chances at all since he’s shown some form on an off track.”

Bon Raison, the third of Pletcher’s Smooth Air triumvirate, was quickest from the gate and led the field of 10 through an opening quarter-mile in 23.50 seconds with Winking At Thedude and Coltandmississippi in closest pursuit.

Javier Castellano had Bal Harbour relaxed running fifth, moving up after a half in 46.70 seconds and steering to the outside at the top of the stretch following six furlongs in 1:12.21. The Hall of Fame jockey set Bal Harbour down for the run to the wire and gained ground with every stride to edge clear late.

Forever Taken, Coltandmississippi, Winking At Thedude, Handsome Franco, Renaissance Frolic, Bon Raison and Tip Sheet completed the order of finish.

“I had a perfect trip, sitting right behind the speed,” Castellano said. “We went pretty quick. I tried to save some ground and love the way he finished today. Todd told me to take my time, just put him where he belongs and go from there. Down the stretch I knew I had it.”

Pletcher said he would likely point to Gulfstream’s series for 3-year-olds that starts with the one-mile Mucho Macho Man Jan. 6 and concludes with the million Florida Derby (G1) March 31.

“He’s a hardy little horse and tries hard. It looked like he had a fight on his hands from the eighth pole to the wire and kept fighting a little more,” Pletcher said. “The great thing about the winter and spring is that there are plenty of choices to run. Timing for the Mucho Macho Man would make sense to run him there if he trains accordingly.”

 

Destin Prevails in Marathon Stakes at Del Mar
11/11/2017

Destin wins the 0,000 Marathon Stakes (G2) Nov. 3 at Del Mar

Belmont Stakes runner-up from 2016 relishes 14 furlongs Nov. 3 at Del Mar

By 

 

, who lost the 2016 Belmont Stakes (G1) by a heartbreaking nose to , raced close up the entire journey and pulled away late to defeat longshot  by a length in the 0,000  going 1 3/4 miles Nov. 3 on Breeders’ Cup Friday at.

Destin raced just off the frontrunning Infobedad through the early stages of the Marathon through fractions of :23.87, :49.06, and 1:14.26. Up the backstretch  made an impression at the rail but did not gain level terms with the two frontrunners, who ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:05.97 and 1 1/2 miles in 2:32.06.

Favored  made a menacing move around the final turn but could not sustain it, as Destin pulled ahead of Infobedad to hit the wire in 2:57.77, just .37 seconds off the track record. Destin had 1 1/4 lengths on the runner-up, with Hard Aces settling for third and  finishing fourth.

Destin is a 4-year-old son of  —Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer bred in Kentucky by James Weigel and Taylor Made Stallions. He is owned by Twin Creeks Racing Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and was ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Destin won an allowance-optional claimer in August at  before stumbling at the start and losing all chance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) Oct. 7 at . His previous victory had come in last year’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2) before he ran sixth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

Destin, the 2-1 second choice in the Marathon, returned , .20, and .80. Infobedad paid .80 and .20, and Hard Aces was good for .40 to show.

 

Madefromlucky Retires to Northview Stallion Station
10/16/2017

Madefromlucky gallops at Oaklawn Park in March, a multiple graded stakes winner and earner of ,351,500, has been retired to Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md., for the 2018 season. Northview is syndicating the stallion, with details to be announced at a later date. 

"Madefromlucky has a combination of racing ability and pedigree that we just could not pass up," said Northview president Richard Golden. 

The 5-year-old, who is by two-time champion   and out of a full sister to three-time leading sire  , retires with a record of 6-5-5 from 24 career starts. 

Madefromlucky won his final two starts—the 1 1/2-mile Greenwood Cup Stakes (G3) at  in September, which he won by 12 1/4 lengths, and the Temperence Hill Invitational at 1 5/8 miles at Belmont Park Oct. 1. He was a graded stakes winner twice at 3, taking the West Virginia Derby (G2) and Peter Pan Stakes (G2), both at 1 1/8 miles. 

Madefromlucky was a winner at 2 by 4 3/4 lengths in a maiden race at , and after taking his 3-year-old debut, also at Gulfstream, he competed exclusively in stakes competition. In addition to his wins, he finished second to   in the grade 2 Rebel Stakes at  in his stakes debut.

From the first crop of classic winner Lookin At Lucky, Madefromlucky is out of Home From Oz (by Pulpit) and is a half brother to A Shin Gold, a stakes-placed earner of 5,785 in Japan. His second dam, stakes winner Tap Your Heels, is a half sister to champion sprinter and successful sire Rubiano. The family also includes Belmont Stakes (G1) winner, champion, and grade 1 sire Summer Birdand sire Glitterman.

Madefromlucky arrived at Northview and is available for inspection.

"We're very excited to have Madefromlucky at the farm. He has the looks to back up his high-profile pedigree and race record," said David Wade, general manager of Northview. "I'd encourage breeders to make an appointment to come to the farm and see for themselves."

 

Bonus Points Storms Home in Maryland Million Classic
10/10/2017

Bonus Points storms home in the Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Park

 

Majestic Warrior colt was ninth early, but blew by his rivals late.

By Jeremy Balan 

 

Back racing in the state of his birth for just the third time in his career, Three Diamonds Farm's Bonus Points stormed home to take the 0,000 Maryland Million Classic Oct. 21 at Laurel Park.

Having raced against graded company for much of his 3-year-old campaign, the drop in class was noticeable in the stretch, as the Majestic Warrior colt trained by Todd Pletcher inhaled his rivals and pulled away late to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

Ninth early in the field of 11 under jockey Nik Juarez, as many as 10 1/2 lengths behind early leader and two-time Maryland Million Classic winner Admirals War Chest, Bonus Points still had plenty of work to do as he exited the final turn in the 1 1/8-mile test, but rallied wide to finish off the distance in 1:50.50. Fellow closer Southside Warrior finished second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Ghost Bay.

Admirals War Chest, who was seeking his third straight Maryland Million Classic victory, set fractions of :23.53 and :47.83 through a half-mile, but began to back up in the final turn and finished last (Jerandson was pulled up early, did not finish, and was vanned off with a fractured rear ankle). John Jonestook over to run six furlongs in 1:12.74, but also didn't last in the top spot and finished seventh as the closers took over late.

"I just sat behind the speed, knowing they were going pretty quick up front for us, and just had plenty of horse coming for home," Juarez said. "I had much the best underneath me today. When you ride for Todd, you're always going to be confident. He's a great horseman.

"I spoke to him this morning and he was very confident in however the race played out. He thought that we had something special today. He just said he's versatile. He can come from off of it or go to the lead. Either way, just ride how it comes up."

Bred by Country Life Farm out of the Not For Love mare Baby Love, Bonus Points now has a 3-3-2 record from 14 starts and 0,650 in earnings.

Juarez, the son of Maryland trainer Calixto Juarez, won two other races on the Maryland Million card, with Clever Mind in the 0,000 Nursery and Spartianos in the 5,000 Turf.

 "It's special. It's really great to come back home and just to be back here for a day like this, but to win three is even better," Juarez said. "I'm just very thankful."

Three Maryland sires got their first black-type stakes winners on the Million card. Buffum , who stood for ,500 at Northview Stallion Station in 2017, was represented by Clever Mind in the Nursery. Freedom Child , who stood then 2017 season for ,000 at Country Life Farm, got his with Limited View in the Lassie. Etched, a Bonita Farm stallion for ,000 in 2017, sired My Sistersledge, who took the Ladies.

Other winners on the card were Blu Moon Ace (Sprint) and Crabcakes(Distaff).

 

 

Seabhac Breaks Maiden With Pilgrim Victory
9/30/2017

Seabhac wins the Pilgrim StakesMaking only his third career start and wearing blinkers for the first time, Donegal Racing's  rallied late to break his maiden, winning the 0,000  Sept. 30 at .

Breaking from post 4 with Luis Saez aboard, the pair stalked from second position as  led the field of eight through fractions of :24.61 for the opening quarter-mile, with the half-mile in :49.51.

Seabhac, dk b/br, 2/c
Scat Daddy — Curlin Hawk, by Curlin

Owner: Donegal Racing
Breeder: Three Chimneys Farm (KY)
Trainer: Todd A. Pletcher
Jockey: Luis Saez
Information provided by  at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes
Scat Daddy stood at Ashford Stud for 0,000 (2016).

Sale History
KEESEP2016 • 0,000 • Consignor: Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent • Buyer: Jerry Crawford, agent for Donegal Racing.

At the quarter-pole, stablemate began to make a run toward the leader shifting from the two-path to the rail while 6-5 post-time favorite began to make his way from the back of the pack.

Grabbing the lead at the eighth-pole, Seabhac held off a late charging Voting Control to secure the victory by half a length.

The winning time for the 1 1/16-miles on the inner turf was 1:43.48.

"It was just a good trip," said Saez. "It was pretty exciting. He broke pretty good. He was right there, and when I asked him at the three-eighths, he just took off. When he came into the stretch he was running. I can't wait to ride him next time."

Returning .80 for a win wager, the son of Scat Daddy boosted his career earnings to 4,100. 

Finishing second by a half-length in his debut at  Aug. 5, Seabhac followed up with a fourth-place finish in the grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes before finally putting things together Saturday, winning trainer Todd Pletcher said.

"I think blinkers and experience; a combination of those things helped," said Pletcher." "He ran good races both times at Saratoga. He just encountered a little bit of traffic, especially in his first start. He seems like a talented colt who is still figuring it out." 

"We were hoping he would break a little more alert and put himself in a good spot. If you watch the replay of the With Anticipation, he got stopped pretty hard at the quarter pole and it was kind of an impossible spot to rally from, but he still closed well."

Following Voting Control in second was Maraud, Looking Ready, , , , and  completing the order of finish.

 

Coal Front Digs In to Win Gallant Bob Stakes
9/23/2017

Coal Front sails to a half-length victory in the Gallant Bob at ParxCoal Front looked beat as he sprinted down the homestretch in the 0,000 Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) Sept. 23, but the son of   was able to come back to win by a half-length.

After shooting to the lead in the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds, which drew a field of 10, Coal Front cranked out fractions of :22.21, :45.21, and :57.07 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

Coming off the turn for home he looked free and clear, but made a move on the outside to get a head in front near the eighth pole. Losing the lead only briefly, Coal Front was able to re-rally and edged away to score for owners Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners in a final time of 1:08.94 over a fast track.

The winner paid .60, .20, and .60 across the board as the 4-5 betting favorite. American Pastime finished second to return .40 and .00. Coupled in the betting, Coal Front's stablemate Petrov got up for third.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Coal Front came into the Gallant Bob off a fifth place finish in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at , which was won by . Coal Front won his first three starts prior to that race, including a July 29 victory in the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga.

In his first start, Coal Front drew away to a 6 1/2-length victory at Keeneland April 20 and followed his debut score with an allowance win at Belmont Park June 8 by 2 3/4 lengths. With a record of four wins from five starts, the colt pushed his earnings to 1,000.

Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly, Coal Front is out of the unraced   mare Miner's Secret. Robert LaPenta paid 5,000 for the colt during the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sale April 2-year-olds in training sale. He was consigned by Kirkwood Stables.

 

Pletcher, Ortiz, Dubb take Saratoga Titles
9/4/2017

Todd PletcherThe race for top trainer, jockey, and owner came down to the wire at , with Todd Pletcher capturing his 13th H. Allen Jerkens trainer title, Jose Ortiz winning his second Angel Cordero Jr. riding title in a row, and Michael Dubb and his various partnerships taking his fourth straight owners title on the final day at the Spa.

Pletcher finished the meet with 40 wins, tying the record set last year by Chad Brown, who finished second in this year's standings with 39 wins.

"I've never won 40 and it's hard to do," Pletcher said. "I told Chad last year when he did it that it was a hell of an accomplishment. Those guys are tough to beat. We exceeded expectations and I'm proud of it."

Among Pletcher's wins were the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) with and the Adirondack Stakes (G2) with .

"The whole team put a lot of work into it. I'm proud of the whole staff. Anthony Sciametta at Monmouth sent up winners and Byron Hughes from Belmont sent up winners. It was a big effort by everyone."

Linda Rice finished third with 16 wins.

In the first race of the Saratoga meet, Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard  dueled down the stretch with his brother Jose Ortiz aboard , winning by three-quarters of a length. The duel foreshadowed the competition the two would have for the whole meet. While Jose Ortiz lost that race, he won the war for leading jockey, capturing his second straight title with 58 wins.

"Just being able to be here and win races here is huge," he said. "To win leading rider for a second year in a row, I feel blessed and I just thank all trainers and owners that give me an opportunity to ride the horses and my agent, who has done a great job and worked really hard for me. The owners, the trainers, all the people on the backstretch, the grooms, exercise riders, hot walkers, without them I couldn't do this."

Victories in the Alabama Stakes (G1, ), the Longines Test Stakes (G1, ), and the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap () highlighted the meet for Ortiz, who also collected five wins on Aug. 21.

Jose's brother finished second with 53 wins. John Velazquez was third with 46 wins.  

Dubb and his various partnerships won the owners title for the fourth straight year. He had 15 winners this summer. Klaravich Stable and William Lawrence were second with 13 winners. Repole Stable and Midwest Thoroughbreds tied for third with nine victories.

 

Hieroglyphics follows plan to perfection in Better Talk Now Stakes
8/28/2017

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Hieroglyphics has been consistent, racing forwardly and finishing first or second in five of his six most recent starts. On Monday in the paddock prior to the 0,000 Better Talk Now Stakes, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez decided to try and take him farther off the pace.


 

The plan worked to perfection as Hieroglyphics settled several lengths back while saving ground and then finished strongly to run down the battling leaders in the final sixteenth of a mile. He held off a frantic final bid from Small Bear to win by a neck.

The Better Talk Now was restricted to 3-year-olds who had never won a stakes of a mile or more. Hieroglyphics came into the race with wins at a mile and 1 1/16 miles, but Monday was his stakes debut.

Adonis Creed came barreling out of the gate to seize the early lead from even-money favorite Blind Ambition, who also is trained by Pletcher. He set solid splits of 23.28 and 47.13 before being joined on the far turn of the mile turf race by Blind Ambition and three-wide Holiday Stone.

Those two took over in upper stretch following six furlongs in 1:10.75, but the taxing pace began to take its toll. At that point, Velazquez took Hieroglyphics off the rail and to the outside of the top pair. He surged to the lead leaving the sixteenth pole and then held off Small Bear and a late run from Snap Decision.

"The race played out perfectly," Velazquez said. "We wanted to sit back with him and save ground, and when I took him outside he was full of run."

Hieroglyphics, a son of  who races for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, paid .40 in the six-horse field and was timed in 1:33.69.

"This colt is putting everything together," Pletcher said. "He had a great trip and really finished well."

Hieroglyphics now has a 7-3-3-0 record and earnings of 4,272.

Small Bear finished a half-length in front of Snap Decision. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Holiday Stone in fourth. Blind Ambition finished a nose farther back in fifth.

The Better Talk Now was Pletcher's 33rd win of the meet, tying him with Chad Brown atop the trainer standings with a week to go in the Saratoga season.

 

Pure Silver Dominates Adirondack Stakes
8/12/2017

Pure Silver pulls away in the stretch to win the Adirondack Stakes

In her first time outside of New York-bred company,  showed she was up to the challenge when she shook free of her competition and pulled away to win the Aug. 12  by 9 1/2 lengths. 

Now undefeated in three starts, Twin Creeks Racing Stables’   filly gave trainer Todd Pletcher his fifth victory in the grade 2 race at . 

"She won pretty convincingly," Pletcher said. "She's pretty fast. She didn't actually get away quite as easily as she normally does, but she made up for it quickly and got to the lead the right way. She kind of ran them off their feet from there.

"It's been a hard track sometimes to make up a lot of ground on. We knew that this filly was naturally fast and we were going to let her do her thing."

The trainer said that he would consider the grade 1 Spinaway Stakes for the filly's next start. 

"I think we'll certainly take a look at it (the Spinaway)," he said. "She's a filly who has carried her condition really well. Now having run three times, she looks fantastic."

In the 6 1/2-furlong test for juvenile fillies, Pletcher stablemate stumbled out of the gate as longshot  tried to take the early lead but was beat out by Pure Silver, who assumed control. With jockey John Velazquez aboard, Pure Silver led the field of eight through quick fractions of :22.44 and :45.48 for the first half-mile. 

, a last-out maiden winner at  in her only other start, began to pressure the leader around the turn, but Pure Silver shook off the challenge, took off down the stretch, and opened up on the field.  launched a mild bid down the middle of the track but was nowhere close to catching the runaway winner and had to settle for second.  checked in third, and Stainless recovered from her stumble to finish fourth. 

The final time over the fast track was 1:17.22. , Limited View, , and Di Maria completed the order of finish.

"We expected to be on the lead," Velazquez said. "We did break very well. I used her a little bit to make sure I was going to be close to the pace. Once I got to the spot I wanted to be in, I just waited there. She did a good job settling around the turn and finished up really well." 

Off as the 8-5 favorite, Pure Silver returned .40, .30, and .90.

Pure Silver made her debut June 22 at , another front-running effort she won by 1 1/2 lengths. She picked up a black-type win in her next start, the July 16 Lynbrook Stakes at Belmont, where she lost her footing at the start, traveled two-wide on the backstretch, and won by 1 1/2 lengths. She now has earnings of 7,200. 

Bred in New York by her owner Twin Creeks Farm, Pure Silver is out of the stakes-winning Forest Wildcat mare Jehan. The filly was a 5,000 purchase by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, as agent, at this year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Twin Creeks also raced her sire, a multiple graded stakes winner and earner of more than .2 million.

Pure Silver is the first graded stakes winner for Mission Impazible, a current second-crop sire at Sequel Stallions New York who stood for a ,500 fee in 2017. 

 

Coal Front Continues Streak in Amsterdam
7/29/2017

Coal Front Continues Streak in AmsterdamWinning his first two starts by a combined 9 1/4 lengths,  took another step forward in his short career when he extended his win streak to three races and picked up his first graded score in the July 29 . 

In the 6 1/2-furlong test for 3-year-olds, the   colt led the entire way and held off a driving in the stretch to score by 1 1/2 lengths. The colt, owned by Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners, gave jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher their fourth wins of the day at . 

"We weren't committed to the lead, the thing we were focused on was letting him break and kind of find his rhythm," Pletcher said. "We knew he was fast, but we didn't want to be in a speed duel, but we didn't want to take away what is coming easy to him. We kind of left it in Johnny's hands. Johnny said he was very relaxed, really comfortable. A really talented horse."

Before the Amsterdam, jockey Luis Saez needed help reigning in longshot  in preparation for the start. Out of the gate, Coal Front broke evenly out of post 2 and assumed the lead along the rail as second choice  pressed the pace in second and  tracked from third. 

Traveling through fractions of :22.37 and :45.90 for a half-mile, Coal Front had a three-length lead in the stretch as Excitations, under Javier Castellano, came surging from fifth. Coal Front held off his competition and hit the wire in a final time of 1:16.05 on a track rated fast. Excitations finished second, and Singing Bullet was third 7 1/2 lengths back. 

Mo Cash and completed the order of finish. Aquamarine was eased but was able to make it off the track under his own power.

Off at 3-5, Coal Front returned .20, .60, and .40 across the board. 

"It really worked out good," Velazquez said of the win. "We liked the post position and we wanted to get into position anyway. He broke really well. He settled really well where he was. It was pretty easy, really. He was playing around a little, and once I got serious with him, as soon as I let him know he needed to run, he responded right away."

In his debut in a six-furlong maiden race in April at , Coal Front tracked the pace early and traveled five wide around the turn before drawing off for a 6 1/2-length score. 

And in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at  in June, he had difficulty loading but broke well and pressed the leader before taking over after a half-mile and holding on for a 2 3/4-length score. 

Coal Front has accumulated 6,000 from three wins and Pletcher said the colt could start next in the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) Aug. 26.

"It's hard to win a race, much less the first three," Pletcher said. "He beat a pretty strong group of older horses last time, and then to step up into a graded stakes, it just seems like he's getting better and better.

"We talked about the Allen Jerkens, we'll see how he comes out of it. He's a horse with a strong pedigree and enough talent to stretch out, when the time is right."

Bred by Michael Edward Connelly, Coal Front was a 5,000 purchase by LaPenta at the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April 2-year-olds in training auction. Out of the unraced   mare Miner's Secret, he is a half brother to graded-stakes placed . 

 

Outplay Outclasses Competition in Curlin Stakes
7/28/2017

Outplay Outclasses Competition in Curlin StakesDuring the stretch run of the 0,000  July 28, Repole Stable's  managed to showcase both how much maturing he still has to do and how much upside his connections have to look forward to.

The few erratic strides the son of Bernardini produced down the lane of the 1 1/8-mile test did little to deter from the dominant effort he was in the midst of, as the Todd Pletcher-trainee had little company to keep his interest during his 5 3/4-length win at . 

With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Outplay earned his third win in the same gate-to-wire manner he flaunted during his prior two victories. Allowed to cruise through the opening quarter-mile in :24.06 and the half-mile in :48.71, with  as his nearest challenger, the bay colt held the lead out of the far turn and kept clear of  in the stretch. He completed distance in 1:50.59 despite running a bit green through the lane.

"I don't know that we expected a dominant performance," Pletcher said. "We felt like the horse was training very well and we felt like, on paper, we had a bit of a pace advantage. You never know what everyone else's strategy is, but we felt like we had the most natural speed and we wanted to take advantage of that.

"He got a little bit green down the lane when he was by himself. He went back to his inside lead and Johnny had to correct him, but overall I thought it was a very impressive performance."

Outplay entered the Curlin Stakes off a third-place effort in the June 10 Easy Goer Stakes at , his first step up from allowance company. His maturation process has necessitated some patience, as he took four tries to break his maiden and finally got the job done with a front-running, 8 1/2-length win going a mile at  April 8.

He followed that run up with a 1 1/2-length score at  May 6,  and Pletcher indicated a return trip for the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 23 could be on the table.

"I don't know for sure. I don't want to commit to the (grade 1) Travers yet," Pletcher said. "He did have a huge win at Parx earlier in the year. The Pennsylvania Derby could make some sense, but I'll talk to (owner Mike) Repole about it. I'm sure he'd be excited to run in the Travers. We'll see how things go tomorrow and how the Travers shapes up and go from there."

Small Bear finished three-quarters of a length in front of for second place. , , and Hemsworth completed the order of finish.

Sent off at 2-1 odds, Outplay paid .10, .80, and .20 across the board and improved his record to three wins from seven starts with 3,000 in earnings. 

Bred by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Outplay is out of the Storm Cat mare Miss Kate and was purchased by Repole Stable for 5,000 from the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale.

 

Pure Silver Goes Gate-to-Wire in Lynbrook
7/16/2017

Pure Silver Goes Gate-to-Wire in LynbrookGoing off as a four-horse race, the 0,000 Lynbrook Stakes at  for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies was nothing short of a match race on paper, but in the end it was Todd Pletcher-trained  who prevailed July 16.

Much like she had done in her June 22 debut, the Twin Creeks homebred Pure Silver bounced out of the gate and took the lead, with 2-5 favorite running just off her flank to the outside. Second-choice Pure Silver completed the six furlongs in 1:11.4 under jockey John Velazquez.

The Jeremiah Englehart-trained I Still Miss You was urged on by jockey Javier Castellano, but had to work hard to stay with the daughter of   once they entered the stretch and finished 1 1/2 lengths back. 

"After the last start we knew she had the speed out of the gate and she showed it again today," Pletcher's assistant Byron Hughes said. "She was able to hang on. We will see how she comes out of the race and from there it will be somewhere at Saratoga for sure."

"We just broke good and got to the lead," Velazquez said. "I tried to save something for the end and she put in a good fight in the lane. She broke so fast, it was kind of weird. She was so fast, she was on the ground and in the next step, she's up and running. She got pressed and when she had to put in a fight, she did it all the way."

Prior to Sunday's loss, the daughter of , owned by Gold Star Racing Stable, Matthew Hand, and Brian McKenzie, was a perfect two-for-two and came into the race off a 2 1/4-length victory in the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria Stakes at Belmont June 8.

"She ran good. She was second best today," Castellano said. "I had the opportunity to go by and I just couldn't get by the other filly today. She was much the best. She dictated the pace and set good fractions, :46 and 1:11. We were rolling. You could see the separation from the other two horses in the race. 

"She was really comfortable, she rated perfect, and she settled behind (Pure Silver). She did everything the right way, except she couldn't get by that other horse. She's got a lot of potential and I give a lot of credit to the winner."

The winner paid .20 and .20 with no show wagering and I Still Miss You returned .10 for the place. The pair finished 14 1/2 lengths in front of Pletcher's other entry , who finished third. Northernstreetgal rounded out the field.

Pure Silver is out of the stakes-winning Forest Wildcat mare Jehan. Twin Creeks purchased Jehan for 0,000 at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale from Lane's End, agent. Mission Impazible, last year's leading first-crop sire in New York, stands at Sequel Stallions New York. His 2017 fee was ,500.

 

Declaration of War, Justin Phillip Get Stakes Winners
7/15/2017

The first black-type winners came abroad and stateside, respectively, for   and   July 15.

Declaration of War, a son of  who stands at Ashford Stud in Kentucky for ,000, had the 2-year-old filly  win the Jebel Ali Silver Anglesey Stakes (G3) at the Curragh for Coolmore connections and trainer Aidan O'Brien. Actress took on males and came home a 1 3/4-length winner of the six-furlong test on turf rated good to firm. She was a 0,000 purchase by Cromwell Bloodstock from the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2016 select yearling sale, and was bred in Ireland by Lynch Bages out of the multiple graded stakes winner Nasty Storm, a daughter of Gulch.

Justin Phillip, a son of   who stands at Castleton Lyons for ,000, had his first black-type winner score when Gary Barber's 2-year-old  took the  at  for trainer Todd Pletcher.  What a Catch was a 5,000 purchase in March at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale, when agent Justin Casse bought the chestnut colt from SGV Thoroughbreds' consignment. SGV picked up What a Catch for ,000 from Paramount Sales' consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2016 preferred New York-bred sale. He was bred by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate out of the Yes It's True mare Catch My Fancy. 

What a Catch is undefeated in two starts, and took the six-furlong dirt test by a game, frontrunning length under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. He finished the distance in 1:11.21 on a fast track.

 

Keen Ice Blows By Shaman Ghost in Suburban
7/8/2017

Keen Ice Blows By Shaman Ghost in SuburbanSomewhere in the back of his mind, trainer Todd Pletcher could have had a mantra from his Hall of Fame mentor playing in his head every time he walked past grade 1 winner 's stall.

"We don't give up on them," D. Wayne Lukas has been known to say, especially of runners who take a less-than-straightforward road to the winner's circle.

So when Travers Stakes (G1) winner Keen Ice—yes, that Travers, where Triple Crown winner  was handed a stinging defeat—dropped not only his first start for Pletcher after he was moved from the barn of Dale Romans, but his second, third, fourth, and fifth tries as well, Pletcher regrouped, got his big bay runner together, and won the 0,000 . 

Keen Ice, racing for Donegal Racing and Calumet Farm the first time since his seventh-place finish in the March 25 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1)—that loss on the heels of a fourth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1)—found the perfect trip and perfect distance for his steadfast closing style in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban at July 8.

"We were hoping he'd be able to run fresh coming from Dubai and we gave him a little freshening at Calumet following that race, and he was coming into this race training well," Pletcher said. "That was a great effort, he really ran a huge race."

The winner was bred in Kentucky by Glencrest Farm out of the   mare Medomak, and was a 0,000 purchase by Donegal from Three Chimneys Sales at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. He was previously sold for ,000 to Chesapeake Bloodstock from Four Star Sales' consignment to the 2012 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Sent off at odds of 5-1 in a short field of five led by 1-2 choice , the 5-year-old son of   raced fifth behind a tepid :25.28 quarter set by frontrunner , moved to fourth along the rail as the half went in :50.01, and advanced to third behind three-quarters in 1:13.81 and a 1:37.89 mile.

"Coming into it, we were a bit concerned with the lack of pace on paper," Pletcher said. "We thought he might have to be a little bit more forwardly placed and (jockey) Jose (Ortiz) gave him a great ride to position him towards to the rail. The fractions weren't fast up front, but Jose had him in a perfect position and when he was able to swing out, you really saw him extend to the wire."

Shaman Ghost, who chased Matt King Coal throughout, issued a successful takeover at the head of the lane after he was strongly asked for run around the far turn, but Ortiz shifted Keen Ice outside and the big bay kept plugging along to take over in the final furlong. The final time was 2:02.02 on a fast track. 

Keen Ice returned , .90, and .80, while Shaman Ghost brought .30 and .10.  finished third, worth .70, and was followed home by  and Matt King Coal. Keen Ice improved his record to 3-2-5 from 22 starts, for earnings of ,037,245. According to Pletcher, the Oct. 7 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) could be his next goal.

"I know that Shaman Ghost is a really good horse but how the race developed, my horse pulled me really close to him," Ortiz said. "I thought I was going to be a little farther (behind). When we hit the three-eighths pole, I was right next to (Shaman Ghost), on his heels, without asking, so I was in a very good position. Keen Ice gave me everything he had. He was full of run today."

 

Kentucky Derby Winner Always Dreaming Gets Back to Work
7/1/2017

Kentucky Derby Winner Always Dreaming Gets Back to WorkThere are certain achievements time cannot dull. No matter the months that march forward,  will always be the winner of the the first leg of the 2017 Triple Crown, the outing that had his entrepreneurial owners bouncing like school kids in the mud at  May 6.

Time can also benefit those worn out by their successful exploits. After a freshening following his disappointing outing in the middle classic, Always Dreaming has officially gotten back to the business of trying to regain his prior brilliance.

The Todd Pletcher-conditioned winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) put in his first workout since finishing eighth in the May 20 Preakness Stakes (G1), covering four furlongs in :49.96 over the training track July 1. 

Where the son of   was extremely aggressive in his training lead-up to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness—prompting Pletcher to add draw reins to his morning equipment—Always Dreaming appeared much more settled in his first work back and smoothly went through his paces under no urging from exercise rider Hector Ramos.

Pletcher previously stated that the July 30 Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at  and July 29 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at  were both under consideration for his charge, although co-owner Anthony Bonomo said Saturday they are leaning toward the latter.

"I think he's doing great after getting some time off and getting over being so tired from that demanding race (in the Preakness)," said Bonomo, who owns Always Dreaming along with fellow majority partner Vinnie Viola, as well as MeB Racing, Teresa Viola, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds. "When he works, it doesn't even look he's working, because he is so smooth and has such a beautiful stride. We're thrilled that his first work back was a good one and hopefully he'll continue to work well and be ready for the Saratoga meet.

"Todd has made some great decisions so far, so I'm going to leave (the start) up to him, but I guess, sure, being from New York you think about (the Jim Dandy). We just hope he continues to make progress. Sometimes a little time can be good."

The divisional parity that was prevalent during the prep season won out during the classics, as three different horses ended up taking each leg of the Triple Crown. Always Dreaming is still the only 3-year-old male who has earned multiple grade 1 wins this year. He captured the April 1 Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) by five lengths to tout himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite he would ultimately become—and make good on.

"We've won two prominent races. Those are two big grade 1 races to have under his belt," Bonomo said. "Of course there are a lot of good horses in this division, and that's what makes it so interesting. I don't think there is one horse who is overriding as 'wow, this horse is far and away the best,' as we've seen in recent years. 

"This year's is division is still pretty open. ... and for the rest of the year, they'll continue to go after each other. But I'm still proud of Always Dreaming and what he's accomplished this year. Having the two grade 1 wins, I like where we are."

Pletcher added that Always Dreaming is scheduled for three more breezes before the Jim Dandy.

Joining Always Dreaming on the Belmont work tab Saturday was Preakness winner , who continued his preparations toward a Jim Dandy start with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.84 over the Belmont main track. The son of   has turned in three workouts since he bested champion  by a head in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

"He looked very good," said trainer Chad Brown. "He galloped out well and is still on target for the Jim Dandy. I love where we're at with him."

 

Tapwrit Wears Down Irish War Cry to Win Belmont Stakes
6/10/2017

Tapwrit Wears Down Irish War Cry to Win Belmont StakesOne year ago, a gray Todd Pletcher-trained colt was the pursued. In 2017, Pletcher—and another gray—were in pursuit.

With an inside trip just off favored  most of the way, Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert LaPenta's  angled out late in the final turn under jockey Jose Ortiz, as the top pair kicked well clear of the rest in the Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G1).

After setting pressured fractions of :23.88, :48.66, 1:14.01, and 1:38.95 through a mile, though, Irish War Cry had enough. The 5-2 favorite fought on for most of the stretch, but the final stages were Tapwrit's, as the   colt powered by near the sixteenth pole and won by two lengths.

"It's an unbelievable feeling that I can't explain," said Ortiz, who won his first Triple Crown race. "I'm very happy right now. ... The distance—I was sure he could handle it. It was a great training job by Todd. I always liked him and had a lot of faith in him. Today he showed up."

A year after Pletcher-trained, Eclipse-co-owned  got caught at the wire by  in the Belmont, Tapwrit stopped the clock in 2:30.02 for 1 1/2 miles to give the trainer his second classic win of the year, after 's victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Pletcher-trained  finished third, another 5 3/4 lengths back.

"Tapwrit was getting a beautiful trip," Pletcher said. "It was everything we talked about in the paddock before the race. We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunch time. It looked like Irish War Cry still had something left, but the last sixteenth, he dug down deep."

In the Derby Tapwrit finished sixth, 10 1/4 lengths behind his winning stablemate, but had to steady early when Irish War Cry cut across the field soon after the start. The gray colt had a less-than-ideal trip the rest of the way beneath the Twin Spires, but had smooth sailing Saturday on Big Sandy.

"I've said all along I think he ran a very sneaky-good race in the Derby, and there's a lot made about the trouble at the start," Pletcher said. "He got as much of that as anyone. ... (We thought post 16 in the Derby was) a great spot ... and it turned out it was the worst position, because Irish War Cry took a left leaving there, and it was just a chain reaction from there."

"We got (Irish War Cry) back today, though," Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbreds said with a laugh during the post-race press conference.

In front of a crowd of 57,729 at  Saturday, Irish War Cry broke well from post 7 and again crossed over the horses inside of him to get to the front entering the first turn, but speedster  was only a head back on the outside after the first quarter. Graham Motion said the plan wasn't for the son of   to have the lead, but the trainer was not unhappy with the trip or performance by his colt.

"We kind of hoped that somebody else would go for (the lead), but he had to go to plan 'B' and (jockey) Rajiv (Maragh) did a great job," Motion said. "At the eighth pole, I thought we might be home free, but it's the Belmont. It's a tough race. I'm very proud of how he ran. I thought he ran a very game race."

The Belmont run fit with Irish War Cry's up-and-down form cycle. He started on the road to the Triple Crown with a 3 3/4-length victory in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2), ran seventh by 21 3/4 lengths in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2), won the Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets (G2) by 3 1/2 lengths, and came in 10th in the Kentucky Derby.

"It's very vindicating—for the horse and for me, and the owners and everyone," Motion said of Irish War Cry's classic placing.

 made a simultaneous move with Tapwrit entering the final turn and hung on for fourth, 4 1/4 lengths behind Patch. He was followed by , , , Meantime, , and . Dallas Stewart trainee  was pulled up in the backstretch when jockey Florent Geroux lost his irons after getting squeezed coming into the first turn. The son of   was vanned back to the barn area, where he was treated for a laceration behind his left knee that required surgical staples, according to Dr. Keith Latson of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Tapwrit's victory was the third Belmont win for his sire, following Creator and   (2014).

The ownership trio purchased Tapwrit for .2 million from the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.

"This was a team effort from the start," said Pletcher disciple Jonathan Thomas, the trainer at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla., who broke Tapwrit after the sale. "That's what makes it special. I mean, we all basically ran into each other and loved this horse, and figured out a way to get him bought. And luckily Mr. LaPenta came in and we had the ammunition to get it done."

The journey—from a last-place debut at  in September of 2016, to a Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) win, to a perplexing fifth-place Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) run—also added to the overall sweetness of the classic victory.

"When things kind of went not quite how we planned it, no one freaked out or wanted to change the course of what we set out to do, and everything has been very organic," Thomas said. "Having worked for Todd, to be able to develop a horse like this is really meaningful."

 

Justin Phillip Gets First Winner in a Romp
6/2/2017

Justin Phillip Gets First Winner in a RompCastleton Lyons' grade 1-winning freshman sire   had his first winner June 2 when  took a ,000 maiden special weight at  by 5 1/2 lengths.

The chestnut colt out of the black-type stakes winner Catch My Fancy (by Yes It's True) was bred in New York by Castleton Lyons with Kilboy Estate and is raced by Gary Barber. Todd Pletcher trains the 2-year-old colt, who had jockey John Velazquez in the irons for his debut. 

What a Catch lost his back footing at the start, which put him in a stalking position for the first three-sixteenths of a mile. He caught the pacesetters Barbarossa and  after the opening quarter went in :22.37. The winner clocked a half-mile in :46.64, and completed the five furlongs in :59.79.

Castleton Lyons acquired Catch My Fancy for 5,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton February mixed sale out of the Bluewater Sales consignment. The mare has now produced five winners from five foals to race.

Justin Phillip is one of five graded stakes winners produced by blue hen Ava Knowsthecode. The 9-year-old son of   won the 2013 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1), 2011 Woody Stephens Stakes (G2), and the 2013 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) and placed in nine other graded stakes. He retired with ,293,437 in earnings and now stands for ,000.

 

Always Dreaming True in Kentucky Derby Win
5/6/2017

Always Dreaming True in Kentucky Derby WinThe horse's name is .

A horse with New York-based owners, some who have known each other since childhood—friends who remember long, sunny, summer days at  with their fathers, impressed by a sport that included fans who would recognize seats covered with newspapers or race programs as reserved.

A horse with a Hall of Fame jockey and future Hall of Fame trainer, who combined to win many of North America's top races, teamed up this Louisville day in pursuit of America's greatest race.

On the first Saturday in May in Louisville, dreams most assuredly come true. To reach those dreams, it helps to have a fast horse.

With so many dreams on the line May 6 before 158,070 fans, Always Dreaming delivered, executing a flawless tracking trip under John Velazquez before taking command in the stretch to score a 2 3/4-length victory in the million  at . 

Owned by the partnership of MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz Stable, Teresa Viola, St Elias Stable, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, Always Dreaming was sent off the 9-2 favorite after his five-length victory in the XpressBet.com Florida Derby (G1). The son of 2012 Derby and Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up  —a WinStar stallion who now has a Kentucky Derby winner from his first crop—has four wins in as many starts this season.

"Growing up as kids, we’ve won a lot of Kentucky Derbys, but not in reality," said part owner Anthony Bonomo of Brooklyn Boyz. "We just knew when we got together something special was going to happen. It’s been a family affair."

The present reality had the owners recalling childhood dreams.

"We represent everybody who went to the racetrack with their dads and were astonished by these athletes and fell in love with them," said Vincent Viola, who owns St. Elias. "We are truly kids, in our hearts, from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. We always dreamed and this is one of the dreams that came true."

The victory took some pressure off Todd Pletcher, a multiple Eclipse Award winner who entered the Derby with one win in 45 starts.

"My Derby record has been talked about a lot. … When you look at it now, we’ve been here 17 years and we’ve been fortunate to have two wins, two seconds, and three thirds," Pletcher said. "I feel like I really needed that second one."

As much success as Pletcher and Velazquez have enjoyed together over the years, their prior Derby wins came with others. Pletcher sent out Calvin Borel to victory aboard   in the 2010 Derby and Velazquez guided home   for Graham Motion in the 2011 edition of the classic.

In the 2001 Derby, Velazquez guided Invisible Ink to a runner-up finish for Pletcher. But it took them 16 more years to win the race together.

"I felt like Johnny and I needed one together as well," Pletcher said. "We have had a great relationship for a long time now, and we have won a lot of races together. This one we hadn't, and this is the one we wanted to win together. And I'm glad we could do it."

"This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with," Velazquez said. "Nothing against the others, but this was the best horse."

Always Dreaming completed the 1 1/4-mile classic in 2:03.59 on a sloppy track, the first off-track for a Derby since 2013. He was followed home by longshots  in second and  another five lengths back in third. Morning-line favorite , the champion juvenile male of 2016 who entered off a score in the Arkansas Derby (G1), finished fourth, just edging .

L and N Racing's Lookin At Lee, by  , entered off a third in the Arkansas Derby and earned his third grade 1-placing Saturday. Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm's Battle of Midway, a son of Smart Strike, entered off a runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Early on, longshot  sailed to the lead under Jose Lezcano. He completed the first quarter in :22.70 while Always Dreaming, who broke well and saved ground, raced in second. After State of Honor completed a half-mile in :46.53, Velazquez moved Always Dreaming to the early leader's outside and they were soon on even terms.

After Always Dreaming put a head in front and ran six furlongs in 1:11.12, he was engaged in the far turn by Battle of Midway and Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2) winner . Asked the question, Always Dreaming had the answer. He put away Irish War Cry coming out of the turn and stayed in front of Battle of Midway after reaching the quarter pole in 1:37.27, before edging away from that rival in early stretch.

Trainer Graham Motion was feeling pretty good in the far turn, but Irish War Cry couldn't quite get the lead from the determined eventual winner.

"He went from having a lot of horse at the head of the stretch to not having enough pretty quickly," Motion said. "He was surprised how quickly he emptied out on him. Could it be the distance? He said he didn't seem like he was real crazy about the track. It was quite tacky. We'll have to see."

Despite the extra space provided for the final post in the main gate, post 14 for Classic Empire, and the first post in the auxiliary gate, post 15 for , the two bumped hard shortly after the start. They bumped again in the stretch as they tried to rally.

"We got wiped out at the start," said Classic Empire's trainer, Mark Casse. "That's the problem with the auxiliary gate. ... Classic Empire really got clobbered. The track is impossible. Our horse ran extremely well, considering."

In mid-stretch Lookin At Lee launched an inside rally, but just as his connections' hopes began to rise, Always Dreaming found one final gear to avoid any serious late threat.

The winner was bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners and born Feb. 25. A Kentucky-bred colt, he is out of the grade 3-winning In Excess mare Above Perfection, who also has produced grade 1 winner .

Bonomo's son, Anthony Bonomo Jr., went to 0,000 to land Always Dreaming at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. The younger Bonomo went over a limit his father put in place that day, but that transgression was most assuredly forgiven Saturday in Louisville.

Always Dreaming was consigned to that sale by Dromoland Farm and Steve Young, agent, signed the ticket.

Always Dreaming is the fifth straight favorite to win the Derby and 10th horse to win the classic after starting from post 5. He returned .40, .20, and .80 across the board. Lookin At Lee returned .60 to place and .20 to show. Battle of Midway paid .80 to show.

Steve Asmussen was proud of the run by Lookin At Lee, who was guided by Corey Lanerie.

"He just keeps coming," Asmussen said. "Drawing (post) 1 was tough. He's the first horse in 20 years to run in the top three from the one hole. A lot of credit goes to Corey for navigating a very good course from there.

"To me, the Kentucky Derby—everything about it is a thrill. I'm just proud of the effort of Lookin At Lee and the whole team."

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, like Asmussen a Hall of Famer, thought Battle of Midway delivered a top effort under Flavien Prat.

"We had a good position coming into the lane, but Todd's horse was too good," Hollendorfer said.

Following Practical Joke in fifth were , , , , Irish War Cry, , , , , , , , , and State of Honor, to complete the order of finish.

 was pulled up shortly after the start, after breaking extremely rank and bucking hard in the opening sixteenth. An initial veterinary exam revealed no injury and he was able to walk to the backstretch.

The victory was worth ,635,800 to Always Dreaming's connections. Saturday's payday increased his earnings to ,284,700. He has a record of 4-1-1 from six starts, including two grade 1 victories in as many attempts. His connections plan to start in the Preakness in two weeks.

 

Admiral Jimmy is First Winner for Jimmy Creed
5/3/2017

Admiral Jimmy is First Winner for Jimmy CreedSiena Farm homebred  became the first winner for Spendthrift Farm's freshman sire   when he took a  maiden special weight May 3 by 3 1/2 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher as the even-money favorite.

Admiral Jimmy is out of the   daughter Zayanna, who is the dam of black-type stakes winner  (Lonhro). The 8-year-old mare now has two winners from as many starters. 

Siena Farm also bred Zayanna, after acquiring her dam Heavenly Cat for 0,000 at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale from Viking Stud as agent. Zayanna never placed at the races but she held plenty of value as a producer. She is a half sister to grade 3 winners Heavenly Ransom (Red Ransom) and  (Grand Slam) and graded-placed black-type stakes winner .

Grade 1-winning sprinter Jimmy Creed, who Spendthrift bought for 0,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, is a son of   out of grade 1 winner Hookedonthefeelin. He won the Malibu Stakes (G1) and placed in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G1) at 3 and took the Potrero Grande Stakes (G2) at 4.

Jimmy Creed has had one other starter to date. He stands at Spendthrift Farm for ,000 and will shuttle for the third season this summer to Spendthrift Farm Australia, where he stands for AU,700 (approximately US,000).

 

Unbridled Mo Finds More in Doubledogdare Stakes
4/21/2017

Unbridled Mo Finds More in Doubledogdare StakesAs owner/breeder John Brunetti watched the bay legs of  get ever closer to his filly in the  stretch April 21, the flips in his stomach got that much more intense.

What comforted Brunetti, and ultimately sparked an emotional jolt of a happier kind, was the fact that 's past wasn't going to let the presence at her hip win out.

"I was a little bit (nervous)," Brunetti said. "But this filly, she doesn't let anyone pass her."

After making her connections sweat, Unbridled Mo allowed them to celebrate as the 4-year-old bay filly turned back a game showing from Power of Snunner in the lane en route to taking the  by three-quarters of a length. 

Friday's triumph before an announced crowd of 16,664 marked the second straight graded stakes score for the daughter of   and her third graded triumph overall in eight career starts. Her mettle once she strikes the front has indeed yet to be conquered with her only two losses coming when she ran sixth after tracking fifth in the Comely Stakes (G3) last November and her maiden outing last April when she never got running and hit the wire eighth.

"When (Unbridled Mo) got to the lead, she started waiting. When the other horse (Power of Snunner) got to her, she put in a nice fight," said jockey John Velazquez, who won the Doubledogdare for the fifth time. "It was her, just waiting, looking at the crowd and everything. Thank God the other horse came to her and made her run again."

Unbridled Mo reeled off a four-race win streak at one point last year—including a victory in the Monmouth Oaks (G3)—but really signaled herself on the distaff scene when she bested multiple grade 1 winner  during her seasonal bow in the Jan. 29 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) at Sam Houston. Sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the four-horse lineup for the 1 1/16 mile Doubledogdare, the Todd Pletcher trainee was her normal handy self in her Keeneland debut.

Velazquez rated the filly second in the three path behind early pacesetter  as the former cut fractions of :23.61 and :46.77 over a track rated fast. The compact field became a two-horse race coming off the final turn with Unbridled Mo advancing to take command coming into the head of the lane only to be met by Power of Snunner doing all she could under jockey Mike Smith.

Unbridled Mo let her rival range up, but never let herself be headed as she covered the distance in 1:45.11, setting herself up for a likely run in the June 10 Odgen Phipps (G1) at .

"She's been lightly raced and we found out the secret with her is how much time she should get between races and how we should train her between races," said Brunetti, who purchased Unbridled Mo's dam, Unbridled Waters, for 5,000 at the 1999 Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale. "You know when you experiment, you're taking up a lot of time but we have the right  combination with her now, so we just hope we can keep going."

Power of Snunner was 7 1/4-lengths clear of third-place finisher  while Dear Elaine rounded out the order of finish.  was a scratch.

Unbridled Mo paid out .80 and .10 with no show wagering and improved her record to six wins from eight starts with 1,180 in earnings.

"You wait a long time (with homebreds), you go through generations of mares and foals ...and then you get something nice like this," Brunetti said.

 

Team Repole Delivers First Winner for Overanalyze
4/20/2017

Team Repole Delivers First Winner for OveranalyzeFreshman sires are on a roll April 20 aided by , who became the first winner for WinStar Farm's grade 1 winner  . The colt won a 0,000 maiden special weight at Aqueduct by 4 1/2 lengths, about an hour after Hill 'n' Dale Farms' freshman   got his first winner at . 

Analyze the Odds, the first foal produced by the winning   daughter The Sense Angel, is raced by Repole Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, the team that won three graded stakes and earned ,046,381 with Overanalyze. 

Lansdowne Thoroughbreds bred Analyze the Odds in New York. Agent Jim Crupi bought the dark bay colt on Repole's behalf for ,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale in Kentucky through the Indian Creek consignment. The colt is out of the family that produced English and Irish champions El Gran Senor and Try My Best (both are full brothers to Analyze the Odds' third dam, Golden Oriole, a winner by Northern Dancer and out of Sex Appeal). Analyze the Odds' second dam, Sense of Class (Fusaichi Pegasus) has not produced a black-type runner yet but she has five winners out of six to race.

Analyze the Odds broke sharply in the 4 1/2-furlong race but conceded the lead early to , the first starter for Hill 'n' Dale Farms' freshman sire  . Magnanimus Man rolled through fractions of :23.18 and :46.54, holding onto the lead through mid-stretch. Coming out of the turn, Analyze the Odds and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. quickly closed the gap with the leader and rolled easily past to win in a final time of :52.53.

Magnanimus Man finished third behind Analyze the Odds' stablemate , who kicked in late to get second.

Overanalyze was one of the top 2-year-olds of his crop, winning the five-furlong Futurity Stakes (G2) at  and nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct in 2012. He captured his biggest victory as a 3-year-old, decisively winning the million Arkansas Derby (G1) at . 

Overanalyze bred 151 mares in his first book in 2014, making him one of six in his sire class to breed more than 150 mares. The 5-year-old son of Dixie Union out of Unacloud, by Unaccounted For, stands at WinStar for ,000, stands and nurses.

 

Always Dreaming Exits Florida Derby in Good Order
4/2/2017

Always Dreaming Exits Florida Derby in Good OrderThe first order of business for Todd Pletcher upon arriving at Palm Beach Downs the morning of April 2 was to check on his 3-year-old star of the moment, , who gave both the trainer and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez their record fourth victory in the million Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1).

Pletcher couldn't have been happier with the dark bay or brown son of  , a commanding five-length winner in his stakes debut.

"He's excellent. It seemed like he recuperated quickly after the race, cooled out good, looked good this morning, settled back here into Palm Beach Downs and all is well," Pletcher said.

"He seems to be in excellent form. I was really pleased with the way he came back to the winner's circle. It just seemed like he recovered quickly from the race and cooled out quickly, and was bright, alert, and happy back in his stall. Initially, he's showing us all the signs you're hoping for."

After steadying between rivals on the first turn, Always Dreaming settled off early leader  on the outside before rolling to the lead after straightening for home and drawing off to win in 1:47.47, the fastest Florida Derby since Alydar's 1:47 flat in 1978.

"Honestly I can't say it surprised us," Pletcher said. "It was what we felt like he was capable of doing based on the way he had been training, but you're always pleased to see him deliver the type of performance you're hoping for. He certainly did that, and then some."

Always Dreaming, owned by the partnership of Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stable, MeB Racing Stables, Siena Farm ,and West Point Thoroughbreds, will remain at Palm Beach Downs for at least the next couple weeks before shipping to  for the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

"I've got to kind of map out a schedule in terms of when we'll ship to Churchill," Pletcher said. "We'll look to have a breeze or possibly two breezes at Churchill, but we'll kind of play it by ear and see what the shipping arrangements look like and see what the weather's doing in Kentucky and take all those into consideration."

Trainer Mark Casse reported Sunday that , Floriday Derby runner-up, exited his race in good order and is bound for Churchill mid-week, where he will also target the Kentucky Derby.

Immediately after State of Honor finished second by five lengths, Casse said he was inclined to run the son of  , who is owned by his breeder, Conrad Farms, in the Louisville classic. 

Sunday morning, Casse was even more bullish on the idea. In the Florida Derby, State of Honor, with Julien Leparoux up, was racing without blinkers, a change the trainer initiated in hopes of getting the Canadian-bred to relax.

"The winner was very impressive," Casse said. "Was there anything we could have done to change the outcome? No. I think if he had settled a little better ... you know, he's still learning to settle, which we're trying to achieve. I think he did that in the middle of the race, he didn't do it early. He was probably a little bit intimidated down inside, turning for home, where (Always Dreaming) kind of got first kick on him, where we had to play catch-up.  

"I was actually, after watching the replay, more impressed with his performance than initially," he added. "He's a very consistent horse and ran well, so I think he deserves a shot. The owners are excited, we're excited, and he's going to Kentucky."

State of Honor, who ran second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in March, currently sits in fifth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 62 points.

Florida Derby beaten favorite  emerged from his third-place finish in good order, said trainer Antonio Sano Sunday morning.

"Gunnevera is very good, very good. He was checked by the vet, and everything is very good," said Sano, whose even-money favorite trailed the 10-horse field after breaking from the far outside post and rallied late to finish third.

"I'm very happy with my horse," Sano said. "Considering everything, it was a good race for my horse."

Gunnevera previously finished a troubled second in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and then won the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) to establish himself as a prime candidate for the Derby.

Sano said the son of   is scheduled to ship to Churchill April 22 to begin preparations, which includes a planned breeze April 29.

Trainer Dale Romans said he had no plans as of yet for , who finished fourth Saturday.

"We'll see how he comes out of this race, but I will find a good spot for him," Romans said. "I think the winner is a really good horse, I think the second horse is a really good horse, I think they're all really good horses and I think they will all have an impact on the Triple Crown series."

 

All Included, Summersault Make Grade on Gulfstream Turf
4/1/2017

All Included, Summersault Make Grade on Gulfstream TurfWertheimer and Frere's homebred  stormed by  with a late run in the stretch to take the  April 1 by a half-length. 

After not running his best and finishing eighth in last year's edition of the Appleton, the 6-year-old son of   entered this year's race off two close seconds over the  turf. The Todd Pletcher trainee had a nine-month layoff before losing by a neck in a Jan. 15 optional-claiming allowance race and by three-quarters of a length in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1T) in February. 

All Included's score Saturday was his first graded stakes win in his 17 starts, and he now has a bankroll of 7,440.

"My concern was I tried to wait as long as I can in the race," jockey Javier Castellano said of his ride on the winner. "I have the type of horse that comes from behind. I took my time and rode with a lot of patience and confidence because I had the best horse in the race."

 jumped out of the gate and went for the early lead in the one-mile test on the firm turf.  raced in second just off the frontrunner and Delta Prince, a half brother to champion , raced comfortably in third in the six-horse field. All Included traveled at the back of the pack.

After clocking :23.41 and :46.29 for a half-mile, Diamond Bachelor began to pressure Siding Spring as the rest of the field closed on the frontrunners. As six furlongs went in 1:09.73, Delta Prince and jockey Jose Ortiz maintained a narrow advantage out of the turn, but proved to be no match for All Included, who swung wide and ran down Delta Prince to stop the clock in 1:33.12. 

 finished a length back in third, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Siding Spring in fourth.  and Diamond Bachelor rounded out the order of finish. 

Sent off as the even-money favorite, All Included returned .20, .40, and .10 across the board. 

"I thought the mile would actually suit him well," Pletcher said. "Like it is in a compact field, you're just hoping you get a good trip. (Castellano) gave him plenty of time to get his run together. It took him a little longer to do last time than he wanted. 

"They have a race here at the end of the month (the grade 3 Miami Mile). He seems to really like Gulfstream, so we would consider staying here for that."

In the next race on the card, the 0,000 , it was William Parson Jr. and David Howe's homebred  who ran down odds-on favorite  to win by three-quarters of a length. 

After winning back-to-back allowance races on Gulfstream's grass, the 5-year-old Rock Hard Ten mare proved that she could step up in class on Saturday, her first graded stakes attempt in 22 starts. 

Second choice  took command early and set a rapid pace through a mile, with fractions of :23.47, 46:12, 1:10.54, and 1:35.12. Olorda raced off the pace in second,  in third, while Summersault and  settled near the back. After a mile, Summersault was in fourth, 4 1/2 lengths off the leader.  

In the last turn of the three-turn, 1 3/8-mile test, the field bunched up and Olorda had a one-length advantage heading into the stretch. After going three wide in the last turn, Summersault began to edge her competition under some urging from jockey Paco Lopez and prevailed, stopping the clock in 2:12.24 to become the 25th black-type stakes winner for her sire.

Quiet Kitten got a nose in front of Temple Fur for third, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Maquette. 

"I know (pacesetter Maquette) was going very, very fast," Lopez said. "My filly is always running a little more close, but I don't push. At the half-mile/five-eighths (pole), I ask my filly. She was coming and coming. She finished very well."

Sent off as the 9-1 longshot, Summersault returned , .20, and across the board. The Mark Hennig trainee now boasts a record of 6-5-2, with earnings of 4,983.

 

Undefeated Ghalia Takes Sunland Park Oaks
3/26/2017

Undefeated Ghalia Takes Sunland Park OaksSumaya U.S. Stable's  remains undefeated in three starts after a late drive in the stretch resulted in a neck in front to win the  March 26. 

In her first try around two turns, the   filly, under jockey Jose Ortiz, raced just off the frontrunners who stayed close together while setting a quick pace in the 1 1/16-mile test over a fast track at . 

Out of the gate, co-favorite  and  battled for the early lead. For the first half-mile Soft Cheese maintained a half-length advantage and set fractions of :22.41 and :45.75. Grade 1 winner Noted and Quoted dropped back a half-mile and was eased by jockey Martin Garcia. 

Co-favorite at 9-5,  and jockey Ry Eikleberry moved up to assume control and Ghalia, who was four lengths back in fourth, began to advance as six furlongs went in 1:10.64. Into the stretch, Ghalia went wide and in her last strides prevailed over Kell Paso at the wire for a final time of 1:44.24. 

 was 5 3/4 lengths back in third, another 2 1/4 lengths ahead of  in fourth. Soft Cheese and  rounded out the field. 

Sent off as the 2-1 second choice, Ghalia returned , , and .40 across the board. Kell Paso paid and .40, while What What What was worth .80.

With her win, Ghalia earned 50 points toward a start in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 5. Points were awarded 50-20-10-5.

The Todd Pletcher-trainee entered off two wins earlier this year at . Most recently, she took a Feb. 15 6 1/2-furlong optional-claiming allowance race by 1 1/2 lengths. Her first time out in a six-furlong maiden special weight Jan. 22 she scored by 6 3/4. 

Bred by Darley, Edward Seltzer, and Beverly Anderson, Ghalia is out of graded stakes winner . The filly was purchased by Oussama Aboughazale's International Equities Holding for 0,000 as a weanling out of the Warrendale Sales consignment to the 2014 Keeneland November sale. She now has 6,800 in earnings. 

 

Malagacy Flaunts His Talent in Rebel Stakes
3/18/2017

Malagacy Flaunts His Talent in Rebel StakesIt is rare the winding path that leads to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) gets too trampled upon without the barn of seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher stealing some focus along the way. 

Like a train arriving on schedule, another late-blooming Toddler has emerged to make his presence known just before crunch time.

One month after stablemate  made a splash on the Triple Crown trail over the  track, fellow Pletcher trainee  gave his future Hall of Fame conditioner another legitimate sophomore to point toward the first Saturday in May when he captured the 0,000  by two lengths over  at the Hot Springs oval March 18. 

Pletcher may not have come into 2017 with any of the perceived leaders of the 3-year-old male class, but as is typical for his dominant operation, it hasn't taken him long to get some still-developing talents to step forward at just the right moments.

Sumaya U.S. Stable's Malagacy is one such horse. Unraced at 2, the son of   didn't debut until Jan. 4, when he blew the doors off  with a 15-length win going 5 1/2 furlongs on the main track. Eight days before One Liner took the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn, Malagacy was giving his own sign of what was to come when he won a 6 1/2-furlong allowance test at Gulfstream by seven lengths.

"He was so impressive in his first two starts that (sending him to the Rebel) wasn't a question of talent," said Pletcher, who also conditions Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner . "It was just a question of handling different things and one of those was shipping from his Florida base to Hot Springs, and he handled that well. Of course, the other questions were stretching out around two turns and stepping up into graded stakes company.

"We were very confident in the way the horse was training. He had been training very well. He had shown us in his breezes that the added distance wouldn't be an issue, but we just don't know until they do it. There's some stamina in his pedigree, but he's also a very quick and a very fast horse."

The 1 1/16-mile Rebel was Malagacy's first two-turn test and first try against graded company. The chestnut colt shrugged off both challenges Saturday, rating in second with  to his outside, as pacesetter  cut an opening quarter in :23.03 and a half-mile in :47.04.

As the 11-horse field reached the far turn, Malagacy advanced outside to eyeball Uncontested, while 8-5 favorite  was trying futilely to get into gear. With jockey Javier Castellano keeping him to task late, Malagacy edged clear in mid-stretch to stop the teletimer in 1:43 as 112-1 longshot and maiden Sonneteer won a tight battle for runner-up honors.

"He doesn't do anything wrong, very impressive the way he did it today. I rode with a lot of confidence," Castellano said.

 put in a rally on the far outside for third, with  hitting the wire fourth.

 completed the top five, while American Anthem, who was aiming to give trainer Bob Baffert his seventh win in the Rebel, faded to tenth.

"(He) slipped really bad leaving there in behind and stayed that way the whole race," said Mike Smith, jockey of American Anthem. "(He) just struggled for whatever reason. I was OK as long as we were all slow. As soon as we had to pick it up ... his head, legs just went everywhere."

Bred by John Trumbulovic and purchased by agent Steve Young for 0,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale, Malagacy is unbeaten in three starts with 6,800 in earnings. He earned 50 qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard to put him fourth in the standings.

"The (grade 1)  Arkansas Derby would be the logical next step," Pletcher said. "We'll bring him home tomorrow to Palm Beach Downs and see how he bounces out of it. The Arkansas Derby timing-wise would be good, and getting a mile-and-an-eighth race under his belt would also be beneficial. That would be 'Plan A,' but in this business we all know that sometimes you have to call some audibles. Right now that's what the thinking is."

 

Tapwrit Shows His Class in Tampa Bay Derby
3/11/2017

Tapwrit Shows His Class in Tampa Bay Derby took the opportunity presented to him on paper March 11 and turned the 0,000  into his personal showcase of improving ability.

With unbeaten  missing the 1 1/16 mile-test because of a slight ankle strain discovered last week, many figured the door was open for Tapwrit to take his runner-up finish behind the former in the Feb. 11 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) over the same track and distance and do himself one better Saturday. Despite incurring some traffic trouble around the first turn, the son of   became the latest sophomore to make a play for a starring role in the ever-evolving 3-year-old male picture when he drew clear by 4 1/2 lengths over pacesetter  in stakes-record fashion. 

"He just exploded," Aron Wellman, president of co-owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, said of Tapwrit. "That was what we were hoping for, and he delivered."

The even-money favoritism Tapwrit carried as he went to post proved more than justified in what was an otherwise wide-open field for ' signature prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The gameness the gray or roan colt showed when he closed late to get runner-up honors in the Sam F. Davis—his first try against graded stakes company— proved a preview of what was to come one month later.

After racing wide early and being caught in close quarters around the first turn, Tapwrit settled in eighth, then seventh, well off the leaders while State of Honor owned a one-length advantage over  through fractions of :23.42 and :46.65. Leaving the half-mile marker, Tapwrit and jockey Jose Ortiz began deftly threading the needle between rivals, picking his way up to the three-path and looking completely full of run coming off the final turn.

Tapwrit flew by State of Honor with casual ease and had no challengers to threaten him as he took aim at the teletimer in the lane, hitting the wire in a stakes record of 1:42.36 over a track rated fast.

"We were looking for a big effort from him," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He won pretty convincingly, and we're very pleased.

"He had kind of a rough trip around the first turn and got shuffled around a little, but he handled it professionally and steadied himself and got in good stride up the backstretch. After he made the lead, Jose kept him occupied down the lane because he has a tendency to idle when he gets ahead. This was everything we could have hoped for."

State of Honor and , the third- and fourth-place finishers in the Sam F. Davis, further reinforced the form of that race by holding for second and third. respectively, in the Tampa Bay Derby.  was fourth, with  rounding out the top five.

 and  were both pulled up on the far turn, but walked off under their own power. Stakes winner Sonic Mule faded after chasing the pace early on to cross the wire eighth.

Tapwrit paid .20, .20, and .80 across the board.

Bred by My Meadowview, Tapwrit has had heavy expectations heaped upon him since before he was saddle broke. Out of the graded stakes winning   mare , Tapwrit was purchased for .2 million by his ownership group of Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Robert LaPenta at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. 

His debut outing was a giant falter, as he came home last in a 10-horse field at  in September. He has done little wrong since, breaking his maiden next time out at Gulfstream Park West Nov.  6 and then taking the Pulpit Stakes to close out his juvenile campaign.

Tapwrit improved his record to three wins from five starts and 3,902 in earnings and now has 54 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

"This was a breakout race for him," LaPenta said. "I really felt he stepped up today. This is such a tough sport, and a win like this brings you to the moon."

 

Stanford captures Challenger Stakes in track-record time
3/11/2017

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Stanford was only supposed to be getting a tightener for a return to the rich Charles Town Classic when he ran as a heavy favorite Saturday in the 0,000 Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs – but all the talented 5-year-old horse did was set a track record for the 1 1/16-mile distance.

SV Photography

Stanford, prepping for a return to the .25 million Charles Town Classic, runs 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.75 under John Velazquez in the Challenger.

Never seriously threatened when leading all the way under John Velazquez, Stanford prevailed by 3 1/4 lengths over Ami’s Flatter when finishing in 1:41.75 over a fast track. That clocking lowers the mark set four weeks earlier, when McCraken won the Sam F. Davis Stakes in 1:42.45.

Stanford was wearing blinkers for the first time after trainer Todd Pletcher said the horse lost focus in a narrow defeat in his prior start six weeks ago.

“I was comfortable with the way he was doing it,” said Velazquez. “In the lane, I wanted to see how he did in his first time with blinkers. He tends to wait a little bit on horses, so I wanted to see how he did, and he responded really well. Today, with blinkers, he was more focused on what he needs to do.”

Stanford, owned by the partnership of Stonestreet Stables and the Coolmore group, returned in a field of seven older horses. Ami’s Flatter, his race-long pursuer, had another 1 1/4 lengths on late-running Hereditary.

Stanford won the .25 million Charles Town Classic last spring and now will be aimed for a return to the annual West Virginia showcase on April 22.

 

One Liner Laughs Last in Southwest Stakes Victory
2/20/2017

One Liner Laughs Last in Southwest Stakes VictoryThe impressive connections behind  had the undefeated son of   ready for his stakes debut Feb. 20 in the  at . 

After rating in fourth early in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds, One Liner surged toward the lead off the far turn, where he engaged  in a stretch duel before taking command at the sixteenth pole on his way to a 3 1/2-length win.

With the Southwest effort, WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing's One Liner secured his third clear victory in as many starts. Trained by Todd Pletcher, One Liner debuted with a maiden win sprinting at  in July. He then returned this season with a six-furlong allowance-optional claiming race score Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park, which set the 3-year-old up for his two-turn and stakes debut in the Southwest under regular rider John Velazquez.

Carrying 122 pounds, the highest impost in the race,  and Channing Hill powered through a half-mile in :46.55 where Petrov, who chased in second, soon engaged the early leader. Stakes winner  and One Liner followed closely in third and fourth.

In the far turn, Petrov, who finished second in the Smarty Jones Stakes, battled Uncontested, the Smarty Jones winner, on the front end. Petrov managed to get past a fading Uncontested this time, taking the lead turning for home.

One Liner, racing just behind the top two, engaged Petrov in early stretch as those two turned things into a two-horse race, carrying their battle into deep stretch before One Liner prevailed.

One Liner, carrying 115 pounds, completed the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:41.85 and was followed home by Petrov, then  and . Uncontested faded to sixth. Monday's field saw 12 starters as  was scratched.

"I'm very pleased with his race. He handled things very professionally," Pletcher said. "He shipped and settled in well. It looked like he finished strong and may have left something in reserve, which is encouraging."

With the win, One Liner secured 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system used to determined the field of the Louisville classic if more than 20 horses are entered. The second- through fourth-place finishers also were awarded points, 4-2-1 respectively.

Bred in Kentucky by Kingswood Farm, One Liner is the first starter out of the winning Cherokee Run mare Cayala. Pletcher said One Liner showed talent from the beginning. Now the connections will focus on his next step.

"He had shown a lot in his training before he even debuted at Saratoga, so we weren't surprised that he won at first asking," Pletcher said. "We had to give him some time after that race because of some baby issues, but he came back very good and has been training good, so we were confident in him. At this point I'd say everything is in play (for his next race). We'll discuss it with the connections. We still have time for two more races if that's the path he continues on."

The winner paid .80, .40, and .40 across the board while Petrov returned .60 and .60 to place and show.  rallied to finish third and paid .40 to show. 

Velazquez said One Liner settled nicely and eventually showed competitiveness.

"We knew he would come out running with this being his first time around two turns. I just wanted to save something for the end and I didn't want to rush him," Velazquez said. "He broke real well and once he got around the first turn he relaxed for me.

"By the time we got to the 3/8th pole I had to get aggressive with him and let him know it was time to get busy. Then he got aggressive and then he got competitive. From there, I knew he had it won."

J. S. B. Stable landed One Liner for 0,000 when he was offered as a short yearling at the 2015 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale. One Liner was consigned by his breeder Kingswood Farm, agent, at that sale.

Ron Moquett, trainer of Petrov, encouraged jockey Jose Ortiz to place Petrov closer to the pace. Moquett was impressed with how his horse responded.

"I'm proud of my horse. I just told him (Ortiz) the track was favoring speed today, so I knew we had to be closer. I told him that he's an awesome jockey and have confidence in your horse and do what you think it takes to win this race," Moquett said. "I was very surprised when I saw that he was that close, but I knew from the three-eighths pole home is when we start getting in gear, no matter where we're at."

Trainer Wayne Catalano would have liked to have seen more competitiveness from Uncontested.

"Everything went like we wanted it to, until the end there. He just didn't answer the call," Catalano said. "You've got to answer the call."

 

Isabella Sings Goes Gate to Wire in Endeavour
2/11/2017

Isabella Sings Goes Gate to Wire in EndeavourSiena Farm's homebred  took the lead and never looked back, easily winning by three lengths in the  Feb. 11 at . 

Over 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf, the speedy front-running daughter of  set fractions of :22.87 and :45.84 through the first half mile and put 5 1/2 lengths between her and the rest of the seven-horse field. Light in Paris began to make a dent in the odds-on favorite's lead around the far turn, but when jockey John Velazquez asked the Todd Pletcher-trained mare to finish strong, she powered through in the deep stretch and hit the wire in 1:41.07.

Light in Paris held on for second and  was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. 

"When I went to grab her at the quarter-mile pole and make her switch leads, she kind of took a step back, like she got a little confused going from a light rein to a tight rein," Velazquez said. "But from there, she went on again. We've talked about slowing her down early, but when we tried that she would fight you and throw her head up, so we decided to let her be the way she is."

The winner returned , .40, and .10 across the board. Light in Paris paid .80 and .20, while Evidently was worth .20. 

Isabella Sings' connections said the Endeavour could be one of her last appearances at the track as the mare is booked to visit leading sire   at Ashford Stud this year. After Saturday's race, the chestnut mare boasts a record of 8-4-2 from 20 starts. She's won four total graded stakes, including the 2015 Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2T) and a three-length score in the grade 3 Eatontown Stakes last June. 

Two races earlier on the card in the , also over 1 1/16 miles on the grass, it was Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable's homebred  who crossed the wire first by a half length. 

With Velazquez also in the irons, the 4-year-old son of   took the lead in the deep stretch and held off a challenge from the late-running . Irish Straight was another half length back in third. The final time was 1:40.65.

Inspector Lynley paid .60, .80, and .40 across the board. 

"The last time I rode him, the horse inside of us stepped out in front of us right at the gate and my horse stumbled, and I lost all chance to place him where I wanted," Velazquez said of the pair's fifth-place finish in the Tropical Park Derby Dec. 31 at . 

"We broke well enough today to get in good position, and once I got running room in the stretch, I knew we had it."

Inspector Lynley has a 3-3-2 record from 12 starts. The Tampa Bay Stakes was the second graded victory for the Shug McGaughey trainee, who won the Saranac Stakes (G3T) at  in September.

 

Third Day Wins Overnight Stakes at Gulfstream Park
2/8/2017

Third Day Wins Overnight Stakes at Gulfstream Park successfully stretched out to one mile and picked up his second win in as many starts Feb. 8 when he rallied from fourth to win a ,000 overnight stakes at . 

Town & Country Racing and Spendthrift Farm's Third Day raced fourth early in the field of five 3-year-olds trying the one-turn mile in the Just One More Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds who had never won a stakes.

Jockey John Velazquez asked Third Day for his best in the turn and the son of   responded, quickly surging into second before gradually reeling in early leader  in the stretch.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Third Day edged Barry Karafin Bets by a neck, completing the mile test in 1:36.96.

Wednesday's race marked the first start for Third Day since he won his debut in a July 31 maiden race at . Third Day registered a 2 1/4-length victory in that race, completing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.19.

In preparing for his first start in more than six months, Third Day worked four times in January at Palm Beach Downs—earning the bullet in three of those moves.

"The horse had been training very well. He showed a lot of promise in his debut and he needed a little time after that," Pletcher said. "We were optimistic being a son of Bernardini and out of a Street Cry mare that the distance would be OK for him.

"We were just hoping we had him tight enough to go a mile off the layoff and I thought he handled that part of it well. He's still learning and still a little green, but considering the layoff and the stretch out in distance, I thought it was very encouraging."

Next up for Third Day is a shot in a two-turn Triple Crown prep, Pletcher said. Gulfstream hosts the 0,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 4 and the million Florida Derby (G1) at 1 1/8 miles April 1.

"He'll come back in one of those stakes, we just don't know which one," Pletcher said. "There's a lot of options this time of year. I think he's a colt where we can look at those kind of possibilities."

Third Day was sent off the even-money favorite and returned .20, .60, and .10 across the board. Steven Dwoskin's Barry Karafin Bets held second, paying .20 and .20 to place and show. Gelfenstein Farm's  picked up third and returned .10 to show. 

The current owners of Third Day went to 5,000 to land him from the De Meric Sales consignment at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Company March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Third Day previously sold for 0,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.

 

Pletcher Ready to Test Battalion Runner on Derby Trail
2/3/2017

Pletcher Ready to Test Battalion Runner on Derby Trail

 

The 3-year-old son of Unbridled's Song turned heads Dec. 31, when he won a maiden race by 8 3/4 lengths in his second start off a lengthy layoff. Trainer Todd Pletcher said the colt will start next in a stakes race on the Triple Crown trail.

"I think everything is in play," Plethcer said. "Part of the reason we ran here was because it was more of a methodical step and made sense, and by running this weekend it kind of left everything in play."

Battalion Runner, ridden by John Velazquez, edged away from pacesetter  in the stretch to post a 1 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race. Beasley came in 7 3/4 lengths clear of the third-place finisher, .

The final time was 1:43.37 on a fast track.

"I thought it was a good effort—first time around two turns and second start off of a long layoff," Pletcher said. "I think we got what we wanted. The time seems solid. They kind of got into a steady rhythm all the way around there. It looked like the first two were pretty well clear of the field."

Kentucky-bred Battalion Runner, acquired for 0,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, was the 1-5 favorite in the seven-horse field. 

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Unbridled Mo Upsets 'Chatterbox' in Houston Ladies
1/29/2017

Unbridled Mo Upsets 'Chatterbox' in Houston LadiesRed Oak Stable's homebred  played the upsetter Jan. 29 in the 0,000 Houston Ladies Classic (G3).

Three-time grade 1 winner and odds-on favorite  loomed during the stretch run to the wire, but the   filly turned away her older, more accomplished rival with determination to win the 1 1/16-mile dirt test by 2 3/4 lengths at .

The top-finishing pair trailed the field during the backstretch running, as Unbridled Mo raced in fifth and I'm a Chatterbox, off at 1-2, took up the rear in the six-horse field, 6 1/2 lengths off leader .

Danzatrice set fractions of :23.37 and :47.55 through a half-mile, but soon after faded. Unbridled Mo took over to cover six furlongs in 1:11.52 and made a three-wide move in the final turn. I'm a Chatterbox traveled four- and five-wide in the final bend and pulled within a head with a furlong to run, but flattened out late as Unbridled Mo pulled away under jockey Jose Ortiz.

"She's a big filly, and as soon as she got into that big stride at the three-eighths pole, I knew I had a chance to win," said Ortiz, who won three of the five stakes Sunday on the "Houston Racing Festival" card at Sam Houston. "When I'm a Chatterbox came outside of me, I said, 'OK, let me go left-handed now' and when I went left-handed, she responded very well."

The 4-year-old filly, out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Waters, hit the wire in 1:42.89 to collect her second grade 3 win. Her first came in the 2016 Monmouth Oaks (G3) Aug. 20 at . She now has five wins from seven starts and 6,180 in earnings for trainer Todd Pletcher.

"We're very fortunate," said Red Oak owner John Brunetti. "What you have to do is, you have to have the best horse, best rider, best trainer and that day is yours. I can't wait to get her in the breeding shed, but she's got some more work to do."

I'm a Chatterbox, the winner of last year's Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) and Delaware Handicap (G1), now has more than .3 million in earnings with her second-place finish. Grade 2 winner  checked in third in the Houston Ladies Classic, another 1 1/4 lengths back.

 

Master Plan Impresses in OBS Championship Stakes
1/24/2017

Master Plan Impresses in OBS Championship Stakes began to live up to his hefty purchase price when the 3-year-old son of   rallied late under John Velazquez for a 2 1/2-length victory in the 0,000 OBS Championship Stakes (colts and geldings division).

The race was one of four stakes on a Jan. 24 card that also included seven Quarter Horse races, with a large crowd in attendance on a sun-splashed day at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s racetrack in Ocala, Fla. The Quarter Horse races and the OBS Championship sprint for fillies are pari-mutuel races, with the remaining Thoroughbred races run as non-wagering events. The four Thoroughbred races on the card were restricted to 3-year-olds that had gone through the ring at an OBS sale, with the Quarter Horse races carded because OBS operates racing under a license for that breed.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for Al Shaqab Racing, WinStar Farm, and China Horse Club, which went to 0,000 to purchase him out of the 2016 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training, Master Plan raced from near the back of the eight-horse field as  led  through a half-mile in :48 2/5.

Sailing Home took over exiting the second turn after completing six furlongs in 1:12 as  moved up to second. Master Plan, who had raced greenly throughout, kicked in when asked a second time by Velazquez and wore down the front-runners, getting the 1 1/16 miles in final time of 1:44 over the all-weather surface.

"He was impressive," Velazquez said of the manner in which the colt took over and won. "But I had to wake him up. I was not conifdent when I got into the second turn. He was not running at all."

Master Plan made his first two starts on turf, breaking his maiden at second asking. In his third and most recent start, the colt bred in Kentucky by Ernest Frohboese was a late-closing second in ’s Pulpit Stakes at a mile over a sloppy track. With two wins and a third from four starts, the colt has earned ,490.

Sean Tugel, assistant racing manager and director of bloodstock services for WinStar, said the race showed the colt is improving and that he deserves a shot in graded company.

“He definitely wants to go further and he’s still green,” said Tugel of Master Plan, who is nominated to the Triple Crown series. “It’s always very exciting this time of the year to have a 3-year-old that’s going in the right direction and that’s what we have here.

“We’ll get him home and develop a plan for down the road, hopefully in a big stakes race. We’re always gunning for that two-turn 3-year-old and that seemed like what he was going to be. There was nothing that kept him from starting earlier, but maybe (he was) just (lacking) maturity. He obviously is starting to mature and every race has gotten a little bit better.”

Master Plan represented a major pinhooking score for Eisaman Equine, which purchased the bay colt for ,000 from Romans Racing & Sales at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.

The afternoon of racing precedes the OBS winter mixed sale that will be held Jan. 25-26.

In the 0,000 OBS Championship Stakes for fillies at 1 1/16 miles, Ballybrit Stable’s  went gate to wire and held off a closing  to win by 1 3/4 lengths in final time of 1:46 1/5 for 1 1/16 miles under jockey Orlando Bocachica.

The victory was the third in six starts for the 3-year-old daughter of  , who was bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm. Trained by Michael Dini, the filly has won half her six career starts and earned ,740 for her owner. She is the first black-type stakes winner for her sire.

Dini said the filly’s next start will be in the Florida Oaks (G3T) at .

Dynatail was initially purchased by Fredrick Town Farms from Eaton Sales for ,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale, and was bought by her current owner for ,000 from Hoppel’s Horse & Cattle Co. at the 2016 OBS June 2-year-olds in training sale.

Jockey Luis Saez took the first two Thoroughbred stakes on the card, winning the ,000 OBS Sprint for colts and geldings with Gonzalez Racing’s  and setting a track record of 1:08 3/5 for six furlongs with  in the fillies sprint division for Hernandez Racing Club.

 

Tommy Macho Overcomes Trip to Win Hal's Hope
1/14/2017

Tommy Macho Overcomes Trip to Win Hal's HopePaul Pompa Jr. and J Stables'  didn't have the easiest trip in the 0,000  at Jan. 14, but that didn't stop 5-year-old son of   from taking off down the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths like nothing happened. 

 went for the early lead in the one-turn mile and set fractions of :23.15 and :45.37, with , Tommy Macho, and  stalking close behind. Going into the turn, Bird Song and jockey Julien Leparoux began to pressure Dolphus, while Luis Saez was forced to check Tommy Macho, who then stumbled before dropping back to fifth.

"I'll have to see the replay but it looked like he kind of got cut off a little bit and clipped heels and bobbled there for a second, but right after that happened he got up and took off," trainer Todd Pletcher said. 

Bird Song took over at the quarter pole, as Saez maneuvered Tommy Macho to have a clear path to go between that one and . Under encouragement from his jockey, Tommy Macho found a new gear and won going away in a final time of 1:35.20. Bird Song finished second, with Realm 1 1/2 lengths back in third. 

, , , Unbridled Outlaw, and Dolphus completed the order of finish. 

Tommy Macho paid .20, .40, and .20 across the board. Bird Song returned .40 and .80, while Realm paid .40.

"Unfortunately we had to do knee surgery on him after he won here last year so it's almost been a year to get him back on form," Pletcher said of Tommy Macho. "His first couple of starts he seemed a little bit rusty, but he's been training better and it seems like he likes this track a lot.

"Anytime you have a horse come back from a knee injury like that, and have to have surgery and come back and regain form it's fun to see and rewarding to see him come back and do well. It's fun for us today to win two stakes with two horses winning a year apart (Sandiva won the grade 3 Marshua's River for a second year in a row earlier on the card)."

Saez said it wasn't an easy trip, but Tommy Macho responded under his asking. 

"I think when he fell a little bit in the middle of horses, he felt a little intimidated, and he started to back up," the jockey said. "That's why the horse on the rail stole my position, and I came out and I almost clipped heels. Then I hit my horse and he started running. He came back and beat them like nothing happened."

Tommy Macho raced three times last year, finishing fourth last time out in the Nov. 19 Richard W. Small Stakes at . His most recent win, before his knee surgery, was last February at Gulfstream in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3), where he defeated  by 3 3/4 lengths. 

Bred by John Liviakis in Kentucky, Tommy Macho was a ,000 purchase by Juan Naciff from the War Horse Place consignment at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton fall yearling sale. He has five wins from 12 starts with 8,970 in earnings.

 

Sandiva Not Done Yet, Takes Marshua's River
1/14/2017

Sandiva Not Done Yet, Takes Marshua's RiverAl Shaqab Racing's  picked up another graded stakes victory and a second win in the 0,000  when she won this year's edition by a half-length in a possible cap to her racing career. 

In the 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares on 's turf course Jan. 14,  took control early and led comfortably through the first six furlongs. Under jockey Edgard Zayas, the Todd Pletcher-trained Isabella Sings extended her lead to 6 1/2 lengths ahead of  on the backside, and set quick fractions of :23.17, :46. 37, and 1:09.80. 

The other Pletcher trainee, Sandiva went three wide around the turn under jockey Javier Castellano to go outside Sea Coast as those two began to cut into Isabella Sings' lead. Finally catching up in the stretch, Sea Coast went to the rail while Sandiva moved to the outside of Isabella Sings and got up to win by a half length, stopping the clock in 1:39.56. In a photo for second, Sea Coast nosed out the pacesetter. 

, , , and  completed the order of finish. 

Favored Sandiva returned .80, .00, and .20 across the board. Sea Coast paid .60 and .80, while Isabella Sings was worth .40. 

"She just needed a little freshening. She had a solid campaign and she seemed like she was just a touch off form and we knew that she loves Gulfstream. We kind of intentionally freshened her up with these races in mind," Pletcher said, mentioning her third-place effort in the 7 1/2 furlong South Beach Stakes Dec. 17 at Gulfstream.

"She is versatile enough that 7 1/2 is probably a tick short than ideal, but she showed enough quality that she almost got there, but I think, obviously, that race helped her out today."

Days before the race, Pletcher said that the Marshua's River could be the last time on the track for both Sandiva and Siena Farm's Isabella Sings before heading off to the breeding shed. Sandiva is booked to Al Shaqab's stallion and three-time grade 1 winner  . However, after the race, the trainer said he might get one more start out of the 6-year-old mare.

"She is booked (to be bred) to Mshawish this year, so we'll get with team Al Shaqab to see if she will have one more run (in the grade 3 Suwannee River Feb. 11) or go on to be bred," Pletcher said. 

Bred in Ireland by Denis McDonnell, the daughter of Footstepsinthesand was purchased by Bobby O'Ryan and Middleham Park for ,476 at the Goffs Doncaster premier yearling sale. She now boasts a record of 8-4-3 from 23 starts, with earnings of 1,277, and has won a stakes race every year from ages 2 to 6. 

 

Sonic Mule Too Tough in Mucho Macho Man
1/7/2017

Sonic Mule Too Tough in Mucho Macho ManWhen one door closed, another opened in gritty fashion for Calumet Farm's  in the 0,000 .

With the six-furlong Hutcheson (G3) failing to fill this week, Sonic Mule was entered in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man at  as the backup plan. Plan 'B' saw the 3-year-old son of   deliver his 'A' game—he sat off the early pace and bravely turned back  in deep stretch to score his second stakes victory and first triumph at the eight-furlong distance. 

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Sonic Mule won back-to-back six furlong races to cap off his 2016 juvenile campaign, including a front-running score over fellow Mucho Macho Man entrants  and  in the Dec. 10 Buffalo Man at Gulfstream. 

The bay colt showed Saturday he is not a need-the-lead type, rating under jockey Javier Castellano fourth in an outside path as Recruiting Ready took the 11-horse field through an opening quarter in :23.14. Shortly after the half mile went in :45.85, Sonic Mule advanced to second and had Recruiting Ready put away coming off the final turn—only to be engaged at that point by State of Honor to his outside.

State of Honor appeared to have Sonic Mule measured in the lane, but Castellano kept getting more out of his mount and they hit the wire a head in front in a final time of 1:37.52 over a track rated fast.

"I was a little concerned how he would handle the mile. We tried to stretch him out a little bit earlier," said Pletcher, who mentioned the Feb. 4 Swale (G2) as a possible next target. "But the one thing I did feel good about was he breezed really well the other day and seemed like he was coming into any race, whatever it would be, in good form. It was just a matter of working out a trip and seeing if he could get the distance."

Sonic Mule had raced over a mile twice previously, including a runner-up finish in the Oct. 1 Armed Forces on the turf at Gulfstream.

Sent off at 9-2 odds, Sonic Mule paid .40 to win. State of Honor was 1 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Talk Logistics, with  fourth. , winner of the Nov. 4 Nashua (G2), was never in contention and was eased through the stretch but was able to walk off.

"He's a fighter, no question about it," Pletcher said of Sonic Mule. "You could tell he was getting tired and he didn't gallop out real far past the wire so I think he was giving Javier everything he had. He's shown to be that kind of horse. He's got a lot of determination and a lot of fight. He's a cool horse to be around."

Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and purchased by Calumet for 5,000 out of the Select Sales consignment at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, Sonic Mule broke his maiden first time out going 5 1/2 furlongs at  last July 15. He improves his record to four wins from seven starts with a bankroll of 6,455.

 

Made You Look Strong in Dania Beach
1/7/2017

Made You Look Strong in Dania BeachTrainer Todd Pletcher was disappointed in Make You Look after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T), when the son of   finished a lackluster sixth. But the dark bay colt redeemed himself Jan. 7 in his 3-year-old debut, a strong performance in the 0,000  at . 

Closing strongly to win the 7 1/2-furlong turf event for sophomores by 2 1/2 lengths, Let's Go Stable and Three Chimneys Farm's Made You Look was ridden confidently by Javier Castellano.

The leading Eclipse Award finalist for his fourth consecutive award as outstanding jockey, Castellano put favored Made You Look behind and in between horses down the backstretch. While his stablemate  set the pace through fractions of :23.83 and :48.13, Made You Look was racing in fifth position, and his rider appeared to have a ton of horse under him.

When the field turned for home, Made You Look was guided to the outside and began to pick off horses in the stretch.

"The way he did it, I was very impressed," Castellano said. "He was covered up a little bit. There was a lot of speed in the race and I kept him inside on the rail. The way he did it was very professional and the way he exploded the last part of it was very impressive. I angled out a little bit because I saw those two horses in front start to back up a little bit, so I tried find some room to split horses. I tried to use my best judgment and put him outside to let him run and when I asked him, he took off."

Finishing second in the eight-horse field was 45-1 longshot . He was followed under the wire by , who was a half-length behind. The race's second choice, 9-5 , checked in fourth.

Pletcher said he was pleased as he watched the race unfold.

"He was sitting a good turf trip," the trainer remarked. "It looked like (Castellano) was riding confidently, that he had horse, and when he tipped him out and he hit the accelerator, he responded quickly."

Made You Look won the With Anticipation (G2T) at  as a 2-year-old after breaking his maiden at second asking at  in June. He was training well coming into the Breeders' Cup, but failed to deliver.

"The main thing I was disappointed about with the Breeders' Cup was that he didn't run his race," Pletcher said. "He didn't really fire. When you run your race and get beat, it's one thing, but he just didn't fire."

Made You Look returned .40 and completed the distance in 1:29.98 over a firm turf course. He was bred in Kentucky by the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust, out of the Unbridled's Song mare Night and Day, and was a 0,000 purchase by his owners from the Denali Stud consignment to the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.

 

Sumaya Stables' Malagacy Romps at Gulfstream
1/4/2017

Sumaya Stables' Malagacy Romps at GulfstreamSumaya U.S. Stables'  produced an auspicious debut performance Jan. 4 in the seventh race at —one that even caught trainer Todd Pletcher somewhat by surprise. The 3-year-old   colt scored by 15 lengths under Javier Castellano over a muddy track. 

"He's trained well but you never necessarily expect one to blow the field away like that. He obviously took to the track. The break's key in these kinds of races and he was sharp away from there. He looked good," Pletcher said.

Malagacy broke alertly in the 5 1/2-furlong sprint, assuming the lead leaving the backstretch and extending his lead to the finish line, timed in 1:03.60.

"We didn't expect to be on the lead necessarily but we expected to leave there running," Pletcher said. "That's what we wanted to do. A 5 1/2 (-furlong) race on a wet track, you don't want to take back and dirt school him."

Malagacy was bred by John Trumbulovic in Kentucky out of the Dehere mare Classiest Gem. He was a 0,000 purchase by agent Steven Young from the De Meric Sales consignment to the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale.

Sumaya U.S. is the stable name for Oussama Aboughazale's string; Aboughazale's International Equities Holding Co. made headlines Dec. 3 as the owner of the first reported foal by Triple Crown winner  .

 

Bode's Dream Looks to Stay Perfect in Old Hat
1/4/2017

Bode's Dream Looks to Stay Perfect in Old HatSt. Elias Stable's multiple stakes winner  will put her perfect form on the line when she makes her first start as a newly-turned 3-year-old against a compact field of six challengers in the 0,000 Old Hat Stakes (G3) at  Jan. 7.

Bode's Dream capped off her three-race juvenile campaign with a front-running victory in the ,000 House Party Stakes at Gulfstream Dec. 10, a race that marked the first start for the daughter of   off a six-month layoff. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the gray filly first showed an affinity for the Gulfstream surface last May 11, when she rolled to a 3 3/4-length debut victory going 4 1/2 furlongs. The Kentucky-bred came right back a month later to show the way throughout the 5 1/2-furlongs of the 0,000 Astoria Stakes at  to score by 2 3/4 lengths.

Bode's Dream has earned all of her victories on the front end and defeated fellow Old Hat entrant  during her 2 3/4-length triumph in the House Party.

Wildcat Kate has shown early speed herself, most notably when she broke her maiden by 15 3/4 lengths first time out at Gulfstream Park West Oct. 20. The daughter of   has registered a pair of runner-up efforts since including being bested a half-length in the Juvenile Filly Sprint Stakes against fellow Florida-breds Nov. 12.

In addition to Bode's Dream, Pletcher will be represented by Repole Stable's . The chestnut daughter of   broke her maiden going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Dec. 4, her second career outing, and will break alongside her stablemate out of post No. 1 in the six-furlong Old Hat.

 

, Saturday, January 07, 2017, Race 3
  • STK
  • 6f
  • Dirt
  • 0,000
  • 3 yo Fillies
  • 1:00 PM (local)

 

 

Neolithic to Represent Starlight in Pegasus
1/4/2017

Neolithic to Represent Starlight in PegasusStarlight Racing will be represented by  in the upcoming million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), scheduled to be held for the first time Jan. 28 at .

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the dark bay colt is a son of former Starlight Racing color bearer Harlan's Holiday, and has won two of his seven starts. After finishing a strong second in the Discovery Stakes (G3) in November, he came back to romp by nine lengths in an allowance race at Gulfstream in December. Since that race, he has clocked a bullet workout Dec. 31 at Palm Beach Downs (four furlongs in :48 3/5).

Jack Wolf, Starlight Racing's founder and co-managing partner, is also the chief operating officer of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and assembled a group of stakeholders to purchase a slot in the Pegasus World Cup called Starlight Pegasus Partners. 

"The race is shaping up to be one for the ages with the likes of   and ," said Wolf. "But Neolithic showed some real talent and class with his win at Gulfstream Park last month and has been training great since that race. We are excited to be part of such a big day for horse racing."

Pletcher will also saddle  in the Pegasus World Cup after owner Donegal Racing worked out a deal with stakeholders Ronald and Jerry Frankel. Third behind Arrogate and California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Keen Ice is winless since his upset of Triple Crown champion   in the 2015 Travers (G1), most recently finishing second in the Harlan's Holiday (G3) Dec.17 at Gulfstream.

Neither of multiple graded stakes winners  or  are being pointed to the Pegasus World Cup, Pletcher said, but could wind up on the undercard in the 0,000 Poseidon, also for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles. The stablemates finished first and fourth, respectively, in the Harlan's Holiday.

 "I think right now the plan would be for Stanford to go in the Poseidon and Madefromlucky...I need to talk to the connections about it," Pletcher said. "He's a possibility for the Poseidon or also maybe shipping out of town."

Other horses confirmed for the Pegasus World Cup are Eragon (Jim McIngvale),  (Reddam Racing), (Adena Springs) and  (Dan Schafer/Loooch Racing & Partners).

 

Zulu Scores in Tamarac Stakes
12/18/2016

Zulu Scores in Tamarac StakesTodd Pletcher-trained  returned to the races a winner in the ,000 Tamarac Stakes at  Dec. 18. 

The 3-year-old son of  , who had not run since finishing 12th as the favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at  in April, was sent to the sidelines to regroup.

In his return Sunday, Zulu sat off the pace in the seven-furlong Tamarac before reaching the leaders around the far turn. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the 1-2 favorite moved to the lead at the top of the lane, and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory over  while being kept to the task by his rider. The win was the 300th of the year for Castellano.

"I'm very excited to do it with this horse," Castellano said of his 300th win. "He was impressive. He's a really nice horse. I'm glad to see him come back. I'm very satisfied the way he did it today. He's a very classy horse. I give all the credit to Mr. Pletcher, the way he brought him back after a long time."

At the 2015-16 championship meet, Zulu showed his affinity for the Gulfstream Park oval, winning the first two starts of his career in easy fashion. In his stakes debut, he finished second to  in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II).

"He has natural speed but he's not super quick, either. The benefit of drawing outside is you get a little opportunity to let things unfold and let him get his legs up underneath him. I thought when Javier asked him, he responded well," said Pletcher, who notched his seventh stakes victory so far in the championship meet.

Graded stakes-placed Yellow Chips closed from last in the seven-horse field to finish 2 1/2 lengths clear of third-place finisher . Zulu, who is owned by Stonestreet Stables, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, ran the seven furlongs in 1:22.12.      

"Overall I thought it was a good effort, Pletcher added. "He hadn't run in eight months so anytime (they) haven't been out in a while you hope you have them tight enough and fit enough. He had to kind of overcome a little bit of a wide trip, but I think the final time was pretty solid considering. It'll be interesting to see how the time stacks up on the day, but there was a pretty good headwind down the stretch. I thought it was a good effort."

Pletcher said the 0,000 Hal's Hope (gr. III) at Gulfstream Jan. 14 looks like a "nice fit" for Zulu.

"There are a number of options," he said. "The Hal's Hope, the Poseidon (Jan. 28)—we've got plenty of options. I think the key is to see how he comes out of the race and how soon we want to run him back. Just off the top of my head it seems like the Hal's Hope might be a nice fit for him, but it's four weeks, so we'll see how he bounced out of it and take it from there."

 

Stanford Speeds to Harlan's Holiday Victory
12/17/2016

Stanford Speeds to Harlan's Holiday VictoryA dream trip and equally ideal outcome in the Dec. 17  may have earned  a chance at pulling off the ultimate fantasy next month. 

It is rare when the best-laid plans come to fruition once the starting gate opens. After getting a sharp break out of post 1, the rest of Stanford's 1 1/16-mile tour around  went exactly as his connections hoped, with the son of   leading at every point of call en route to a three-length win over stablemate  in the 0,000 Harlan's Holiday.

The Harlan's Holiday had more than the usual implications on the line. With the inaugural edition of the million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (gr. I) set to be held at Gulfstream Jan. 28, Saturday's test served as a last audition of sorts for Stanford, Keen Ice and fellow Todd Pletcher-trainee .

With Stanford emphatically taking care of his end of the bargain and grade I-winner Keen Ice closing admirably as the 8-5 favorite despite his stablemate getting away with tepid fractions of :24.61 and :48.94, Pletcher said there are now a couple serious conversations that need to take place in the coming weeks.

"I thought it was terrific for (Stanford)," said Pletcher, who took three of the top four placings, with Madefromlucky crossing the wire fourth. "It probably worked against Keen Ice a little bit, but despite that I thought he ran pretty well to be second. Javier (Castellano) tried to keep him closer because of the slow fractions and the way the track's playing. I thought he ran pretty well considering that. 

"I'll talk to the connections ... but Stanford and Keen Ice certainly ran well enough to consider the Pegasus."

Stanford is owned by Stonestreet Stables along with the Coolmore partnership of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor. and Derrick Smith. Coolmore does already own one of the 12 starting positions for the Pegasus World Cup. Donegal Racing, owner of Keen Ice, would need to work out a deal with one of the other shareholders to get in the gate.

Everything worked in Stanford's favor in his first start since finishing eighth in the June 11 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at .

Jockey John Velazquez got the 4-year-old bay colt away in strong order and had the 9-5 second choice coasting as he cruised up front, with  tracking second in an outside path and Madefromlucky on the rail third down the backstretch.

Keen Ice rolled up three wide on the final turn and, along with Awesome Slew, tried to mount a challenge to Stanford. The pacesetter responded with more than enough in reserve, drawing clear under mild urging to hit the wire in 1:42.10 over a fast track.

"He broke really well and got to the first turn easy," Velazquez said. "I just waited to see how he did on the lead. He did it really easy. He runs hard all the time. I see it (in) the mornings, too. He was fresh and even when I asked him down the lane, he wanted to run. He did start pricking his ears and I had to get into him a little bit to keep his mind focused. But when (Keen Ice) came to him galloping out, my horse galloped out really well."

Stanford paid .60, .20, and .40 across the board. Awesome Slew held for third over Madefromlucky, with , , and  completing the order of finish.

Bred by WinStar Farm, out of the   mare Rosy Humor, Stanford notched his first graded stakes win in April, when he scored a front-running triumph in the .25 million Charles Town Classic (gr. II). The 0,000 purchase at the 2014 Barretts March 2-year-olds in training sale improved his record to five wins from 13 starts and ,197,560 in earnings.

 

Eskenformoney Digs Deep to Win Rampart
12/17/2016

Eskenformoney Digs Deep to Win RampartStarLadies Racing's  got her first graded win when she ran down the odds-on favorite  to take the  at  Dec. 17. 

In the one-mile test for fillies and mares, Curlin's Approval and the Todd Pletcher-trained  dueled for the lead early and set an honest pace with fractions of :23.53, :45.64, and 1:09.71 through six furlongs. The other Pletcher trainee Eskenformoney settled in third, racing right off the pace. 

Jockey Javier Castellano asked Eskenformoney to move up and challenge the front runners going into the far turn. In the stretch, Genre began to fade as Curlin's Approval dug in, but it was Eskenformoney in front at the wire by three-quarters of a length. Curlin's Approval finished second and Genre got third. The final time was 1:35.47.

"It worked out perfectly," Castellano said of his trip. "The thing was the post position. I had a great post. I was able to stalk behind the speed. It worked out great today."

Eskenformoney returned .20, .40, and .80 across the board. Curlin's Approval paid .40 and .10, and Genre was worth .20.

, , , and  completed the order of finish. 

"I think Genre just showed a little more natural speed," Pletcher said of his two runners. "Javier (aboard Eskenformoney) made a conscious effort to try to stay as close as he could and was kind of pecking at (Curlin's Approval) down the backside to maintain that position and it worked out.

"It's nice to see (Eskenformoney) get that (graded win)," he added. "She deserved it. She had knocked on the door several times this summer and had just missed and as a 3-year-old, as well. She seems to like Gulfstream. She's always consistently run well here and it's good to see her pick up a graded win."

In her 20 career starts, Eskenformoney now has a 4-5-3 record with 7,316 in earnings. She has come close to getting a graded victory earlier this year, losing by a neck to Genre in the July 31 Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr. III) at . 

"I'm not sure (what's next)," Pletcher said. "I think there's a good chance Genre will be bred. Eskenformoney, I have to talk to the StarLadies connections and see what the plans are. She's a filly that we always kind of felt like would get better as she got a little older and I think that could prove true."

Bred in Kentucky by Ramspring Farm, the 4-year-old daughter of Eskendereya was a 5,000 purchase by Starlight Racing from Taylor Made Sales at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale. 

 

Bode's Dream Perfect in House Party
12/10/2016

Bode's Dream Perfect in House Party got the jump on her eight rivals and continued on to register a comfortable front-running victory in the ,000 , scoring by 2 3/4 lengths in the first of six ,000 stakes on the Dec. 10 Juvenile Showcase card at . 

The win early on the card was just a hint of things to come for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has earned an unprecedented 13 consecutive training titles at Gulfstream's championship meet and who saddled four juvenile stakes winner Saturday.

Pletcher, a seven-time Eclipse Award winner, could not recall winning four stakes at one track on one day. The four stakes wins came with three colts and the filly. Hall of Fame John Velazquez rode three of the winners.

Pletcher started the day with St. Elias Stable's undefeated Bode's Dream, a   filly who won under Velazquez in her first start since taking the Astoria in June at .

"She'd been training well, but it's been a while since she ran. We had her ready off the layoff," Pletcher said. "The one thing she has is exceptional gate speed. She broke and it was pretty straight forward after that.

"She's obviously fast, so she gives us the impression that she's a quality sprinter. The next logical step would be the Old Hat (grade III, Jan. 7)."

Then came , a 2-year-old son of   who was purchased for .2 million at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2015 select yearling sale by Robert LaPenta, Bridlewood Farm, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. Entered for the main track only, the colt drew in after the ,000 Pulpit Stakes was moved from the turf to the sloppy main track. He opened up a five-length lead down the stretch before winning the mile event by a length under Eddie Castro. 

"He's suited to two turns but we didn't have too many options. So we took a shot in a main-track-only and it worked out well for him," Pletcher said. "I think everything is in play now. We'll see how he comes out of it. He's seems to be going the right way." 

Less than 30 minutes after saddling Tapwrit to victory, Pletcher scored with Calumet Farm's  in the ,000 Buffalo Man. A son of   bred by WinStar Farm, Sonic Mule won the six-furlong event by 1 3/4 lengths with Velazquez in the irons. 

"He's a horse with a pedigree that suggests maybe he would do just about anything," Pletcher said. "He's a horse that always seems like he is ready to go and we've picked out different opportunities for him. He was a bit unlucky not to win on the grass in that one race here, but I think he seems to be his best doing this."

Sonic Mule will point toward the 0,000 Hutcheson (gr. III) going six furlongs Jan. 7.

"For now we'll keep him short, and then we will let him stretch his way out if he wants to," Pletcher said.

Pletcher's fourth stakes winner and third in three races came in the ,000 Smooth Air at a mile with , owned by Tabor, Magnier, Smith, and Stonestreet Stables LLC. The son of   won by seven with Velazquez aboard. 

"He showed us today that he should be able to handle the stretch-out from a mile," Pletcher said. "The time stacked up favorable for the day. It was a quality effort from him."

Fact Finding, who has won his three starts by a combined 15 1/2 lengths, ran a mile over a sloppy track in 1:36.98.

"He's kind of handled everything we've asked him to do so far. The owners have been very patient letting him find his way along," Pletcher said. "He's very laid-back in the morning. We really weren't sure what we had until we ran him. He's one of those horses that kind of saves himself in the morning. We really didn't know what we had until we ran him."

Non-Pletcher-trained runners to score Saturday in the juvenile stakes were Magic Stables' , a daughter of   who won the one-mile Hut Hut Stakes for trainer Antonio Sano, and Hope H. Jones' , an   filly who took an off-the-turf edition of the mile Wait a While for trainer Graham Motion.

 

Anchor Down Retired to Gainesway
12/1/2016

Anchor Down Retired to Gainesway , a multiple graded stakes-winning miler by   who defeated eventual Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) victor   in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II), has been retired and will enter stud at Gainesway.

Anchor Down is being syndicated and will stand for ,000 in 2017. He is available for inspection at the farm from 12:30-2:30 p.m. daily.

Out of Successful Outlook, a graded stakes winner at 2, Anchor Down is a half brother to grade I-winning sprinter  and a full brother to grade I-placed .

Campaigned by Alto Racing and trained by Todd Pletcher, Anchor Down won his first two starts in 2014 as an early 3-year-old at , including a seven-furlong allowance in 1:21.67 when he finished 7 1/2 lengths ahead of  , winner of the grade I Arkansas Derby in his next start.

"He was very impressive in his first two starts and was on the course for a Kentucky Derby prep," Pletcher said. "We felt like he was quickly moving to the head of our class as a Kentucky Derby candidate, particularly with his performance over Danza, who came back to win the Arkansas Derby and run third in the Kentucky Derby."

Anchor Down had been targeting the Wood Memorial (gr. I) before being sidelined, but in 2016 he developed into one of the country's top milers. He led gate-to-wire and romped by 6 3/4 lengths in the Westchester Stakes (gr. III) and was runner-up to   in the Met Mile (gr. I), defeating grade I winners Tamarkuz and , among others.

Not only did Anchor Down wire the field and break 1:33 in the one-mile Kelso, but he also earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, the second-highest dirt figure of 2016 at the distance.

"Ultimately his forte was as a brilliant miler," Pletcher said. "He had the ability to set a high cruising speed, which historically bodes well for him as a stallion prospect. I believe Anchor Down is one of only four horses ever to run a sub-1:33 mile at Belmont, so that's rarefied air."

Anchor Down's half sister, Test Stakes (gr. I) winner Sweet Lulu (by Mr. Greeley), sold for million as a broodmare. His full brother Iron Fist, who placed behind   in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I), sold for .55 million as a yearling.

Anchor Down, who was bred by Gainesway, returns to his birthplace to take up stud duties. Gainesway president Antony Beck said, "Anchor Down's unique combination of pedigree, physical, and raw miler speed gives him the potential to make a very successful sire."

 

Four-Time Graded Winner Protonico Retired
11/30/2016

Four-Time Graded Winner Protonico Retired  has been retired from racing and will enter stud at Taylor Made Stallions near Nicholasville, Ky., for 2017. The four-time graded stakes-winning son of   will stand for ,500 stands and nurses. Taylor Made Stallions is offering lifetime breeding rights for breeders that have two live foals and pay the stud fees.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Protonico was bred in Kentucky by Oussama Aboughazale’s International Equities Holding and was raced by his Sumaya U.S. Stable. The dark bay or brown colt won seven of 16 starts over four seasons in training and earned 7,587.

“We are excited to have Protonico join our expanding stallion roster for 2017,” said Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Stallions. “He was very unfortunate not to win a grade I, but he ran a 107 Beyer Speed Figure and defeated 22 graded stakes winners, including grade I winners Honor Code and Constitution. Besides being a tremendous value for breeders, Mr. Aboughazale is committed to supporting him heavily and wants to reward breeders who join him with the opportunity to earn a lifetime breeding right in Protonico.”

Protonico’s four graded stakes wins is more than any other son of Giant’s Causeway standing in North America, and he won them over four different tracks.

He broke his maiden at first asking at six furlongs in September of 2013. At 3 he won ’s Smarty Jones Stakes (gr. III) at a mile and 70 yards and the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at nine furlongs at .

During his 4-year-old campaign he added ’s Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) in April and added the grade II Alysheba Stakes at  in May.

While he was unable to land the coveted grade I win, he did run second to  in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) in 2014 and finished third in this year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (gr. I) to Hopperturnity and   at  in his finale.

“Protonico was a serious racehorse who showed grade I talent at every stage of his career,” Pletcher said. “He beat some top-level horses in several graded races at major tracks such as Churchill, Keeneland, and Aqueduct. I believe Protonico was very unlucky not to win a grade I, but he was one of the most versatile and better-looking horses we had in the barn.”

Protonico is the first foal out of the A.P. Indy mare Alpha Spirit. Alpha Spirit is out of the Chilean-bred Wild Spirit, Horse of the Year in Chile and winner of Saratoga’s Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) and Delaware Handicap (gr. II) in 2003. 

Breeders interested in a lifetime breeding right in Protonico must breed two mares, have two live foals, and pay the stands and nurses stud fees for each. They can elect to breed two mares in 2017, or one mare in each of 2017 and 2018. After the fees are paid, the breeder would then earn a free breeding right every year for the life of the stallion. Taylor Made is offering a limited number of the lifetime breeding rights, and they will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Protonico will also participate in Taylor Made’s multiple-mare program in 2017, with offers discount to breeders who breed more than one mare.

 

Isabella Sings Wires My Charmer
11/26/2016

Isabella Sings Wires My CharmerIn concert with meet-leading rider Edgard Zayas, aboard for the first time, Siena Farm homebred  led every step of the way Nov. 26 to register a front-running 1 3/4-length victory in the 0,000  at Gulfstream Park West. 

Favored at 2-1 in a field of nine, Isabella Sings broke from post 8 and raced on an uncontested lead through fractions of :23.85 for the quarter-mile and :48.20 for a half, and six furlongs in 1:11.19 with 90-1 long shot  in closest pursuit.

"We thought she was going to take the lead comfortably and she did what we expected her to do, so we're pretty happy," said Juan Tovar, South Florida-based assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "On paper it looked like we were the speed, so I told Edgard, 'If anybody comes up to you don't try to fight her. Let her do her race.'"

Isabella Sings remained in command turning for home as Artesian, the lone 3-year-old filly in the group, began to drop back and , one of two horses trained by Christophe Clement, began to launch her bid between horses to stay on for second.

A 4-year-old daughter of , Isabella Sings completed the distance in 1:46.52 over a firm turf course.

"It went just like we planned. Todd said to just let her run," Zayas said. "Last time they took hold of her a little and she doesn't like that. She's a free runner. I just put the hands down and let her do her own thing. I was waiting for one of Clement's horses to finish strong, but she relaxed a little bit the first quarter so I was really confident that she'd give me a kick at the end."

The 17-1 long shot  finished third, with another length back to Clement-trained  in fourth, while multiple graded stakes winner  was never in contention, finishing fifth.

Isabella Sings won the Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) last fall at  and the June 25 Eatontown Stakes (gr. IIIT) at .

She faded to eighth after setting the pace in the July 23 Diana Stakes (gr. IT) and was placed third after finishing fourth as the favorite in a tightly run Violet (gr. IIIT) Sept. 10 at Monmouth, her previous start.

"She's a nice filly and the whole team is happy she got the win," Tovar said. "We'll see what the next step will be. We're looking forward with her."

The 1 1/16-mile My Charmer for fillies and mares, 3-years and up, was the second of three stakes and first of two graded stakes on an 11-race program that highlighted closing weekend of the Fall Turf Festival Meet. Gulfstream Park opens its Championship Meet Dec. 3.

Also on Saturday's card was the 0,000 Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.

 

Mshawish Tops Taylor Made Roster, For Now
10/25/2016

Mshawish Tops Taylor Made Roster, For Now For now, Taylor Made Stallions' 2017 stallion roster is led by its entering-year sire  , a multiple grade I winner who will stand his first season for ,000.

The son of Medaglia d'Oro's fee was announced Oct. 25 along with breeding fees for the rest of the farm's stallions that include freshman sire  , first-crop yearling sire  , and veteran  . Soon enough the spotlight will shine brightest on the farm's other marquee stallion,   ( ), whose introductory stud fee will be announced after he runs in the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at .

"These are very exciting times at Taylor Made Stallions," said Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Stallions. "We could not be happier to have the opportunity to grow our stallion roster with the likes of two new multiple grade I winners of the caliber of Mshawish and California Chrome. Our entire staff is energized and ready to get to work in serving the breeders this upcoming breeding season."

An earner of ,421,351, Mshawish (pronounced em-SHUH-wish) retired to Taylor Made Stallions as his sire's most accomplished  son to date, with five graded stakes wins among seven  stakes victories. He won grade Is on  dirt and turf. He earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure in his victory in the Donn Handicap (gr. I), his third lifetime start on the dirt, and the year before captured the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT), in which he produced a 104 Beyer. Mshawish retired with an 8-2-3 record in 24 starts. Besides winning five stakes in the U.S. for Al Shaqab Racing, he also won stakes in France and Dubai.

Graydar heads the established stallions on Taylor Made's roster, as the imposing grade I-winning son of Unbridled's Song will stand in 2017 for a fee of ,500 stands and nurses. Also a winner of the Donn , Graydar has his first 2-year-olds hitting the racetrack next year. His yearling fillies sold for up to 0,000 and his yearling colts up to 0,000 in 2016.

Taylor Made Stallions has two stallions standing at the value-based fee of ,500 again in 2017 with Astrology and Northern Afleet.

Astrology, a son of A.P. Indy, was a graded stakes winner at 2 and finished third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at 3. He has nine winners to date from his first crop to race and is one of five freshman stallions leading their sire class with two black-type winners each through Oct. 24. His debutante  recently remained undefeated after a victory in the Matron Stakes (gr. III) at .

Northern Afleet enjoyed another solid year in 2016, siring six graded winners on three different continents including , who became his 12th lifetime grade I winner in the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT).

The 2017 roster for Taylor Made Stallions, stands & nurses fees:  

 

Curalina, Syndergaard Breeze at Belmont
10/23/2016

Curalina, Syndergaard Breeze at Belmont Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners'  continued preparations for her start in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), turning in a half-mile bullet work on the  training track in company with 2016 Fountain of Youth (gr. II) runner-up .

The 4-year-old   filly, who has been training up to the Nov. 4 Distaff since her runner-up finish in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) Aug. 27, breezed five furlongs in :59.59, the fastest of 15 at the distance on the day.

"She's always been a good workhorse," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "A lot of times, we don't work her in company because she does things pretty willingly on her own, but for today's work we wanted to make sure we got a good, solid work. This is her most significant breeze leading into it and we wanted to make sure she got a good one and she certainly did."

Curalina galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 and seven furlongs in 1:27, according to Pletcher's watch, finally pulling up after a mile in 1:44 and change. Third in last year's Distaff, Curalina will be pre-entered in the Distaff as well as the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I).

"It gave me confidence that she's in excellent form," Pletcher said, "and it puts her in a position that we can feel comfortable that she's ready to go a mile and an eighth off a little bit of freshening and sharp enough that, if we decide to go seven-eighths, she could do that as well."

Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) hopeful  made his first appearance on the worktab since finishing a close second to  in the Champagne (gr. I) Oct. 8 at Belmont.

A son of  , Syndergaard breezed five furlongs with John Velazquez aboard in company with 2-year-old maiden , covering the distance over the training track in 1:00 4/5. Pletcher said Syndergaard will be joined by Futurity Stakes (gr. III) winner  as a pre-entry in the Juvenile.

Rounding out Pletcher's Breeders' Cup workers Oct. 23 were Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) dead-heat winner , who is pointed toward the Breeders' Cup 14 Hands Winery Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), and breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 in her first local work since arriving from Saratoga last week;  and , both headed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT), worked four furlongs in company on the dirt in :50.22; and First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) heroine , who will be pre-entered in both the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) and Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), worked a half-mile in :49.23.

 

Theory Impressive Again in Futurity
10/15/2016

Theory Impressive Again in FuturityChina Horse Club and WinStar Farm's parlayed his success from a standout debut win at  into the graded stakes ranks Oct. 15 with another impressive score in the 0,000  at. 

The Todd Pletcher-trained juvenile son of  stalked early leader, moved alongside the frontrunner in the stretch, and pulled away late to win by 3 1/2 lengths. passed Moves Like Ali late to pick up place honors.

Off as the 1-5 favorite, Theory finished the six furlongs in 1:09.91 under first-time jockey Javier Castellano.

"Anytime you're a prohibitive favorite like that, you always want things to go well," Pletcher said. "He broke alertly, put himself in a good spot, and Javier gave him a little chance to get his feet underneath him and looked like when he called him, he finished up strongly."

Moves Like Ali set fractions of :22.62 and :45.35 through a half-mile, and held a head advantage with a furlong to run, but Theory's pressure on the outside proved too much.

"I loved the way he did (it). He does everything with such class," Castellano said. "He was composed in the post parade. I think you can stretch him out, he'll appreciate going long. I rode his father, Gemologist, so I enjoyed riding him."

The winner paid .70, .30, and .10 across the board. Star Empire brought .10 and .90, and Moves Like Ali brought to show.

 and , who trailed the top trio early, never threatened and finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Bred in Kentucky by Fred Hertrich and Ronald Kirk, out of the Officermare Gem Sleuth, Theory now has 9,800 from his two victories in as many starts.

Pletcher said after the race that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) could be an option for Theory off relatively short rest.

"Today, with the way he ran—the way he galloped out and came back—I think we at least have to sit down and have that discussion," the trainer said.

Later on the card, Matthew Schera's 15-1 shot  stole the 0,000 Pebbles Stakes for trainer George Weaver. The 3-year-old   filly came off a third in the Sept. 24 Ontario Colleen (Can-IIIT) and picked up her first win since breaking her maiden six starts back. She rallied wide to the wire under jockey Antonio Gallardo, running a mile in 1:33.47 and returning .80, , and with her three-quarters of a length win over Mom's On Strike. Favored  was third.

Thundering Sky was bred in Kentucky by Almar Farm out of the Unbridled's Song mare Uninhibited Song, and was purchased by her owner for 5,000 from the Select Sales consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale in 2014. She improved her record to 2-3-3 from 11 starts for earnings of 0,390.

 

Photo Call Upsets Tepin in First Lady
10/8/2016

Photo Call Upsets Tepin in First LadyHall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux doesn't get many calls from trainer Todd Pletcher, but when he does, he takes the mount.

And so it was that Desormeaux found himself speeding out to the early lead in the 0,000 Oct. 8 at  aboard, opening a 10-length margin, and leaving champion  with too much work to do in her title defense. 

"Todd told me to cover her up, but that was not going to happen," Desormeaux said, and the audible worked out.

On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 28,101—on a day when all-sources wagering on the 10-race card reached ,926,396 to surpass the previous Fall Stars Saturday record of ,135,204 from Oct. 6, 2007—29-1 shot Photo Call stole the one-mile First Lady by 2 3/4 lengths and left 2-5 favoite Tepin in her wake.

It was the first time since August of 2015 that the Mark Casse-trained Tepin was beaten, snapping an eight-race win streak for the mare who trounced males in her past two starts and concluded her 2015 season with a win in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).

"We didn't want her to run her 'A' race today," assistant trainer Norm Casse said. "The goal is the Breeders' Cup Mile. I haven't lost any confidence in her. I think this will set her up and she'll move forward from this race."

Photo Call took the lead shortly after the break and set uncontested fractions of :24.10 and :47.29 as Tepin raced in the clear in tandem with grade I winner . The eventual winner was 10 lengths on top at the quarter pole, with Tepin's rally too little too late as Photo Call completed the mile on a firm turf course in 1:35.62.

"At the top of the lane you could just tell that horse had too much of a lead," Casse went on. "She kicked away. She beat another really good horse today. Bill Mott's horse (Celestine). ... We handled her and put her away. The winner just got away from us. That's all it is. It's horse racing. If anything, it relieves a little bit of pressure heading into the Breeders' Cup Mile. I don't think she ran disrespectful today. She ran a good race, the other horse just had a better trip and things went her way."

Turned back to a mile for the first time since July of 2015, Photo Call returned to victory for Teresa Viola Racing Stables with a look four starts back to April, when she won the Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT) at . As a 4-year-old trained by Graham Motion for Mrs. P. K. Cooper, the daughter of Galileo took the Rodeo Drive (gr. IT) at . She was a million purchase from Keeneland's 2015 November breeding stock sale days after running fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT).

The victory increased Photo Call's bankroll to 7,102 with a record of 6-3-4 from 21 starts.

Photo Call returned .40, .60, and .60. Tepin paid .20 and .40. Celestine (.40) completed the trifecta and was followed home by, She's Not Here, , , Now Or Never, , and .

 

Anchor Down Scorches Kelso Field
10/8/2016

Anchor Down Scorches Kelso FieldAlto Racing’s 2-1 favorite zipped along on the front end and went gate to wire for an impressive two-length victory in the , just missing the track record for the one-turn mile at . 

The 5-year-old   ridgling trained by Todd Pletcher, who came into the 0,000 race off an uneventful sixth in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes (gr. I) at, was quick out of the gate under Javier Castellano, closely tracked by  and Mike Smith.

Leading the five-horse field shortened by the scratches of  and, those two set the pace in fractions of :23.30 and :45.74. After stopping the timer in 1:09.05 for six furlongs, Anchor Down continued to roll, with Tamarkuz still about a length back. Castellano let out the leader down the lane as he raced uncontested to victory in the final time of 1:32.90, just off the track mark of 1:32.24.

The victory was the fifth in 15 starts for Anchor Down, who improved his earnings to 9,254.

He returned , .70, and .70 across the board. Tamarkuz was worth .80 and .50, with  third at .70. They were followed by, a West Coast shipper for Jerry Hollendorfer, and second choice , also trained by Pletcher.

"He's run well every time in a one-turn mile at Belmont, it seems to be his thing," Pletcher said. "It was no disgrace being second to Frosted in the Met Mile that day; I don't think anyone was going to beat Frosted. To come back and run a mile in 1:32 and four-fifths, as a well-bred son of Tapit, it's a big win for him."

Considering the winner’s affinity for one-turn mile races, Pletcher said Anchor Down likely would make his next start in the Nov. 26 Cigar Mile (gr. I) at  rather than contest the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) around two turns at Santa Anita Park.

"We'll wait and see how he comes out of it. I would probably think a one-turn mile is a little more to his liking. We'll enjoy this one for the moment, but if I were guessing right now I'd probably lean toward the Cigar Mile."

"My main concern was focusing on breaking good out of the gate because this horse has had a couple of issues out the gate," Castellano said. "He got a good clean trip and a good break so using my best judgment I put him on the lead. He's a great horse. He's a pro and he showed up today."

Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Anchor Down was bought by agent Steve Young for 0,000 from his breeder at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Unraced at 2, Anchor Down won both of his two starts at age 3, but then was off for more than a year. Anchor Down posted his first stakes win when he rolled to a 6 3/4-length victory in the Westchester Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont May 7.

 

Ectot Stuns Flintshire in Hirsch Turf Classic
10/1/2016

Ectot Stuns Flintshire in Hirsch Turf ClassicJockey Jose Ortiz took 9-1 shot  gate to wire to post a stunning upset over 1-5 favorite  in the  at . 

A British-bred 5-year-old son ofHurricane Run trained by Todd Pletcher for Al Shaqab Racing and Gerard Normand, Ectot earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at with the Oct. 1 victory.

Although it was contested over a yielding 1 1/2-mile Widener turf course that was considered not to his liking, Flintshire still looked like a standout in his final race before the Breeders' Cup Turf, considering the Juddmonte Farms homebred faced only three opponents while seeking his fourth graded stakes triumph from as many starts this year.

But Ectot, winless in two North American starts this year after 10 starts in France and one in Great Britain, was out of the gate first and loped along in moderate fractions of 1:15.03 for six furlongs while stalked by  who, like Flintshire, is trained by Chad Brown.

Meanwhile, Flintshire, ridden by Javier Castellano, was settled into last early and made his move on the outside rounding the turn after a mile was completed in 1:39.78. Although the prohibitive favorite had no problem passing  and Money Multiplier, Ortiz and Ectot had a lot left in the tank and drew off to win by five lengths.

The final time was 2:28.76, well off the course record of 2:23.39. Twilight Eclipse was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third, followed by Money Multiplier.

With no show wagering, Ectot paid .80 and .40, with Flintshire returning .10.

The victory was the seventh in 14 starts for Ectot and increased the horse’s earnings to 0,010. The victory was the first in the U.S. for Ectot after finishing fourth, only a length behind the winner, in the restricted Lure Stakes at , followed by a second in allowance company as the 9-10 favorite at the Spa.

The victory was the first since the horse bred in Great Britain by Skymarc Farm and Ecurie Des Monceaux, Ectot won the Qatar Prix Niel (gr. IIT) in September 2014. The previous year, Ectot annexed the French group I Criterium International two additional group III stakes in France.

From three starts last year, all in group company in France, Ectot’s best effort was a third in the group III Prix la Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte.

"He's trained exceptionally well for us since he came in,” Pletcher said. “He went off form in his last few starts in Europe but came to us in great condition. His races leading up to this were sneaky good and he seemed to be improving. We made some minor adjustments with equipment and shoes and figured it out as we went along.

The trainer said Ectot was keen in his last start and one key to the Hirsch win was Ortiz being able to get him to settle. Also, the weather and off turf course were in his favor.

“We thought it would help when it rained. We felt we had a lot going for us, but you still have to have tremendous respect for a horse like Flintshire, who is accomplished and for what he's done in his career. We were optimistic that our horse would run well and we couldn't be more pleased with the way he did it.

“Today's race was a big step. We don't anticipate we'll get a lot of rain in California (for the Breeders’ Cup) but at the same time, he's run well on firm ground. We're delighted with his efforts today."

"My strategy was to go to the lead and slow down but my horse is a little strong in the early stages,” Ortiz said. “So, I just needed to break and try to relax him. When we got to the backside, he relaxed very well for me. When I passed the three-eighths pole, I looked and I saw Twilight Eclipse three lengths behind me and I saw Flintshire in the clear, so I still had to run to win. When we got to the quarter pole, I saw Johnny (Velazquez, aboard Money Multiplier) all out and Flintshire was passing and I opened two lengths without even asking, so I thought I had a really good shot. When I asked him to go, he responded very well.”

Brown said the yielding turf course was a factor in Flintshire’s performance and he will go on to the Breeders’ Cup.

"He didn't handle the ground. We knew the risk going into the race running on soft ground. He has a poor record on it. I didn't see another option; I didn't feel comfortable going into the Breeders' Cup without a prep. So, we gave it a shot and it didn't work out. Hopefully he'll come out of the race sound and will get a chance to redeem himself in the Breeders' Cup on firm ground."

"I was surprised because I think he's one of the best horses in the country,” Castellano said of the beaten favorite. “It was really soft ground and heavy. I think he didn't like it much. He dictated the pace. We all fell in great position. I wasn't too far, but my horse just didn't like (the soft turf)."

 

Made You Look Finds Way in With Anticipation
8/31/2016

Made You Look Finds Way in With AnticipationIn many ways the 0,000  (gr. IIT) Aug. 31 at proved to be a tale of two trips, as winner  found room inside after a ground-saving run while runner-up raced three-wide throughout before finishing two lengths behind the winner.

Made You Look, favored at 8-5, secured a second straight win in three starts, all on turf, and his first stakes win for Let's Go Stable and Three Chimneys Farm in the 1 1/16-mile test for juveniles. Trainer Todd Pletcher credited multiple Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano with a top ride and the son of   for being willing to punch through on the inside in early stretch.

"We were getting a beautiful trip; it was just a matter of whether he was able to find a spot to go through. I thought for a young horse to shoot through there was pretty brave on his part," Pletcher said. "He's been training really well, we were looking forward to a good effort, he got a good trip, and he delivered."

Longshot , a maiden, registered contested fractions of a half-mile in :49.34 and six furlongs in 1:14.14 as longshot stayed close early. But more eyes were on 9-5 second-choice Keep Quiet, three-wide about a half-length behind the top two; and Made You Look, who raced inside about a length behind the leader.

Made You Look held that inside position through the far turn before cutting the corner and forging to the lead with an inside bid. He drew clear in the stretch, completing the race in 1:43.12 on firm turf. Keep Quiet continued well to the wire for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Bird's Eye View.

"I had a beautiful trip. The way he followed in the race, you don't see too many 2-year-olds racing like that," Castellano said. "The pace was slow and he was right behind the horse (in front). It set up beautiful. Turning for home, I didn't have too much room and I had to squeeze a little bit inside the rail. It was unbelievable, he went right through and took off. The way he did it, he was phenomenal.

"I was concerned a little bit just to get him to go through it. He's only run two times, he doesn't have that experience to go through a little tiny hole but when I asked him, he went through like an old horse, like a well-bred horse. Those kinds of horses are (the ones) you want to ride because they've got great minds, especially 2-year-olds. He didn't just sustain himself in that spot, he went through and he took off. I like that. He finished really well. Actually, I didn't even ask him much, he just took off. He picked it up himself."

Made You Look paid .30, , and .20 across the board while Keep Quiet paid .10 to place and .50 to show. Bird's Eye View returned .40 to show. The latter two earned stakes-placings for the first time.

Bred in Kentucky by the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust, Made You Look is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Night and Day. His second dam is champion 3-year-old filly and multiple grade I winner Serena's Song. Night and Day is a half sister to group I winner Sophisticat and three other graded stakes winners.

Pletcher trained both Night and Day and More Than Ready.

"He's got a fantastic pedigree, top and bottom side," Pletcher said. "It's a lot of fun for us to have a son of More Than Ready; it was 1999 when he won the Sanford (gr. II). He's just been so good to our stable, not only him but all of his offspring."

Pletcher said he will consider starting Made You Look in the Oct. 1 Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) at  or training him up to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT).

 

Unbridled Mo Edges Out Monmouth Oaks Victory
8/20/2016

Unbridled Mo Edges Out Monmouth Oaks VictoryRed Oak Stable's  sat off the speed of  before pushing past the pacesetter in late stretch to capture the 0,000  at Aug. 20 by a neck.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, the   filly went 1 1/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:44 1/5 and paid .80, .20 and .60 as the third choice in the field of six 3-year-old fillies. Tejana, a perfect two-for-two coming into the Oaks, settled for second, paying .20 and .60 and completing the .60 exacta. Mo d'Amour, who closed strongly on the outside, was another three-quarters of a length back in third.

"I had a good trip," said winning jockey Paco Lopez.  "My filly doesn't have too much speed so I wanted to just sit off the pace. She didn't have too much patience and wanted to go pressure the horse on the lead in the backstretch. She ran very well today and had to work for the win."

 A homebred from the Unbridled mare Unbridled Waters, Unbridled Mo has won her last three starts and is three for four lifetime. She has earned 3,680.

"I told Paco in the paddock how great she's doing," assistant trainer Anthony Sciametta Jr. said. "I was surprised to see her so close early, but they weren't going too fast and no one was really pressing the leader. She had to grind out the win today. I was real impressed. She's a very solid filly."

 

Nonna Mela Dominant in Adirondack
8/19/2016

Nonna Mela Dominant in Adirondack St. Elias Stable's  wasn't supported too much at the betting windows, but put in the performance of a heavy favorite Aug. 19 in the at . 

Off at 8-1 in the 6 1/2-furlong event on the main track, the Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of   took command at the top of the stretch and pulled away from the six other fillies in the field to win by six lengths lengths under jockey Javier Castellano.

Castellano deftly guided Nonna Mela after they broke well from post 2, but found themselves inside the speedy . Castellano dropped his filly back to stalk Silivertoni, and most importantly got her to the outside.

"I liked the way she broke from the gate. It was a great performance," Castellano said. "There was a lot of speed out of the gate, but she broke sharp and put me in a good position. I moved her a little outside, (because) I didn't want to get stuck on the rail. That was the key to win the race."

The first quarter went in :21.81 and the half in :45.13, and Nonna Mella pulled ahead late in the turn, but 3-2 favorite Libby's Tail loomed with a three-wide move. The favorite lacked any punch in the stretch, however, and flattened out to finish fourth. Silvertoni held for second 3 1/4 lengths clear of .

"When I saw that Silvertoni tried to dictate the pace and go to the lead, I didn't want to go too fast," Castellano said. "My filly didn't have to be on the lead. She had control in the race and finished strong. I really liked the way she did it."

The winner hit the wire in 1:16.83 and paid .80, .70, and .90 across the board. Silvertoni delivered .60 and .70, and Olive Branch brought .

 finished fifth, followed by  and , to complete the order of finish.

Nonna Mela was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, out of the Storm Cat mare Cool Storm. She broke her maiden by 7 1/4 lengths last time out July 2 at  in her second start in New Jersey for Pletcher. She was a 0,000 purchase in 2015 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

"I thought one of her works here was really good and the other one I thought was just OK," Pletcher said. "The track here's been a little quirky and we felt like she showed us enough to give it a try. We weren't completely surprised (by the effort), although this was a pretty dominating performance, really."

 

Genre 'All Heart' In Molly Pitcher Win
7/31/2016

Genre 'All Heart' In Molly Pitcher WinStablemates  and battled down the stretch in 0,000 (gr. III) July 31 at before Genre thrust out her neck for the victory. 

With two previous stakes placings this year, Genre broke through for her first stakes win while stopping the teletimer in 1:43.10 for the 1 1/16-mile event on a sloppy track.

Genre, who was guided by Paco Lopez, becomes the 50th black-type winner for , a 13-year-old son of A.P. Indy who stands at Darley's Jonabell Farm near Lexington. He was champion 3-year-old male of 2006 after wins in the Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup (all gr. I). Genre is one of 36 graded or group winners from his seven crops racing.

Genre paid .60, .80, and .40 and Eskenformoney returned .80 and .20, and Birdatthewire paid .40 to show.

With Eskenformoney off the pace in third, Genre stalked pacesetter and 9-5 favorite  from second, two wide and about a length back, before pressing that that opponent through a half mile in :47.19. She grabbed a slight lead on the turn, then carried out Eskenformoney a bit wide turning into the lane. Eskenformoney got her head in front of her stablemate briefly in early stretch but Genre fought back for a game neck victory.

"She's all heart," said Anthony Sciametta, an assistant to Pletcher. "She was headed in the lane and fought back all the way to the wire.  We wanted to be sitting second early, but she looked to be real keen today.  I think she really liked the off going this afternoon."

Grade I winner , trying to halt a five-race winless streak, was third with a mild rally after she was reluctant to load into the starting gate then was tardy to start.

Genre, campaigned by Cheyenne Stables, has four wins and four seconds from 10 career starts. In her two starts prior to the Molly Pitcher, she was second, two lengths behind Angela Renee, in the Lady's Secret Stakes July 4 at Monmouth and runner-up to I'm a Chatterbox in the Obeah Handicap June 11 at Delaware Park.

Genre, a 0,000 purchase from Gaineway's agency at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, was bred in Kentucky by William E. Graves and Gainesway Thoroughbreds. Her dam is multiple graded stakes winner French Park (Ecton Park), a half sister to the dam of multiple grade I winner Palace. Genre is a half sister to restricted stakes winner Parc Monceau.

 

Curalina Shines for Sire Curlin in Shuvee
7/31/2016

Curalina Shines for Sire Curlin in ShuveeEclipse Thoroughbred Partners' ran away to a 9 1/4-length triumph in the slop July 31 at after shaking clear of  in early stretch in the 0,000  (gr. III). 

Curalina was among three graded stakes winners, and four stakes winners overall, in the span of three days for HIll 'n' Dale Farms resident sire Curlin. She was the first in a graded stakes double Sunday for her sire, whose son  won the million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational (gr. I) later in the day at. Exaggerator was the second grade I winner of the weekend for his sire following 's upset of Beholder in the 0,000 Clement L.Hirsch the previous day at . On July 29 at Saratoga, son Connect captured the 0,000 Curlin Stakes to ignite a banner weekend

The Shuvee predictably unfolded as a two-horse contest between three-time grade I winner Curalina and Carrumba, the only other graded winner in the four-horse field, and both at nearly equal odds of 9-10. The pair sprinted away together leaving the gate, with Curalina eventually settling about a half-length behind Carrumba, who set a leisurely tempo throughout the 1 1/8-mile event. But entering the stretch, Curalina exploded to the front and opened an insurmountable lead in the matter of just a few commanding strides to get the win.  

Ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher, Curalina covered 1 1/8 miles 1:49.85 as the 122-pound highweight.

Carrumba held on for second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of , with finishing another 10 1/4 back in fourth.

Curalina paid .80 and .10 and Carrumba returned .10. There was no show wagering.

Carrumba and Jose Ortiz ticked off early fractions of :24.28, :48.59, and 1:12.75 for six furlongs with Curalina stalking a half-length back. The winner was alongside Carrumba as the pair drew away from the Sweetgrass and Joint Return on the far turn. The top two entered the lane together, but at the three-sixteenths pole Curalina kicked away unchallenged.

"The only speed was Carrumba and myself, so I wanted to make sure that she didn't get away with an easy lead there," Valazquez said. "I stuck with her the whole way around. When I asked my horse, she responded very well. 

Added Pletcher: "On paper it looked like kind of a match race. It looked like Carrumba loves an off track, so we didn't want to let her get away. Assuming that Jose was going to go a little bit from the rail, (Johnny) decided when he wanted to turn the pressure up. It looked like when he did he had a lot of horse."

Curalina improved to 6-2-2 from 11 starts that include grade I wins in La Troienne this spring, and 2015 Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks. She came into the Shuvee off a fourth in Odgen Phipps (gr. I), in which Carrumba was third, June 11 at .

Curalina was bred in Kentucky by CASA Farms I from the Graeme Hall mare Whatdreamsaremadeof. Her breeder sold her via Denali Stud for 5,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.

 

Sweet Loretta Powers to Schuylerville Win
7/22/2016

Sweet Loretta Powers to Schuylerville WinSt. Elias Stable's  kicked off stakes action at with an impressive victory in the 0,000  for 2-year-old fillies July 22, opening day at the upstate New York track. 

The daughter of leading sire  provided trainer Todd Pletcher a sixth win in the six-furlong test after she collared front-runner  in the stretch and drew clear to stay perfect in two career starts. 

After lunging at the start, Sweet Loretta settled in sixth as set a swift pace of :21.68 and :44.79 through a half mile tracked by Made Me Shiver in second. John Velasquez who brought her four wide into the stretch and she was full of run to chase down Made Me Shiver took charge in early stretch. Sweet Loretta ran her down on the outside and gained control past the eighth pole and coasted to a 4 1/4-length triumph. She finished the distance in 1:10.89 as longshot  came up to take second. 

"Obviously there's a lot of speed but the track was a little slow," Velazquez said. "But it worked out my way. She did everything well. I talked to Todd in the paddock before the race and he told me she breaks well, (so) give her a chance and let her run down the lane and that's what she did."

Sweet Loretta was bred by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stable from the  mare Ithinkisawapudycat, a half sister to Canadian champion . She was a 0,000 weanling purchase by Roma Farm via agent J. J. Crupi at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. She started her career with a seven-length maiden triumph June 18 at Monmouth Park.

"I told Johnny in the paddock, 'I don't think she's as quick as some of these other fillies, just don't rush her off her feet. Give her a chance to get her legs underneath her.' It actually probably worked in her favor that she didn't break well," Pletcher said. "They went fast early but she ran professionally; she ran into the dirt well. She kept gaining ground in the early part of the race and put herself in a good position coming off the turn."

Sweet Loretta paid .80, .70, .70, Fun returned .20 and .10, and  paid .80 to show.

Made Me Shiver stayed on for fourth, followed by , , , and Insprired Flight to complete the order of finish.

Tapit, a resident of Gainesway near Lexington, has 15 black-type stakes winners this year, and 83 overall from nine crops of racing age. 

 

American Patriot Makes the Grade in Kent
7/16/2016

American Patriot Makes the Grade in KentWinStar Farm homebred  overhauled pacesetter He'll Payin the stretch and edged away to win the 0,000  July 16 at. 

A son of   trained by Todd Pletcher, American Patriot scored by 1 1/2 lengths and finished the 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds in 1:47.19 on firm ground.

Jose Ortiz rated 9-5 favorite American Patriot in fourth, then third, as He'll Pay ticked off moderate early fractions—:24.61, :48,20, and 1:12 through six furlongs. The winner was ready to roll into the stretch and briefly engaged the front-runner before he secured the victory in the matter of a few powerful strides.

American Patriot, who has three wins and two thirds from six career starts, came in off three-length triumph in an allowance optional-claiming race at the same distance June 25 at .

Saturday's win was the first in a stakes for American Patriot, who was unplaced in the 1 1/16-mile American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) May 7 at.

American Patriot is one of two winners from the winning   mare Life Well Lived, a full sister to 2009 Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) victor Well Armed, also a grade I winner in the U.S. He is the 46th black-type winner for War Front.

American Patriot paid .40, .60, and .40. He'll Pay returned .40 and .80, and Inspector Lynley came on for third late to pay .80 to show.

 came in fourth, followed by , , and  to complete the order or finish.

 

Off the Tracks Wires Mother Goose
7/2/2016

Off the Tracks Wires Mother Goose led all the way in the 0,000  July 2 at , turning back dual grade II winner  at the end to gamely earn her first grade I score. 

The 3-year-old   filly came off a runner-up finish to  in the June 11 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at the New York track, and went one better under Jose Ortiz this time after setting quick opening fractions of :22.79 and :45.53.

"She broke good and was very alert. We went a bit fast but she wasn't pushed all the way to do that," Ortiz said. "She was relaxed and did it by herself. She was in a good rhythm. As we passed the three-eighths pole, she gave me a lot of confidence to go on. She responded very well."

Off the Tracks turned back longshot Mom's On Strike and then finished 3 1/2 lengths clear of Lewis Bay, who was making her first start for trainer Chad Brown since a third-place finish in the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).

"It's disappointing," Brown said of the runner-up effort. "She was sitting there loaded the whole way. I thought when she tipped out she'd go right by that horse and she just ran even down the lane. She got a good trip, and she looked like a winner every step of the way until she just flattened out in the middle of the stretch."

The final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:41.01 on a fast main track. Off the Tracks returned .10, .60, and .70 at odds of 3-1. Bred in Kentucky by Lee McMillin out of the Boston Harbor mare Harve de Grace and a ,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase by agent Chad Summers, she improved her record to 4-1-1 from six starts, for earnings of 5,594 for Newtown Anner Stud and J Stables.

"(We were) just trying to figure out how we thought the race would unfold," Pletcher said. "We weren't positive what a couple horses would do but we felt that if (Off the Tracks) got a clean break there was a decent chance that she would be on the lead, so that was 'plan A' with her.

"Even though the fractions were very fast, the track seems to be playing pretty fast today, so I was a little concerned going as fast as they were, but she seemed to be doing it comfortably and in good rhythm. I was happy to see her have something left to finish."

 rounded out the trifecta a length back, followed by Mo d'Amour. Grade I winner Rachel's Valentina, favored at 9-5 in the field of seven, finished fifth under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Mom's On Strike and  completed the order of finish.

"I really don't have a great explanation (for Rachel's Valentina)," Pletcher said. "It looked like she was in a decent spot, but Johnny seemed like he had to start asking her for a lot earlier than you would expect him to. We'll see how she comes out of it and try to regroup."

It was Off the Tracks' third outing for Pletcher; she first won three in a row for Rudy Rodriguez, including the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III), then ran third in her first start for her new trainer—the April 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) on a sloppy track. She continued to progress when she placed second by 1 1/4 lengths to Carina Mia in the Acorn with Kentucky Oaks winner  in third.

"She is a filly who has always shown big potential," Pletcher said. "Everyone was sort of down on her after the Gulfstream Oaks, but I thought it was a sneaky good race."

 

Isabella Sings Sails Home in Eatontown
6/25/2016

Isabella Sings Sails Home in EatontownSiena Farm's homebred went right for the lead out of the gate and never looked back in the 0,000 June 25, posting a three-length victory after showing the way at . 

With Paco Lopez aboard, the 4-year-old daugher of  covered the mile and a sixteenth over the firm turf course in 1:40.57 and paid .80, .10, and .10 in the field of eight fillies and mares. Hard-closing  split horses for second and paid .80 and .00. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to , who paid .40.

"I just wanted to break sharp and see where she placed herself," Lopez said. "There wasn't a whole lot of speed in the race and she was nice and relaxed in front. She was just the best horse in the race."

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Isabella Sings made it two in a row over the turf after taking the May 29 Miss Liberty Stakes. That was her first win of the season after tangling with champion turf mare Tepin twice; a runner-up finish in the March 12 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) in her season debut, and a seventh in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIT). 

She is now 3-for-4 at Monmouth Park and with this win boosts her record to 6-4-0 in 15 career starts, including a career-best performance in the 2015 Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT), good for earnings of 1,950.

 

Far From Over Victorious in Return
6/24/2016

Far From Over Victorious in Returnn his first start in more than 16 months, Black Rock Thoroughbreds, Madaket Stables, and James Covello's  kept his undefeated record intact in a June 24 allowance race at . 

The son of   won the Withers (gr. II) in February of 2015 and was training toward the Wood Memorial (gr. I) when he was knocked off the Triple Crown trail with a non-displaced condylar fracture in his left hind leg.

On Friday at Belmont, in the one-turn 1 1/16-mile main-track test, Far From Over settled into fourth on the outside early behind blazing fractions, moved to the rail late in the turn, and outfinished two rivals to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

The Todd Pletcher-trained 4-year-old ridgling now has a three-for-three record with one win apiece at age 2, 3, and 4.

"We're very happy that we got the win and excited that he's back," said Steven Marshall of Black Rock Thoroughbreds. "It's been about 16 months since his last race and he's come back very strong. We're just happy that he's healthy."

It's All Relevant surged to the lead early and set fractions of :22.71, :44:89, and 1:08.65 through six furlongs, but was done soon after. Far From Over easily put away the tiring front-runner at the top of the stretch, got to even terms with , and proved best late. closed from last to nose out Three Alarm Fire for second. With John Velazquez aboard, Far From Over hit the wire in 1:41.40 and paid .70 to win.

"Even though he's a little green, he put on a good run," Velazquez said. "He's a big horse and he won his first two races. It took him a little while to get back to the races, but he looked good. The talent is there. He just needs to put it together."

"He's been breezing well and we knew that if he was going to be as talented as he was last year, he would run like this," added Pletcher assistant Byron Hughes. "It just shows you, he still has the talent."

 

Donegal Moon Gets First Stakes Win in Pegasus
6/19/2016

Donegal Moon Gets First Stakes Win in PegasusDonegal Racing's , fourth in the LARC Sir Barton Stakes in his last start, broke through for his first graded stakes victory in the 0,000 (gr. III) for 3-year-olds June 19 at .

Ridden by Joe Bravo for trainer Todd Pletcher, Donegal Moon was reserved early, split horses in the stretch, and pulled away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over last-out claim , who finished a neck in front of . Heavily favored , undefeated in three starts with wins in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) and Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III), came under a ride from Jose Ortiz on the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus but failed to hit the board.

Donegal Moon, a colt by   out of the Giant's Causewaymare Perfect Cause, won for the third time in 11 starts. He broke his maiden at  last fall, and in early March easily won a first-level allowance test at ; after that race he finished eighth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.

The May 21 Sir Barton was won by the promising ., the second-place finisher, came back to win a  allowance event by 5 3/4 lengths June 18.

The pace in the Pegasus was set by Parx allowance winner , who set fractions of :23.70 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.63 for a half-mile, and 1:11.78 for six furlongs with  in close pursuit. Awesome Slew, who saved ground, and Unified made their moves on the far turn, but it was Awesome Slew who grabbed the advantage as the favorite began to fall back.

Awesome Slew had a short lead in the lane but Donegal Moon took over before one mile in 1:37.61 and fought off the late rally of Extinct Charm, the winner of a New York-bred stakes who was claimed for ,000 at  in May.

Donegal Moon finished up in 1:44.15 on a track rated fast. He paid , .20, and .60 across the board as the second choice; a minus show pool on 1-5 favorite Unified created higher show payoffs.

Donegal Moon, bred in Kentucky by Patchen Wilkes Farm, was a 0,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.

The victory capped off a big weekend for Bravo, who on June 18 won the 0,000 Don LeVine Memorial Stakes at Parx with Green Lantern Racing's homebred A.P. Indian, and traveled to Kentucky that evening to win the 0,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) with Joseph Sutton's .

"It's so fun to ride for Team Pletcher," Bravo said after the Pegasus. "Todd texted me earlier and the instructions worked out perfectly. There was so much early speed in the race and the race set up great for us. In the stretch, he really came running strongly. This was a fun two days."

Ortiz and Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Unified for Centennial Farms, had no immediate excuses for the   colt's effort. It was his first start around two turns; the Peter Pan was 1 1/8 miles but around one turn at Belmont.

"He broke really well from the gate and he was going good for the first half mile," Ortiz said. "I asked him to go around the three-eighths pole and just didn't have it today."

"He seemed like he was in a good position and backed up around the three-eighths pole," Jerkens said.

The Pegasus is a local prep for the million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational (gr. I) July 31 at Monmouth.

 

Mission Impazible Gets First Stakes Winner
6/10/2016

Mission Impazible Gets First Stakes WinnerNew York-based freshman sire   got his first black-type stakes winner June 10 when  captured the 0,000  at . 

The 2-year-old colt out of Nashinda, by Silver Deputy, became Mission Impazible’s first winner earlier in the year, when he won a 0,000 maiden special weight event April 21 at.

In the Tremont’s short field of four, Silver Mission broke cleanly and took a quick lead that he never relinquished. He rolled through early fractions of :22.99; :45.89, and :57.61 before widening the winning margin to six lengths. The final time for 5 1/2 furlongs was 1:03.78. The complete order of finish behind Silver Mission was , , and .

Silver Mission races for her breeders Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Sequel Thoroughbreds. He is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by John Velazquez.

"It was pretty easy,” Velazquez said. “He broke well coming out of there. He got to the lead and he kept going. He handled it very well." 

"He's pretty quick for a little guy. He's also pretty talented for as little as he is,” the rider said.

Silver Mission is also the first stakes winner for his dam Nashinda, a grade III winner who has produced four winners from four starters. The Tremont winner is the first foal bred out of the mare by Twin Creeks and Sequel. She was previously owned by George Strawbridge Jr.

Mission Impazible stands at Sequel Stallions New York for ,500.

 

Bodemeister's First Stakes Winner in Astoria
6/9/2016

Bodemeister's First Stakes Winner in AstoriaFirst-crop sire Bodemeister's first winner also become his first stakes winner whenBode's Dream, a gray or roan filly out of Frolic's Dream (by Smoke Glacken), won the 0,000 Asotria Stakes at .

Bode's Dream took the lead early and led the field through opening fractions of :22.13 and :45.56 in the 5 1/2-furlong stakes that attracted a field of seven. Bode's Dream was never challenged and won easily by two lengths in 1:03.66.

 finished second and Anna's Bandit prevailed in a close finish for third. Bode's Dream was ridden by John Velazquez.

Bode's Dream won her career debut May 11 at  in a maiden special weight event. The Astoria was her second start.

"In these type of races everyone's sort of in the same boat," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "Everybody for the most part has run one time and won. Generally, in these type of races most of the horses that have won have been on the pace. Things have to shake out and you find out who the fastest of the fastest is.

"I was kind of concerned how the track was playing. It didn't seem like speed was holding up very well. There was a very strong headwind down the backside but like I told Johnny in the paddock, 'Maybe don't overthink it; we're only going five and a half (furlongs)—you're not running that far into the wind'. She just caught a flyer at the start and was right on the lead right away. Johnny did a smart thing and took advantage of it."

The filly, owned by Vincent and Teresa Viola's St. Elias Stable, was sold for 5,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale to Walter Bloodstock out of the Bedouin Bloodstock consignment. She was then offered at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale by Paramount Sales, where Jim Crupi bought her for 0,000 under the name of his Crupi's New Castle Farm.

Crupi in turn put Bode's Dream in this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March 2-year-olds in training sale, where she was bought back at 0,000. 

Bodemeister ( —Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat) was raced by Zayat Stables. He won the 2012 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) before he came in second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) to I'll Have Another. Bodemeister stands at WinStar Farm for ,000.

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Lost Raven Makes the Grade in Miss Preakness
5/20/2016

Lost Raven Makes the Grade in Miss PreaknessRepole Stable's  showed a new dimension May 20 at  and it paid off for her first graded stakes victory.

On or near the front in all seven of her starts prior to Friday, the homebred  filly raced in eighth in the 10-filly field in the  field early (13 1/2 lengths back after a quarter in :22.69 and 9 1/2 back after a half in :45.94) and still had to make up five lengths in sixth at the top of the stretch. 

But she made up the ground quickly. Under jockey John Velazquez, the Todd Pletcher-trained filly blew by pacesetter  with fellow closer  and prevailed by three-quarters of a length, finishing off the six-furlong, 0,000 race in 1:11.43. 

Last time out, Lost Raven won the six-furlong Cicada Stakes at March 26 by leading at every point of call.

"I was a little concerned, because she's never been that far back in her career," Pletcher said. "I knew that (:22.69) at Pimlico is flying, so I was hoping the fractions were fast enough to allow her to come from behind."

Off as the 7-2 second choice Friday, Lost Raven paid .80, .20, and .80 across the board. One True Kiss brought .20 and .60, and Quick Release delivered to show.

She's All Ready finished an even fourth, followed by ,, , , , and to complete the order of finish.

Lost Raven was bred in Kentucky, out of the Elusive Quality mare Elusive Raven, and has a 4-1-1 record from eight starts with 0,350 in earnings.

 

Bode's Dream is Bodemeister's First Winner
5/11/2016

Bode's Dream is Bodemeister's First WinnerGrade I winner and dual classic-placed  got his first winner as a sire May 11 in the second race at, where Bode's Dreamwon a 4 1/2-furlong  maiden special weight event by 3 3/4 lengths. 

Bode's Dream, trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by Edgard Zayas, was making her first start. The filly is owned by Vince and Teresa Viola's St. Elias Stable and was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock.

The gray or roan filly, out of Frolic's Dream (by Smoke Glacken), was sold for 5,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale to Walter Bloodstock out of the Bedouin Bloodstock consignment. She was then offered at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale by Paramount Sales, where Jim Crupi bought her for 0,000 under the name of his Crupi's New Castle Farm. Crupi in turn put Bode's Dream in this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale where she was bought back at 0,000. 

Bodemeister ( —Untouched Talent, by Storm Cat) was raced by Zayat Stables. He won the 2012 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) before he came in second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) to I'll Have Another. Bodemeister stands at WinStar Farm for ,000.

 

Anchor Down Runs Away in Westchester Stakes
5/7/2016

Anchor Down Runs Away in Westchester StakesAlto Racing's  splashed his way to a 6 3/4-length victory in the 0,000 Westchester (gr. III) May 7 at , picking up his first graded stakes win and stamping himself a contender for the .25 million Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) on June 11.

Most recently seen finishing fourth in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) in April, Anchor Down was sent straight to the lead by jockey Jose Ortiz, where he ticked off fractions of :23.28, :46.88 and 1:10.84 with  and  in pursuit. Shaking clear of those rivals once straightened for home, the 5-year-old gray son of  rolled unchallenged to the finish line, covering the mile in 1:35.10 over the muddy, sealed track.

"The horse broke great and when I asked him to go at the quarter pole, he just exploded and gave me everything he had; I didn't have to use my whip," said Ortiz. "I didn't push him too much and he gave me a great run."

The victory was the first of the year for Anchor Down, who began 2016 with a pair of third-place finishes at , including the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II), in which he was disqualified and placed fourth. Overall, he is 4-1-2 from 13 career starts and now has earned 6,920.

"This race has been on our radar for a while," said Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "I wasn't surprised he won so convincingly; he's put in some big efforts before against some nice horses. He'd breezed well for this race, and he'd been training well since his last race. The Metropolitan Handicap is possible; we'll see how he comes out of this."

Sent off at odds of 9-5, Anchor Down returned .70 for a win bet.

Multiple graded stakes winner Samraat, making his third start since June 2014, was second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of .

"He ran terrific," said Rick Violette, who trains Samraat for My Meadowview Farm. "It was nice to see him handle a little bit better quality of horse than he ran against last time. Moving forward we are going to have a lot of fun.
 
"We'll think about (the Met Mile)," added Violette. "Really, his 'A' game is running a little bit further than a mile. This was a perfect spot timing wise. I'll talk with the owner and see what his thoughts are but the Met Mile isn't out of the question."
 
, the 4-5 favorite, was fourth, followed by Stormin Monarcho and .

 

Curalina Opens Year with La Troienne Win
5/6/2016

Curalina Opens Year with La Troienne Win returned to her grade I-winning form May 6 at , where she drew off to an easy victory in the 0,000 to begin two days of top stakes races in Louisville, Ky. 

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Curalina closed out 2015 with three straight losses, although she placed in each of those grade I races, including a third in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). Friday's 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares marked the season debut for the 4-year-old daughter of , who won a pair of grade I races last year in New York. 

On Friday Curalina returned to her very best form. Guided by Racing Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Curalina tracked in second as Don Alberto Stable's  set the pace of :24.24 for a quarter-mile and :48.38 for a half-mile. Angela Renee and Javier Castellano continued to lead through six furlongs 1:12.36, but Curalina took command coming off the turn.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Curalina added to her advantage through the stretch to win, completing the race in 1:42.45 on a fast track.

Well back in second was longshot . She just edged race favorite , who saved ground racing behind the winner.

"Once I got my position, I made sure to stay there," Velazquez said. "I wanted to keep Sheer Drama in the tight spot. When we came into the lane, my horse just took off. There was no competition coming after her. She won easy."

Pletcher credited Velazquez for a top ride.

"Johnny did a good job of getting in perfect position with her," Pletcher said. "He rode a very good race."

Curalina returned .60, .40, and .40 across the board, while Engaginglee paid .20 and .80 and Sheer Drama paid .10 to show.

Bred in Kentucky by CASA I, Curalina is out of the grade II-placed Graeme Hall mare Whatdreamsrmadeof, who also produced grade III-placed . Consigned by Denali Stud for her breeder to the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, Curalina was landed by Eclipse and Dogwood Stable for 5,000.

The victory was worth 4,140 and increased Curalina's earnings to ,190,940 to go along with a record of 5-2-2 in nine starts. It was the third grade I victory for Curalina, who won the Acorn and Coaching Club of America Oaks (both gr. I) in 2015. Pletcher secured his third La Troienne win, following  in 2013 and Oonagh Maccool in 2006. Velazquez previously won the La Troienne on Authenticity.

 

Stanford Gate to Wire in Charles Town Classic
4/23/2016

Stanford Gate to Wire in Charles Town Classic, who just missed winning the 0,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in his previous start, got the lion's share of a much bigger pot with a victory in the .25 million  April 23 at . 

Owned by Stonestreet Stables, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, Stanford quickly established the early lead under Javier Castellano from post 7 entering the first of three turns in the 1 1/8-mile event for 4-year-olds and up, and held off , the only real challenger he had from start to finish. Page McKenney broke sharply as well from post 9 and sat just outside the leader throughout under Horacio Karamanos.

It was the first graded stakes win for Stanford, a 4-year-old colt by  out of the   mare Rosy Humor. Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Stanford was a 0,000 buy at the 2014 Barretts March selected 2-year-olds in training sale.

As a 3-year-old Stanford finished a neck shy of winning the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and later won the Long Branch Stakes. After a disappointing effort as the favorite in the Curlin Stakes at  in late July, he was put on the shelf until earlier this year.

Stanford, trained by Todd Pletcher, in February finished second in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (gr. III) and followed up with another second-place finish, a neck behind , in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Both of those races were at the one-turn-mile distance.

Stanford traditionally is prominent early in his races, and the Charles Town Classic was no exception.

"He had a fantastic trip," Pletcher said. "He broke very well and got the position we hoped for going to the first turn. He was on cruise control from there."

Fractions for the Classic were :24.75 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.85 for the half-mile, and 1:13.75 for six furlongs. Stanford passed the one-mile mark in a moderate 1:38.26 as the field entered the stretch and opened up a bit on Page McKenney. He held him off to win by two lengths in 1:50.55 on a track rated fast.

Stanford paid .40 to win as the third choice in a field of 10. Adam Staple and Jalin Stables' Page McKenney had 1 3/4 lengths on, who finished a neck ahead of .

Page McKenney, third in last year's Charles Town Classic, was a game second in an attempt to win his fourth consecutive stakes. Donworth did well to finish third after a troubled start and wide trip throughout, while Imperative, who won the Classic in 2014 and finished second last year, had to make up ground from ninth early.

"I really like the way he did it," Castellano said of Stanford. "He broke sharply and there wasn't much speed in the race. He usually just falls into position, and I'm satisfied with how he did it today."

When asked if the tighter turns and shorter stretch run aided Stanford, Castellano said: "I think it's helpful with horses that have speed. I think this race will help the horse go forward."

Pletcher said the connections have "no firm plans" for Stanford's next race, but the June 11 Metropolitan Mile (gr. I), also worth .25 million, is under consideration.

 

Mission Impazible's First Starter Wins Debut
4/21/2016

Mission Impazible's First Starter Wins DebutSequel Stallions New York's Mission Impazible is off to a winning start as a sire.

Silver Mission, the first starter for his sire, won a 0,000 maiden special weight 2-year-old race April 21 at Aqueduct Racetrack by three-quarters of a length. The colt, who races for breeders Twin Creeks Racing Stables and Sequel Thoroughbreds, withstood an inquiry to win the race. 

Mission Impazible, who was campaigned by Twin Creeks, won three of his 21 starts, including the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II). He was also second in the Donn (gr. I), beaten a nose by Hymn Book.

A son of Unbridled's Song, Mission Impazible is out of the Hold Your Peace mare La Paz. He stands for ,500.

New York-bred Silver Mission is trained by Todd Pletcher, who also conditioned Mission Impazible.

 

Outwork Outlasts Longshot in Wood Memorial
4/9/2016

Outwork Outlasts Longshot in Wood MemorialFive years after Mike Repole's 2-year-old champion   ran a disappointing third in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) at , Repole's homebred secured the prize that eluded his sire.

Outwork withstood a furious late charge from 81-1  to take the Wood by a diminishing head April 9, giving the jubilant Repole another shot at the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). 

When it was suggested to Repole that Outwork's gritty victory offered a measure of vindication for Uncle Mo's flop in the Wood amid high expectations, he replied, "It's not maybe. It is vindication."

 took third for the third time in as many Derby preps at Aqueduct. , who dueled Outwork for much of the mile-and-an-eighth contest on a sealed muddy track, weakened to fourth.

Outwork, making only his fourth career start, covered the distance in 1:52.92 for jockey John Velazquez. He paid .80 to win, .80 to place and .90 to show.

The Wood was worth 100 points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth, according to the system established by to select the 20 horses allowed in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.

, winner of the Gotham (gr. III) and the 9-5 favorite in the Wood, ran a dull fourth but, according to trainer Chad Brown, will go on to the Derby. "If the horse is healthy, we'll hope for a dry track at Churchill Downs," Brown said.

Brown was extremely disappointed in , who faded to seventh. "He is no longer under consideration for the Derby, that's for sure," he said.

As much as trainer Todd Pletcher welcomes the spot in the Derby starting gate, that was not foremost on his mind.

"Forget the Derby. Forget everything other than the fact it was a huge win for him in only his fourth lifetime start," Pletcher said. "To win a grade I in only his fourth start is extra gratifying for our team because five years ago Uncle Mo didn't win the Wood Memorial."

In fact, Uncle Mo, a brilliant winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), never quite made it to the opening leg of the Triple Crown. A downcast Repole was forced to announce that he was scratched due to a rare liver ailment.

Outwork made only one start as a 2-year-old, taking his debut by 2 1/4 lengths in a 4 1/2-furlong contest last April 23 at . He returned at 3 to pull away from an allowance field at  by 4 1/4 lengths Feb. 13 before losing a torrid duel with by one length in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 12.

It turned out the Tampa Bay Derby perfectly positioned Outwork for the million Wood.

 Todd was so confident. So was Johnny. They said he was 100 percent better from the Tampa Bay Derby to here," Repole said.

Matt King Coal took the Wood field through a snappy opening quarter of 22.91. He went the first half-mile in 46.93 and three-quarters in 1:12.31 with Outwork all but glued to his side. Outwork made the lead at the top of the stretch—and that is when the trouble began. Trojan Nation, a Patrick Gallagher trainee who shipped in from the West Coast and never ran better than third in five maiden special weight tries, rallied gamely on the rail but just missed.

"I think he lost focus a little bit when he made the lead," Pletcher said. "Johnny said he idled a bit on him. Plus he was getting a little tired."

Special horses fight through the fatigue, and that is what Outwork did. Repole, a native of nearby Middle Village, Queens, was so excited he almost knocked Pletcher off his feet when he ran to congratulate him.

For a moment, Repole coud not help but relive Uncle Mo's Wood failure.

"That was one of my toughest racing days," he said. "This was one of my best racing days."

 

Photo Call Takes Lead, Victory in Orchid
4/2/2016

Photo Call Takes Lead, Victory in OrchidTeresa Viola Racing Stables' grade I winner  returned to her winning ways in the 0,000  April 2 at .


The 5-year-old Galileo mare stalked leader  early, but jockey Javier Castellano put her on the lead on their first trip through the stretch in the 1 3/8-mile turf event and couldn't be passed.  made a valiant effort late, but could only get within three-quarters of a length at the wire. came in third, another 1 1/2 lengths back. 

It was her first victory since her top-level score in the Rodeo Drive (gr. IT) at  in September, but her two starts in between were against tough company. She ran fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) and ran fourth behind  in the Endeavour (gr. IIIT) last time out Feb. 13. The Endeavour was also her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher.

"We just didn't want to fight her," Pletcher said. "Last time we tried to cover her up—she got covered up, but never really relaxed. Plan A was that if someone wanted to go, we would tuck in, but if she wasn't turned off, to not fight her. Javier executed Plan B perfectly."

Quiet Kitten led through the first quarter in :25.31, before Photo Call  pushed ahead at every other call, running the half in :49.89, six furlongs in 1:15 flat, and a mile in 1:38.69. The winner hit the wire in 2:16.38 on good turf and paid , .80, and .40 across the board. 

"I had a great trip," Castellano said. "I wanted to rate. That was my goal, but unfortunately, she wouldn't rate. She's not that kind of horse. You need to let her run. If you rate her too much, she's not going to run. If you fighter her too much, she's not going to finish. The key today, let her run."

Songoficeandfire brought .20 and .20, and Achnaha paid .20 to show. 

 made mild gains to finish fourth, followed by ,, , Quiet Kitten, and , to complete the order of finish.

Photo Call was bred in Ireland by Mrs. Evie Stockwell, out of the Rock of Gibraltar mare Theann, and now has a 5-2-4 record from 16 starts with 6,102 in earnings. 

 

Pletcher, Castellano Take Gulfstream Titles
4/1/2016

Trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Javier Castellano, and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey were honored by  April 1 for leading their respective standings during the 2015-2016 championship meet.

 

The 85-day meet, the highlight of which is the 14-race Florida Derby (gr. I) card Saturday, concludes April 3.

 

Pletcher ended Friday's program tops in wins (61) and purse earnings (.04 million), giving him an unprecedented 13th consecutive training title. He also set Gulfstream's overall record, surpassing Arnold Winick, who won 12 titles between 1959 and 1973.

 

"When you're able to string something together like that, it makes it a little more meaningful," Pletcher said. "We appreciate how hard any of them are to win and it's a great team effort. A lot of people doing a lot of work and having a lot of good horses is the main thing."

 

Pletcher also reached 4,000 career victories with  March 18 at Gulfstream.

 

 

"It's been a great meet for us from a number of standpoints," Pletcher said. 

            

Castellano had 112 wins at the end of Friday's racing, good for his fifth consecutive title, each with at least 100 wins. He also was first with .8 million in purse earnings.

 

"I always had the dream to be leading jockey at Gulfstream Park," Castellano said. "It's a very prestigious honor to participate with the best jockeys in the country. It's a tough colony. They come from everywhere. I have a lot of support and I've been very lucky in my life. I've been able to ride a lot of good horses."

 

The Ramseys, of Ramsey Farm near Nicholasville, Ky., earned their fourth straight owner title, leading the standings with 29 wins and 2,239 in purse earnings. 

 

 

Making the Grade: Destin
3/18/2016

Making the Grade: DestinMaking the Grade, which will run through the 2016 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We'll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.

This week we take a closer look at , winner of the 0,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) on March 12 at .

Destin
Gray or Roan Colt
Sire:  
Dam: Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer
Owner: Twin Creeks Racing Stables
Breeder: James C. Weigel and Taylor Made Stallions Inc. (Ky.)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Road to the Kentucky Derby Points: 51 (Ranked No. 2)

While Destin's win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) marked a breakthrough, his clear victory in the Tampa Bay Derby solidified his status as a true Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) hopeful. It was fair to question the quality of competition he faced in the Sam F. Davis, but he beat some quality 3-year-olds in the Tampa Bay Derby and looked very good going so. At the very least, Destin is an intriguing 3-year-old on the rise. More importantly, what is his ceiling? Let's explore ...

Ability: On paper, there was virtually nothing that to suggest Destin was on the verge of a career-best effort prior to the Sam F. Davis Stakes. Sure, he looked good winning his career debut by a length at in October, when he earned an 89 Equibase Speed Figure. But in two subsequent races he finished second as the overwhelming favorite in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race and fourth, beaten by five lengths, in the grade III Lecomte Stakes. Destin looked like a different horse in the Sam F. Davis when winning by 2 1/4 lengths and finishing with a 110 Equibase Speed Figure. Trainer Todd Pletcher adjusted Destin's blinkers to those with little peeps that allowed him to look around and see other horses, so he wouldn't slow down and wait for his opponents. The result was a career-best performance that demonstrated improved maturity.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, Destin looked even more professional while powering past stablemate  to prevail by a length in a track-record time of 1:42.82 for the 1 1/16 miles.

A 0,000 purchase by owner Twin Creeks Racing Stables at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, Destin is beginning to look like a heck of a bargain.

While he has yet to win a significant race away from Tampa Bay Downs, which can be a quirky main track, Destin looks like a legitimate Kentucky Derby hopeful heading in the right direction at an ideal time.

"He seems to be getting more and more professional and is learning how to finish his races," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who added that the Wood Memorial Stakes (April 9), Blue Grass Stakes (April 9) and Arkansas Derby (April 16)—all grade I—could be the next step for Destin. "I felt he would improve with more experience and that is proving to be true."

Running style: Only once has Destin been more than three lengths back in a race, and that came in the Lecomte Stakes when he was a well beaten fourth. He's finished first or second in each of his other four races—ranging from about a length to three lengths off the pace—and that looks like his sweet spot.

In the Tampa Bay Derby, Destin was a half-length back after an opening half-mile in a tepid :47.88. He has had no trouble staying within striking range of relatively easy fractions; I'm interested to see if he can keep pace with a brisk early tempo and still finish strongly. That usually is the key to winning the Kentucky Derby for horses with tactical speed.

Connections: Trainer Todd Pletcher has three wins in Triple Crown races on his résumé. He won the Kentucky Derby in 2010 with   and the Belmont Stakes with  in 2007 and  in 2013. A seven-time Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer, Pletcher served as an assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas before going out on his own in 1996.

The all-time leader among North American trainers by purse earnings with 1,267,210 through March 16, Pletcher's career-best season total of ,116,097 came in 2007. He led all North American trainers by purse earnings from 2010 through 2015.

Pletcher has nine victories in the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

Javier Castellano won his third consecutive Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in 2015, when he exceeded his own previous single-season earnings record with ,120,767 in purse earnings, exceeding his previous mark of ,219,907 set in 2013. He also won 17 Grade 1 races and ranked first by number of wins in 2015 with 344. Castellano's lone victory in a Triple Crown race came with   in the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I). He has twice finished second in the Belmont Stakes (Comissioner, 2014;  , 2011) and finished third with  in the 2015 Preakness Stakes. From nine Kentucky Derby mounts, his best finish was fourth aboard   in 2013.

Established in 2007, Twin Creeks Racing Stables is a racing partnership managed by Randy Gullatt and Steve Davison. They've successfully raced horses such as grade I winner   and multiple graded stakes winner , and bred in partnership grade I winner  . Multiple graded stakes winner   was Twin Creeks' first Kentucky Derby starter, finishing ninth in 2010, and the operation raced in partnership , who finished 17th in the 2014 Derby.

Pedigree: By three-time leading sire Giant's Causeway out of grade I winner Dream of Summer, Destin certainly has the pedigree to excel in elite races going a route of ground. He's a full brother to grade I winner , who finished second in the 2012 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), third in that year's Preakness, and fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Creative Cause also finished third in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in 2011.

Giant's Causeway led the general sire list in 2009, 2010 and 2012. A spectacular racehorse who won nine times and finished second four times in 13 races, Giant's Causeway earned ,078,989, won five group I races and was named European Horse of the Year in 2000. He is perhaps best remembered in the U.S. for his thrilling stretch duel with  in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), in which he came up a neck short.

As good as he was as a racehorse, Giant's Causeway has been equally powerful as a sire with 99 group or graded stakes winners and eight champions to his credit.

Dream of Summer was a four-time graded stakes winner who earned ,191,150 on the racetrack. She was a multiple graded stakes-winner sprinting whose career-defining victory came in the grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at 1 1/16 miles in 2005. Destin is her fourth winner from five starters to date.

Destin's grandam, Mary's Dream, by Skywalker, was unraced. However, his third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Proper Mary, won three stakes races and his fourth dam (maternal great-great-grandmother), My Mary, was a stakes winner who also produced three stakes winners, including grade II winner Somethingmerry.

From a pedigree standpoint, Destin should boast plenty of class and stamina to be a major threat in the Triple Crown races. For a horse who looks like he's just beginning to mature and learn his job, Destin's combination of ability and pedigree could prove an especially potent combo.

 

Eagle Scout Gives Pletcher 4,000th Win
3/18/2016

Eagle Scout Gives Pletcher 4,000th WinTwelve-time defending Championship Meet leading trainer Todd Pletcher reached a personal milestone March 18 when  won the fifth race to give the multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer his 4,000th victory. 

In his seventh try since win No. 3,999 March 13, Pletcher hit the 4,000 mark with WinStar Farm homebred Eagle Scout (.80), a first-time starter in the mile maiden event on the main track. Luis Saez was aboard for the victory.

Pletcher, 48, became just the 10th trainer to win at least 4,000 races, a list that features five Hall of Famers, including his mentor, D. Wayne Lukas. Pletcher spent parts of seven years with Lukas before going out on his own in 1995.

"We’ve been blessed with a lot of great horses and a lot of great opportunities. There’s a lot of people to be thankful to. It’s fun," Pletcher said. "I think the whole team enjoys these types of milestones. When you get to these larger numbers, I think it makes you appreciative of every single one. Everyone is significant and every win is significant."

According to Equibase statistics, Pletcher has won 767 races at Gulfstream, including his first victory with  in 1996, as well as his 3,000th with  in 2012.

North America’s all-time leader with more than 1 million in purse earnings, Pletcher also owns 134 stakes victories at Gulfstream, 94 of those graded, including back-to-back editions of the Florida Derby (gr. I) with   in 2014 and  in 2015. He is one of only three trainers to win Gulfstream’s signature race three times, getting his first with   in 2007.

Pletcher has won an unprecedented 12 consecutive Championship Meet titles and is well on the way to a 13th, with 54 wins at the current stand, 17 more than Jorge Navarro in second. He would break a tie with Arnold Winick, who led the Gulfstream trainer standings 12 times between 1959 and 1973.

"Gulfstream has been good to us over the years. For whatever reason, the style we train fits the style of this track," Pletcher said. "Horses tend to get involved early and I think that’s an effective style. We’ve been fortunate over the years to have consistent success here."

Pletcher has been voted the Eclipse Award winner as leading trainer a record seven times (2004, 2005, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2014). He has trained 10 horses to 11 year-end championships, including Hall of Fame mare Ashado.

Pletcher won the 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in 2010 with  , the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in 2007 with filly  and in 2013 with  , and owns nine Breeders’ Cup victories.

“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to develop a lot of stakes horses, and I think over 25 percent of those wins are in stakes,” Pletcher said, “and, the fact that we’ve developed some stallions that are doing well is even more important to us. When you see the  s and  s coming up, having a lasting impact on the breed, that’s what’s great.”

Entering Thursday, Pletcher ranked first nationally in 2016 with .21 million in purse earnings and second with 71 wins. In addition to victories, he led the Championship Meet standings with .87 million in purses.

The late Dale Baird leads all trainers with 9,445 career wins. Pletcher ranks 10th overall and eighth among active trainers behind Steve Asmussen (7,252), Jerry Hollendorfer (7,054), Jack Van Berg (6,468), King Leatherbury (6,465), Scott Lake (5,662), Lukas (4,748), and Bill Mott (4,616).

 

Destin Sets Track Record in Tampa Bay Derby
3/12/2016

Destin Sets Track Record in Tampa Bay DerbyTwin Creeks Racing Stables' delivered a second straight stakes win at March 12, this time setting a track record in landing the track's top classic prep race: the 0,000 . 

Trainer Todd Pletcher's horses secured the top two spots as Destin edged past game stablemate  in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race, earning 50 points and 20 points respectively on the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points list.

"It was a beautiful trip; he broke sharp out of the gate and put me in good position behind the top two horses. I thought there would be a little more speed, but the way he set out was beautiful," said winning rider Javier Castellano after Destin completed the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:42.82 on a fast track. "I asked him turning for home and he responded so well. He finished good and the way he galloped out was phenomenal, especially after the (track-record time). The way he's been doing, he could be a (gr. I Kentucky Derby) horse. He could be destined to win it—who knows?"

The race did not go as well for grade I winner , who was bumped at the start and trailed in the field of nine early, made a bit of a rally in the turn, but finished seventh in his 3-year-old season debut.

The top two finishers entered Saturday's race off wins on the same Tampa Bay Downs card. Destin, a son of  , earned a clear victory in the Feb. 13 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) and Outwork cruised to a 4 1/4-length score in an allowance/optional claiming race that day.

On Saturday Outwork led early under Racing Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez through a half-mile in :47.88 and six furlongs in 1:11.43 while tracked by grade III winner  and Destin. Just after the leader completed six furlongs, rider Javier Castellano asked Destin for more.

The two stablemates dueled in early stretch, with Outwork racking inside. Destin battled his way into the lead in midstretch and registered a one-length victory in 1:42.82 on a fast track. finished third to earn his first stakes placing, and  followed in fourth.

"I was very, very pleased with (Destin's) performance," said Pletcher, who watched the outcome from . "He seems to be getting more and more professional and is learning how to finish his races. I felt he would improve with more experience and that is proving to be true. After his first two races, he was still piecing things together, but he has gotten better with experience."

Pletcher also was pleased with the first stakes start for Repole Stable's Outwork, a son of 2015 leading freshman sire  .

"For Outwork to put forth that type of performance in only his third start is quite impressive," Pletcher said. "We were hoping he would move forward, and he certainly ran well enough to put himself in the next round of preps, where hopefully he will move forward again."

Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks Racing Stable said Destin also is improving.

"He has come a long ways (since winning the Sam F. Davis) and I think he is ahead of even where we thought he would be," Gullatt remarked. "He's making big jumps and we're very happy. Obviously, this race gives you the option of (another prep) because of the timing. He ran super last time, but I think he was even more into the bit today and just took Javier right where he wanted. I'm elated. I think he ran even better than I was hoping he would."

Destin returned .20, .80, and .60 across the board while Outwork returned .20 to place and .20 to show. Star Hill returned .80 to show.

Bred in Kentucky by James C. Weigel & Taylor Made Stallions out of grade I winner Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer, Destin is a full brother to classic-placed Grade I winner  . Twin Creeks landed the colt for 0,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.

 

Sophia's Song, Abiding Star Shine at Laurel
3/12/2016

Sophia's Song, Abiding Star Shine at LaurelEarlier this year, Bill Mathis purchased controlling interest in the 3-year-old filly after trainer Todd Pletcher told him of the filly's potential after she won an allowance optional claiming event at .

The potential Pletcher spoke of was in clear view Saturday at  when Sophia's Song was never headed and ran away from five other fillies to win the ,000  by four lengths over Wide Country Stakes winner . 

Jockey Victor Carrasco could have won by as many as he wanted, continually looking behind him for a threat that never materialized. A daughter of  , Sophia's Song covered the mile in 1:38.40.

Co-owned by Head of Plains Partners LLC, Sophia's Song, who finished second in her debut at  in October, has now reeled off three consecutive victories by 11 3/4 lengths.

"She was able to get out to a comfortable lead without much pressure," said Pletcher at Gulfstream Park. "She still tends to drift a bit in the stretch and that's something we're working on, but I thought it was a solid effort."

Breaking on top, Carrasco looked nothing more than a passenger as Sophia's Song, the 1-5 favorite, cruised through fractions of :24.48, :48.07 and 1:12.67.

"I think the way the race unfolded she kind of found herself on the lead and we didn't want to take away what comes naturally for her," Pletcher said. "All in all, we're very happy with her performance."

Mathis, who flew from Oklahoma with his family to watch the race, campaigned , who was trained by Pletcher and won the Gazelle (gr. II) and was second in the 2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) behind eventual champion .

"We had pointed her down there (at Gulfstream) for the Davona Dale (gr. II, Feb. 27), but we didn't feel she was quite ready for that competition with Cathryn Sophia so we thought it was better to come up here and try this race and see if we can get her to win a stakes race, and that's what happened," Mathis said. We're thrilled and taking it one step at a time. Hopefully, better things to come.

"Clearly, there's a lot of options when you have a 3-year-old filly right now."

Also on the Laurel card Saturday,  went to the front in the ,000  and kept on going.

Owned by Stonehedge and trained by Edward Allard, Abiding Star soared in the 1 1/16 mile Private Terms under jockey Jevian Toledo, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over .  was third and favored  was fourth in the six-horse field. 

A son of  , Abiding Star has been a work in progress. The colt has won his last three starts after breaking his maiden in his seventh attempt for a ,000 claiming tag Jan. 1 at Laurel.

"He's just maturing... coming into himself," said Allard's wife and assistant trainer Mary Allard. "Typically, 3-year-old colts, they're not always real smart. Sometimes they need more time to get themselves together. And he's getting things together.

"He's happy, training really good, doing really well."

Breaking from the six post, Toledo simply took Abiding Star to the front in front of Whiskey Tree and cruised through fractions of :24.89, :49.66 and 1:15.02. The colt had a three-length lead entering the stretch before coming home in 1:46.61. Flash McCaul rallied around the far turn for the place.

"We thought if he made the lead and kept it at a nice, decent pace, we thought he'd get the job done," Allard said.

Allard said there are no firm plans for Abiding Star, but he could possibly be a late nomination for the Triple Crown, with a return to Laurel for the April 9 Federico Tesio, a "Win & You're In" for the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

 

Mshawish Impressive in Final Drill for Dubai
3/11/2016

Mshawish Impressive in Final Drill for DubaiAl Shaqab Racing's  served noticed March 11 that he should not be forgotten in the conversation leading up to the March 26 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), although   and may be well-deserved headliners. 

The Donn Handicap (gr. I) winner—who has made an excellent transition to racing on dirt after spending most of his career on turf—wowed his connections with a powerful breeze at Palm Beach Downs in his final stateside move for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Mshawish was officially timed in :58.87 for a five-furlong move by clockers, and Al Shaqab Racing manager Bradley Weisbord credited him with a seven-furlong gallop out in 1:24 4/5.

"This was the big piece of work," Weisbord said. "We weren't going to lead him over to Dubai short. On a scale of one to 10, he's doing 200. If he gets to the race like he is today, he's going to run big."

Mshawish, a 6-year-old son of  , has run in Dubai twice before. He took the 2014 Zabeel Mile Sponsored by Al Naboodah MEP & Engineering Group (UAE-IIT) and finished third last year in the Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World (UAE-IT). He ships from Florida to the United Arab Emirates March 13 for a try over the Meydan dirt, and will go through Atlanta and Germany before arriving in Dubai.

"California Chrome and Frosted are two extremely nice horses that virtually show up every time," Weisbord said. "They have a definite home-field advantage and it was smart of their connections to ship them over early and get them acclimated, and both have won a serious race on the track where the World Cup will be held.

"We didn't have that liberty, because we won the Donn in early February and we felt going into the Donn that it would be a rush to run there and then ship to Dubai to prep in Dubai. And if we weren't going to prep in a race, we didn't feel the need to be there early. The horse has been there before, he won the Zabeel Mile, and last year he ran third in the Dubai Turf off the same shipping schedule."

Last year Mshawish missed three days of training the week prior to the Dubai Turf with a serious foot bruise.

"He had a major issue the week of the race and still ran really well in Dubai, and with all those things considered, it gave us comfort to do all our training at Palm Beach Downs, where he has his own groom and our own staff, and then ship over there ready for battle," Weisbord said.

The well-traveled Mshawish was bred in Kentucky but began his career racing in France and England—even with a jaunt to Hong Kong thrown in right before his arrival in the U.S. for a 2014 campaign with Pletcher. He won the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (gr. IIT) and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) in 2015, and at the end of that year, after running fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), was switched to dirt by his connections.

The Donn Handicap victory boosted his stud value, but Mshawish should have a full campaign this year before heading off to the Taylor Made Stallions breeding shed for the 2017 season.

"He's going to be a stallion standing in Kentucky at the conclusion of his career, but barring unforeseen issues, the main goal for him this year is the Breeders' Cup Classic," Weisbord said.

 

NY-Bred Awesome Gent Takes Winkfield
3/6/2016

NY-Bred Awesome Gent Takes WinkfieldBurning Sands Stables' homebred, who sat just off two dueling leaders for almost a half-mile, took over in the stretch and pulled away to win the 5,000  for 3-year-olds at  March 6. 

It was the third consecutive win for New York-bred Awesome Gent, a gelding by  out of the Sir Richard Lewis mare Pawnee Patti. All three victories have come on the inner dirt at Aqueduct.

 and  both broke sharply from posts 1 and 2, respectively, and hooked up in a battle that carried through an opening quarter-mile in :22.17 and a half-mile in :45.64 on a track rated fast. Jockey Manuel Franco allowed Awesome Gent to engage the top pair on the far turn and urged him past the leaders in mid-stretch.

Awesome Gent won by four lengths in 1:10.60 for six furlongs. Midwest Thoroughbreds' , a   gelding who had won both of his starts at , rallied inside of the winner to finish second, one length ahead of  Zayat Stables' in third.

Awesome Gent, who gave trainer Todd Pletcher his third win on the program, paid .40 to win.

"When I saw the two horses fighting for the lead, I just waited (on him)," Franco said. "He's a nice horse. He has speed too, but he'll let you do what you want with him."

Awesome Gent made his career debut at  last summer and finished eighth as the favorite in a New York-bred maiden special weight event. He was gelded and returned Dec. 19 to win a state-bred maiden test at Aqueduct.

He then won a state-bred entry-level allowance race Jan. 15. The Winkfield marked his first start in open company.

 

Front-Running Mei Ling Takes Heavenly Prize
3/5/2016

Front-Running Mei Ling Takes Heavenly Prize returned to stakes-winning form March 5, taking the 0,000 on the front end at . 

Jockey Jose Ortiz gave a chilly ride aboard Barry Schwartz's 5-year-old daughter of  after breaking a step slow in the 1 1/16-mile test, and sent her out to post opening fractions of :24.17 and :48.05 while opening up by about five lengths. He had plenty of horse turning for home through three-quarters in 1:12.82, and Mei Ling never faltered when set down for the drive.

"We broke OK, a step behind, but I sent her out of there and the blinkers helped a lot," Ortiz said of the Todd Pletcher trainee. "She's getting much better."

On a day that saw early speed horses dominate Saturday at Aqueduct, the bay mare finished a mile in 1:38.37 en route to a final time of 1:45.07 on a fast track.  edged out a three-horse photo for second, 3 1/4 lengths back of the winner, while and  dead-heated for third. 

Off at odds of 7-2, Mei Ling returned .60, .10, and .30. Saythreehailmary's brought .60 and .60, while Pangburn and Include Betty brought .80.

Mei Ling was bred in Kentucky by Mr. & Mrs. Larry D. Williams out of the Seeking the Gold mare Lochinvar's Gold, and was purchased by Schwartz for 0,000 from the Elm Tree Farm consignment to the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. She won her first race of the season after a second and a third in listed company at Aqueduct and this year; the Heavenly Prize was also her first win since last summer, when she took the Sept. 7 Lighthouse Stakes at. Her record now stands at 4-6-4 from 18 starts.

 

Blofeld Edges Stanford in Gulfstream 'Cap
3/5/2016

Blofeld Edges Stanford in Gulfstream 'CapPatience paid off for the connections of March 5, as the Todd Pletcher trainee picked up the 0,000 at. 

The winner of three straight races as a 2-year-old, including the grade II Futurity Stakes and Nashua Stakes, the   colt was full of promise until physical issues sent him to the sidelines at the end of 2014. He raced only twice in 2015, and was off from July of that year until he returned Jan. 27 this season with a fourth in a Gulfstream allowance race. 

Perhaps that was why bettors sent him off at 9-1 in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap—but Pletcher knew better.

"We were expecting a big performance from him," the trainer said. "I thought he got a race off the layoff, so we were looking for a big effort from him. It's nice to see him get back to the form we knew he was capable of."

Pletcher, who saddled four starters in the seven-horse field, saw finish second, edged by a head as his fellow runner crept up the rail.

"Tough beat," the trainer said. "He took the worst of it from the one post and kind of had to work hard the whole way. It looked like he had just gotten there and Blofeld caught him on the money."

Another Pletcher-trained runner, 17-1 pacesetter , was disqualified from third to fourth for interference with 6-5 favorite Valid, who stumbled badly after appearing to clip heels with Anchor Down when closing in the center of the stretch.

"It wasn't a fair fight," trainer Marcus Vitali said of the incident. "We were making a great move. It looked like we were going to win the race until (Anchor Down) took us out. I just looked at the horse for a minute, and he looked all right."

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez tracked the pace in fourth on Blofeld behind opening fractions of :23.21 and :45.69, and was still fourth headed into the stretch. He took advantage of an opening along the rail, and worked his way through just in time.

"It was a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "He broke well enough. Normally you have to break and put him into the race. He got into the race nicely. Then I just had to bide my time and figure out which way to go. When Javier (Castellano, on Stanford) took out at the eighth pole, it was my time to go back inside and he ended up getting there."

Final time was 1:35.03 on the fast main track.

Blofeld, who races for Glencrest Farm and JSM Equine, returned .40, .20, and .60. Stanford brought .20 and .60. Valid paid .20, with Anchor Down, , , and  completing the order of finish.

 

Undefeated Off the Tracks Now With Pletcher
2/29/2016

Undefeated Off the Tracks Now With PletcherTodd Pletcher has taken over the training of , a 3-year-old daughter of Curlin who is undefeated in three career starts.

Newtown Anner Stud has purchased a majority interest in the filly, who is by  out of Harve de Grace, by Boston Harbor. Off the Tracks, who was purchased for ,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale by Chad Summers, agent, thus far has raced for J Stables under the care of trainer Roderick Rodriguez.

"We picked her up three days ago and she galloped yesterday and today," Pletcher said Feb. 28. "She's a big, strong filly and looks good. We'll probably look to gallop her the remainder of this week and start breezing her (the weekend of March 5-6)."

Pletcher said the April 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles is possible for the filly.

Off the Tracks won her debut in maiden special weight company June 13, 2015, at  and then shipped north where she captured the grade III Schuylerville Stakes July 24 at . She returned to the races Feb. 21 at Gulfstream and won the Margate Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs after having been sidelined with a knee injury that required surgery.

"I'm familiar with the filly from her race at Saratoga and I watched her race (in the Margate)," Pletcher said. "You would think with the pedigree that she has she would want to stretch out, so we'll see how she trains and go from there."

 

Mo d'Amour Rallies to Victory in Busher
2/27/2016

Mo d'Amour Rallies to Victory in Busher took command midstretch of the 5,000  Saturday, Feb. 27 at  on her way to her first stakes victory in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies. 

A daughter of leading freshman sire of 2015  , Mo d'Amour was angled out by jockey Chris DeCarlo coming off the far turn and surged past 6-5 favorite  in the stretch to score a two length victory, completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.37 on a fast track.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, King of Prussia Stable's Mo d'Amour entered Saturday's race off a 4 1/4-length victory in a one-mile allowance-optional claiming race Feb. 6 at . Before that effort, Mo d'Amour opened the season with a third-place finish in the six-furlong Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct.

King of Prussia Stable's Ed Stanco said the Mo d'Amour put things together in the Laurel allowance race.

"The Laurel race was nice and she trained well off that," Stanco said. "Three weeks and she was kicking the barn door down. It's nice having an Uncle Mo [filly]. We really like Mike Repole, so it makes it a lot of fun."

In Saturday's race,  displayed her usual early speed to lead through a half-mile in :49.51 while tracked by  with Katniss the Victor tracking in third to the outside. Katniss the Victor and Aaron Gryder would rally three wide in the far turn to seize the lead turning for home, but that's when Mo d'Amour would be angled out for her winning run.

DeCarlo said going into the race, he didn't expect to rally from fourth.

"I thought I was going to be closer than I was," DeCarlo said. "I broke and we got jostled a little bit and two [horses] were in front of me that I really didn't expect and there was an opportunity for me to get to the fence, so that's what I did. They said she waits on horses, so I tried to wait as long as I could. I really waited until about the 3/16th pole before I really set her down and when she ran by, she kind of kicked on. She did idle a little bit, but I had plenty in the tank."

Gabriel Duignan's  would rally to finish second, despite racing greenly under Kendrick Carmouche. Katniss the Victor held third.

Mo d'Amour returned , .10, and .40 across the board while Dreams to Reality paid .80 to place and .20 to show. Katniss the Victor returned .50 to show.

Mo d'Amour sold as a yearling and a 2-year-old. She was most recently purchased by Joseph Brocklebank, agent, for her current owners, for ,000 at the 2015 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March 2-year-olds in training sale. She was consigned to that sale by Woodside Ranch, agent.

Bred in Kentucky by Doug and Felicia Branham, Mo d'Amour is the first starter out of the unraced Scat Daddy mare Neverthesame.

 

Mshawish Gets His Dirt Win in Hal's Hope
1/9/2016

Mshawish Gets His Dirt Win in Hal's HopeAl Shaqab Racing's versatile successfully transferred his graded stakes-winning form to the dirt Jan. 9, edging  by a neck in the 0,000 at . 

The 6-year-old   runner came off a fourth in the Nov. 28 Cigar Mile (gr. I) for trainer Todd Pletcher, his first try on dirt after winning both the Ft. Lauderdale (gr. IIT) and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) on the lawn last year.

A return to Dubai is in order for Mshawish, who in 2015 was third in the Dubai Turf (UAE-IT) and in 2014 won the Zabeel Mile (UAE-IIT) and finished fourth in the Dubai Turf when it was known as the Dubai Duty Free. His connections will decide whether this race sets him up for a run in the Feb. 8 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on dirt or a return to the Gulfstream Park Turf on the same day, and subsequently whether he will run on turf in Dubai or target the million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).

"This was a defining moment for him to decide what he's going to do going forward," Pletcher said. "We'll all put our heads together and see what we want to do; we'd like to go to Dubai with him, but we've got a lot of options (as to which race he'll contest)."

With meet-leading jockey Javier Castellano in the irons, Mshawish was content to settle near the back of the pack of five as Valid led the way in the mile test. Between horses after a :24.26 quarter and a half in :46.69, the bay runner moved up with a powerful rally and swung outside around the final turn as three-quarters went in 1:09.95.

"I like to ride the horse like a European turf horse and I like to cover up a little bit like I did today and find one run and make a big strong move, and it worked out great today," Castellano said. "I think in the Cigar Mile when he ran the first time on the dirt, I think I may have moved to soon and tried to ride him like a dirt horse and he hung. I paid my price and I learned something good out of my mistake. Today, I rode more patient. There was a lot of speed in the race and I tried to cover up behind the speed and make one run. It paid off today."

Valid dug in down the stretch but could not prevail when seeking his fourth straight stakes score; after seven-eighths in 1:22.06, he gave way to the closing winner. Final time on a fast track was 1:34.61.

"I thought it was a quality effort," Pletcher said. "The time was good and I'm happy to see him win a big race on the dirt because he's always trained well on it.

"We'll see how he comes out of it and assess the fields and how he's training. We'd like to get back to Dubai with him. He was a quality third in the turf race there last year. So now we have a lot of options open for him, not only here, but also in Dubai. He could go in the mile, the World Cup, or the mile-and-an-eighth turf.

"It's kind of why we want to run today—to find out if in fact he is a dirt horse and if the Donn is an option. If not, we'd just fall back on the turf. Now, we have both options."

The victory completed a sweep of the early stakes for Al Shaqab, Pletcher, and Castellano, who teamed up 2 1/2 hours earlier to win the Marshua's River (gr. IIIT) with .

Mshawish paid .40, .40, and .60 while Valid brought .20 and .40 as the 9-5 favorite.  was worth .60, and  and  completed the order of finish.  scratched.

Bred in Kentucky by OTIF 2007 out of the Thunder Gulch mare Thunder Bayou, Mshawish took an interesting route to his current connections. He was a ,000 weanling purchase by Hot Pepper Farm from the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale when consigned by Dapple Bloodstock, and went for ,000 to Brown Island Stables from the Bedouin Bloodstock consignment at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Shipped to France for the 2012 Arqana Saint-Cloud breeze-up sale, he was purchased from the Brown Island consignment for 9,589 by Mandore International Agency for Al Shaqab. He raced in Europe and at Meydan and Sha Tin before joining Pletcher's program in 2014. He now has a 7-2-3 record from 22 starts for earnings of ,920,651.

 

Sandiva Shows Early Speed in Marshua's River
1/9/2016

Sandiva Shows Early Speed in Marshua's RiverAl Shaqab Racing's  vied for command early and stayed on the pace before she took the lead off the turn and galloped away unchallenged to win the 0,000  Jan. 9 at . 

 

The 5-year-old daughter ofFootstepsinthesand won by 1 1/2 lengths from closing , with a length away in third in the field of nine older fillies and mares. As the even-money favorite, Sandiva finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.04 and added a fourth graded or group win to her record.  

 

Ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher, both finalists for Eclipse Awards in their respective categories, Sandiva returned .40, , and .40, and A Little Bit Sassy paid .80 and 5.80. Tuttipaesi returned .40 to show.

 

Sandiva's victory marked the first of two graded stakes wins on the Gulfstream card for the team of Sheikh Joaan's Al Shaqab Racing, Pletcher, and Castellano. Three races later,  captured the Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) by a neck. 

 

The Marshua's River began as a three-horse contest, as Sandiva dueled with  and  through fractions of :23.95 for the opening quarter, :48.29 for the half, and 1:12.11 for six furlongs. From there, she easily shook free of Quiet Kitten and opened a two-length advantage into the stretch to secure the win.  

 

"I didn't expect to be on the lead, but the way she did it, she was very sharp today," Castellano said. "I was very impressed with the way she did it because she had never been on the lead. I didn't expect to be close to the pace behind the horses. 

 

"The way I handicapped, the other two horses had the speed and she showed it today. The filly was training so well today and Todd Pletcher said put the horse where she belonged. He told me don't take it away if it comes easy. If you find yourself on the lead, go ahead. I think she was much the best today."

 

Sandiva entered with two stakes wins over the Gulfstream course. She landed the 2014 Tropical Oaks and the 2015 Suwannee River (gr. IIIT), followed by a neck second in the Honey Fox (gr. IIIT). She came off a five-month layoff to finish third in the My Charmer (gr. IIIT) Nov. 21 atGulfstream Park West last time out. Saturday's triumph improves her record to 7-2-2 from 18 starts, which includes a pair of group wins in England and France.

 

Sandiva was bred in Ireland by Denis McDonnell from the Mark of Esteem mare Miss Corinne. She sold to Bobby O'Ryan and Middleham Park for £18,000 (,476) at the 2012 Doncaster premier yearling sale and has earned 9,537 in her racing career thus far. After she won her first two starts at age 2 for Middleham Park Racing, including a stakes a Naas, Sandiva was purchased privately by Nicolas de Watrigant's Mandore Agency for Sheikh Joaan.

 

 finished fourth in Marshua's River, followed by , , Devine Aida, Quiet Kitten, and to complete the order of finish. , , and, all main-track only entrants, were scratched.

 

Top Sire Scat Daddy Dies at Age 11
12/14/2015

Top Sire Scat Daddy Dies at Age 11Photo: Asuncion Pineyrua/Ashford Stud

Scat Daddy

 

 , a multiple grade I winner and sire of 69 stakes winners, died Dec. 14 at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky. The death was reported by Ashford manager Dermot Ryan via Twitter:

Passing of Scat Daddy: "Scat Daddy was in the best of health but totally unexpectedly he dropped dead when walking out of his paddock;
Everyone here at Ashford is very upset as he was a smashing horse with a great career ahead of him." Dermot Ryan, Ashford Stud

By champion Johannesburg, out of Love Style, by Mr. Prospector, Scat Daddy was bred by Axel Wend in Kentucky. A 0,000 sale yearling, he raced for James Scatuorchio and later by Scatuorchio and Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.

At 2 Scat Daddy won the grade II Sanford Stakes at and the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at . At top form on the Triple Crown trail he ran third in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) and won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Florida Derby (gr. I). He was off the board in his final outing, the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He was trained by Todd Pletcher.

He was retired in June of his 3-year-old year because of a slight tendon injury that he suffered in the Derby. He retired with five wins from nine starts and earnings of ,334,300.

Scat Daddy got off to a great start at stud and was the leading freshman sire of 2011 with more than .5 million in progeny earnings that was good enough to rank third behind Kitten's Joy and Smart Strike on the general 2-year-old sire list.

As a sire Scat Daddy is responsible for 69 stakes winners and is sadly having his best year yet. He has 36 stakes winners this year including , a group II winner at Royal Ascot, North American stars , , , , , and . From the Southern Hemisphere he has grade/group I winners The Dream, Flyer, and Kitcat.

He ranks ninth on the general sire list with more than .5 million in progeny earnings for the year and is the leading sire of stakes winners, stakes wins, and is tied with   for number of graded stakes winners (16) in 2015.

He ranks second on the juvenile sire list behind fellow Ashford Stud sire  , but is the leader by stakes winners with nine from this crop. He also leads the category by stakes horses with 12.

He entered stud in 2008 at Ashford for a fee of ,000. It dipped to ,000 during the pullback in the industry, but advanced to ,500 for 2012 and was at ,000 in 2013 and 2014.

His fee had been boosted to 0,000 for 2016.

Scat Daddy stood at Coolmore Australia in 2008 and at Haras Paso Nevado in 2009-11. He was the leading sire in Chile in 2013-14.

He leaves three sons at stud:  (BG Thoroughbred Farm, Calif.),   (Pleasant Acres, Fla.), and (Coolmore, Ireland). 

Scat Daddy's Yearling Average

Year - Average

2010: ,290
2011: ,051
2012: ,058
2013: ,680
2014: 9,948
2015: 5,748

 

Commissioner Ends Career on High Note
11/28/2015

Commissioner Ends Career on High NoteWinStar Farm's   went out on a high note Nov. 28, ending his career with a 2 1/2-length victory in the 0,000  (gr. II) at . 

The 4-year-old from the final crop of champion A.P. Indy retires to stud at WinStar near Versailles, Ky. for 2016, where he'll stand for a ,500 fee.

Rating close to the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner tracked third outside under jockey Florent Geroux while  showed the way down the backside. Early fractions of :23.50 and :47.24 went up while the order remained unchanged, Majestic Harbor maintaining the advantage by about three-quarters of a length with  in pursuit and Commissioner galloping along wide behind them.

As three-quarters went in 1:11.21, Majestic Harbor widened the advantage to about two lengths, but then Geroux gave Commissioner the signal to advance. The bay colt rolled steadily to the lead in a prolonged drive for home, taking over for a 1:37.80 mile and finishing in 2:02.09 on a fast track.

"He's a very big, heavy horse and it takes him a while to get going, so I wanted to make sure I wasn't taking him back too far ... I wanted to make sure I was forwardly positioned," said Geroux. "When I asked him to go, he showed he was the best today."

Commissioner, favored at 4-5 and the 119-pound highweight in a field of eight older runners, paid .60, .60, and .10. , who closed to get second, brought and .60. Majestic Harbor held for third, worth .60. Completing the order of finish were , Valiant City, , , and . 

The winner was bred in Kentucky by WinStar out of the Touch Gold mare Flaming Heart, and built a 5-3-2 record from 15 starts that includes victories in the Pimlico Special (gr. III) and Skip Away Stakes (gr. III) earlier this year. His earnings stand at 2,237.

 

Mrs. Revere New High Note for Isabella Sings
11/14/2015

Mrs. Revere New High Note for Isabella Sings opened a clear advantage early and carried her speed to the wire Nov. 14 to secure the first graded stakes win of her career in the 0,000  on the  turf. 

Paco Lopez and Isabella Sings, sent off at 27-1, seized a two-length advantage through a half-mile in :48.07, then held off a stretch challenge from another longshot, 44-1 , for a half-length win. The daughter of Eskenderya enjoyed a clear advantage at each early point of call, cruising through a quarter-mile in :23.5 and six furlongs in 1:13.41, and had just enough left late under Lopez's smart handling.

Anthony Manganaro's Siena Farm homebred Isabella Sings won this year's Little Silver Stakes on the  turf and had previously placed in a pair of grade II stakes on the grass for trainer Todd Pletcher before nailing down her first graded score Saturday. Isabella Sings completed the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies in 1:44.74 on good turf.

"She had been training really well and coming into it in good shape and we felt like she had a fighting chance in what appeared to be a deep and competitive field," Pletcher said. 

With the win Isabella Sings improved her career mark to 4-3-0 with earnings of 3,950. Isabella Sings also becomes the first graded stakes winner for second-crop sire Eskendereya, who boasts a total of four stakes winners.

"She can be kind of a headstrong filly and Paco was able to kind of coax her along a bit and get her to settle," Pletcher said. "The first quarter was solid, but then they were able to talk her out of it and get a kind second quarter. It looked like it was game on from there. I was hoping she could continue on." 

While Isabella Sings was 8-1 on the morning-line, she was largely ignored at the windows and returned .60 to win, .60 to place, and .80 to show. Raina Da Bateria paid .60 to place and .80 to show. The exacta on the top two returned ,799.20. , who rallied for third, returned .60 to show.

Out of stakes-placed Isobel Baillie, Kentucky-bred Isabella Sings is a half sister to stakes winner Alaura Michele.

 

Curalina Named Aiken-Trained Horse of Year
11/13/2015

Curalina Named Aiken-Trained Horse of YearEclipse Thoroughbred Partners' , a two-time grade I winner this year, has been named the 2015 Aiken-trained horse of the year.

Curlina joins Country Star (2007) and It's Tricky (2011) as the only females honored since the award was inaugurated in 2002.

 

A 3-year old   filly out of Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall, Curalina won or placed in all seven starts this year and posted victories in the Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks (both gr. I) among four wins for trainer Todd Pletcher. She was second in the Beldame and third in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff and Alabama (all gr. I) en route to 0,200 in earnings.  

 

Curlina, bred in Kentucky by CASA Farms I, was broken and trained at the Aiken Training Track by Brad Stauffer.

 

The Aiken-trained horse of the year award was created to honor local Thoroughbreds who have had an excellent racing season by winning at least one grade I race. Past winners are Congaree (2002), Wando (2003), Limehouse (2005), Bob and John (2006), Country Star (2007), Midshipman (2008), Quality Road (2009 & 2010), It's Tricky (2011), Alpha (2012) and Palace Malice (2013 & 2014).

 

A ceremony will be held Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 2 p.m. ET at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Memorabilia from Curalina's 2015 racing season and her career will be on display. The public is invited to attend the ceremony. The Hall of Fame is located at 135 Dupree Place, Aiken, SC 29801 inside historic Hopelands Gardens.

 

Tommy Macho Pulls Away in Discovery 'Cap
11/11/2015

Tommy Macho Pulls Away in Discovery 'Cap got the best of stablemate  for the second straight start Nov. 11 at, taking the 0,000  by a commanding margin. 


The 3-year-old   colt, owned by Paul Pompa Jr. and All American Horses and trained by Todd Pletcher, pressed the pace of frontrunner  through the backstretch and into the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile event on a sloppy main track and kicked clear in the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths.

"We felt like Ocean Knight was the horse to beat and was the main pace in the race, and we didn't want to allow him to walk the dog up front," Pletcher said. "So we felt like Tommy Macho's running style would hopefully—if he broke well—put him in a position to keep some pressure on the favorite."

Madefromlucky, one of three Pletcher entries in the seven-horse field, stalked and rallied late to finish second, followed by Ocean Knight, who held for third.

Ocean Knight set fractions of :24.25, :49.45, and 1:14.63 through six furlongs, and Tommy Macho finished off the nine furlongs in 1:51.67.

"My only concern was getting a good break out of the gate," said winning jockey Javier Castellano. "Sometimes he misses the break, but today he felt sharp... He broke out of the gate perfect and I knew I had enough horse in the stretch coming home."

It was the first graded win for Tommy Macho, who finished third in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) last time out, when Madefromlucky finished seventh. A start prior, Tommy Macho finished seventh in Madefromlucky's victory in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II).

"(He) ran a sneaky good race in the West Virginia Derby," Pletcher said of Tommy Macho. "The inside was very dead that day and he got stuck on the rail the whole way. Then I thought he ran an incredible third in the Pennsylvania Derby. He tends to run well fresh and I don't think he minded the off track."

The winner paid .30, .50, and .80 across the board. Madefromlucky brought .40 and .60, while 8-5 favorite Ocean Knight delivered .40 to show.

 finished an even fourth, followed by ,, and  to complete the order of finish. 

Tommy Macho, out of the   mare Starstream, was bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis. He now has a 3-0-3 record from seven starts with 3,050 in earnings.

 

Stopchargingmaria Prevails With Distaff Win
10/30/2015

Stopchargingmaria Prevails With Distaff Win held off by a neck and withstood a review by the stewards to score a close victory in the million  Oct. 30 at . 

Town and Country Farms' Stopchargingmaria drifted out in the stretch, leading to a stewards' inquiry and objection after the race. The stewards ruled there was insufficient evidence to change the order of finish.

With the victory, Todd Pletcher and jockey Javier Castellano completed a sweep of the two Breeders' Cup dirt races on the card before a record Breeders' Cup Friday crowd of 44,947. The 4-year-old daughter of   completed the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:48.98 and now boasts three grade I wins.

Pletcher acknowledged that his filly drifted out but told NBC Sports Network that he didn't think a foul occurred, noting that he didn't think it was as bad as 





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