Todd Pletcher is always a presence at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, and with a spot to the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Marathon up for grabs via winning the $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes (gr. III), the Eclipse Award-winning trainer will look to bolster his chances with a pair of solid contenders.
Pletcher will saddle Zayat Stables’ Alaazo and Edward Evans’ Nite Light in the 1 1/2-mile Fall Championship Sept. 12 at Turfway, as opening weekend at the Florence, Ky., racetrack is highlighted by the “Win and You’re In” event. A field of eight was entered for the featured race, which will be run on Polytrack. Also included in the field is 2007 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Dominican, who was third in this event a year ago.
Both of Pletcher’s charges will have to prove they can run on a synthetic surface, something they have yet to do.
Alaazo’s lone try off dirt came in an allowance event last fall at Keeneland when finishing eighth on Polytrack. The 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy—Atelier, by Deputy Minister, enters off a solid runner-up finish in the July 18 Greenwood Cup at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack in his first attempt at stretching out to 12 furlongs.
Alaazo, who was bred in Kentucky by Alexander, Groves, and Matz, has been working steadily at Saratoga this summer. A winner of three of 12 starts in his career, he will be ridden by Orlando Mojica.
Nite Light will be making his first start on a synthetic surface after 12 tries on dirt and one on turf. The 5-year-old Thunder Gulch horse lost by a nose two starts back in the June 5 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) on the slop at Belmont Park. Last out, he was fifth in the Greenwood Cup.
Nite Light, who will be ridden by Jon Court, won four consecutive races between October 2007 and February 2008.
Silverton Hill’s Dominican is proven over synthetics, as all four of his lifetime wins have come on such surfaces, including the 2007 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway. A 5-year-old gelded son of El Corredor, Dominican last won in July 2008 at Presque Isle Downs in allowance company. He is winless in three starts this season, but was runner-up in the one-mile Hanshin Cup Handicap (gr. III) May 23 at Arlington Park. Victor Lebron will ride the 2007 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) 11th-place finisher for Darrin Miller.
Carrying top weight of 120 pounds will be Allshouse Racing Stable’s Gangbuster, runaway winner of the 1 5/8-mile Fort Harrod Stakes at Keeneland in April. The 4-year-old Langfuhr colt last raced in California for trainer Keith Desormeaux, where he was fourth but beaten just two lengths in the Cougar II Handicap on the Del Mar Polytrack.
Another interesting contender is 6-year-old Lord Kipling, who was claimed by Scott Lake for Ben Mondello prior to scoring by 7 1/2 lengths in a two-mile optional claimer Aug. 12 at Saratoga. The Arkansas bred son of Kipling has made just one of his 36 career starts on a synthetic surface, that coming in the Ford Harrod when finishing a well-beaten third to Gangbuster.
$100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship (gr. III, Race 9, 4:57 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Polytrack) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Nite Light (KY), J K Court, 116, T A Pletcher
2. Lord Kipling (AR), J Arce, 116, S A Lake
3. Ran Ran Ran (KY), A Sanguinetti, 116, B K Sipp
4. Gangbuster (KY), L R Goncalves, 120, J K Desormeaux
5. Super Class (BRZ), A Canchano, 116, E Caramori
6. Alaazo (KY), O Mojica, 116, T A Pletcher
7. Eleuterio (KY), M G Adam, 116, G S Bush
8. Dominican (KY), V Lebron, 116, D Miller