Pletcher seeks sec­ond Ken­tucky Derby win

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Jay Priv­man – Mar­cus Hersh

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With starters 44 and 45 in this year’s Ken­tucky Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher is edg­ing ever closer to the record held by D. Wayne Lukas, un­der whom Pletcher ap­pren­ticed be­fore be­gin­ning his own dec­o­rated ca­reer.

Pletcher has won a record­set­ting seven Eclipse Awards as cham­pion trainer, while Lukas has amassed four. At the Derby, though, Lukas – who does not have a horse in this year’s race – owns four wins from his record 48 starters, while Pletcher has one, with Su­per Saver in 2010.

Pletcher’s 1-for-43 record looks ugly on the sur­face, but he usu­ally has mul­ti­ple run­ners in the Derby each year – like this year with Destin and Out­work – and he’s ac­tu­ally had starters in 15 Der­bies. If he wins this year, 2 for 16 wouldn’t sound all that bad. And just to get to the Derby, Pletcher’s horses have earned their way by win­ning sig­nif­i­cant stakes races.

To win this year, though, either Destin or Out­work will have to out­run 19 oth­ers in the 142nd Ken­tucky Derby on Satur­day at Churchill Downs. A to­tal of 22 horses were en­tered Wed­nes­day morn­ing in the Derby, with the draw held too late to make this edi­tion.

Since a max­i­mum of 20 horses can run – based on points earned in 34 des­ig­nated Derby prep races – the two with the fewest points, Laoban and Cherry Wine, were placed on the also-el­i­gi­ble list in that or­der.

In or­der for Laoban or Cherry Wine to get into the race, a horse in the main body of the race must scratch be­fore 9 a.m. East­ern on Fri­day. Scratch time is a full day be­fore the Derby to fa­cil­i­tate early bet­ting. Laoban would be the first horse in if one horse scratches. If two horses come out by Fri­day, both would get in. They would oc­cupy the out­side posts in the start­ing gate.

If any­one in the main body of the race is with­drawn af­ter 9 a.m. Fri­day, the also-el­i­gi­bles are out of luck.

Laoban and Cherry Wine were ranked 23rd and 25th on the points list as of Wed­nes­day morn­ing but moved up the list when Fel­low­ship (21st), Ad­ven­tist (22nd), and Daz­zling Gem (24th) were not en­tered.

The 20 in the main body of the race are Brody’s Cause, Cre­ator, Danz­ing Candy, Destin, Exag-

ger­a­tor, Gun Run­ner, Lani, Ma­jesto, Mo­hay­men, Mor Spirit, Mo Tom, My Man Sam, Nyquist, Os­car Nom­i­nated, Out­work, Sha­gaf, Sud­den­break­ingnews, Tom’s Ready, Tro­jan Na­tion, and Whit­more.

Destin and Out­work each earned their slot in the Derby through a vic­tory in an im­por­tant prep race. Destin de­feated Out­work in the Tampa Bay Derby, and then Out­work won the Wood Memo­rial. They fig­ure to be among the many horses in this race who will be mid­priced run­ners.

The ac­knowl­edged favorite is the Doug O’neill-trained Nyquist, a son of Un­cle Mo, whom Pletcher trained. Out­work is also by Un­cle Mo.

Out­work, a hulk­ing spec­i­men who Pletcher es­ti­mates weighs nearly 1,300 pounds, has won three of his four starts. He was un­der a tight dead­line to make the Derby, con­sid­er­ing that he went nearly 10 months be­tween starts be­fore his 3-year-old de­but. He has won two of his three races this year, his lone loss com­ing to his sta­ble­mate.

“Essen­tially, ev­ery­thing had to go per­fectly for him to get to this point,” Pletcher said. “I never felt like we were rush­ing. For­tu­nately, we never had any set­backs.”

Out­work has made a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion all week, as has Destin, who has not raced since the Tampa Bay Derby, mean­ing he will come into this race off an eight-week lay­off. If he wins, that would be the long­est known lay­off for a Derby win­ner, but it’s not a sched­ule with which Pletcher is un­fa­mil­iar on a daily ba­sis. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, he prefers plenty of time be­tween starts.

Destin has won three times in five starts and blos­somed at Tampa Bay Downs, where he won the Sam F. Davis Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby in suc­ces­sion, earn­ing ca­reerbest Beyer Speed Fig­ures both times. He’s had five works since his last race on March 12, four at Palm Beach Downs and then a fi­nal drill here last Fri­day in which he went five fur­longs in 1:01.40.

“I think he’s com­ing up to the race as well as he can,” Pletcher said. “I liked his breeze here.”

The Derby will be tele­vised live by NBC in a three-hour­plus tele­cast be­gin­ning at 4 p.m. East­ern on Satur­day. The day’s cov­er­age be­gins at noon on NBCSN with a four-hour tele­cast.

The Weather Chan­nel is call­ing for warm­ing tem­per­a­tures as Derby Week pro­gresses, with a high of 85 on Satur­day af­ter highs of 65 on Thurs­day and 73 Fri­day.

Stakes-packed un­der­card

If the Ken­tucky Derby turns out to be three-quar­ters as good as the six stakes lead­ing up to the main event Satur­day at Churchill Downs, it should be an im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing day of high-class rac­ing. A strong, high-end dirt-mile al­lowance race launches the 14-race card, and there’s barely a breather un­til post times start string­ing out late in the af­ter­noon.

The day’s first stakes, the Grade 2, $300,000 Distaff Turf Mile, fea­tures one of the best­known horses in North Amer­ica at the mo­ment, Tepin. It wasn’t en­tirely ob­vi­ous at the time, but the fab­u­lous grass mare – who could race at Royal As­cot this sum­mer – put her name on the map by win­ning the 2015 Distaff Turf Mile, but she will be a wee bit shorter on the tote board than the 9-1 at which she tri­umphed one year ago.

Tepin, who breaks from the rail, won the Grade 1 Jenny Wi­ley at Keeneland at 2-5 last month and will be odds-on again de­spite the pres­ence of some high-qual­ity op­po­nents, in­clud­ing Is­abella Sings, who set a break­neck pace in the March 12 Hills­bor­ough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and still was within one length of Tepin at the fin­ish.

Race 7, the Grade 2, $500,000 Churchill Downs at seven fur­longs on dirt, drew an ex­cel­lent field of nine, in­clud­ing Sa­lu­tos Ami­gos and Cal­cu­la­tor, the one-two fin­ish­ers in the Grade 1 Carter last month at Aque­duct; Kobe’s Back, who has scored two sharp Cal­i­for­nia sprint wins this sea­son af­ter hav­ing his blink­ers re­moved but drew the rail; and three ex­cit­ing 4-year-olds, Speight­ster, Limou­sine Lib­eral, and Holy Boss.

The Grade 1, $300,000 Humana Distaff, for fil­lies and mares at seven fur­longs on dirt, goes as race 8 and at­tracted 10 en­trants. Stone­tas­tic will try to lead all the way from post 2, with Cal­i­for­nia ship­per Taris and 2015 Breed­ers’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint win­ner Wavell Av­enue, both drawn com­fort­ably on the out­side, the other two likely bet­ting fa­vorites.

In race 9, the $300,000 Amer­i­can Turf for 3-year-olds at 1 1/6 miles, Airo­force, who started his sea­son as a hot Derby prospect in some quar­ters, seeks a form re­ver­sal with a sur­face switch. Airo­force fin­ished a close sec­ond last fall in the Breed­ers’ Cup Ju­ve­nile Turf, his most re­cent grass race, but was well beaten on dirt at Fair Grounds and on Tur­fway’s syn­thetic track in his two races this year. He drew post 1 inside 12 op­po­nents in what looks like a con­tentious race.

Race 10 is the con­so­la­tion prize for 3-year-olds either too far be­hind sched­ule or not quite tal­ented enough to make the Derby, the Grade 3, $250,000 Pat Day Mile. The one-turn dirt mile could have as a favorite a horse who has raced only once, Amer­i­can Free­dom, the Bob Baf­fert-trained colt who got a 98 Beyer Speed Fig­ure – a higher num­ber than 15 Derby en­trants ever have earned – in win­ning his de­but April 9 at Santa Anita.

Amer­i­can Free­dom might turn out to be a good horse, but his rep­u­ta­tion and con­nec­tions will drag down his price and lend value to con­tenders like Fore­vamo and Cocked and Loaded.

The card’s sec­ond-mostim­por­tant race, the Grade 1, $500,000 Wood­ford Re­serve Turf Clas­sic over 1 1/8 miles, came up as strong as could be ex­pected in this era of North Amer­i­can grass rac­ing. Among the 13 en­trants are the thir­dand fourth-place fin­ish­ers from the 2015 Breed­ers’ Cup Turf, Big Blue Kit­ten and Slum­ber, both trained by Chad Brown and both mak­ing their sea­sonal de­but at dis­tance shorter than their best.

Cal­i­for­nia-based Bolo could be a ma­jor player, while Tourist was a use­ful third in his 2016 de­but in the Maker’s 46 Mile last month at Keeneland. Divisidero won the Amer­i­can Turf on the 2015 Derby card and has been pointed all sea­son to this spot by trainer Buff Bradley.

BAR­BARA D. LIV­INGSTON

Trainer Todd Pletcher has Destin and Out­work set to start in the Ken­tucky Derby on Satur­day.

BAR­BARA D. LIV­INGSTON

Destin hasn’t raced since March 12, when he beat sta­ble­mate Out­work and set a track record in the Tampa Bay Derby.

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