As of today, Todd Pletcher has one horse heading to the Kentucky Derby next month. El Padrino has $250,000 in graded earnings thanks mostly for his win in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds on February 25. His 4th place performance in the Florida Derby last Saturday wasn’t exactly what the barn had hoped for as a follow up. With Algorithms bowing out to injury last month, there is only one other Pletcher horse who has the chance to secure a spot.
Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct – $1,000,000 – Dirt – 1 1/8 miles
1. Alpha (KY) – Ramon Dominguez – 123 – Kiaran McLaughlin
2. Casual Trick (KY) – Corey Nakatani – 123 – Nick Zito
3. My Adonis (KY) – Elvis Trujillo – 123 – Kelly Breen
4. Teeth of the Dog (KY) – Joe Bravo – 123 – Michael Matz
5. Street Life (KY) – Junior Alvarado – 123 – Chad Brown
6. Gemologist (KY) – Javier Castellano – 123 – Todd Pletcher
7. Tiger Walk (KY) – John Velazquez – 123- Ignacio Correas, IV
8. The Lumber Guy (NY) – Cornelio Velasquez – 123 – Mike Hushion
Gemologist has been touted as the best of the Pletcher barn since his win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on November 26. Algorithms made a statement of his own after his defeat of two year old champion Hansen in the Holy Bull Stakes. Unfortunately after that race, an injury would sideline him for a few weeks and it was announced he would miss the Derby. Gemologist was given time off after his Grade 2 win, and didn’t even train for almost two months. His one and only start of 2012 was a win in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park on March 16. He has trained very well leading up to this race with three out of his last four works being bullets. With just $103,855 in graded earnings however, he needs to run no worse than 2nd to have any chance of qualifying for the Derby. For a horse who hasn’t lost in 4 chances, I’m banking that he will get the job done. Javier Castellano will once again ride this colt. He has ridden him the last three times.
The horse that Gemologist will most likely have to watch out for on Saturday is the Kiaran McLaughlin trained and GoDolphin owned Alpha. McLaughlin doesn’t have the luxury of having multiple horses compete for spots in the Derby. This i hiss one and only chance. The Bernardini colt won his maiden debut in September, then a month later finished a distant 2nd to Union Rags in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. He had a horrible gate in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and never recovered, finished 11th. He is 2 for 2 so far as a three year with wins in the Count Fleet Stakes and Withers Stakes (G3), both at Aqueduct. If you throw out the BC Juvenile, he has only been beat once and that was to a horse who many feel is still the top contender for the Derby. With $180,000, and currently sitting in 19th spot on the graded earnings list, he too needs to finish in the top two to have a good chance at running next month in Louisville. Jockey Ramon Dominguez, who has been off since getting hurt on March 18, will be back in the saddle.
So who else has a chance against these two horses?
2011 Belmont Stakes winning trainer Kelly Breen is hoping for some more New York magic. Last year, Ruler on Ice upset the field to win the $1,000,000 third leg of the triple crown at odds of 24 to 1. Breen will be sending My Adonis, winner of the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs last October. After finishing a disappointing 9th in the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3), Breen gave his colt a few weeks rest. His most recent races were better as he finished behind Hansen in both starts. He ran 3rd in the Holy Bull Stakes (1/2 length) and 2nd in the Gotham Stakes (three lengths). He is coming off a bullet work in his return to Aqueduct. Going 4 furlongs in 47.12. Ranked 1 out of 19. It’s certainly not out of the question for him to pull off the upset especially considering what happened last weekend. Union Rags was upset in the Florida Derby and a 109 to 1 won the Louisiana Derby. My Adonis actually sits ahead of Gemologist with $120,000 in earnings. Still on the outside looking in at 25th.
Tiger Walk could be a horse to look at come Saturday as well. I don’t think he will win or even come 2nd, but he is a play for exotic wagers. He hasn’t won a stakes race yet, but the additional distance will certainly help his running style. In the Withers, he sat well behind in the short field of 6 horses. By the time he fully moved into gear, the race was over. He finished 3rd beaten 5 lengths. Last time out in the Gotham Stakes, he sat well behind once again and made a nice move late down the middle of the stretch. He missed 3rd by a head. Both of these races were 1 1/16 miles. The additional 1/16 of a mile should give him extra time to make more of a difference.
The relatively unknown and wild card of the race is the Mike Hushion trained The Lumber Guy. He is a perfect 2 for 2 and is coming off a 4 1/4 lengths win in the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park. His previous win was a 9 1/4 lengths win in a maiden special weight race at Aqueduct. He ran six furlongs in 1:10.0. His will be the speed of the race, but he has yet to be tested beyond seven furlongs. If he can get the lead and be uncontested, he could be the one to steal this race.