Pletcher Duo One-Two in Blue Grass
Trainer Todd Pletcher had just one victory at Keeneland under his belt going into the April 12 card. But he won again when it counted, and with Monba and Cowboy Cal finishing 1-2 in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO), it looks like North America’s leading trainer of 2007 will be headed to the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after all.
“He grabbed the bridle right away and I was very happy with that,” said winning jockey Edgar Prado. “He was most of the time controlled and he wanted to go a little early, but I was a very lucky passenger most of the way until I started working on it at the head of the stretch.”
Rating well, Monba was set down for the stretch drive a quarter-mile out, and tenaciously wore down Cowboy Cal after a neck-and-neck battle. Kentucky Bear got up for third, while Stevil made a big move up the rail but ran out of ground to finish fourth. The final time was 1:49.71.
“He was doing everything so easy, I pushed him a little bit past the eighth pole and he responded very well,” Prado said. “(Cowboy Cal) was a very strong rival and he was fighting real hard but my horse was determined to win the race.”
“We brought our horses here to train because we thought this surface was the safest way to get our horses to the Derby,” Blasi said. “Some horses that train well on it don’t always run that way. He didn’t handle the track; you could see that early on. I don’t put much into (the finish), because I have a lot of confidence in the horse. If he wins the Derby, they’re not going to care anyways.”
“He just didn’t give me the same run he has,” the jockey said. “I asked him for run around the turn to try and set myself up pretty good and I didn’t get the response I was hoping for. I realized on the turn that it just wasn’t going to be his day. He usually gets himself traveling well by that point. He’s usually a pretty handy horse, and today he just wasn’t.”
Monba returned $19.60, $8.60, and $6.60, while Cowboy Cal and John Velazquez paid $8.80 and $6.60. Kentucky Bear brought $8.20 under Jamie Theriot. Stevil, Visionaire, Miner’s Claim, Halo Najib, Medjool, Cool Coal Man, Pyro, Big Truck, and Stone Bird completed the order of finish.
Of Cool Coal Man’s finish following a Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) win, trainer Nick Zito said the colt will still go on to the Derby although Stevil, Zito's other Blue Grass starter, will not make the graded earnings list – nor will third-place finisher Kentucky Bear.
Monba, however, will land in the top 10 on the graded earnings list for entry in the 20-horse Derby field. Bred in Kentucky by Mill Ridge Farm and Jamm out of the Easy Goer mare Hamba, he has won three races – a maiden special weight at Keeneland last October, a one-mile allowance event at Churchill Nov. 24, and the Blue Grass. According to Pletcher, the plan is to keep the colt – and Cowboy Cal – on a light training schedule in the three weeks leading up to the Derby.
“They’re both tough-minded horses and an energetic kind to train, but the flip side of that is that they’re also lightly-made horses,” he said. “We’ve just been methodically coming along and not trying to make them any fitter than they already are, so we’ll be trying to keep that peak level. I think both horses will need a minimal amount of training between now and (the Derby).”
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