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Pletcher well stocked for Kentucky Derby assault, but tempers enthusiasm
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – A veteran of Triple Crown delight and disappointment, trainer Todd Pletcher knows as rosy as things look right now for his 3-year-olds, they can get thorny in a hurry.
That’s why even as loaded as Pletcher appears to be for this year’s Kentucky Derby, he is doing his best to temper his enthusiasm.
Pletcher’s Kentucky Derby coffers are overfilling with the likes of Algorithms, who knocked off champion 2-year-old Hansen in Sunday’s Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park to remain undefeated; El Padrino, who kicked off his 3-year-old season Sunday with a sharp allowance victory; and the late-starting Discreet Dancer, who has been ultra-impressive with two wins this meet. Then there’s Gemologist, who went 3 for 3 as a 2-year-old and is expected to return to the races in March.
“We’re holding a strong hand, but sometimes a strong hand in January doesn’t mean a strong hand in May,” Pletcher, who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver, said Monday morning in his office at the Palm Meadows training center. “We’re happy with where we are at the moment, but we’ve been down the road before and know how things can change in a hurry. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed and advance to the next round.”
The next round will get somewhat dicey for Pletcher as he tries to sort out when and where to run his bevy of 3-year-olds. Algorithms, who beat Hansen by five lengths in the Holy Bull, is 2 for 2 at Gulfstream (3 for 3 overall) and could be aimed at the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth there Feb. 26 and/or the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31.
Though Algorithms is a half-brother to sprinters Keyed Entry – whom Pletcher trained – and Justin Phillip, he has a mindset that allows him to settle and move when the rider asks.
“Having the benefit of knowing that the mare is capable of throwing one that can be a little ambitious, we handled things differently,” Pletcher said. “We breezed him by himself a lot. He seems to have a better mindset than Keyed Entry did, and he’s also by Bernardini who you’d think would add stamina to the pedigree.”
Discreet Dancer, a son of Discreet Cat, has won his first two starts by more than 15 lengths at Gulfstream this winter. Discreet Dancer is under strong consideration for the Fountain of Youth and Monday he worked five furlongs at Palm Meadows in 1:02.30, getting a final quarter in 24.64 seconds while simply galloping.
Pletcher said one of the exciting things about Discreet Dancer is that he’s never been asked for his all in any of his breezes or in his first two races.
“How much better is he when we turn him loose, I don’t know,” Pletcher said. “If we go in the Fountain of Youth, I would expect running against the horses that are pointing for that we’d have the opportunity to find out.”
El Padrino, a son of Pulpit, ran past the highly regarded Take Charge Indy in a first-level allowance race Sunday to win by two lengths. He ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.68 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100. He, too, is a candidate for the Fountain of Youth or perhaps something out of town like the Risen Star at Fair Grounds on Feb. 25.
“He’s a horse that’s always shown a lot of quality,” Pletcher said. “Not at all surprised by what he did yesterday.”
Pletcher said where Algorithms, Discreet Dancer, and El Padrino make their next starts will depend on how they’re training and what the owners of each horse want to do.
“As a trainer of multiple horses, sometimes I have to put some of those decisions in the owners lap and say here are your options,” Pletcher said. “They can all read the Form and understand how these races are shaping up. Some might opt for an easier avenue, some might want to stay [at Gulfstream]. It’ll make for some interesting conversations in the next month.”
This weekend, Pletcher plans to start Ecabroni in the $250,000 Sam F. Davis at Tampa and How Do I Win in the $200,000 Withers at Aqueduct.
Broadway’s Alibi is not a Derby contender, but she could find herself in a race against males next out. After watching Broadway’s Alibi win Sunday’s Grade 2 Forward Gal by 16 3/4 lengths, Pletcher said he wouldn’t “absolutely rule out” running her in the Swale on March 10. The Grade 3, $150,000 Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct the same day also is possible.
Pletcher, who is a meet-leading 30 for 84 through the first two months of his meet, is closing in on his 3,000th career victory. He ended the weekend with 2,895 career wins.
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