This year's G1 Donn Handicap drew a field of ten salty runners, with four entrants being Grade 1 winners and three more entrants being Grade 1 placed. With the exception of being made the 114 pound low weight and entering the race as fresh as a daisy, Graydar had the odds stacked against him. The first strike against him was the fact that he was the most inexperienced in the field. Hand-in-hand with the first strike was strike two, the fact that he had no previous graded stakes experience. The field also had a healthy dose of speed, the third strike against the flashy gray Todd Pletcher trainee. Of course, no one bothered to give Graydar the memo that he was up against it in the Donn.
Instead of being intimidated by all the Grade 1 experience in the field, Graydar strode out on the track full of confidence and quickly dispatched the classy field. Under the equally confident Edgar Prado, Graydar broke alertly and used his natural speed to go straight to the lead from post position four. West Coast hard hitter Ultimate Eagle went with him from the adjacent slot five, but when Ultimate Eagle backed up, Graydar kept going...and going...and going. Despite Bourbon Courage's best efforts, the race was done as the field entered the stretch. There was no catching Graydar as he pulled away to win by an easy three lengths. The Unbridled's Song colt completed the 9 furlong race in a zippy 1.48:25, less than a second off the track record.
Second place finisher Bourbon Courage gave it all he had, but his dazzling charge down the middle of the track was just not enough to catch speedy Graydar. Today's runner up finish ran Bourbon Courage's on the board streak to five, all in grade 2 and grade 1 races. Take Charge Indy, who was part of the pace once Ultimate Eagle gave way, saved the show.
No plans have been made for Graydar's next race. As with most of his charges, Todd Pletcher intends to play it by ear.
Michael Pender, trainer of Ultimate Eagle, in a post race statement said that Ultimate Eagle had grabbed a quarter. Though he was bleeding profusely, there appeared to be no structural damage.
One race prior to the Donn also found Todd Pletcher in the winner's circle as his improving Channel Lady turned the tables on Hard Not to Like and wired the Suwannee field. Last out in the 8.5 furlong Marshua's River, Hard Not to Like found racing room on the rail in the stretch and passed pace-setting Frontside to the inside while Channel Lady passed the leader on the outside. That day Hard Not to Like crossed the wire first, but Channel Lady was having none of that today. Rather than sitting off the pace, Channel Lady broke on top and dictated the race from start to finish.
Making her own pace proved to be quite beneficial for the English Channel filly. With no other speed in the race, Channel Lady, under Javier Castellano, was able to leisurely stroll through fractions of 25:13 and 50:21. The slow pace was particularly advantageous in holding off the late charging Abaco and Inglorious. Despite finishing third by a scant nose, Inglorious ran the most impressive race in the field. Trailing throughout, the Canadian champion was forced to swing wide in order to commence her rally. At the wire, she was charging hard for home but just could not overcome the slow pace and wide run.
Though Pletcher is confident that Channel Lady will be able to run longer when asked, he is seriously considering turning back to a mile for next month's Honey Fox.