Oct 10, 2019
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Francesca LeDonne Photo

Pletcher maps out plan of attack for Breeders' Cup

by NYRA Press Office

  • Breeders' Cup decision on Bricks and Mortar still pending; Brown welcomes Group 1 winner Without Parole to the shedrow
  • Goldwood goes for sixth straight win in Floral Park
  • Hennig finding success with juvenile runners; Bourbon War probable for English Channel
  • Four Wheel Drive on the road to the Breeders' Cup

Trainer Todd Pletcher, a 10-time winner at the Breeders' Cup, will look to add to those totals when the prestigious two-day event is held at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California in November.

Heading the seven-time Eclipse Award winner's contingent is Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso, who was demoted to second for interference after crossing the wire first in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 28 at Belmont . His lone victory at such caliber took place in May when he captured the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.

The 4-year-old chestnut son of Curlin will look to give Pletcher his first victory in the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic. His best finish in the 1 ¼-mile event took place in 2005, the last time the event was held in New York, when Flower Alley finished a length behind Saint Liam.

On Wednesday, Pletcher sent Robert and Lawanna Low's Sweet Melania to Keeneland, where she gave her freshman sire, 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, a second North American graded stakes winner with a victory in the Grade 2 Jessamine, a "Win and You're In" event offering a berth in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Guided by Jose Ortiz, the chestnut juvenile filly set moderate fractions up front and drew off to win by 5 ½ lengths.

Pletcher said he will plan on sending Sweet Melania to the Breeders' Cup.

"That's the current plan," said Pletcher, who won the 2010 Juvenile Fillies Turf with More Than Real. "I would hope that she could come back to a similar performance. It's only 23 days between races, but assuming she's doing well that was our hope going in. I thought it was a very impressive performance. She seemed to handle the course there well. She seemed to be always travelling strongly and when she turned for home she found another gear."

A $600,000 acquisition from the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Sweet Melania was bred in Kentucky by St. Elias Stable and is out of the stakes-winning Discreet Cat broodmare Sweet N Discreet - a full-sister to graded stakes winner Discreet Dancer.

Pletcher said Sweet Melania would remain in training at Keeneland before shipping to Santa Anita.

"With the short turnaround, we won't do much in between. We'll keep her there and go straight to Santa Anita," Pletcher said.

This past weekend, Pletcher saddled NK Racing's Freewheeler to a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Futurity over the Widener turf course at Belmont Park. The New York-bred son of City Zip graduated first out against his Empire State-bred counterpart at Saratoga by 5 ¼ lengths before finishing three lengths in arrears of Four Wheel Drive in the six-furlong Futurity - a "Win And You're In" for the Grade 2, $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, which Pletcher won last year with Bulletin in its inaugural running.

Pletcher said that he would point Freewheeler to the Juvenile Turf Sprint, but expressed some concerns about getting into the race.

"I imagine it'll be a popular race," said Pletcher. "I don't imagine finishing second in a "Win and You're In" race is good enough to get him in, but we'll pre enter and find out."

Should he make the gate, Freewheeler would be cutting back in distance from six to five furlongs.

"He broke his maiden at five-and-a-half [furlongs]. It seemed like he might appreciate a firmer turf course than he got the other day, but we'll see," Pletcher said. "It was only his second start so hopefully we get another move forward in him."

Bred in New York by John Lauriello, Freewheeler was bought for $430,000 from the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in March.

Graded stakes winner Channel Cat emerged from a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in good order and will target the Grade 1, $4 million Breeders' Cup Turf for Calumet Farm.

Pletcher won the 2007 Turf with English Channel, the sire of Channel Cat.

"I spoke to [Calumet Farms General Manager] Eddie Kane and they would like to go to the Breeders' Cup Turf, so we plan on that," Pletcher said.

Three starts back, Channel Cat secured a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga, where he garnered a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure. A two-time non-graded stakes winner during his sophomore campaign last year, Channel Cat was twice third against Grade 1 company, most recently in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga two starts back.

Pletcher said Group 2 Godolphin Mile winner Coal Front will target the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for Robert La Penta and Head of Plains Partners.

A three-quarter length winner of the Pax Dirt Mile last out, the son of Stay Thirsty has won five graded stakes but will target his first Grade 1 triumph in the Dirt Mile, which Pletcher won in 2015 with Liam's Map.

Gouverneur Morris will not make the trip to Santa Anita for the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile following a strong runner-up finish to Maxfield as the favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. He has been turned out at WinStar Farm where he will remain before joining Pletcher's winter contingent at Palm Beach Downs with the Kentucky Derby trail in mind. He garnered four points toward the 'Run for the Roses' from the Breeders' Futurity.

Owned by WinStar Farm in partnership with Team Valor, Gouverneur Morris, a gray or roan juvenile by freshman sire Constitution, was a nine-length winner on debut at Saratoga prior to the Breeders' Futurity.

"He's at WinStar now and he'll get a little break there. I'm not sure how many days but I'm sure by the end of the year he'll be back with us at Palm Beach Downs," Pletcher said. "I felt that was in his best interest moving forward towards the spring. Since we weren't committed to the Breeders' Cup, giving him a break was a smart move."

Pletcher, who saddled subsequent Champion 2-Year-Olds Uncle Mo (2010) and Shanghai Bobby (2012), will likely not have a starter in this year's Juvenile.

Highly consistent Social Paranoia, who won the Dueling Grounds Derby at Kentucky Downs last out, has been given some down time at Fair Hill.

Owned by Stuart Grant's The Elkstone Group, the sophomore son of Street Boss has never finished worse than fourth in 11 career starts, including a close runner-up finish to Henley's Joy in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational.

"We gave him a bit of a turnout after that race at Kentucky Downs," Pletcher said. "We don't have any firm plans, just giving him a little freshening. He's a horse that could have a big 4-year-old year if things fall into place. He's another that could handle a range of distances from a mile up to a mile-and-a-half."

Pletcher also stated that Life's a Parlay, who has not raced since winning the Grade 3 Excelsior in April at Aqueduct, will likely join his base at Palm Beach Downs in the near future to prepare for a return to action.

Life's a Parlay is owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable and has never finished off the board in six starts over four different surfaces.

Paul Pompa's Alpha Sixty Six, fifth in the Grade 1 Champagne, will likely train up to the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen on December 7 at Aqueduct. However, Pletcher did not rule out a start in the Grade 3, 150,000 Nashua on November 3 at the Big A.

"We talked about going straight to the Remsen. I think he'll appreciate a mile and an eighth," Pletcher said.

Pletcher has saddled Bluegrass Cat (2005) and Overanalyze (2012) to victory in the Remsen.

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Breeders' Cup decision on Bricks and Mortar still pending; Brown welcomes Group 1 winner Without Parole to the shedrow

Trainer Chad Brown is still on the fence regarding where Bricks and Mortar, a four-time Grade 1-winning Horse of the Year contender, will make his next start.

Owned by Seth Klarman's Klaravich Stable in partnership with William H. Lawrence, the 5-year-old Giant's Causeway dark bay will race in either the Breeders' Cup Mile or the Breeders' Cup Turf. Both events are slated for November 3 at Santa Anita.

Bricks and Mortar made an appearance on the Sunday morning work tab going five furlongs in 1:01.76 over the Widener turf.

"He worked great, it was one of his best works yet," Brown said.

Unbeaten in five starts this year, Bricks and Mortar kicked off his season with a victory in the inaugural edition of the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf besting six Grade/Group 1 winners. From there, he was a narrow winner of the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds before winning a trio of Grade 1 events in the Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, Manhattan at Belmont and the Arlington Million at Arlington Park, the latter of which is a "Win And You're In" event for the Turf which Brown, a 12-time Breeders' Cup winner, has yet to win.

Bred in Kentucky by George Strawbridge Jr., Bricks and Mortar is out of the Ocean Crest broodmare Beyond the Waves and was purchased for $200,000 from the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Brown recently welcomed Group 1 winner Without Parole to his contingent. The 4-year-old bay son of world champion Frankel has recorded a quintet of works, most recently going five furlongs in 1:03.55 over the Widener turf on Sunday.

"I would like to see one more work before deciding on a next start," Brown said.

Owned by John and Tanya Gunther, Without Parole has not won since besting grouped stakes winners Gustav Klimt and Wootton in the Group 1 St. James's Palace last June at Royal Ascot for former trainer John Gosden. He last raced when finishing last of 14 in the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge in May at Newbury, a race won by Mustashry.

"It made sense for us to bring him to the U.S. where the turf is generally firmer," said Tanya Gunther. "Chad has been happy with him and we'll run when the horse is ready and when Chad feels he's at his best. We aren't going to rush him into anything that comes up too quickly."

Gunther is hoping for a productive North American campaign for Without Parole.

"We hope to bring him back to form and accomplish more for him," Gunther said. "Obviously he's a Group 1 winner and it would be nice to add another before he goes off to his stallion career."

A Great Britain homebred, Without Parole is out of the Lemon Drop Kid broodmare Without You Babe, who is a half-sister to 2016 Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz.

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Goldwood goes for sixth straight win in Floral Park

Colts Neck Stables' Goldwood has done no wrong in her last five starts against stakes company and will be taking her talents to Belmont Park on Saturday for the $100,000 Floral Park over the Widener turf.

Trained by Jorge Duarte, Jr., the Medaglia d'Oro homebred arrives at the six-furlong turf sprint off of a win at Laurel Park in the Sensible Lady Turf Dash over fellow Floral Park aspirant Fire Key. Prior to her half-length victory in that start, she won four straight turf stakes sprints at Monmouth Park.

Her lone loss this season was in her 2019 debut when finishing third in Gulfstream Park's Captiva Island to Samara and multiple stakes winner Morticia.

Goldwood was cross entered in Keeneland's Grade 3 Buffalo Trace Franklin County on Friday, but Duarte said he will likely opt for the Floral Park.

"We're leaning toward Belmont," Duarte said. "I just hope that there is no more rain for the next few days. As long as it stays clear we will run there for sure. She tends to like the turf firm. She won over a good turf at Monmouth [in the Incredible Revenge on August 10] but she prefers it to be firm."

Duarte was impressed with her last out effort in the Sensible Lady Turf Dash, noting that the Laurel Park turf was not favoring speed.

He also said that the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita is a possibility with a good effort.

"At Laurel, the bias was against speed and she fought right through it which was nice," Duarte said. "We added up the possible contenders, with World of Trouble now retiring, and I don't know if we'll get in since we won a lot of [non-graded] stakes. We hope for a good performance and [the Breeders' Cup] is on the radar."

Veteran rider Jose Ferrer will pilot Goldwood, who leaves from post 6 as the 7-5 morning-line favorite.

A winner of eight lifetime starts, Goldwood is out of the Rahy broodmare Crimson Maple, a half-sister to nine-time Grade 1 winning Hall of Famer Sky Beauty. She also comes from the same family as European champion Dayjur.

While Goldwood seeks a sixth straight win, her stablemate Misericordia goes for her first triumph at such caliber. Third to Goldwood two starts back in the Unbridled Elaine at Monmouth Park, the 5-year-old Dansili mare acquired graded stakes black type last out in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters, where she went off at 63-1 odds and finished two lengths behind Hotshot Anna.

Unplaced in four starts over the turf at Belmont Park, Misericordia was sixth in the License Fee in April finishing 4 ½ lengths to Fire Key over a yielding turf, which Duarte said was not in her favor.

"She got unlucky that day when it was soft," Duarte said. "She doesn't really like the turf soft either. She has all the talent to win a stake but she just hasn't got it all together quite yet."

Misericordia, who seeks her first win since last October at Laurel Park, will be guided by Manny Franco.

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Hennig finding success with juvenile runners; Bourbon War probable for English Channel

Picking up a pair of maiden wins last Saturday - and increasing his win total to six victories from 28 starters for the Belmont Fall meet - conditioner Mark Hennig said he hopes to continue his success with maidens, which have accounted for four victories this meet.

Hennig saddled 2-year-old colt Sonneman and juvenile filly Maedean to respective mile victories for Courtlandt Farms on Saturday and said Belmont was the perfect place for each to blossom.

Purchased for $375,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Sonneman broke his maiden stretching out to a mile at Belmont, recording an 83 Beyer Speed Figure in his third start following an eight-place debut going 5 ½ furlongs at Saratoga Race Course on July 27. He followed by posting a second-place finish at seven furlongs at the Spa on August 31.

Maedean, a daughter of Tapit bought for $450,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, broke her maiden coming off a fourth-place finish on September 8 at Belmont.

"The Belmont Fall meet has given us more of an opportunity to stretch our horses out," Hennig said. "When we go to sales, that's mostly what we look for: younger horses who can go long and you don't get a chance to run a one-turn mile in Saratoga. [At Belmont], we're happy our younger runners have been able to stretch out and have done so successfully during this meet."

Hennig also picked up maiden wins with Americanus, a 2-year-old son of War Front for Courtlandt Farms who won his debut on September 28 at Belmont, and homebred Seidman Stables' English Humor, an English Channel gelding who broke his maiden on the turf making his fourth start and first at Belmont.

"Americanus and English Humor have returned to the track and Sonneman and Maedean should get back to resuming training this week as well," said Hennig. "We'll look to map out a plan for each from here but we're happy knowing we successfully got their first step out of the way."

Hennig also reported that Bourbon Lane Stable's graded stakes placed 3-year-old Bourbon War exited his seventh-place finish in last Saturday's Grade 2 Hill Prince in good order and would look to regroup targeting another start on the turf in the $100,000 English Channel for 3-year-olds on October 26.

"He came out of the race well," said Hennig. "Unfortunately, he didn't get the best of trips, but he wasn't breathing heavy and came back in good order, so we'll look to possible target the English Channel from here."

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Four Wheel Drive on the road to the Breeders' Cup

Four Wheel Drive, trained by Wesley Ward for Breeze Easy [Mike Hall and Sam Ross], powered by the competition to win Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Futurity at Belmont, earning an all-expenses paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on November 1 at Santa Anita.

The talented son of Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah settled off a swift early tempo set by Jack and Noah before Irad Ortiz, Jr. put the pedal to the metal and raced off to a three-length win.

Ward said Four Wheel Drive, who on debut in the Rosie's on August 31 at Colonial Downs, could contend for both the one-mile Juvenile Turf and five-furlong Juvenile Turf Sprint.

"He's a really nice colt. He's undefeated, 2-for-2 both being stakes. One graded," said Ward. "I'm going to talk it over with the owners to see which direction they want to go whether it be a mile - and being by American Pharoah that shouldn't be an issue - or if we'll center in on the sprint.

"It looked like he settled real nice [in the Futurity] and he kicked on well," added Ward. "They are wonderful guys who own him, Mike and Sam, and they've put a lot of money into the game. It's nice for them to have a really good horse. We're going to try and get as many (into the Breeders' Cup) as we can and may the best horse win. Hopefully, it's one of mine."

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