After this weekend, trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t just hold a hot hand of Kentucky Derby prospects, but a smoking one.
One Liner was the first Pletcher trainee to get his picture taken in a Derby prep, when he surged home an impressive winner in the Southwest Stakes. The race gave him 10 points towards a start in the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. The Pletcher camp is considering a plethora of potential starts for his final prep, with the Wood Memorial, the Florida Derby, and the Blue Grass Stakes as the major players.
A few weeks later, Tapwrit broke through by gaining 50 points towards a start in the Kentucky Derby, after winning a McCraken-less Tampa Bay Derby. He won Tampa Bay’s premier Derby prep by over four lengths, while breaking the stakes record.
This past Saturday, Pletcher’s dynamic duo became a terrific trio when Malagacy, the undefeated and unchallenged son of Shackleford, invaded Oaklawn Park to win the Rebel Stakes impressively. Coming into the Rebel, Malagacy only had two sprint races to his credit, and would be stretching from seven furlongs to a mile and one sixteenth.
In the Rebel, Malagacy would face one of the largest, most experienced, most contentious Kentucky Derby preps assembled in 2017. Despite this, he still ran a very impressive race, overcoming his much more experienced foes to win decisively.
What is more impressive, was the fact that he was the only horse who was part of the early pace scenario to stick around late.
The leading group was comprised of four horses, Malagacy, Uncontested, Petrov, and Royal Mo. Petrov, finished second best of the four, coming in fourth, two lengths behind Malagacy. Uncontested, who led during the opening six furlongs, faded to finish 10 ¼ lengths behind in eighth, while Royal Mo (third or fourth during the open six furlongs) also faded badly, finishing 11 ½ lengths back in ninth.
Malagacy, despite sitting the closest to Uncontested throughout the race, was not only able to outlast the rest of his competition, despite having much less foundation, but was able to kick clear. The son of Shackleford, after completing his fourth quarter in roughly 25 and 2/5, re-broke to record his final 1/16 miles in 6.20 seconds.
Where Malagacy will race next is uncertain, especially when considering Pletcher is also juggling the schedules of Tapwrit, One Liner, and the highly regarded Battlion Runner. However, what is certain is that Malagacy is a legitimate contender, and has given Todd Pletcher the hottest hand of any trainer aiming for the 2017 Kentucky Derby.