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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Comings, Goings and Musings on Pletcher's Lack of G1s

At Saratoga, Xtra Heat’s 2-year-old daughter Elusive Heat worked a sparkling 47:48 (4/56) 4f on Monday in anticipation of her first start under trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. I know I’m not the only person interested to see if she has the same blazing speed as her dam. According to the condition book, the upcoming maiden special weight races for 2-year-old fillies are scheduled for August 1 (5f), August 3 (6.5f), August 7 (5.5f), and August 10 (6f), so I’ll be keeping my eyes out for her debut.

Also currently at Saratoga is Bsharpsonata, recently transferred from Tim Salzman to Todd Pletcher, a somewhat disappointing move in my estimation—but, then again, I’m not her owner. Maybe they see it differently, but I’m not feeling “love of Todd” right now. Sure, he’s still number 2 on the top trainers’ earnings list nationwide, behind Steve Asmussen, and he’s winning at a respectable 21% clip, but it’s nearly the end of July and The Toddster has won exactly 1 (ONE) G1 stakes race in 2008 (Monba in the Blue Grass). If CloverLeaf Farm II’s desire is to get a G1 for her, I’m not sure Pletcher’s the man—this year. I know he’s overly-blessed in the filly department this year, but Larry Jones might be my first choice. Or McLaughlin.

Why the decline in G1 winners for Pletcher this year? In addition to retirements of his top horses (Rags to Riches, English Channel, Octave, etc) and a weak 3-year-old crop, it might have something to do with his NY assistant Seth Benzel leaving in March to start his own racing stable. I don’t know…maybe someone else has an explanation. Regardless, in a year when Europe’s super trainer Aidan O’Brien has already won 15 Group One races (and looks to take numbers 16 and 17 this week with Henrythenavigator in the Sussex and one of five promising entries in the Nassau), the stoic Pletcher looks all-too-human these days.

Speaking of Larry Jones, his new trainee Kodiak Kowboy did well on Monday, winning the G2 Amsterdam over Desert Key. I’m not sure how much of a threat Fidelio might have been if he hadn’t stumbled so badly coming out of the gate, but there were lots of reasons to like Kodiak Kowboy—including his G2 Saratoga Special victory last year, and his most recent second-place finish to G2 Jim Dandy winner Macho Again in the Derby Trial. And while Desert Key has been working out extremely well, that monstrous 3f work on Friday really concerned me—33.81 over a muddy Saratoga track, nearly 2.5 seconds faster than the nearest runner. That late blistering work might have been why Desert Key couldn’t hold off Kodiak Kowboy at the end.

Finally, a big shout-out to Channing Hill who had a BIG day at Saratoga on Monday, with two big-priced winners—Unflagging ($62.50) in race 6, and Over Forli ($41.20) in race 8. Along with Cornelio Velasquez’s ride of Donna’s Sandee ($21.60) in race 7, and Mike Luzzi’s two winners, Arrrrr ($11.40) in race 2 and Cagey Girl ($47.60) in race 4, it appeared a good day for longshots.


Superfecta said...

Arrrrr finally won? That's piratically tremendous!

Winston said...

I have a theory but for some odd reason I can't get anyone to get in on it with me.

Ever notice how you never see Pletcher and O'Brien in the same place at the same time? That's because they are the same person. Pletcher/O'Brien is doing all of his Group I cleaning up across the pond and as soon as he breaks his own record, he is going to come back here and sweep the Breeder's Cup card.

You can say you read it here first.