Pletcher Unveils Plans for Top Sophomores

With a barn full of top horses, trainer Todd Pletcher is a force to be reckoned with on the Triple Crown trail year in and year out. The conditioner has already won the GI Kentucky Derby twice and boasts three wins in the GI Belmont S., including respective victories in those Classic contests last year with Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) and Tapwrit (Tapit), who are both returning for 2018 campaigns.

Last seen finishing off the board in the GI Travers S. Aug. 26, GI Kentucky Derby hero Always Dreaming was given some time off and has been working towards his return. The bay most recently fired a half-mile bullet in :49.87 at Palm Beach Downs on Valentine’s Day.

“He’s doing great,” Pletcher said. “He breezed a half again [Wednesday] and is looking good. We are probably a couple of works away from zeroing in on a race.”

Belmont winner Tapwrit has also been on vacation since the Travers, where he finished fourth.

“He is currently galloping at Bridlewood and we expect to have him back to us within a month,” Pletcher said.

The seven-time Eclipse-winning conditioner is primed for another big Triple Crown season this term with a slew of talented sophomores led by GII Holy Bull S. victor Audible (Into Mischief) and undefeated “TDN Rising Star” Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy).

A second-out graduate going a mile at Aqueduct Nov. 15, the New York-bred Audible captured an allowance over that track and trip Dec. 6. The $500,000 FTFMAR buy was originally being pointed for a New York-bred stake, but was re-routed to the Holy Bull when that race was canceled to due to bad weather. That choice proved to be wise when the China Horse Club, WinStar and SF Racing runner blew the field away for a 5 1/2-length score over GISW Free Drop Billy (Union Rags) (video).

“Right now the plan is to go straight to the [GI] Florida Derby [Mar. 31] with him,” Pletcher said. “We were expecting him to run well [in the Holy Bull]. We liked the way he fit in the race and the way he was training, but I think the final outcome exceeded even our expectations.”

Campaigned by breeder WinStar Farm and Repole Stable, Noble Indy romped by 8 3/4 lengths on debut sprinting at Gulfstream Dec. 3 and was tabbed a “TDN Rising Star” next out when he scored a 3/4-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance there Jan. 11 (video). The bay is drawn in post two for Saturday’s GII Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds with a 5-1 morning-line quote.

“He’s been training super,” Pletcher said. “We are looking forward to seeing how he handles a new location and a step up in class. We are very pleased with the way he is coming up to it.”

Robert and Lawana Low’s Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon) was quite impressive when winning his six-panel Gulfstream unveiling by 4 1/2 lengths (video). The $380,000 KEESEP buy followed suit with an effortless victory going two turns at Tampa Thursday in close to track record time, making him Pletcher’s newest “TDN Rising Star” (video).

When asked Thursday morning what his plans are for the bay should he run well at Tampa, Pletcher said, “Assuming that he runs well and comes out of it in good order, we talked to the ownership about going to Arkansas as they would like to race at Oaklawn, so the [GII] Rebel [S. Mar. 17] would be under consideration.”

Pletcher has been quite successful at Tampa, prepping Always Dreaming for his GI Florida Derby victory there last year and winning the GII Tampa Bay Derby with Tapwrit. This year he will be represented by GIII Sam F. Davis S. third-place finisher Vino Rosso (Curlin) in the Oldsmar oval’s marquee event Mar. 10. A first-out winner at Aqueduct Nov. 11, the $410,000 KEESEP purchase captured a Tampa allowance Dec. 22 and came flying late to complete the trifecta in last Saturday’s Sam Davis (video).

“[The Sam Davis] was a good education for him,” Pletcher said. “I like the way he finished and galloped out. Right now, the plan is to take him back to the Tampa Bay Derby.”

The Coolmore contingent and Bridlewood Farm went to $2 million at the Keeneland September sale to acquire Marconi (Tapit), a half-brother to GI Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno). Tabbed a “TDN Rising Star” for his good-looking 5 1/2-length graduation in his second start at Aqueduct Dec. 15 (video), the gray broke slow and displayed some greeness when third in the GIII Withers S. last time Feb. 3.

“We are giving the [GII] Fountain of Youth [S.] some consideration,” Pletcher said. “We are going to breeze him on Saturday and see how he does.”

Racing fans have been waiting anxiously for “TDN Rising Star” Montauk (Medaglia d’Oro) to make his next start and they will have to wait a bit longer now that the colt has been sidelined by a minor throat issue. The $850,000 OBSAPR grad has been one of the buzz horses since rolling home to a dominant 11 1/4-length victory in his career bow at Belmont Oct. 7 (video).

“He’s at Bridlewood in Ocala and will probably get a couple weeks off after the minor throat procedure,” Pletcher said. “He’s not going to miss a lot of time, but we were already on a tight schedule. We hope to have him back to Palm Beach Downs in a month or so. I don’t see him making the [GI Kentucky] Derby, but we hope to have a summer campaign with him for sure.”

Runner-up to unbeaten “TDN Rising Star” and Mucho Macho Man S. hero Mask (Tapit) on debut at Belmont Oct. 20, Navistar (Union Rags) earned his diploma next out in Hallandale Dec. 16 (video). The $900,000 OBSMAR buy looked primed to win a Gulfstream allowance Feb. 4, but veered right rounding the far turn and was eased, finishing sixth.

“We are trying to sort out why he did that,” Pletcher said. “Nothing physically has shown yet. We can’t come up with a good explanation. He has been training normal since then. We will look to work him back in 10 days or so and see how that goes. We might consider an equipment change, possibly blinkers, but we will see how the works go before we decide for sure.”

Paul Pompa Jr.’s Gleason (Algorithms) got his career off on the right hoof at Tampa Jan. 20, cruising to a 5 1/2-length success (video).

“We actually shipped him to New York, hoping to run in an allowance race that didn’t fill,” Pletcher said. “We are currently looking for another option, which could be at Laurel.”

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Coolmore’s Hazit is one of the few sons of War Front campaigned on dirt, besting champion juvenile Good Magic (Curlin) to earn the “TDN Rising Star” moniker in his career bow on the GI Travers S. undercard Aug. 26 (video). Fifth next out in the GI Champagne S. Oct. 7, the $430,000 OBSMAR purchase was last seen finishing eighth to Good Magic in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4.

“Look at the overnight on Sunday at Tampa and I think you will find him on there,” said Pletcher, who entered the colt in a seven-furlong ‘one other than’ allowance along with stablemate Earth (Orb).

Fellow “TDN Rising Star” Gidu (Frankel {GB}) has been campaigned on the turf quite successfully thus far, but may take a crack at the dirt in the near future. Runner-up to stakes winner and GIII Lecomte S. third Snapper Sinclair (City Zip) when unveiled in a Saratoga turf sprint Aug. 14, the Zayat Stables runner donned cap and gown at Gulfstream next out Dec. 23 (video) and finished a gutsy second after setting a fast pace in the GIII Dania Beach S. on the Hallandale lawn Feb. 3.

“I don’t know what we are going to do yet,” Pletcher said. “We’ve had some conversations about trying him on the dirt when the opportunity is right. We are kind of playing that by ear. We’ve got several turf options, including the Columbia S. at Tampa Mar. 10 and we are also not ruling out the [GIII] Gotham [S. on dirt at Aqueduct Mar. 10] as well.”

Pletcher also has a trio of talented 3-year-old fillies, including stakes winners Orbolution (Orb) and March X Press (Shanghai Bobby). On the board in her first two attempts on dirt, Orbolution broke through with a decisive 2 1/2-length score when switched to turf and stretched to two turns at Saratoga July 23 and followed that up with a dominant victory in that venue’s P.G. Johnson S. Aug. 31 (video). Completing the trifecta in the GIII Miss Grillo S., the $370,000 KEESEP buy could only manage ninth when last seen in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf Nov. 3.

“She is at my dad’s training center in Ocala and is just getting ready to start back in training,” Pletcher said.

March X Press followed a debut score Aug. 2 at Saratoga with a victory in the Spa’s Bolton Landing S. two weeks later (video). Fourth in the GI Natalma S., the dark bay was fifth when facing males last time in the Qatar Juvenile Turf Sprint S. on Breeders’ Cup Saturday at Del Mar Nov. 4.

“She is coming back well,” Pletcher said. “There is a five-furlong turf stake called the Melody of Colors at Gulfstream Feb. 24 that we are pointing her towards.”

Repole Stable’s Cilantro (Distorted Humor) is not a stakes winner yet, but will soon get her chance to become one after an good-looking graduation at Tampa Feb. 10. Completing the exacta in her career bow sprinting at Gulfstream Jan. 14, the chestnut sailed clear to a four-length score in Oldsmar last time (video).

“We were very pleased with her effort,” Pletcher said. “She’s a filly we think will handle more distance, so we are looking to stretch her out, probably in a stake, next time. We just haven’t decided exactly which one yet.”

“TDN Rising Star” Army Mule (Friesian Fire) stamped himself as one of Pletcher’s top 3-year-olds of 2017 after romping by 8 1/2 lengths in his first trip to the post at Belmont Apr. 30 (video), but unfortunately was benched for the rest of the year following that effort. The $825,000 EASMAY purchase made his long awaited return at Gulfstream Jan. 31 and proved no worse for wear, drilling an allowance field by 7 1/2 lengths (video).

“We are pointing for the [GI] Carter [H. at Aqueduct Apr. 7],” Pletcher said. “He will train up to the race.”