Todd A. Pletcher Racing Stables, Inc.

Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida Derby

Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida Derby

Unbeaten Materiality Secures Florida DerbyPhoto: Coglianese Photos
Materiality comes home strong to take the Florida Derby.
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In his graded stakes debut, Alto Racing's Materiality proved up to the challenge as he outlasted grade II winner Upstart in an extended duel and scored a 1 1/2-length victory in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) Saturday, March 28 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).

A son of dual classic winner Afleet Alex  , Materiality picked up his third victory in as many starts in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile race. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who earned his second straight Florida Derby win and third overall, Materiality won a maiden special weight event in January at Gulfstream before taking the Islamorada Handicap March 5 at the South Florida track.

On Saturday in the biggest start of his young career, Materiality and Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner Upstart drew off from the other seven 3-year-olds in the far turn and battled into deep stretch, thrilling the crowd. Materiality finally separated himself from Upstart near the sixteenth pole. 

Racing inside of Upstart, Materiality drifted out in the stretch but there was no inquiry or objection after the race. In his previous start, Ralph Evans' Upstart finished first in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I) but was disqualified for stretch interference and placed behind Itsaknockout.

"We got very close (to Upstart), that's for sure. We got out a little bit further than I thought I did," Velazquez said. "I had my head down, looking over to make sure I didn't bump him. There was a little brushing, maybe, but there was no contact. I was very conscious to pull back in and you can see the two horses spread apart."

Upstart's trainer Rick Violette Jr. didn't have a problem with the stretch run but wondered if things would have been different if the son of Flatter   hadn't started from the outside in the field of nine.

"I don't want to hear from the guys that say, 'Don't worry about the nine hole,' because it made all the difference," Violette said. "If we had (Materiality) on our hip the whole way, maybe the result would have been different. (Materiality) beat us fair and square. He is obviously a very nice horse, he comes off a really fast race and didn't regress."

Materiality completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.3 on a fast track. Ami's Flatter finished well behind the top two finishers—12 1/2 lengths behind Upstart—to secure his first grade I placing while Itsaknockout followed in fourth.

In the Islamorada, Materiality defeated stablemate Stanford, who on Saturday ran second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots after leading that race into the stretch. Pletcher noted the 22-day turnaround from the Islamorada was a concern.

"So we monitored how he was training; he looked great. He's a big, strong colt and he holds his weight really well. He's got a big appetite," Pletcher said. "He put forth a really good breeze a week ago so we felt like he was showing us all of the right signs.

"Yet you still worry about those situations when you get to the eighth pole. Watching Stanford finish a very good second in the Louisiana Derby about a half-hour before gives you a little more confidence, but you're still concerned about the short turnaround."

Materiality returned $5.60 to win, $3 to place, and $2.40 to show. Upstart, who was sent off as the even-money favorite, returned $2.60 and $2.20, while Ami's Flatter paid $3 to show.

Pletcher won the Florida Derby with Constitution last year and Scat Daddy   in 2007. Materiality, a bay colt, was guided to victory by John Velazquez, who also earned his third Florida Derby win after taking the key prep race aboard Orb   in 2013 and Quality Road   in 2009.

The Florida Derby is a 100-40-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, ensuring the winner enough points to qualify for a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Upstart also has secured enough points.

Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, Materiality is out of the Langfuhr mare Wildwood Flower, who also has produced grade II winner My Miss Sophia.

Materiality sold twice before his racing career, most recently being landed for $400,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale where he was purchased by Steven Young, agent, for Gil Moutray's Alto Racing from the consignment of De Meric Sales, agent. As a yearling, Materiality was purchased for $260,000 by Venture Six from Gunther's Glennwood Farm consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.


Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback Handicap

Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback Handicap

Race Day Shows Grit, Takes Razorback HandicapPhoto: Coady Photography
Race Day fights off Midnight Hawk to win the Razorback Handicap.

Matthew Schera's Race Day edged past a stubborn Midnight Hawk near the wire to capture the $250,000 Razorback Handicap (gr. III) for 4-year-olds and up March 14 at Oaklawn Park (VIDEO).

Race Day, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, sat just off the pace set by Midnight Hawk from the start in a race that had little movement throughout. Race Day came into the 1 1/16-mile Razorback off of a third-place finish in the Fred Hooper Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park.

In a field of six shortened by the scratch of I Got It All earlier Saturday afternoon, Midnight Hawk, ridden by Victor Espinoza for trainer Bob Baffert, grabbed the early lead on a good, sealed track and methodically set fractions of :23.87 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.26 for the half-mile, and 1:12.58 for six furlongs. Race Day was in no hurry to challenge the leader, with Carve and Tapiture further back in third and fourth, respectively.

Race Day, a 4-year-old colt by Tapit   out of the More Than Ready mare Rebalite, hooked Midnight Hawk at the top of the stretch, but Midnight Hawk, to his inside, didn't give in. It wasn't until the late stages that Race Day got past the leader to win by a neck in 1:44.88 for the distance.

Carve, winner of the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn in his previous start, and Tapiture, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) in his last start, had nothing to offer in the lane. They were passed late by Golden Ticket, who finished third, 7 1/4 lengths behind Midnight Hawk. Carve was fourth, followed by Tapiture and Ride On Curlin.

Velazquez said Race Day, whom he rode in the Hooper and the previous race in which the colt won a second-level allowance race in Florida, needed some urging late.

"Last time there was a lot of pace at Gulfstream, but he didn't break well," Velazquez said. "He broke well today, but was a little rank on the first turn. When he came down the lane, he started waiting a little, so I got after him again, and he put up a good fight."

Race Day is the first horse owner Schera has had with Pletcher. Schera, who lives in Connecticut, makes his living in the hedge-fund business and brought eight friends with him to Arkansas.

"We all flew down; a bunch of friends came," Schera said. "We felt we had a good shot. The last race, he had a little bit of traffic problems, and we know he is a good horse."

Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said Midnight Hawk, despite defeat, showed improvement.

"He ran huge, and he ran straight, which makes us really happy because in a lot of his past races he has been very erratic," Barnes said. "We could not be happier with him and how well he did today."

Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode fifth-place finisher Tapiture, who carried high weight of 119 pounds for trainer Steve Asmussen, made no excuses.

"He just got tired," Santana said. "He was coming off a layoff and probably just needed this race."

Race Day returned $6.20, $4.80, and $3.60 across the board. Midnight Hawk, in from California, paid $6.80 and $4.40, while Golden Ticket was worth $5.60 to show. The $2 exacta returned $69 and the $1 trifecta $260.30. 

Race Day, bred in Kentucky by James Miller, was purchased by his current owner for $285,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The colt now has four wins, a second, and two thirds in seven starts.


Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby Winner

Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby Winner

Carpe Diem Returns a Tampa Bay Derby WinnerPhoto: SV Photography
Carpe Diem and John Velazquez take the Tampa Bay Derby.

Carpe Diem made his 2015 debut in style March 7, taking the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at Tampa Bay Downs by five lengths to claim his third victory from four starts (VIDEO).

Runner-up in the Nov. 1 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last time out, the 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway   tracked fourth behind pacesetter Divining Rod, who set fractions of :23.10, :46.65, and 1:11.35. Carpe Diem made his move heading into the far turn, striking the lead heading for home and lengthening away through a 1:37.22 mile under confident handling.   

"He was very fresh warming up and when they finally got him into the gate and I got on, he settled down," said Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who had to dismount momentarily before the start due to Carpe Diem's reluctance to load. "We broke very well and I took a position just where I wanted to be, right behind the leaders. He rated very well and I was able to wait with him until nearing the stretch. When I asked he came away very nicely."

Carpe Diem races for WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables and is trained by Todd Pletcher. He covered the Tampa Bay Derby's 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.60.

The 3-year-old Triple Crown prep race was his second graded-stakes score; Carpe Diem took the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in October after breaking his maiden at first asking on Labor Day over Ready for Rye, who on March 7 won the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Swale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.

NOVAK: Ready for Rye Upsets Daredevil in Swale

"When they leave their 2-year-old season behind, you hope they come out like he did," said Elliott Walden, WinStar president and chief executive officer. "Everyone who has watched him train said he has been training better than any horse in Florida, and it's nice to see him put it together like that. He is just a natural athlete and has a great rhythm to him.

"We missed him as a yearling, but thankfully John (Moynihan, representative for co-owner Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables). and I got together on him as a 2-year-old."

Bred in Kentucky by Coffee Pot Stable out of the Unbridled's Song mare Rebridled Dreams, Carpe Diem was a $1.6 million purchase by WinStar and Stonestreet from the Northwest Stud consignment to the 2014 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. selected sale of 2-year-olds in training. He improved his earnings to $919,800.

MCCARTHY: Coffee Pot Brews a Good One in Carpe Diem

"We couldn't be more pleased," Pletcher said. "Johnny put him in a perfect position and he really kicked on at the top of the stretch. It was exactly what we were hoping for. He has a history of (reluctance to load) a little, and we will continue to work to try to get that corrected. He has a lot of (sire) Giant's Causeway) and (grandsire) Storm Cat about him; that's what makes him good. We're delighted with the way he ran today."

Off at even money, Carpe Diem returned $4, $3, and $2.40. He was followed home by 13-1 shot Ami's Flatter, who paid $9 and $6.80, and Divining Rod, worth $5.60.
Danzig Moon, Great Stuff, and Moonlight Bandit came next, followed by Sam F. Davis (gr. III) winner Ocean Knight— previously undefeated in two starts and also a Stonestreet Stables runner who failed to fire when asked for run. My Johnny Be Good brought up the rear in the group of eight; Souper Colossal scratched.

"Ocean Knight seemed very flat and maybe it was a minor off day because he had been training like a really good horse," said winning co-owner Barbara Banke of Stonestreet.


Itsaknockout Wins FOY
Upstart DQ'd in FOY, Itsaknockout WinsPhoto: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Itsaknockout (right) finishes second to Upstart in the Fountain of Youth, but is awarded the win.
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Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) winner and 4-5 favorite Upstart was disqualified after crossing the wire first in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 21 at Gulfstream Park, with lightly-raced Itsaknockout elevated from second to his first graded win (VIDEO).

Upstart, with Jose Ortiz in the irons, closed steadily in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth to take control from 7-2 second choice Frosted in the final sixteenth. But he bore out under steady left-handed urging from Ortiz against Starlight Racing's Itsaknockout in deep stretch, causing not only a stewards' inquiry, but a jockey's objection by Itsaknockout's rider, Luis Saez.

Itsaknockout, a 3-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid  , won his first two races and stepped into stakes company in just his third start Saturday. He now has a 3-for-3 record at Gulfstream and will target the March 28 Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).

"That was a tough decision," Saez said. "I did think (Upstart) would get taken down, because he really bothered me. When we came into the stretch, I felt like my horse wanted to run, so I thought we'd win the race. But the other horse came out and bothered me. I couldn't ride my horse. He's a little better on the outside. Today there was a little speed outside of us, so we had to play with that. At the three-eighths he really responded." 

Todd Pletcher trainee Itsaknockout rated just off the leaders early on, as Bluegrass Singer went a quarter in :24.27 and a half in :47.87 while tracked by Frosted, the second choice at 7-2. Frosted ranged up to take the lead as three-quarters went in 1:11.65. But a determined Upstart was closing to his outside with Itsaknockout off his right hip.

"(Frosted) came out on me and I bumped (Itsaknockout) after that," Ortiz said. "I bumped him just a little, but I don't think enough to take me down."

The stewards thought otherwise. Although Upstart eked out the advantage through a 1:38.98 mile and then drew ahead by 2 3/4 lengths to finish in 1:46.28 on a fast track, the way he drifted out under Ortiz's steady stick while doing so caused them to place him second despite his finish ahead.

"I feel bad for the connections of the other horse," Pletcher said. "He crossed the finish line first, but definitely we got impeded a bit and Luis (Saez) had to stop riding for a couple strides. I don't know how it would eventually affect the outcome."

"Bad call," trainer Rick Violette said of the Upstart disqualification. "(The stewards) have to understand that when the horse gets hit behind the girth, the only place the horse can go is to the right. It's disappointing. The horse ran great, we just don't get credit for it. Don't know what's next, but we might have to go to New York." 

The Fountain of Youth is worth 50 points to the winner for a spot in the starting gate of the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), with 20,10, and 5 going to the second- through fourth-place finishers. Itsaknockout jumped to the second spot on the leaderboard with his tally.

With 71 points, International Star tops the leaderboard after winning the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Upstart, with 36 points, is now third.

NOVAK: International Star Carries On in Risen Star

Itsaknockout paid $12.80, $5, and $4 at odds of 5-1. Upstart paid $2.60 and $2.10. The late-closing Frammento got up over Frosted to return $12.80. Gorgeous Bird, Bluegrass Singer, Juan and Bina, and Danny Boy completed the order of finish.

"The thing I'm most proud of is for this horse to run this well in his third lifetime start, first time around two turns and first time in a (stakes)," Pletcher said. "It was a very, very good effort. He was in between horses in a situation he hasn't been in before, so it was a big effort."

Itsaknockout was bred in Kentucky by Brookfield Stud out of the Cherokee Run mare Stormy B. He was a $350,000 purchase by agent Frank Brothers from the consignment of Dromoland Farm, agent, at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale after being pinhooked for $130,000 by Black Cherry Farm from the Elm Tree Farm consignment at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2012.

"We knew he had the talent, but you have to always wonder until they do it," said Starlight managing partner Don Lucarelli. "This sealed it. We had never won this race and naturally it gives us a lot of aspirations for going to the Derby. We're just excited for all the partners. We had a big crowd here today. We really rolled the bones and it paid off."


Khozan Impresses Again at Gulfstream Park
Khozan Impresses Again at Gulfstream ParkPhoto: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Khozan wins at Gulfstream Park Feb. 22
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A bumped start barely fazed heavily-favored Khozan in his second straight romp at Gulfstream Park.

After an easy seven-furling maiden special weight victory in his debut Jan. 24, the colt, purchased for $1 million by Al Shaqab Racing, impressed again Feb. 22 with a 12 3/4-length win in a one-turn-mile optional claiming event on a fast track (VIDEO).

The 3-year-old son of Distorted Humor   will surely garner plenty of Triple Crown buzz after beating the only other Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)-nominated colt in the race, Big Family, by such a significant margin.

"It was another very impressive performance," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "It was what we were hoping for, but we were glad to see it all the same. He got a little bit of an education today and did some things he didn't do in his debut."

Pletcher also said the colt, a half brother to champion Royal Delta, will likely head to the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) March 28 next time out.

"We'll discuss it, but I think the logical next race would probably be the Florida Derby," Pletcher said. "He's two-for-two over the track and he has trained well here. He has run well over the track, so we'll talk about it and see."

Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Khozan is out of the A.P. Indy mare Delta Princess. He was purchased at the Fasig-Tipton Florida selected 2-year-olds in training sale last February when consigned by Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds, which had pinhooked him for $350,000 from the Adena Springs consignment at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale.

After the bumped start, Khozan spent the first half-mile off the pace Sunday, as leader Bluegrass Luck opened up fractions of :23.51 and :46.57, then moved up to take a clear lead at the quarter pole. Khozan covered the six furlongs in 1:11.57.

The Pletcher trainee then drew off under a hand ride from jockey Javier Castellano in the stretch and finished the mile in 1:38.07. The colt paid $2.10 to win, place, and show. Big Family, second by almost 13 lengths, paid $3 and $2.40.

"The way he did it today was so easy," Castellano said. "My strategy today was not to rush him and let him have a chance to pick it up, because today was a mile race. He reacted so good behind horses. He took dirt in his face and didn't mind at all.

"He put himself in a good spot. I saved all the ground and cut the corner. I really liked the way he did it today. He's a brilliant horse."


Golden Lad Holds Off Ride On Curlin in Essex

Golden Lad Holds Off Ride On Curlin in Essex

Golden Lad Holds Off Ride On Curlin in EssexPhoto: Coady Photography
Golden Lad leads them home in the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

Returning to Oaklawn Park where he secured his first career stakes win, Golden Lad defeated last year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Ride On Curlin in posting a 1 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Essex Handicap Saturday, Feb. 14 (VIDEO). 

Breaking from the outside in the field of eight older horses, E. Paul Robsham Stables homebred Golden Lad rallied three wide into the stretch. The 4-1 co-second choice in the field of eight snatched the lead at the eighth pole and then opened up a clear advantage late.

In completing the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:44.05 on a fast track, Golden Lad comfortably held off a late move from Daniel Dougherty's Ride On Curlin, who was sent off as the 4-5 favorite in the second start of his 4-year-old season.

Jockey Jon Court, aboard Ride On Curlin, lodged an objection against the winner, alleging interference at the start of the race, but stewards ruled the result stood.

"When we left the gates and he dropped out in front of me, there were three jumps where I had to steady and I was tangled up in his hind legs," said Court. "He cost me a couple of lengths when I needed to get position. I had to overcome that and then then he beats me a length for the win. He just needed to be a little bit clearer coming over in front of horses."

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Golden Lad had not won since taking last year's Razorback Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn by nearly seven lengths. The victory by the 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro   horse Saturday under Ricardo Santana Jr. ended a three-race skid, including a fifth-place finish in his 2015 debut in the Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) Jan. 10 at Gulfstream Park

"We were disappointed in his first race back," said Pletcher via phone. "He may have been a little fresh off the layoff. We thought coming back here to Oaklawn would be a good idea."

Golden Lad, out of the stakes-winning Seeking the Gold mare Broadway Gold, secured his second stakes win while improving his career mark to 6-2-0 from 12 career starts and earnings of $327,420.

Golden Lad returned $10 to win, $4 to place, and $3.40 to show, while Ride On Curlin paid $2.80 and $2.40. I Got It All, off at 20-1, finished one length farther back in third and paid $6.40 to show.  For Greater Glory, Rocket Time, Code West, Luv Bandit, and Joy Boy completed the order.

Rocket Time was able to dictate the pace before weakening coming into the stretch, carving quarter-mile fractions of :23.5, :47.70, and 1:12.89.


Graydar's First Foals Have Arrived!

Pletcher Happy With Florida 3-Year-Olds

Trainer Todd Pletcher won three graded stakes races with older horses Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park, but he also has a wealth of talented 3-year-olds in South Florida.

Seven of the 32 sophomores Pletcher has nominated to the Triple Crown breezed Feb. 8 at Palm Beach Downs, including grade I winners Competitive Edge and Daredevil, Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) hopeful Itsaknockout, and talented debut winner Khozan.

Pletcher was pleased with the works and is in the process of finalizing plans for the group en route to the Triple Crown.
He had high praise for Champagne Stakes (gr. I) victor Daredevil as well as Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) runner-up Carpe Diem, who breezed Feb. 7. Let's Go Stable and WinStar Farm's Daredevil went five furlongs in :59.64, the best of 10 works Sunday, while Carpe Diem, owend by WinStar and Stonestreet Stables, clocked his five furlongs in :59.42 a day earier. It was the best of seven workers that morning.
"They're both training exceptionally well," Pletcher said. "Carpe Diem's breeze yesterday was very impressive. He came out of it well, and we're planning to go in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) with him. I thought Daredevil worked extremely well this morning also. We're planning to go in the Swale Stakes (gr. II) with him."
Itsaknockout, a perfect 2-for-2 after taking maiden and allowance races at Gulfstream, is on track for the Fountain of Youth Feb. 21. The son of Lemon Drop Kid  , who won his second start by a widening 5 1/4 lengths, was timed going five furlongs in 1:00.22. J S Bach, who broke his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths Jan. 17, also drilled five furlongs. His time for the distance was 1:00.94.
"I thought he breezed really well this morning," Pletcher said of Itsaknockout. "He's on schedule for the Fountain of Youth. J S Bach, I was very happy with him this morning. He's either going to go to the Southwest (Stakes) (gr. III) or the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II). We'll make a decision, probably tomorrow, on that."

Materiality, a debut winner Jan. 11, is likely to return in a Gulfstream allowance later in the meet, Pletcher said. Al Shaqab Racing's Khozan, a half brother to two-time champion Royal Delta who opened eyes when decisively breaking his maiden at first asking Jan. 24, is possible for an allowance or a stakes race. Khozan breezed four furlongs Feb. 8 in :49 flat.

"I think he's on a similar program to what Constitution was on last year," Pletcher said of Khozan. "He broke his maiden, won an allowance, and then won the Florida Derby (gr. I). But we have a lot of options."
A schedule is still being worked out for Competitive Edge, who won the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course as a 2-year-old. He breezed five furlongs in 1:00.22. A schedule is also being worked out for Blofeld, undefeated winner of the Nashua Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack and Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park last year.

"(Competitive Edge) is doing well," Pletcher said. "We haven't decided on a first start (of 2015) yet. (Blofeld) is just going to start back galloping. We just need to get some foundation done first. He's still a little ways away from a breeze."
Pletcher also noted that Far From Over, who captured the Withers Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 7 at Aqueduct, exited his win in good order.
"He came back well," Pletcher said. "Thankfully he didn't grab anything when he stumbled leaving the gate. I thought it was a pretty impressive effort to do that in his second start. I would say the most likely scenario is that he'll stay in New York and run in the Gotham."
Mapping out starts for so many Triple Crown hopefuls can be challenging, but it's a situation Pletcher is familiar with. He says timing is the key when creating schedules.
"There's going to be certain cases where we're going to have to run more than one (horse in a prep)," he explained. "A lot of it is about timing. A good thing about this time of year is that there are preps pretty much every weekend, either here or in Tampa or Oaklawn or Louisiana, so we have some options to move them around. Then it's just about timingwhen they ran last and what kind of schedule they're on."


Mshawish Squeezes Out Gulfstream Turf 'Cap

Al Shaqab Racing's Mshawish overcame traffic in the stretch and prevailed in a tight finish with Slumber in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).

Prominent from the start, but under restraint, 7-5 favorite Mshawish became bottled up from the quarter pole to furlong marker before Javier Castellano speared him through rivals in midstretch. Slumber engaged him on the outside from there and dueled him to the finish line before settling for second by a nose. War Correspondent finished third, a length back .

Manchurian High, Grand Tito, Amen Kitten, defending winner Lochte, Imagining, and Golden Rifle completed a tightly bunched field of nine that was separated by only three lengths.

A 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro  , Mshawish completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.22 on firm turf to earn a third consecutive win and sixth overall victory from 17 career starts. Mshawish became a millionaire with Saturday's win, boosting his lifetime bankroll to $1,055,151.

Darley's Central Kentucky sire Medaglia d'Oro had another graded stakes winner on Saturday's card at Gulfstream when Valid landed the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (gr. III) one race earlier.

Golden Rifle was out to lead early in the Gulfstream Park Turf, opening a 1 1/2-length advantage as Grand Tito pursued, with Mshawish a half length back in third. Golden Rifle maintained his advantage through six furlongs, posting fractions of :24.47, :48.33, and 1:12.20, before Grand Tito moved to take a short-lived lead into the stretch while Mshawish got shuffled back. Mshawish appeared to have nowhere to run until Castellano saw a tiny bit of daylight and drove his game mount through.

Castellano said Mshawish had a tough trip all the way.

"It was very tight from the beginning all the way to the end," he said. " I never had a place to go. I had to stay patient and go from there. At some point in the race I got a little bit frustrated turning for home because I never saw any hole. Finally by the eighth pole when I saw the hole he went through a tiny hole and he made a big effort today. I give all the credit to the horse because they way he did it today, it was amazing. Not too many horses can do it the way he did it today."

Mshawish needs to be covered up, trainer Todd Pletcher said after the race, "and we were able to do that."  

"When you have to cover one up in turf races, you have to roll the dice that you get a seam at some point. He was lucky to find one when he did, and he finished like a good horse. It was a very determined effort. He's a really nice horse."

Mshawish has won three of six starts since coming to North America last summer, including the Fort Lauderdale (gr. IIT) Jan. 10 and El Prado Stakes Dec. 13 in his two previous starts, both at Gulfstream.

Mshawish returned $4.80, $3.20 and $2.60. Slumber brought $7.40 and $4.40 while War Correspondent paid $3.80 to show.

Earlier in the afternoon at the Hallandale Beach, Fla. track, Al Shaqab, Pletcher, and Castellano won the Suwannee River (gr. IIIT) with Sandiva

Bred in Kentucky by OTIF 2007, Mshawish is out of the Thunder Gulch mare Thunder Bayou. Nicolas de Watrigant's Mandore International Agency purchased Mshawish as a 2-year-old on behalf of Sheikh Joaan Al Than of Al Shaqab Racing at the 2012 Arqana breeze-up sale, paying  €170,000 (US$219,589) to acquire him from Brown Island Stables, agent.


Sandiva Surges to Capture Suwannee River

Al Shaqab Racing's Sandiva won her second straight stakes and first North American graded race with a one-length victory over Rosalind in the $150,000 Suwannee River Stakes (gr. IIIT) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).

The 4-year-old Irish-bred filly was favored at 2-1 and made a run at longshot leader Skylander Girl on the final turn of the 1 1/8-mile race on a firm turf course.

Under Javier Castellano, the Todd Pletcher trainee jumped out to a 2 1/2-length lead in the stretch and held off closing bids from Rosalind and third-place finisher Scampering, who was three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up.

"She gave me a great kick turning home," Castellano said of Sandiva. "She's a very straightforward horse."

By Footstepsinthesand, Sandiva finished the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.31 and paid $6.20, $3.60, and $3 after 15-1 shot Skylander Girl ran the first quarter in :24.32, the half in :48.02, and three quarters in 1:11.45.

Breaking from post 8, Sandiva settled fifth in the 11-horse field until making her move in the final turn.

"It pretty much unfolded the way we thought it would," Pletcher said. "We just wanted to save a little ground on the first turn and try to put her in the clear on the far turn and let her take it from there. We got the trip we wanted and then she came home with a sustained run."

Out of Mark of Esteem mare Miss Corinne, Sandiva pushed her career earnings to $355,557. Her record improved to 6-1-0 in 13 career starts.

Rosalind paid $6.80 and $5 while making her first start for trainer Chad Brown, and Scampering paid $5.20. Starstruck, White Rose, Nellie Cashman, Bitty Kitty, Bohemian Dance, Skylander Girl, Rock On Baby, and Pink Poppy completed the order of finish. E B RyderCay Dancer and Sheer Drama were scratched before the race.

A multiple group III winner in Europe bred by Dennis McDonnell, Sandiva won her first U.S. stakes last time out in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream, after finishing seventh and fifth, respectively, in the San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar and the Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs last year.


Far From Over wins Withers with closing rush

Far From Over recovered from a bad start to upset 1-2 favorite El Kabeir Feb. 7 in the $250,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack, closing much ground en route to his first graded score for owner Steven Marshall's Black Rock Thoroughbreds (VIDEO).

Stumbling at the break from post 2, the 3-year-old son of Blame   spotted five other 3-year-olds 7 1/2 lengths at the first call and 10 1/2 lengths after half a mile while Classy Class set the pace in :24.40 and :47.95. El Kabeir was engaged with that rival neck and neck as three quarters went in 1:12.01, and Far From Over still had a large distance to make up when the field turned for home.

Taking the rail trip, jockey Manuel Franco set the eventual winner down for the stretch drive and his mount found another gear. The duo shifted to the three path and swept past the battling pair of Classy Class and El Kabeir in a 1:37.56 mile, drawing ahead inside the final sixteenth to win by 1 3/4 lengths. 

"He had a bad step coming out of the gate and the game plan changed after that," said Franco, who with the Withers victory secured his first graded stakes score. "I just let him go however he wanted to go comfortable. At the three-eighths pole I picked it up and went for the lead. I thought I would be able to get there (and win)."

Far From Over was making just his second lifetime start after breaking his maiden by a game nose Dec. 12 at Aqueduct. The Withers, a prep race for the Wood Memorial (gr. I), is worth 10 points to the winner on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Bred by Alexander, Groves, and Matz out of the A.P. Indy mare Alchemist, Far From Over was a $550,000 purchase by bloodstock agents Sallusto and Albina from the Gainesway consignment at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale.

"I thought we were in trouble when, coming out of the gate, he stumbled," said Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "But Manny did a great job relaxing on him and making his move at the right time. It was one big move at the end, and it was perfect.

"Ideally we were trying to sit right off the pace, hopefully, right there on the rail, but that didn't happen. I saw they were going :48 and I thought that wasn't fast enough. He had an awesome turn of foot and got up in time. In his first race he was on the lead, so we didn't know, but Todd was saying he was training great in Florida."

Far From Over completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.93 on a fast track to earn his second victory in as many starts for earnings of $186,000.

He returned $14.40, $4.20, and $2.60 at odds of 6-1, followed home by El Kabeir ($2.50, $2.10) and Classy Class ($2.40). Tencendur, March, and General Bellamy completed the order of finish. Unrivaled scratched.

John Terranova, trainer of Zayat Stables' El Kabeir, said the two-time graded stakes winner had little excuse for his loss at first blush. With the Jerome Stakes (gr. III) and Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) under his girth, El Kabeir still tops the leaderboard on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) having picked up another four points via the runner-up Withers finish. He now has 25 points.

"It looks like he pulled up fine. It's hard to say just yet. It looked like he had a great trip; sat in a perfect spot. He just got beat today," Terranova remarked. "The winner is one of those young 3-year-olds coming up with one start; he's bred to be any kind. It's hard to say what the difference was, whether he ran his race or this horse outran him.

"Looking ahead, we'll see how he comes out of this, talk it over with the Zayat family."


Constitution Wires Donn Handicap Over Lea

WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Constitution notched his second grade I victory Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park and made an impressive 4-year-old debut, taking the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) wire-to-wire while holding off 2014 Donn winner Lea (VIDEO).

The son of Tapit   broke sharply under Javier Castellano and set the pace of the 1 1/8-mile test under pressure from fellow Todd Pletcher trainee Commissioner before carrying on to secure the score by three-quarters of a length in 1:49.51 on a fast track.
"The horse dictated it," Castellano said. "He's a speed horse. He had a good post and I wanted to take advantage of that. It worked out perfect. I sent him out of the gate. My only concern was to break good out of the gate and get a good position. I didn't see much speed in the race. The horse was phenomenal and just galloped along. Turning for home, he just took off again. I liked the way he did it today."
Constitution won the 2014 Besilu Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream as part of an undefeated three-race win streak before he was sidelined with a hairline fracture in his right front cannon bone. He returned to competition Oct. 12 when fourth in an optional claimer at Belmont Park. The Donn was his first start of 2015 off a third-place finish in the Nov. 28 Clark Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
"It's exciting to have him back," said WinStar president Elliott Walden. "They were smoking early on. Right now we're looking to maybe take him to (the March 28) Dubai (World Cup, UAE-I). That's been an objective, but we'll see how he comes out of this race."
"I think his first race back (off a 6 1/2-month layoff) was trainer error; I didn't have him quite tight enough and he stumbled at the start and was a little rank," Pletcher remarked. "I thought he ran really well in the Clark over a track that probably wasn't conducive to his running style. Coming back to Gulfstream on a track that he's perfect on, we were optimistic but it was a very good field with the last year's Donn winner (Lea) who had a very impressive prep over the track. We were excited about him and happy he ran to his training."
Off alertly and extremely keen to go on from post 1 in a field of nine, Constitution got an opening quarter in :23.31 before relaxing better to post splits of :47.29 for the half, and three-quarters in 1:11.18. Lea, the 6-5 favorite who had been tracking along third on the rail, shifted outside to make a run at the leader coming off the far turn, but could not close the gap in his second start of the season for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
"He ran well," Mott said. "We were inside and had to wait until the three sixteenths pole to come out. If he could have taken a run at that horse a little sooner maybe that would have changed it, but he ran well. We had three-sixteenths of a mile to catch him and I thought actually at the eighth pole it looked like we were going to get him but he just didn't do it."
Constitution returned $7.60, $3.60, and $2.80 at odds of 5-2, with Lea paying $2.80 and $2.40. Elnaawi brought $6.40 while 4 1/4 lengths back in third. Prayer for Relief, East Hall, Commissioner, Blue Tone, Catholic Cowboy, and Protonico completed the order of finish. European invader Sloane Avenue scratched after grabbing a quarter Feb. 6. 
Constitution's victory added to an excellent day for Pletcher, who won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) with Mshawish, the Suwannee River (gr. IIIT) with Sandiva, and sent out the Withers Stakes (gr. III) winner, Far From Over, at Aqueduct Racetrack for an impressive score on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"It was a great day, we were blessed," Pletcher said. "Last Sunday, when a lot of these horses worked, we thought we'd have a pretty strong hand coming in, and it worked out."
Bred by Grapestock LLC & Fox Hill Farms out of the Distorted Humor   mare Baffled, Constitution improved his record to four wins and a third from six career starts for earnings of $1,004,096, with all four victories earned at Gulfstream Park. He was a $400,000 purchase by Twin Creeks from the Vinery Sales consignment at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. 
"One of the reasons he didn't run between the Clark and this race was that we wanted a fresh horse for the rest of the year," Pletcher remarked.         


Pletcher's Big Year Ends With Seventh Eclipse

letcher's Big Year Ends With Seventh Eclipse

Pletcher's Big Year Ends With Seventh Eclipse Photo: Coglianese Photos
Todd Pletcher

Trainer Todd Pletcher is on another Eclipse Award win streak.

Pletcher secured his second straight Eclipse as outstanding trainer in ceremonies Saturday, Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park and his seventh outstanding trainer award overall. He previously won four straight Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer from 2004-2007 before securing his fifth such honor in 2010 and a record sixth last year.

In 2014, Pletcher led North American-based trainers in purse earnings at $22,476,736 and ranked sixth in total wins with 240. Pletcher horses won nine grade I races in 2014, led by Palace Malice in the Metropolitan Handicap, Danza in the Arkansas Derby, and Constitution in the Besilu Florida Derby.

Other grade I winners included Stopchargingmaria in the Alabama Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks, Daredevil in the Champagne Stakes, Carpe Diem in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity, Competitive Edge in the Hopeful Stakes, and Angela Renee in the Chandelier Stakes.

The season also saw Pletcher reach a career milestone when he moved into first place on the all-time purse earnings list. Pletcher, who worked as an assistant to tacing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas before going out on his own, passed his former mentor, who of course is also still active.

"I think it's a product of inflation, to be honest, and I don't think anybody is going to match Wayne's accomplishments in this business," Pletcher said when he reached the mark in the spring. "That said, it's still a satisfying milestone for the team and a record to be proud of."

In the summer, Pletcher won a stakes race for the 1,000th time, joining Lukas as the only two North American trainers to reach that milestone.

Voting (Only first-place votes from members of the consolidated voting entities: National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters):

Todd Pletcher, 100; Chad Brown, 64; Art Sherman, 45; Bob Baffert, 20; Graham Motion, 13; Jerry Hollendorfer, 11; Steve Asmussen, 6; D. Wayne Lukas, 3; Karl Broberg, 1; Edward Graham, 1; Mike Maker, 1.

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