Trainer Todd Pletcher has proven three times in the past decade that he can ship in and win the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) and this year he brings an intriguing duo of lightly raced, recent graduates for powerful owners.
Drawing the rail, Calumet Farm's Patch ran extremely well to win a one-turn mile maiden at Gulfstream Park Feb. 18. The homebred son of Union Rags , who lost his left eye in a track accident early in his career, has two starts and won professionally last out by 1 3/4 lengths. Tyler Gaffalione ships in for the mount.
Monaco, owned by Coolmore-associated owner Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Susan Magnier, as well as Mike Repole's Repole Stable; was a $1.3 million purchase a year ago at Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.'s March sale. The son of Uncle Mo adds blinkers this time around after racing very greenly en route to a 12-length romp in a Tampa Bay Downs maiden.
Out of the Sky Classic mare Setareh, he may appreciate the increase in distance from a mile and 40 yards to 1 1/8 miles. Rajiv Maragh is slated to ride Monaco from the five-hole.
"The first day they were both a little nervous, but they have trained well. Today they have settled in beautifully and I couldn't ask for more," said Adele Bellinger, assistant to Pletcher. "Patch has a nice turn of foot and a lot of talent. It's not easy to jump up into a grade 2 out of a maiden race, but I feel like we have a sound, happy horse and that gives me confidence going into the race.
"I like Monaco's post and he's training beautifully," Bellinger continued. "This is both horses' first time shipping far from home and they're both doing well, especially (Friday) morning."