Team Valor International’s homebred Pluck came from last at top of the lane and used a devastating turn of foot to pick off his rivals in winning the $909,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) by one length Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.
Pluck is by More Than Ready , who sired the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) winner More Than Real on opening day of the World Championships. Both horses were ridden by Garrett Gomez and trained by Todd Pletcher. Gomez earned his 11th Breeders’ Cup victory, while Pletcher added a fifth to his resume.
The race was marred by the spill of Rough Sailing on the first turn. The son of Mizzen Mast stumbled going wide on the first turn while near the back of the field and went down while throwing jockey Anna Napravnik to the ground. Napravnik was able to get up under her own power and walk off without an apparent serious injury. It was reported that Rough Sailing suffered a fractured front shoulder and was later euthanized.
“We had to put him down because he broke his shoulder,” said Mike Stidham, trainer of Rough Sailing. “It looked like his back end slipped out from under him, and then he got up and galloped off. But when we got him over to the backside, he couldn’t move his leg forward, and we knew it was high up. We don’t know if the fall caused the shoulder or the shoulder caused the fall.”
The start of the BC Juvenile Turf did not go well for Pluck, as he stumbled badly at the break and was last heading into the first turn. Gomez and Pluck trailed the field while Madman Diaries led the way under Jeffrey Sanchez, cruising through splits of:24.01, and :47.97. Humble and Hungry pressed the pace, while Air Support and Banned were also up close.
Madman Diaries cut the corner still holding a narrow edge over Banned and those two battled through mid-stretch. But Pluck was full of run while splitting horses at the top of the lane. After being angled outside picked off his rivals until edging clear late to score his first grade I win.
“He did everything really good. I mean, he overcame a lot," Gomez said. "He stumbled to his nose leaving the gate. The horse (Rough Sailing) fell in front of him going to the first turn. He had to avoid that. I pretty much went to Plan C and just tried to let him gallop along and tried to come up with some kind of run. He actually turned in a brilliant performance.”
The final time for one mile on the firm turf course was 1:36.98. Soldat , who made a bold run on the inside with Alan Garcia aboard, finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Willcox Inn , who was a head better than Madman Diaries.
“He did everything really good,” Gomez said. “I mean, he overcame a lot. He stumbled to his nose leaving the gate. The horse (Rough Sailing) fell in front of him going to the first turn. He had to avoid that. I pretty much went to Plan C and just tried to let him gallop along and tried to come up with some kind of run, and hopefully, he could overcome as much as he could overcome. He actually turned in a brilliant performance.”
Pluck, who is out of the Fort Wood mare Secret Heart, entered the race off a similar late-closing victory in the Sept. 18 Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT) at Woodbine. He improved to 3-0-1 from five starts and upped his earnings to $725,440 with the winning purse of $540,000.
“He stumbled badly at the start and had to maneuver (around) a fallen rider,” Pletcher said. “At that point, you’re just kind of hoping you can regroup and hit the board. He really exploded down the lane.
“We knew he had an explosive turn of foot. To me, he’s been a colt that has been very talented but he’s still learning. It was a matter of putting it all together and focusing on running straight. His last start was an improvement but you could still see that when he made the lead, he waited a little bit. He was doing a lot of things on natural talent but today, he really polished off the race at the end.”
Pluck paid $14.80, $6.60, and $5.