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Pletcher Loaded for Travers With Palace Malice & Verrazano

After sweeping both major preps for the Grade 1, $1 million Travers over the weekend, trainer Todd Pletcher looks to have a pretty strong hand for the 144th "Mid-Summer Derby" on August 24, the centerpiece of Saratoga Race Course's 150th anniversary season.


Pletcher was back in Saratoga on Monday morning after saddling Verrazano to a record-setting 9 ¾-length victory in Sunday's Grade 1, $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park. On Saturday, Palace Malice followed up his impressive Belmont Stakes victory in June with an emphatic triumph in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.


"We're fortunate to have two such outstanding colts," Pletcher said. "You hate to run horses against each other from the same barn, but in this case I think it's the logical case for both horses and both owners. We'll see how they both come back and both train, but right now it certainly looks like they're likely to show up in the Travers."


Pletcher won the Travers with Flower Alley in 2005 and Stay Thirsty in 2011. Verrazano returned to Pletcher's Saratoga barn Monday morning. 


"He shipped back great and looks really good this morning," Pletcher said. "It was a powerful performance. The Pegasus, with the misfortune of Itsmyluckyday getting hurt, kind of left everyone not knowing how well he ran. I think he put any questions about that to rest yesterday."


Pletcher won four stakes over the weekend, including the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam with Forty Tales and the $100,000 Sir Cat with Winning Cause, both Sunday at Saratoga. Forty Tales is likely to come back in the Grade 1, $500,000 Foxwood King's Bishop on the Travers undercard.


"It was a great weekend. We're blessed to have some pretty talented horses," Pletcher said. "[Forty Tales] has really found his niche. He's a tough little horse that keeps delivering one good performance after another.


"Winning Cause ran very well," he added. "We started him on the turf here last year because we thought he showed improvement when we breezed him over the turf. His first two starts, maybe he just needed a little time to get it together. That was a good effort for him yesterday."


One of the many horses Pletcher breezed on Monday was multiple Grade 1 winner Shanghai Bobby, the Two-Year-Old Male Champion of 2012 who was timed in 38.95 seconds for three furlongs by NYRA clockers on the main track.


Owned by Starlight Partners, Shanghai Bobby has been out of action since being diagnosed with a slight pelvic stress fracture following his fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 30. He returned to light training after a June 4 ultrasound exam of the area came back clean.


"It was his first work back, and it went very well," Pletcher said. "It was just an easy three-eighths. It was nice to get him back on the work tab. He went just nice and easy by himself, just getting him back into a routine. He did exactly what we were hoping he would do, and seemed to handle it well."


Shanghai Bobby won all five of his starts in 2012, including the Hopeful at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park and the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. He is 0-for-2 this year, also finishing second in the Grade 2 Holy Bull.


"Now, we'll kind of start to pick it up gradually as we go along," Pletcher said. "Basically, he'll be on a weekly work schedule from here, but I don't see him making a race here at Saratoga."




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