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Derby Rematch Looms for Gemologist, Alpha

Top Wood Memorial finishers were separated by neck; trainers discuss arrival plans.

Undefeated Gemologist  and Alpha , separated by a neck in the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I), are headed for a rematch in Kentucky next month.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had Gemologist headed back to Palm Meadows Training Center from Aqueduct Racetrack at the crack of dawn on the morning following the colt's Wood victory April 7.

Gemologist "came out of the race really well,” said trainer Todd Pletcher by phone from Florida.

Pletcher said preparations have been made for Gemologist's next race appearance in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5. The 3-year-old Tiznow  colt is expected to remain in Florida until May 1, then would leave for Churchill Downs.

“The tentative schedule is for him to breeze twice between now and the Derby, then fly to Kentucky on May 1," Pletcher reported. "We'll leave the option to call an audible if we so chose, but as long as we're happy with the conditions down here, that's the plan.”

Gemologist, who earned $600,000 for the Wood victory, heads into the Derby with five successive wins. He completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.96 on a track that played slowly throughout the day, earning a 98 Beyer speed figure. Comfortably in front at the furlong marker, the colt dug in stubbornly in the final sixteenth of a mile as Alpha bore down on him.

Owned by WinStar Farm, for which Pletcher won the 2010 Derby with Super Saver , Gemologist boosted his graded stakes earnings to $703,855, placing him a solid sixth on the list of Derby hopefuls.

Another of Pletcher’s 3-year-olds, El Padrino , is 23rd with $250,000.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had logistics on his mind Easter Sunday morning as he pondered next steps on Wood runner-up Alpha’s path to the Kentucky Derby.

“With Alpha we’re thinking about where we go, what we do, and how we get there, but we’re pointing for May 5,” McLaughlin said. “He came out of the race great. He did everything right.”

Godolphin Racing’s Alpha had to deal with some early traffic problems after starting from the rail and finished with resolve. McLaughlin believes the Bernardini  colt got a valuable education in the process.

“He almost broke on the lead. And then he checked hard in the first turn, but quickly recovered," McLaughlin said. "Everything went great except the photo. Had we won, it would have been perfect, but we did pass many tests. Good in the gate, took dirt, ran great, belongs in the Derby. It was a real, true, great prep. ”

McLaughlin is pondering when to send Alpha to Churchill. He was considering an early arrival to do some gate work “because he had a bad experience there" while finishing 11th in last fall's Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).