Pletcher going for first Preakness, Saez shooting for 1st Triple Crown Victory

May 14, 2021

BALTIMORE, Md.– Luis Saez, third in North America in both wins and purse earnings in 2020, has been a rising star the past couple of years. That includes earning his first Breeders’ Cup victory last fall aboard champion Essential Quality in the Juvenile (G1), along with seconds in four other Cup races that weekend at Keeneland.

With Essential Quality skipping Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) after his Kentucky Derby (G1) fourth-place finish, Saez landed on Whisper Hill Farm’s Unbridled Honor for trainer Todd Pletcher. Unbridled Honor comes into the 1 3/16-mile Classic off a second in the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland that followed a fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). His lone victory was a maiden race at Tampa.

While Unbridled Honor is 15-1 in the morning line, consider that Saez’s only prior Preakness mount was Bravazo, who in 2018 finished second by only a half-length behind eventual Triple Crown hero Justify. Bravazo also was 15-1. 

Saez is still seeking his first official Triple Crown victory. He finished first aboard Maximum Security in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, only to be disqualified for interference.

Pletcher is seeking his first Preakness victory to go with his two Kentucky Derbys and three Belmonts. The newly-elected Hall of Famer knows Unbridled Honor likely needs some help from a fast pace to effectively set up his closing kick.

“Hopefully he can get away a little better, get in a little better stalking position and then have a good pace to run at,” Pletcher said. “In the Tampa Bay Derby, he left himself way too much to do. In the Lexington, he got a good pace setup. He dropped a little bit farther back than we’d like, but he got a really clean run at it. He was kind of making a move at the same time as (victorious) King Fury, and King Fury went inside and he went outside. King Fury was able to cut the corner and save ground, but I thought it was a good effort.”

Unbridled Honor galloped Friday morning at Pimlico.

Game Time for France Go de Ina and Trainer 

Before he returns home to Japan following Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) and a planned run in the June 5 Belmont Stakes (G1), trainer Hideyuki Mori wouldn’t mind seeing some American baseball. He lives in the city of Osaka and is a fan of the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball back home.

When asked if he wanted to see the New York Yankees or Mets when he goes to New York, he smiled. He would be happy to stay right here and watch the hometown Orioles, who are playing the Yankees this weekend at Camden Yards.

“If anyone has tickets …” he said through an interpreter.

First things first. Mori will saddle Yuji Inaida’s France Go de Ina for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1). He went through his final preparations Friday morning, walking on the track with exercise rider Masaki Takano aboard. The son of Will Take Charge then did some schooling in the starting gate, which was an important priority.

In his last start, France Go de Ina broke poorly from the gate in the March 27 UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai and finishing a non-threatening sixth. Friday, the horse stood in the gate and it was hand opened for him to walk out.

“We wanted him to get used to people standing around him.” Mori said.

Mori said he will rely on jockey Joel Rosario to make the decision on where to put France Go de Ina in the race. He said he would like to have the colt close to the pace.

“I don’t want the horse to get boxed in,” Mori said. “It depends on how he breaks. If he is traveling fast, he will go, if not, he will settle and wait for his opportunity.”

Mori said that France Go de Ina will not go to the track on Saturday morning, but will have his daily hour-long walking session around the barn.

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release

Photo: Todd Pletcher (By Jlvsclrk – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia commons)

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