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Mathea Kelley

Pluck Facing Challenge in Commonwealth Turf

Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner makes first start since April.

Pluck will make his first appearance at Churchill Downs since winning last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) when he faces a full field of fellow 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) Nov. 3.

Team Valor International's homebred, campaigned in partnership with Tom Simon’s Vinery, has been out of action since April when he was sidelined due to bruised cannon bones. The More than Ready  colt posted his biggest win in last year's Juvenile Turf, which he won by one length despite trouble.

Pluck had two months of rest in a paddock in Maryland prior to receiving a clean bill of health and returning to conditioner Graham Motion at Fair Hill Training Center to resume training.

Julien Leaproux is to ride Pluck for the first time and they drew post 3 for the 1 1/16-mile Commonwealth Turf. An overflow field of 13 was entered, leaving three on the also-eligible list. The race is the 11th of 12 scheduled at Churchill to kick off Breeders' Cup week, and is set to go off at 5:43 p.m. EDT.

Pluck, who also won the Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT) at Woodbine last year, comes into the race with a record of 3-0-1 from seven starts and earnings of $727,290.

There are several contenders looking to break through on the turf in the Commonwealth, including Silver Medallion, Suntracer, and Wilkinson.

Black Rock Stables and Michael J. Ryan's Silver Medallion won the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) in February and later was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). He is coming off a runner-up finish in an optional claiming allowance heat on the Woodbine turf Oct. 7.

Steve Asmussen trains the Badge of Silver colt, winner of the Eddie Logan Stakes on the Santa Anita turf Dec. 31.

Team Block's Suntracer ran second, 4 1/2 lengths behind Willcox Inn, in the Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) on the turf in Illinois Oct. 15. Trained by Chris Block, the Illinois-bred Kitten's Joy  colt was also second in both the Arlington Classic and American Derby (gr. IIT) at Arlington Park.

Ed Gaylord's Wilkinson, recently switched to the turf, comes into the race off back-to-back third-place finishes in stakes on grass at Belmont Park. He was most recently third in the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT), beaten by less than two lengths by Western Aristocrat.

Wertheimer and Frere's Irish-bred Salto, part of Freddy Head's Breeders' Cup string from France, is an interesting possibility. The son of Pivotal is a two-time allowance winner coming off a fourth-place finish in a group III event at Deauville Aug. 28.

Also in the field are Perregaux and Humble and Hungry, second and third, respectively, in the Hall of Fame Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Aug. 12.

$100,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 11, 5:43 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Live in Joy (KY), J Rosario, 120, W M Catalano
2. Pluck (KY), J R Leparoux, 118, H G Motion
3. Silver Medallion (KY), J R Velazquez, 118, T A Pletcher
4. Perregaux (KY), E S Prado, 118, J E Baker
5. Twinspired (KY), P Lopez, 118, M J Maker
6. Wilkinson (KY), G K Gomez, 118, N J Howard
7. Humble and Hungry (KY), J Lezcano, 118, I Correas IV
8. Suntracer (IL), R Albarado, 118, C M Block
9. Chalice (KY), J Castellano, 118, K Gorder
10. Salto (IRE), O Peslier, 118, F Head
Also Eligible
11. Will's Wildcat (KY),  C H Borel, 118, J E Baker
12. Fleet Beat (KY), J L Castanon, 118, J Cheeks
13. Friends Place (KY), R Albarado, 118, D L Romans
Blinkers Off: Humble and Hungry