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Pletcher barn well-represented in Big A's opening weekend stakes

By NYRA Press Office | 10/28/2013 10:56 AM ET
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

  • Pletcher barn well-represented in Big A's opening weekend stakes
  • Wedding Toast confirmed for G3 Comely off Friday overnight stakes victory; Cairo Prince aiming for G2 Nashua on Sunday
  • Mr Palmer returns to New York for G3 Discovery 'Cap
  • Wicked Strong possible for G2 Remsen following Saturday maiden win
  • Final round of works for Belmont-based Breeders' Cup contenders

Although he will be in California for the Breeders' Cup, trainer Todd Pletcher will have a strong presence in all three graded stakes during opening weekend at the Big A.

A trio of 3-year-olds will represent the Pletcher barn for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Discovery Handicap, headed by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Battier, most recently third behind winner Will Take Charge and Moreno in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on September 21. The Tale of the Cat colt rallied four wide from seventh to come within a half-length of Will Take Charge in the stretch but flattened out and was beaten 2 ½ lengths. His effort earned him a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

"He gave us a thrill for a moment there," said Pletcher of Battier, who previously had finished fourth in the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx and third in the off-the-turf Grade 3 Hall of Fame at Saratoga Race Course. "I thought that race was excellent. He's a horse who is maturing. He's always trained impressively so we thing he has a big race in him."

Also pointing to the 1 1/8-mile Discovery for Pletcher are a pair of Repole Stable runners: Midnight Taboo, beaten a head by Vegas No Show in the Coastal overnight stakes on October 9 at Belmont, and Micromanage, most recently fourth in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby on October 5.

Sunday's Grade 2, $250,000 Nashua at a mile will see the Pletcher-trained Intense Holiday, fifth in the Grade 1 Foxwoods Champagne behind winning stablemate Havana, and Master Lightning, winner of a 1 1/16-mile maiden race on October 5 for owner Alan Cook. The Grade 3, $250,000 Tempted for juvenile fillies is the target for Starlight Racing's Potosi's Silver, a 6 ¼-length maiden winner on September 22, and Repole Stable's Stopchargingmaria, second in the Grade 1 Spinaway and third in the Grade 1 Frizette.

"Intense Holiday just missed fourth in the Champagne, and this will be a little class relief for him," said Pletcher said of the Starlight Stable color-bearer. "Potosi's Silver seemed to handle her last assignment well so we'll see how she handles the stretch out in distance. Stopchargingmaria has run well every time, and this should suit her."

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Wedding Toast will attempt to emulate her stablemate Dance Card when she makes her graded stakes debut in the Grade 3, $400,000 Comely for 3-year-old fillies on the Cigar Mile Handicap undercard on November 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Last year, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner Godolphin Racing captured the Grade 1 Gazelle for sophomore fillies on the Cigar Mile undercard with Dance Card, who extended her winning streak to four and picked up her first graded stakes victory. Although the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle has been replaced by the one-mile Comely, McLaughlin and Godolphin hope history repeats with Wedding Toast, who has won three straight, including a 3 ½-length score in the Belle Cherie overnight stakes on Friday.

"A very nice filly," said McLaughlin of Wedding Toast, a daughter of Street Sense. "She's similar to Dance Card: she finished second [in her debut] and now she has won her next three, so, hopefully, she can keep going."

Wedding Toast raced under the Godolphin banner for the first time in the Belle Cherie. In her previous start, she won an optional claimer by 14 ½ lengths in September at Belmont for Darley Stable.

"When you win by 14, you got to go blue!" said McLaughlin of Wedding Toast's switch from Darley to Godolphin.

On opening weekend at Aqueduct, McLaughlin will be represented by Paul Braverman and Namecook Stables' Cairo Prince in the Grade 2, $250,000 Nashua for 2-year-olds. Darley's Divided Attention is possible for the Grade 3, $250,000 Tempted for juvenile fillies. Both the Nashua and the Tempted will be contested at one mile on Sunday.

Cairo Prince has made one start, showing early speed and going on to break his maiden by 2 ¾ lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight on October 6 at Belmont.

"He's ready to go," said McLaughlin. "Nice horse. This is a big step up from a maiden win, but it seems like we do that all of the time with the young ones. He should get the distance. He's doing well and worked well this morning (four furlongs on the training track in 48.90 seconds)."

McLaughlin said the complexion of the Tempted field will determine whether Divided Attention competes on Sunday.

"We might run, but we're really pointing for the Demoiselle [Grade 2, $400,000, 1 1/8 miles, November 30, Aqueduct]," said McLaughlin. "She's here and we'll look at it, but if [more horses] enter, then we might wait until the Demoiselle."

*           *           *

Arriving at Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's barn this morning from Kentucky for Saturday's Grade 3 Discovery Handicap is Mr Palmer, last seen in New York finishing fourth behind winner Verrazano in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Subsequently given time off, the Pulpit colt returned to action on October 5 at Indiana Downs, where he finished seventh over a sloppy, sealed track in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby.

"He ran well in the Wood, but he needed time after that; it took a lot out of him, " said Mott's assistant, Leana Willaford. "The Indiana Derby wasn't ideal; he caught a very mucky racetrack. The horse had been training well for [assistant Kenny] McCarthy, who's been very happy with him."

Winless at two, Mr Palmer broke his maiden on the inner track at the Big A on February 17 and next took the Private Terms at Laurel Park. Overall, he is 2-1-1 from nine starts.

*           *           *

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens expressed satisfaction with Wicked Strong's two-length victory in a Saturday maiden special weight, adding that the 2-year-old could make his next start in the Grade 2, $400,000 Remsen at 1 1/8 miles on November 30 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

"I think we'll eventually go to Florida, but we might entertain the thought of running in the Remsen," said Jerkens. "We'll have to see. We'll make a decision in the next week or so."

Wicked Strong, owned by Centennial Farms, had finished second by 5 ½ lengths in his only other start, a six-furlong maiden special weight contested in the slop on September 21 at Belmont. Trying a dry track and stretching out to one mile on Saturday, the Hard Spun colt raced in fifth behind an opening quarter-mile in 23.04 seconds before inching up along the outside to engage the leaders on the upper turn. In front coming into the stretch, he held sway while being chased home by a trio of pursuers, reaching the wire two lengths to the good of Cool Samurai.

"He had enough speed to lay pretty close," said Jerkens. "I wouldn't have minded if [jockey Javier Castellano] had sat there a little longer, but maybe it was the right move. He didn't do a thing wrong yesterday. He showed a little inclination to lug in during his works. He did it a little yesterday when he made the lead, but he was easily handled. I thought his race was perfect, really."

Jerkens said he expected Wicked Strong to improve off his debut race.

"I thought the mud didn't help him the first time," said Jerkens. "I thought he ran pretty gamely. He had a license to drop out of there as tight as it was and with all of the dirt he took. He had three good works since then, so we were pretty confident. He had acted all along that [route races] might be his thing. His work two back was a nice work around two turns on the training track (seven furlongs in 1:29.20), and I really liked the way he did it."

*           *           *

More than a dozen horses took to the track at Belmont Sunday morning for the final wave of works for next weekend's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park.

  • Sprint: The Lumber Guy, 4f, 48.68, training track
  • Turf: Point of Entry, 5f, 1:00.66, inner turf; Real Solution, 5f, 1:01.14, inner turf; Big Blue Kitten, 5f, 1:01.14, inner turf; Twilight Eclipse, 5f, 1:01.65, main track
  • F&M Turf: Alterite, 4f, 48.35, inner turf
  • Classic: Palace Malice, 48.12, training track
  • Juvenile: Havana, 4f, 49.11, training track
  • Juvenile Fillies: Artemis Agrotera, 5f, 1:01.44, training track
  • Dirt Mile: Hymn Book, 4f, 49.03, main track
  • Juvenile Fillies Turf: Granny Mc's Kitten, 49.81, inner turf; Kitten Kaboodle, 4f, 48.60, inner turf; Testa Rossi, 48.91, inner turf; Ready to Act, 4f, 48.60, inner turf
  • Juvenile Turf: Bobby's Kitten, 4f, 50.03, inner turf