Pletcher Selects Number One Seeds in Derby Madness
By Dick Downey
Today in a national conference call, trainer Todd Pletcher was asked to name the figurative four number one seeds on the Kentucky Derby Trail.
Pletcher didn't hesitate in answering. "Union Rags, Gemologist, Hansen and Creative Cause.," he said.
Gemologist, of course will start in the Saturday's Grade I Wood Memorial for Pletcher, where his main foe going in will be Alpha, if the projected entries list holds up. Gemologist could go to the starting gate the crowd favorite.
In his most recent start, and his only start this year, Gemologist ran one mile at Gulfstream Park in 1:35.95 under a pretty much motionless Javier Castellano, winning by several lengths while Currency Swap labored to keep up. "He was amazing. He did it on his own," Castellano said after the race.
Pletcher cited similarities between Gemologist and 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, not the least of which are common ownership (WinStar Farm), two Derby prep races at age three, and wins at Churchill Downs going two turns -- both horses won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club.
Gemologist has $103,855 in graded stakes earnings and will probably need to finish first or second in the $1 million Wood if he is to amass the graded money needed to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
Pletcher has had several disappointments during his 2012 run to the Derby, but perhaps that is to be expected, given the size of his early contingent.
Among those still left standing is El Padrino. Pletcher said the "Kentucky Derby is at the top of the list" for El Padrino, who finished fourth in Saturday's Grade I Florida Derby. Citing an inside speed bias that day at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher said El Padrino ran a good race.When asked about Castellano's ride on him, Pletcher said the jockey did a very good job containing Union Rags to his inside but could have done a better job at recognizing what was going on in front of him -- Take Charge Indy was running on an uncontested lead en route to the win.
El Padrino has $250,000 in graded stakes earnings and could theoretically be shut out of the Kentucky Derby, especially if horses ahead of him on the earnings ladder fail to fire in the remaining prep races. He currently is number 18 on The Downey Profile's graded earnings chart.
Our Entourage, a winner of two on turf, is definite for the $500,000 Grade III Illinois Derby on Saturday, Pletcher said. With no grass races of that magnitude in sight, Our Entourage will be given a chance on dirt again. He finished fifth, beaten two lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Grade II Remsen last November. Pletcher said he believes stamina is not an issue, but that if Our Entourage fails this new audition, he can always be put back on grass.
Pletcher said Stat will race next in the Grade II Arkansas Derby if his next workout goes well. Stat's most recent race, a one-mile allowance at Gulfstream Park, was run in a time virtually identical to that of Gemologist's last outing.
Asked directly about the issue, Pletcher said that Gemologist is ahead of Stat in his development at this point. Stat would be further along if he'd been able to race more as a 2-year-old, Pletcher said. The colt was laid off from racing the remainder of 2011 after finishing a distant second to Union Rags in the Grade II Saratoga Special.