Wit Lines up Pletcher for Third G1 Pegasus Turf

January 26, 2023

With Jose Ortiz aboard Wit skips to the win by 3 lengths in the Better Talk Now at Saratoga Aug. 8, 2022. (Coglianese/NYRA)

Pegasus News & Notes

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— It won’t be with two-time defending champion Colonel Liam, retired Jan. 19 with an ankle injury, but Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher still has an opportunity to win a third consecutive $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) presented by Qatar Racing Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Pletcher, 55, will be represented by Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable’s Wit, a multiple Grade 3 winner on dirt that is Grade 1-placed on grass and has been third or better in nine of his 10 career starts, never having finished worse than fourth.

Wit heads into his 4-year-old debut having run third by less than a length following some traffic trouble in the Dec. 3 Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar, contested at the Pegasus Turf’s 1 1/8-mile distance.

“He kind of lost some position down the backside and then spent the rest of the race trying to make it back up,” Pletcher said. “He was closing really well at the end and just kind of ran out of ground.”

Since being moved to the turf last summer, Wit was second in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) and won the Better Talk Now at Saratoga and was beaten a neck when second in the Bryan Station (G3) at Keeneland prior to his run in the Hollywood Derby.

Wit won the 2021 Sanford (G3) at Saratoga and Aqueduct’s 2022 Bay Shore (G3) before the surface switch was made following a 14-length loss when fourth in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens (G1) last spring.

“He was successful on the dirt, but it looked like he had plateaued on the dirt,” Pletcher said, “so, we worked him on the turf and we said, ‘Wow, it looks like he really likes it,’ and his subsequent races have all been very good.”

Pletcher remembers having a similar feeling the first time he watched Colonel Liam train on the grass in the spring of 2020 after two races on dirt.

“Same thing,” he said. “We could tell the first time we put him on it, he was very happy out there.”

Colonel Liam won the 2021 Pegasus Turf in just his third race on grass, using a victory in Gulfstream’s 2020 Tropical Park Derby as a prep. Pletcher said it is too early to compare Wit to his former stablemate.

“So far it is,” he said. “Maybe after Saturday we can start doing that.”

Wit drew the rail against 11 rivals and two also-eligibles in the Pegasus Turf and will be reunited with jockey Jose Ortiz, aboard for his June 2021 debut victory as well as the Hall of Fame, Better Talk now and Bryan Station. They are co-fourth choice on the morning line at 8-1 with Hollywood Derby winner Speaking Scout.

“He’s a pretty tractable horse so hopefully he can get some position,” Pletcher said. “Obviously, you always want to try to save some ground in turf races when you can, so hopefully he’s able to do that from that post and he continues to step forward.”

Pletcher is the only trainer in Pegasus history, turf or dirt, to win back-to-back races, and is the only one to sweep both races in the same year, capturing the Pegasus World Cup with Life Is Good last January. He also has Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Steady On, back-to-back runner-up in the Gio Ponti and Tropical Park Derby, as the second also eligible in the Pegasus Turf behind 2022 Knickerbocker (G3) winner King Cause.

Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam had been pointed to make a three-peat attempt in the Pegasus Turf, finishing sixth in his prep, the Dec. 31 Fort Lauderdale (G2) at Gulfstream, his first race in 281 days. He was retired with seven wins and more than $1.8 million in purse earnings from 12 starts, also capturing the Turf Classic (G1) and Muniz Memorial (G2) following his initial Pegasus Turf victory.

“It shows you how hard it is to win these things three years in a row,” Pletcher said. “He had a tremendous career and we’re excited. It sounds like he’s getting a great reception at Ocala Stud. He’s a horse with a lot of talent, very good-looking and a great pedigree, so we look forward to him hopefully being a successful stallion.”

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