Mo Donegal targets G1 Runhappy Travers
ELMONT, N.Y. – Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has no shortage of sophomore talent in his barn this year, including recent debut maiden winner Saint Tapit, a son of multiple graded stakes winner and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. The chestnut son of Tapit was an eye-catching four-length winner of Sunday’s fourth race, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, at Belmont Park.
A homebred for Whisper Hill Farm, who purchased Havre de Grace for $10 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Sale, Saint Tapit was sent to post as the 9-5 favorite in the field of seven and broke well from the inside post under Luis Saez, who quickly hustled his mount into contention up the rail to stalk the pace in second. The trip was not without incident and Saint Tapit was forced to steady and lost some position on the backstretch as pacesetter Upper Level angled in front of him and tucked in towards the rail.
Saint Tapit showed determination as he found his best stride again and went two-wide to the outside of Upper Level in the turn. Despite briefly racing on his wrong lead, he dug in gamely down the lane to take charge and widen his margins with every stride and complete the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.20.
Pletcher said a good break was key for Saint Tapit, who entered the race from a half-mile breeze from the gate in 48.81 seconds over the Belmont main track on June 19.
“It was good,” Pletcher said. “We were a little concerned because he hadn’t been real quick from the gate, and when he drew the one-hole I was a little concerned about that. But he actually broke very well and it was a good debut. We’ll probably bring him along a little more and [look for] an allowance option. Hopefully, there will be some stakes down the road.”
KHK Racing’s Shahama was a good second to Gerrymander in the Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 25 after a bobble at the start and an unusual pace scenario down the backstretch. Gerrymander got the jump on the compact field of four but was quickly taken back by Joel Rosario with all four closely bunched up before Juju’s Map came away with the clear lead down the backstretch.
Shahama moved into second under Flavien Prat at the half-mile call but could not reel in a game Gerrymander, who had plenty left in the stretch. Shahama was defeated three lengths in her second American start and first since a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6.
Pletcher said he’ll keep the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 at Saratoga Race Course in mind when considering Shahama’s next start.
“She looks good. It was kind of a strangely run race. You don’t often see a horse kind of take back mid-race and then re-rally like that,” Pletcher said. “But I thought she ran hard. We’ll keep our eye on the Coaching Club.”
The highlight of the Belmont spring/summer meet for Pletcher was undoubtedly a fourth triumph in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11 with Donegal Racing and Repole Stable’s Mo Donegal. The Uncle Mo bay, who was a resounding three-length winner of the “Test of the Champion,” has not returned to the work tab since his victory and has been “doing routine stuff” in the mornings.
Pletcher said it is possible Mo Donegal could train up to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga.
“I have to talk to [owners] Jerry [Crawford] and Mike [Repole],” Pletcher said. “We’re kind of thinking that we’re going to wait for the Travers, and if that’s the case, we’ll wait a little longer until we work him again.”
Repole Stable also co-owns multiple graded stakes-winner Wit, who was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun where he failed to threaten and was beaten 14 lengths by Jack Christopher. The Practical Joke colt was a gutsy winner of the Grade 3 Bay Shore sprinting seven furlongs on April 9 at Aqueduct. Wit’s lone start beyond seven furlongs was a third-place finish in the one-mile Grade 1 Champagne to close out his juvenile campaign in October.
Pletcher said Wit may stretch out again in his next start.
“I don’t know what we are doing with him yet. We’re giving some consideration to maybe stretching him out,” said Pletcher. “I’m not sure where yet. We’ll give him a try going a little longer.”
Wit returned to work on June 25 with a half-mile breeze in 49.74 over the Belmont dirt training track.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Saint Tapit winning on first asking at Belmont on June 26. (Chelsea Durand)