Before the running of last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Keeneland Race Course was overrun with trainers whose potential contenders were squeezing in final works prior to shipping up to Churchill Downs. This year, Todd Pletcher cut a lonely figure along the rail at the Lexington oval as he sent Behindatthebar to gallop and then watched Monba and Cowboy Cal complete their final preparations April 26.
Part of the trainer’s first set that morning, Behindatthebar trained professionally under exercise rider Valerie Buck (VIDEO). Winner of the 1 1/16-mile Coolmore Lexington (gr. II), he is still under consideration for a start in the Derby after his solid score in the April 19 event. However, Pletcher said he still hasn’t decided whether the son of Forest Wildcat will head postward May 3, a decision he will make after watching Behindatthebar train over the next few days. The colt, owned by Satish Sanan’s Padua Stables, Michael Shustek, and W. Don Stanley, ranks 19th on the graded earnings list with $201,500 to his credit.
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Monba was next on the track, breezing in company with stablemate Ready’s Echo (VIDEO). With Patti Barry in the irons, Monba broke off on the outside and was kept to the task, clocking five furlongs in 1:02.60. He galloped out well behind Ready’s Echo, who was under Angel Cordero Jr.
“We were looking for a steady maintenance work, and that’s what he did,” Pletcher said. “I thought he did fine.”
A son of Maria's Mon, Monba ranks eighth on the graded earnings list of Derby contenders, with $515,000 to his credit for Starlight Stable, Donald Lucarelli, and Paul Saylor.
Finally, Blue Grass runner-up Cowboy Cal went out to the track, also under Barry (VIDEO). The Giant's Causeway colt worked on his own, breaking off keenly and going the distance in 1:00 flat. Cowboy Cal is 17th on the graded earnings list with $207,660 for Stonerside Stable.
“I thought he worked very well,” Pletcher said. “He’s an aggressive horse and trains himself, whereas Monba is somewhat of a lazy workhorse and can even be so in company. They both looked good and, like I said before, these two were the ones I felt had the best chances of stepping up at the beginning of the year. Thankfully, they’ve done so, and hopefully continue to do so.”
Pletcher said his horses would remain at Keeneland as long as possible, and may ship to Churchill April 30.