Pletcher Pursues Record Eighth Wood Memorial Score

April 6, 2023

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher (Walter Wlodarczyk)

NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a trio of contenders in Whisper Hill Farm’s Classic Catch along with Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable-owned maidens Crupi and Dreamlike in Saturday’s Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino.

Pletcher and the late Hall of Famer “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons currently share the record of seven wins in the Wood Memorial, a nine furlong test for sophomores offering 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-five finishers.

Pletcher said all three of his contenders will appreciate the stretch out in distance as they look to join formidable stablemates Forte – the reigning Champion 2-Year-Old Colt; Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Kingsbarns; and Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby victor Tapit Trice in the starting gate for the “Run for the Roses.”

“It’s an interesting trio. One thing we feel good about is all three horses will appreciate the mile and an eighth,” Pletcher said.

Dreamlike [post 1, Jose Ortiz, 7-2ML], who adds blinkers, is the shortest price of the Pletcher triumvirate.

A $975,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the Gun Runner chestnut is out of the Tapit mare Time to Tap, who is a full sister to 2014 Champion 3-year-Old Filly and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable and a half-sister to Grade 1-winning stallion Paddy O’Prado.

Dreamlike has posted a pair of runner-up efforts at Gulfstream Park, including a March 11 effort traveling 1 1/16-miles that garnered a co-field best 91 Beyer Speed Figure in which he came up three-quarters of a length shy of Empirestrikesfast.

“Dreamlike showed great promise prior to his debut in which he ran very well. He came back and just missed,” Pletcher said. “We felt like he lost focus a little bit in his last start and subsequently worked him with blinkers which seem to have him a little more locked in. Hopefully, that proves to be the case in the race.”

Dreamlike will exit the inside post Saturday under Jose Ortiz in a field of 12 sophomores following the expected scratch of Clear the Air.

“We have to establish some position into the first turn and let Jose sort it out from there,” Pletcher said. “But I’d rather be there than way outside, so hopefully he gets away cleanly and can take advantage of the inside draw.”

Crupi [post 9, Kendrick Carmouche, 12-1ML] remains a maiden after six starts. He enters from a rallying seventh in the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 18 at Fair Grounds.

The Curlin colt, a $275,000 purchase at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, has kept good company through a series of troubled gate exits that have left him far back in the early running.

Two starts back, in a one-turn mile maiden at the Big A on January 21, he closed from last-of-10 to finish a close second to Wood Memorial rival Slip Mahoney. Last out, closed from last-of-14 to finish seventh in the Risen Star.

“He’s made some sort of mistake in every one of his starts, but he’s training very well and hopefully with more experience, the more professional he’ll get,” Pletcher said. “He put in a nice run last time, but he had way too much to do. He closed some ground late and was weaving his way in and out of traffic. I do think his breezes leading up to this have been the best that he’s had. Hopefully, that’s an indication that he’s going to make a move forward.”

The chestnut colt is named for the late horseman James “J.J.” Crupi, who passed in May 2019 and had a longstanding business relationship with Pletcher and his owners.

Classic Catch victorious in an allowance optional claimer March 2 (Coglianese)

Classic Catch [post 11, Trevor McCarthy, 10-1ML] graduated at second asking traveling nine furlongs in November at the Big A before shipping to Florida where he recently captured a nine-furlong optional claimer on March 2 at Gulfstream.

“His last race was very good,” said Pletcher of the two-length score that garnered a career-best 79 Beyer. “He pricked his ears and eased down when he came to the wire. He, too, has been training very forwardly and owns a win over the track at the distance, so I think he’s one that might be under the radar a little bit.”

The Classic Empire colt, out of the graded-stakes winning Malibu Moon mare Moon Catcher, was purchased for $110,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Pletcher will also be chasing Derby points at Keeneland on Saturday with the aforementioned Tapit Trice [post 1, Luis Saez, 5-2ML], who has won 3-of-4 starts including an eight-length romp from post 1-of-6 in an optional-claimer in February at Gulfstream.

“He’s always trained very well and given us the impression that more distance will be to his favor,” Pletcher said. “We’re hoping he can get away from the gate in good enough order and establish some position into the first turn and get into that comfortable rhythm and big, long stride that he has. We’re not crazy about drawing the rail with him, but he did win the allowance race from the rail at Gulfstream so hopefully that’s a good sign.”

Pletcher is well represented on Saturday’s Wood Memorial Day card, sending out a pair of contenders in Gambling Girl and Frosty O Toole in the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle which will award 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-five finishers.

Gambling Girl takes the Joseph A. Gimma Sep. 23, 2022 (NYRA/Coglianese)

Repole Stable’s New York-bred Gambling Girl [post 2, Jose Ortiz, 4-1 ML], bred by Gallagher’s Stud, finished a closing fourth last out in the Grade 3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park which was won by Wet Paint, who exited that effort to win Saturday’s Grade 3 Fantasy at the Hot Springs oval.

The Dialed In bay has hit the board in 3-of-4 starts over the Big A main track, including a game third-place effort to stablemate Julia Shining in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle in December and a runner-up effort returning rival Occult in the nine-furlong Busanda in January.

“She likes the mile and an eighth and she ran well in the Busanda and Demoiselle,” Pletcher said. “She rallied late at Oaklawn, but just had too much to do. It makes sense to get her back to Aqueduct and a mile and an eighth.”

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Frosty O Toole [post 3, Jose Lezcano, 9-2ML], a private purchase, made her first four starts in Florida for her former owner-trainer Michael Dini.

The Frosted bay switched to dirt for her most recent two outings, graduating in a one-mile and 40-yard maiden in February ahead of a 3 1/2-length optional claiming coup on March 8 going the same distance.

Frosty O Toole has breezed back twice for Pletcher at Palm Beach Downs, including a half-mile in 49.96 seconds on April 1.

“She’s a very nice looking filly,” Pletcher said. “She’s a big, scopey, strong filly that we’ve only had a short time, but her two breezes with us have been very good. She certainly gives you the impression that a mile and an eighth is going to benefit her.”

Frosty O Toole is a half-sister to the Eclipse Thoroughbreds-campaigned multiple graded stakes-placed Sister Otoole and stakes-winner Lady O’Toole, as well as Plenty O’Toole, the dam of multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Mr. Money.

Expressman breaks his maiden in stellar fashion (NYRA/Coglianese)

Pletcher will send out St. Elias Stable’s Expressman [post 3, Jose Ortiz, 12-1ML] in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses led by Grade 1-winner White Abarrio and the streaking Repo Rocks.

The 4-year-old Liam’s Map colt made an auspicious debut sprinting seven furlongs in August at Saratoga Race Course, drawing off to a 7 1/4-length score that garnered a lofty 107 Beyer.

He followed with a pair of runner-up efforts traveling one turn and last out added blinkers for a game head score in a nine-furlong optional-claimer on February 10 at Gulfstream Park that registered an 88 Beyer.

“He kind of gutted it out last time going a mile and an eighth first time with the blinkers,” Pletcher said. “We’re trying the cutback angle and we’ll hope that he can make a move forward – he certainly needs to, it’s an ambitious placing. We’re hoping he can step up.”

While Pletcher’s focus Saturday will be on dirt racing, he has recently added a pair of potential turf stars to his stable led by the undefeated Far Bridge, a private purchase for LSU Stables, who paired up 88 Beyer Speed Figures in two stylish scores at Gulfstream Park.

The English Channel colt, out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Fitpitcher, is a Calumet Farm homebred previously trained by Christophe Clement. He graduated impressively traveling 1 1/16-miles on January 21, running down the well-regarded Carl Spackler, who exited that effort to break his maiden by 8 3/4-lengths and notch an impressive 92 Beyer.

Last out, Far Bridge closed from tenth-of-12 to defeat winners in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claimer on March 11. He breezed a half-mile in 51.72 on March 31 for Pletcher at Palm Beach Downs.

“He’s a very talented horse. I was very impressed by his first couple of runs,” Pletcher said. “He’s settled in very well and will have his second breeze tomorrow.”

Pletcher said Far Bridge will target the Grade 2 American Turf on May 6 at Churchill Downs with an eye towards the Grade 1, $750,000 Belmont Derby Invitational on July 8.

A trio of talented sophomores arrived at Pletcher’s Belmont base last week by way of Dubai in Jumeirah Derby-winner Sharar, a half-brother [by Gun Runner] to 2017 Champion Turf Female Lady Eli; listed dirt winner Go Soldier Go, by Tapiture; and the unraced filly Advance Attack.

“Sharar looks to be one that’s a Belmont Derby candidate,” said Pletcher of the $600,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase.

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