Trainer Todd Pletcher said April 18 that he has not decided when he will ship Monba and Cowboy Cal, his one-two finishers in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and is considering giving the two colts their final works at Keeneland the weekend before the Run for the Roses.
“I’m thinking about it, the Saturday or Sunday before,” Pletcher said.
Ramon Dominguez will ride Monba for the first time, as Edgar Prado, who was aboard the colt in the Toyota Blue Grass, has chosen to ride Adriano in the Derby. Pletcher said John Velazquez, who rode Cowboy Cal in the Blue Grass, will again be aboard the colt in the Derby.
On April 19, Pletcher will send out Atoned and Behindatthebar in the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington (gr. II), a 1 1/16-mile race that has attracted a field of 11 three-year-olds. A big performance from Atoned would move him up the graded stakes earning list and possibly ahead of Cowboy Cal, costing the Blue Grass runner-up a place in the Derby.
“I’m really not thinking of anything beyond the Lexington right now with Atoned, and we’ll see how that goes and worry about those decisions when we get to them,” said Pletcher. “There’s going to be a lot of changes to it (the graded stakes earnings list) before Derby.
With $258,940 in graded stakes earnings, enough to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby, Southern Equine Stable’s Salute the Sarge seems to have little at stake in the Lexington. However, that is not the thinking of trainer Eric Guillot.
“He needs to win Saturday,” Guillot said. “He is probably not going to the Derby and I am looking to see if he can get the distance. I want to get a black-type win in Lexington to show the breeders there what kind of horse he is. It is a major race for him, a grade 2 with (a purse of) $325,000.”
For Salute the Sarge, who jogged a mile with the pony and then galloped a mile and an eighth under Ashlee Turner on the Keeneland training track April 18, the Lexington will go a long way into determining what lies in his future.
“If he wins off impressively with a big late kick and shows that distance is not a problem, then we will have a legitimate horse for the Preakness (gr. I),” Guillot said. “But if he barely hangs on, or runs second or third, we will cut back to seven-eighths and look at the King’s Bishop (gr. I at Saratoga, Aug. 23).”
Michael Baze, who has been aboard Salute the Sarge for all four of his victories, has the riding assignment April 18.