Remember two years ago when Todd Pletcher sent a Napoleon-like army to the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, only to come away without a single victory?
Well, that 17-horse assault is behind him, and now he returns to racing’s biggest stage with a mere five-horse platoon, which had been six until the untimely fever that hit his star grass horse Red Giant, forcing his withdrawal. But any opposing trainers who think Gen. Pletcher is coming undermanned may be in for a rude awakening. Pletcher has proven he’s deadly regardless of the size of his force, and the five he’s sending all have a big shot in their respective races.
With the word that Team Valor’s Fairbanks , originally slated to run in the Marathon, is seriously being considered for the Classic, Pletcher has an intriguing contender who has a great deal of ability, a high cruising speed, and is in the best form of his career.
Curlin ’s Thoro-Graph numbers tower over everyone in the Classic field, but Fairbanks is the only other horse who will be coming into the race off a negative number (the lower the number the better). In fact, he has paired up a negative 1/2 in his last two starts, both smashing performances. And in the race prior to those he ran a zero. That makes him competitive in the Classic and a good bet to at least finish in the top three. If he did enter for the
Then we come to the Juvenile, where Pletcher has
Munnings has a ton of ability and he could be another overlay, especially if he handles the Pro-Ride. He certainly has as much talent as anyone in the field, likely has more natural speed than anyone, and turned in one of the most impressive maiden victories seen all year.
Silent Valor could be one of the biggest sleepers of the entire Breeders’ Cup card. After finishing second in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race on Keeneland’s Polytrack, he romped by 6 1/4 lengths in the slop at
Tracking the pace, he made a good move to reach contention and was still right there at the eighth pole, but failed to sustain his move. Jockey Garrett Gomez felt the colt was getting very tired at the end, which was to be expected in his first try on Pro-Ride and first going two turns. Still, he was beaten less than three lengths. It is widely believed many horses need a race over the surface to get used to it and often improve in their second attempt. This race put a lot of bottom into Silent Valor. With a two-turn race under him and a feel for the surface it is reasonable to expect a big improvement next time, especially with Pletcher feeling confident enough to give him another chance. He’ll be a huge price, but could surprise a lot of people. Don’t be shocked to see Pletcher run 1-2 in this race, especially if Square Eddie falls victim to the so-called Euro bounce.
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And last but not least we come to Wait a While, whose four-for-four record in
So, there you have it. There are no big names like Curlin or Big Brown or Zenyatta in this group, but every one of them is more than capable of making their presence felt, and, frankly, it would be a surprise if Pletcher did not have a big Breeders’ Cup weekend. After all, a good general is deadly no matter what size army he commands.
Cat and mouse
As of Monday morning, several battles of wit and will were taking place in determining the status of Well Armed, Fairbanks, and Mast Track. The decisions made over the next 24 hours will determine the entire strategy of the Classic. It had been understood Mast Track was definitely going in the Classic, Well Armed in the Dirt Mile, and Fairbanks in the
After final discussions this afternoon between owners and trainers, when the stronger wills will prevail, we’ll have a better idea just how the Classic is going to be played out.
Several of the Classic hopefuls, most notably Curlin and Colonel John (:49 1/5), had excellent breezes this morning, but it was the Frankel-trained
Another under-the-radar horse who looked good working this morning was Student Council, who breezed a half in :48. He’s feeling good, he’s fresh, and he appears to be extremely sharp coming into the race. And, he’s the only horse in race with a recent Thoro-Graph number comparable to Curlin.