<b>Saratoga Notebook:</b> Warners Death Latest Tragedy to Hit Pletcher Barn; Repent Ready; Lukas Perplexed
It was the second time in 10 days that a horse trained by Todd Pletcher died after getting sick. Schuylerville (gr.II) winner Freedom's Daughter died on Aug. 12. In addition, on Aug. 10, multiple stakes winner Left Bank underwent emergency abdominal surgery. He is recovering, but is likely to be retired.
Warners became ill on Aug. 17 and was taken to a nearby equine clinic for treatment. The Dehere colt, purchased for $1.05 million as a 2-year-old, then began showing signs of laminitis.
"The complications were a result of the illness he had, which is yet to be determined exactly what it is," Pletcher said. "It's projected that it's clostridium or salmonella, or something like that. They've sent him to Cornell for an autopsy."
Within an hour after he began showing signs of being ill with diarrhea, Warners was sent to the clinic.
"We won the battle with that part of it, or were in the process of winning it, but oftentimes the problem with those situations is that they develop laminitis," Pletcher said. "That's what happened with him."
The decision to euthanize the colt was the result of the laminitis.
"He got to the point where he was starting to lose the contact with the coronet band in one of his hind feet," Pletcher said. "Basically, he was in a real advanced stage of the laminitis and it was beyond repair or beyond stopping."
Pletcher said he is frustrated because even with tests on Warners and an autopsy on Freedom's Daughter, veterinarians have not been able to determine what is the cause of the problem.
"Now, any time you get one that even acts a little sick, you wonder whether it's a bug,or the same thing, if those two were related or contagious," he said.
"Everybody tells you no, but the bottom line is I don't think they really know. No one knows exactly what happened, how it happened, why it happened.
"We're talking about horses that were at the peak of their game, extremely healthy, in prime condition."
Warners had a record of two victories, three seconds and earnings of $101,000 from six career starts.Repent Readies for Travers Return
Repent spent some time on the main track with exercise rider Helen Pitts Thursday morning in quiet preparation for the $1 million Travers (gr.I) Saturday.
The Louis Quatorze colt trained by Kenny McPeek, will be making his first start since suffering an ankle injury in the Illinois Derby (gr.II) on April 6. Edgar Prado will ride Repent, the second choice on the morning line at 6-1.
Repent took the route he will follow Saturday afternoon from McPeek's barn on the north side of Union Avenue near the Oklahoma training track. He was walked on the horsepath in the backyard picnic area and through the paddock.
"Once he came on the track he jogged the right direction and then galloped about a mile and three-quarters," McPeek said. "Helen said he wanted to go around again."
McPeek said Repent is a challenge because he rebels at a routine.
"He's a little tempermental to train," McPeek said. "We do something different with him every day to keep him off guard. Some days he trains on the backside here, some days he goes on the backside there, some days he goes through the paddock.
"When he figures out you're doing the same thing over and over, he wants a little more variety. So we just give him variety without giving him a chance. Our job is to keep him happy, whatever it takes."
McPeek said the Repent is ready for the Travers.
"He's doing super," he said. "It's up to Edgar. I've done my job."Travers Line Perplexes Lukas
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas couldn't resist a jab over the morning line odds set on his Travers horses, Gold Dollar and Shah Jehan.
"We do our best work when we're 20-1," Lukas said with a chuckle Thursday morning.
But Lukas didn't quibble with linemaker Don LaPlace's decision to make Medaglia d'Oro the 2-5 favorite.
"In light of what we've just seen, that's probably more realistic than the rest of it," he said.
"I think it was a bad line on Gold Dollar; 20-1 on the horse that ran second in the Jim Dandy is pretty strong. I don't think that will happen. I think the New York bettors are more sophIsticated than that. I think we're going to be double digits, but I don't think we're going to be 20-1."
Typically, Lukas is looking for the challenge presented by Medaglia d'Oro, winner of the Jim Dandy by 13 3/4 lengths.
"We don't mail them in," Lukas said. "You've got to go
over there and do it. He has demonstrated in the past that he is a very good horse, but he has also demonstrated than can have a sub-par race like every race horse in the world.
"I'm looking for improvement on mine. I'm sure everybody else in the race is looking for improvement. We're looking for (the favorite) to stay the same or not get too much better."
Lukas expects his colts to be forwardly placed once the field of nine leaves the gate.
"Shah Jehan will be up there a lot closer than Gold Dollar," he said. "They'll be up there somewhere."
Shah Jehan, the $4.4 million Mr.Prospector yearling purchase, owned by Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier, is one of the few horses in the field who have shown speed in the past. Starting from the rail, Shah Jehan is in position to challenge Medaglia d'Oro for the lead.
"I think he'll stalk anyhow," Lukas said. "He doesn't really want the lead, I don't think. He's capable of getting the lead if he wants it. He likes to run with his company, so he more than likely will lay third or fourth and lay in a stalking position, because that's the way he likes to run."
That style, developed during the early part of his career with trainer Aidan O'Brien in Europe, has presented a problem for Lukas.
"I think his European campaign has compromised his U.S.
campaign because has a tendency to stay with his company,"Lukas said. "He's got a quality that is not good in racing: he's very social. He doesn't want to leave the boys."
"I've been working all summer to try to get him to put away the competition. I went through that with Criminal Type when I got him from Europe, too. I think I'm making headway. I'll know a lot more Saturday or as the fall goes along."
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