Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher

Anne M. Eberhardt

Haskin's Derby Report: Pletcher Marches On

With Eskenderya gone, Todd Pletcher regroups and moves on toward the Derby.

The ins and outs of the Kentucky Derby trail are best typified by just following the goings on at the Todd Pletcher barn, which has been a whirlwind of activity – in both the physical and cerebral sense – during the past couple of days.

It looked at one point as if Pletcher could have from five to seven Derby starters. Then his big horse, Eskendereya, came out. Then the filly, Devil May Care, came in. Then Rule came out. Now it looks as if Interactif will come out, despite a sharp work in the mud Monday morning. That leaves Pletcher with Devil May Care, Super Saver , Mission Impazible, and Discreetly Mine. That certainly is not as strong a hand as he had just a few days ago, but it still is a quartet any trainer would kill for. And who can explain the mysterious ways in which the Derby gods work. Maybe they have a plan all worked out for Pletcher’s first Derby victory that is well over the heads of us mere mortals.


When Pletcher’s old boss, Wayne Lukas, was being constantly reminded in print that he was 0-for-12 in the Derby, despite winning just about every major race in America, he went out and got that elusive first win with a filly (Winning Colors). Now, Pletcher has a big shot to end his 0-for-24 drought with a filly, and one of the reasons Devil May Care is running in the Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) is because she now gets her regular rider, John Velazquez, back following the defection of Eskendereya. Can’t you just envision the Derby gods sitting around plotting this one out?


Also, with Eskendereya out, Mission Impazible is starting to get some buzz, and the vibes are beginning to intensify for Super Saver after an excellent work Saturday with Calvin Borel up that went virtually unnoticed. But the son of Maria's Mon did everything the right way and has maintained a high energy level since. So, you certainly can’t forget about him, especially the way he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) over this track last fall. Pletcher also feels he has a better grip on Discreetly Mine going into the Derby than he had for the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), in which he came up a bit short in the final furlong.


Over at Bob Baffert’s barn, Lookin at Lucky , the new Derby favorite, was getting his bath, as a large group of photographers gathered around while a crowd of reporters surrounded Baffert to get his take on the colt’s five-furlong breeze in 1:00 4/5.


Baffert couldn’t have asked for a better work, as Lucky, working in company with Broken Tango, did everything with the utmost ease, cruising past his workmate and crossing the wire in hand. Exercise rider Dana Barnes was high up in the saddle and sitting virtually motionless. Last year’s juvenile male champion obviously loves this track the way he moves over it, and it doesn’t matter whether the track is dry or wet; he has excellent extension over it. With three solid works over the track, Lookin at Lucky should be ready for a maximum effort and looks to be a worthy favorite, despite his troubled six-length defeat at the hands of Sidney’s Candy in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).


All the other Derby workers did well with the exception of Line of David, who was having a tough time getting into rhythm and was under a left-handed whip a good portion of the stretch run, with the rider shaking the reins at him as well. It was obvious he disliked the wet sealed track from the way he was spinning his wheels and not extending himself.


We liked the way Noble's Promise  handled the track, as he moved over it with authority and finished up well, drawing away from his workmate Fist of Rage. Now, it’s just a question of how he scopes, having been battling a lung infection for a while.


Although Interactif looked sharp in his half-mile drill, running down his workmate and striding out beautifully in the final furlong, Pletcher said he and owners, the Wertheimer brothers, are leaning more toward not running and pointing him for grass stakes.


The final Derby worker, American Lion , who looks great physically, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 3/5, coming home his final quarter in :25 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:16 2/5.


Another WinStar Farm colt, Endorsement, had been scheduled to work, but instead galloped an easy mile and a quarter at around 6 a.m.


We went over to the Trackside training center Sunday afternoon, and looking at Stately Victor up close in his stall, if there is a better-looking horse in this year’s Derby we haven’t seen him. This colt is an eyeful, and we can’t get away from that nagging feeling that maybe his victory in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) was not a fluke, and that he’s just simply getting good, whether he runs on Polytrack or dirt. He’s still a guess and bettors will have to decide what to do with him.


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