Pletcher barn loaded for Derby and Oaks
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, a seven-time Eclipse Award-winner as Outstanding Trainer, boasts a plethora of contenders on both sides of the sophomore divisions as he looks to secure a third Kentucky Derby and record-tying fifth Kentucky Oaks.
“Right now, we have a lot of horses that have a chance. Like always, they need to continue to move forward,” Pletcher said. “We have some important prep runs coming up and we have some that we have high hopes for and we need them to continue to develop the right way at this time of the year.”
Pletcher previously won the Oaks with Ashado , Rags to Riches , Princess of Sylmar  and last year with Malathaat, and will look to draw even with five-time Oaks winning trainer Woody Stephens.
The veteran conditioner will send out Lawana and Robert Low’s undefeated New York-bred Classy Edition in Saturday’s Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park, a 1 1/16-mile test offering 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Classy Edition graduated by 6 3/4-lengths on debut on September 5 at Saratoga Race Course and followed with an eight-length score in the seven-furlong Jospeh A. Gimma on September 24 at Belmont Park. She was last seen posting a 3 1/2-length win in the six-furlong Key Cents on November 21 at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“She’s doing well and we’re looking forward to getting her going,” Pletcher said. “I’ve always felt that ultimately she’s a filly that wanted two turns, so hopefully this brings her in that direction.”
Bred in the Empire State by Chester and Mary Broman, the Classic Empire bay, out of the Bernardini mare Newbie, is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Newly Minted.
Classy Edition has trained extensively at Palm Beach Downs for her open-company and seasonal debut, including a five-eighths breeze in 1:00.82 February 26.
“She’s a good sized filly. She’s matured and put on some weight and looks really good in her coat. We’re pleased with the way she’s coming up to it,” Pletcher said.
Classy Edition, listed as the 7-2 second choice in the field of seven, will exit post 2 under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House’s Nest is currently sixth in the Kentucky Oaks standings with 20 points. The Curlin bay captured the nine-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle in December at the Big A and romped to victory by six lengths in one mile and 40 yard Suncoast on February 12 in her seasonal debut at Tampa Bay Downs.
Pletcher said Nest will likely target the Ashland on April 8 at Keeneland, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points.
“I’m very pleased with her comeback race and excited about how she came out of it,” Pletcher said. “Right now, we have the Ashland penciled in as her final prep but we’ll monitor everything as we go along. I’m really pleased with how she’s developed.”
Pletcher’s Oaks contingent is bolstered by the addition of Group 3 UAE Oaks winner Shahama, who sits third in the Kentucky Oaks standings with 50 points.
Previously conditioned by Fawzi Abdulla Nass, Shahama has won her first four starts led by an impressive last out score in the 1 3/16-mile UAE Oaks in which she overcame a troubled start to win by two lengths.
The Munnings bay, out of the Belong to Me mare Private Feeling, is a half-sister to two-time Champion Lookin At Lucky and multiple graded stakes winner Kensei.
“We’re excited about getting her in. I believe the plan will be to come to Florida and prepare for the Oaks,” Pletcher said. “I think we would just train up to the Oaks, but we need to see how she is and how quickly she acclimates before making any firm decisions.”
Pletcher also conditions multiple graded stakes placed Oaks-hopeful Goddess of Fire [5th, 22 points], who finished second in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra on February 19 at Fair Grounds.
Pletcher will be represented by both Golden Code and Dean’s List in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham at Aqueduct, a one-turn mile offering 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Pletcher, whose past “Run for the Roses” winners include Super Saver  and Always Dreaming , will also chase Derby points Saturday with allowance optional claiming winner Emmanuel in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, a 1 1/16-mile test offering 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Emmanuel is a perfect 2-for-2, including a 4 1/2-length score over Gotham contender Glider last out in a one mile and 40 yard allowance optional claiming tilt on January 30 at Tampa Bay Downs.
Pletcher said he is hopeful the More Than Ready colt, purchased for $350,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, could graduate to any number of 100-40-20-10 Derby qualifiers, including the Florida Derby on April 2 at Gulfstream, the Wood Memorial or Keeneland’s Blue Grass on April 9.
“We’ll see how we do in the Fountain of Youth and take it from there,” Pletcher said.
Donegal Racing’s Mo Donegal, by Uncle Mo, was entered in the Fountain of Youth but developed a temperature and will scratch in favor of the nine-furlong Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 9 at the Big A which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Mo Donegal graduated at second asking in October at Belmont Park ahead of a narrow nose score over Zandon in the nine-furlong Remsen in December at the Big A in which he garnered 10 Kentucky Derby points.
Mo Donegal finished a closing third last out after a slow start in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Holy Bull won by the prominent White Abarrio.
“Mo Donegal is at the top of the list for the Wood,” Pletcher said. “Since he won the Remsen at Aqueduct, we think that would be a good fit for him.”
Mo Donegal is currently tenth in the Derby standings with 12 points.
Pletcher said Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Grade 1-placed maiden Commandperformance is close to a return. The Union Rags colt, a $220,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, was a game second to Jack Christopher in the Grade 2 Champagne in October at Belmont.
The Kentucky-bred grey, who is 20th in the Derby standings with six points, finished fourth last out in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November at Del Mar. He has breezed extensively at Palm Beach Downs in Florida, including a five-eighths effort in 1:02.29 February 26.
“He is hopefully a couple weeks away from making his comeback and would also be a possibility for the Wood,” Pletcher said.
WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Major General is 14th in the Derby standings with 10 points. The Constitution colt, who is targeting the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, was a maiden winner on debut in August at Saratoga ahead of a score in the Grade 3 Iroquois in September at Churchill Downs.
Malathaat training for 4-year-old campaign
Pletcher said last year’s Kentucky Oaks-winner and Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat is training well at Palm Beach Downs where she has breezed twice ahead of a 4-year-old campaign.
“She’s done super,” Pletcher said. “She’s had two easy three-eighths and we’ll start to pick things up a little bit as we go along. I’m very happy with her and looking forward to a big year from her.”
Owned by Shadwell Stable, the regally-bred daughter of Curlin out of Grade 1-winner Dreaming of Julia, boasts a perfect in-the-money record of 8-6-1-1 with purse earnings in excess of $1.735 million.
Malathaat captured three Grade 1 events last season, including the Ashland at Keeneland and the Alabama at Saratoga. Her two non-winning efforts came when second, by a head, to Maracuja in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in which she was hounded throughout through swift splits; and a closing third last out in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff following a troubled trip.
“It would be picking on her to say she has any real weaknesses,” Pletcher said. “I was watching the replay of the Distaff the other day and she had a pretty difficult trip in there and got bounced around at the top of the stretch and still fought on gamely on the inside and was only beaten a half-length.”
Pletcher said he is looking forward to campaigning Malathaat as an older horse.
“She’s one we always felt would continue to get better as she aged. We’re excited about having her back and hoping we can have the type of year we would hope to have from her,” Pletcher said.
CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s Life Is Good continues to train forwardly towards his first 10-furlong start in the Group 1, $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 26 at Meydan Racecourse.
The Into Mischief bay has won 6-of-7 starts, including the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November during an exceptional sophomore season. The talented bay stretched out to nine furlongs for the first time in January, taking the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational by 3 1/4-lengths at Gulfstream over Horse of the Year Knicks Go.
“We’ll see how he handles the mile and a quarter. He’s always trained like a horse that will go as far as he needs to,” Pletcher said. “He’s got so much natural talent. He has such a high cruising speed and as we saw in the Pegasus he was able to continue with it. Hopefully, another eighth is within his realm.”
Pletcher said he is excited about a summer campaign for Life Is Good which could include key Grade 1 NYRA-circuit events such as the Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap on June 11 at Belmont and the Whitney in August at Saratoga which both offer Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” status.
“We’ll have to assess how he comes back from Dubai. A race like the Met Mile could be in play if he bounces back quickly and, if not, you’d be looking at something like the Whitney,” Pletcher said. “We’ll take it one race at time but we’re excited about taking him to Dubai. The horse is doing fantastic and it’s fun to have him in the barn.”
Pletcher said CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s New York-bred Grade 1-winner Americanrevolution will soon return to the Empire State. The Constitution chestnut won 5-of-6 sophomore starts led by state-bred scores in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes, the Albany at Saratoga and the Empire Classic at Belmont. He completed a memorable campaign with a half-length win over stablemate Following Sea in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on December 4.
“He’s just starting back in training at WinStar and doing really well,” Pletcher said. “We’ll look to get him to New York in the next month or so. We don’t have a firm plan yet, but it’s exciting the way he finished up the year and seems like the kind of horse that could come back and even improve next year. “We look forward to getting him back in.”
Aqueduct Racetrack Notes/NYRA Press Office
Photo: Classy Edition winning the Key Cents at Aqueduct under Irad Ortiz, Jr., on Nov. 21, 2021. (Joe Labozzetta)