Pletcher Runners Prepare at Saratoga for Keeneland Engagements

October 1, 2023

Nest victorious in the Shuvee (G2) July 23 at Saratoga (Chelsea Durand)

NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has kept his top string of horses stabled at Saratoga Race Course’s Oklahoma training track in the weeks following the summer meeting that concluded on September 4 at the upstate New York oval.

Among them are a bevy of graded stakes contenders eyeing starts at Keeneland, including reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Nest and juveniles Wine On Tap and Locked.

Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House’s Nest, a three-time Grade 1-winner, is currently training towards a start in the Grade 1 Spinster on October 8, where a win would guarantee her a spot in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 4 at Santa Anita Park.

Nest was last seen finishing an even third in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on August 25 at the Spa over a sloppy and sealed main track, finishing 4 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Idiomatic. That effort came on the heels of a successful return from an eight-month layoff when taking the Grade 2 Shuvee by 2 1/4 lengths on July 23.

Nest has breezed back four times since the Personal Ensign, most recently covering a half-mile in 51.25 seconds over the Oklahoma on Saturday.

“She’s doing well and we’re planning on the Spinster,” said Pletcher. “Her works have been excellent. She’s a pleasure to train and does whatever you want her to do.”

The Curlin bay was awarded Champion honors last year for a campaign that included victories in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Ashland and two memorable Grade 1 scores in the Spa’s Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama. She then captured the Grade 2 Beldame at the Belmont at the Big A ahead of a fourth as the post-time favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland to complete her season.

Pletcher also expects to send MKW’s stakes-placed Wine On Tap and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm’s Locked for Grade 1 engagements at Keeneland. The former is targeting the Alcibiades on Friday while the latter looks to the Breeders’ Futurity on Saturday.

Wine On Tap pours it on in her debut June 18 at Belmont Park (Chelsea Durand)

Wine On Tap enters the Alcibiades from a prominent second in Monmouth Park’s one-mile Sorority on August 20 where she vied for early command and took charge down the backstretch, but was overtaken by the victorious Princess Indy in the stretch while preserving place by a head over the rallying Lagonisi. She garnered a 52 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort, which came on the heels of an even fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on July 13 at Saratoga.

Wine On Tap has also been nominated to the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette on October 7 at Belmont at the Big A going a one-turn mile, but Pletcher said he is partial to a trip to Kentucky with the daughter of Tapit.

“We’re leaning towards the Alcibiades – two turns would probably be beneficial for her,” said Pletcher. “She was favored in the Schuylerville and she ran steadily like a horse that wants more distance.”

The grey has worked twice at Saratoga in September, and breezed a half-mile in 50 seconds flat on Friday.

Locked, a chestnut son of Gun Runner, was a dominant winner at second asking on September 1, drawing off to a 7 1/4-length victory in a one-mile maiden special weight and garnering a 96 Beyer. The $425,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase improved from a closing third in his August 5 debut with added distance and more prominent tactics under jockey Jose Ortiz.

Pletcher said Locked remains on track for a try around two turns in the Breeders’ Futurity.

Repole Stables’ Noted, winner of Monmouth’s Sapling on August 26, has been nominated to both the Breeders’ Futurity and Saturday’s Grade 1 American Pharoah at Santa Anita. Pletcher said he could lean towards the latter, which, like the Breeders’ Futurity, offers a berth into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at the Arcadia oval.

“Maybe… maybe,” Pletcher said of the American Pharoah. “It would just kind of split everyone up.”

Among Pletcher’s other top horses stabled at Saratoga is Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup-winner Bright Future, who is training up to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 4-year-old Curlin chestnut notched his first stakes score in the September 2 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and has since worked twice over the Oklahoma, including a half-mile move in 49.90 on Friday.

“He’s doing good and he’s got plenty more breezes to go,” said Pletcher. “I like the way he’s doing. That was a big win and a Grade 1, and he’s a horse we’ve always had high hopes for. He seems like he’s starting to put it together and the more he matures, the better he gets. He needs to continue to improve and step up, but it seems like that’s what he’s been doing.”

Pletcher also provided an update on LSU Stables’ Grade 1 winner Far Bridge, who was last seen finishing second in the Grade 3 Dueling Grounds Derby on September 3 at Kentucky Downs. The son of English Channel, who won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational in July at Belmont Park, will not target the Grade 3, $500,000 Jockey Club Derby on Saturday at Belmont at the Big A.

“He’s not going in there and he’s getting a little bit of a vacation,” said Pletcher. “He had a pretty steady season and we look forward to getting him back.”

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