Robert LaPenta and Bortolazzo Stable’s Money Moves had one of the most heralded set of eyes in the sport keeping watch on him as he got his first feel of the Churchill Downs track during his gallop on Wednesday.With his trainer Todd Pletcher remaining in New York at his Saratoga base this week, the lightly raced son of Candy Ride (ARG) is having his Kentucky Derby preparations handled by the legend that is Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.
That Lukas is now acting as an “assistant” of sorts for Pletcher is the equivalent of Obi Wan Kenobi readying Luke Skywalker’s light saber given that the latter famously cut his teeth working for the four-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer.“I just did what I was told,” said Lukas, who celebrated his 85th birthday Wednesday. “I sent him out there and he had a good maintenance gallop. We’ll school him in the gate tomorrow. Todd just said ‘Run him like you would any of your others’.”
“First of all he’s a great friend for doing it,” Pletcher added by phone. “They’ve gone out of their way to accommodate us. Part of the decision making process of going with this horse was that one of the challenges was with the staff. It’s been a difficult time for our staff in general all year losing the visa workers and (Lukas) was able to accommodate us and, that way, we don’t have to go through the quarantine process coming back.”
”Lukas recently returned to his barn after battling the COVID-19 virus, and he makes no bones about how hard the illness hit him. The resilience Lukas has shown in his recovery, however, is par for the course for the man who had made a career out of pulling off extraordinary feats. “He’s a remarkable man. My biggest concern was I knew he had a bout with COVID-19 and I didn’t want to be a burden in any way on him,” Pletcher said. “But I could tell from talking to him that his voice was strong and he was feeling good compared to the week before.
That was my main concern was I didn’t want to be a burden for him.”Money Moves comes into Saturday with just three career starts to his credit and none against stakes company. The bay colt has held his own against older horses, though, finishing second last time out in an allowance optional claiming race at Saratoga on July 25.
“He came into us with high expectations and I thought he ran very impressively to win his first two races,” Pletcher said. “Unfortunately after that he got sick and we missed several weeks of training so it kind of knocked out the original schedule that we hoped for. “By the time we got him back, we were in kind of a difficult position because we didn’t feel like he was quite ready to run in the Peter Pan off the long layoff.
We were in a tough spot. We ran him 1 1/8 miles first time around two turns against older horses and he fared pretty well. It was a very tough race, he was almost able to win and his figures came back strong. After that, it started to look like it might not take any points to get into the Derby, so the ownership group expressed interest in monitoring how he’s training and he trained well. We got together after his last breeze and weighed the pros and cons and they felt like we don’t get these opportunities but once in a horse’s life, so let’s take a shot.”
Photo Credit: Susie Raisher