Still enjoying the thrill of his Travers (gr. I) victory with Flower Alley, trainer Todd Pletcher has mapped out the colt's next two starts: The $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) on Oct. 1 and the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge (gr. I) Oct. 29, both at Belmont Park."Everything is good, and he came back in good shape," Pletcher said. "He was pretty bright and alert. But he also showed he ran a hard race. He showed versatility, he showed a couple of dimensions. He showed he could press a horse and hold off horses coming behind him. He's the perfect kind of race horse."In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Flower Alley would likely meet a tighter Bellamy Road, whom he defeated in the Travers.The Travers victory was the first for Pletcher, who had attempts with the last two Jim Dandy winners: Purge (2004) and Strong Hope (2003). Purge finished fourth last year, and Strong Hope was a well-beaten third in 2003."It's hard to describe, but it is very satisfying," Pletcher said. "I always find, when you plan things out and it works out, it's a little more rewarding."Pletcher got the ideal situation for the son of Distorted Humor . Bellamy Road dictated the pace, with Flower Alley stalking through fractions of :23 2/5, :47 2/5, 1:10 4/5 and 1:36 1/5. Velazquez and Flower Alley challenged Bellamy Road and Javier Castellano at the top of the stretch, and drew off in the final furlong for the victory."You know how often that happens? It's just one of those rare situations where, at least on paper, everything seemed very clear cut," Pletcher said. "There was one horse who looked like he was going to be on the lead. You had another horse who was going to lay second, then Roman Ruler and Reverberate behind them. The others were one-run closers. It turned out to unfold that way."Flower Alley now ranks among the top 3-year-olds in the country behind Afleet Alex, winner of the Preakness and Belmont (both gr. I).
"I think Flower Alley is second," Pletcher said. "I think Afleet Alex has accomplished so much up to this point that it would be hard to unseat him. But if Flower Alley was able to step up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup Classic, and go out on a four-race win streak, then he can maybe make a case for himself. We can worry about that down the road."Pletcher's roller coaster Saratoga weekend began with his 2-year-old filly Adieu winning the Spinaway (gr. II) Friday, followed moments later by his champion 4-year-old filly Ashado faltering in the Personal Ensign (gr. I) as a short-priced favorite. She finished in a dead-heat for fourth, well beaten by Shadow Cast.Despite her performance in the Personal Ensign, Ashado still remains on target for the $750,000 Beldame (gr. I) at nine furlongs at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, then the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, where she will defend her title in the $2 million Emirates Airlines Distaff (gr. I)."I haven't been able to pinpoint what happened," Pletcher said about Ashado's race in the Personal Ensign. "I suppose everybody is capable of having an off day. But I'd like to think, with a filly of her caliber, there has to be some reason behind it. We haven't figured it out. We'll do some blood work on her tomorrow."Adieu is being pointed for the $500,000 Frizette (gr. I) at a mile at Belmont Park on Oct. 8.
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