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Breeders Cup 2015
Kentucky Derby 2017

Pletcher to Play a Heavy Hand in the Champagne

In all three of his Champagne Stakes wins Todd Pletcher trotted out talented horses with very bright futures. What he also proved in two of those victories is that his horses didn’t need a stakes race to prepare for this prestigious Breeders’ Cup Juvenile prep.
In 2004, his first Champagne victory, Todd Pletcher joined jockey John Velazquez with his 2-yr-old colt Proud Accolade in the winner’s circle. The Florida bred colt kept things lively coming off back to back wins at Saratoga, a MSW and Allowance, before taking out a field of eight in his Graded Stakes debut.
In 2010, the highly regarded Uncle Mo came storming out of his opening MSW to win again in impressive fashion. The win officially got the Champagne flowing after he and John Velazquez cleared the nearest challenger by 4 ¾.
That’s the brief on the two non-graded stakes entries that popped the cork but there’s also the Graded Stakes tested colt that displayed his experience en route to scoring Pletcher’s second Champagne in 2006. Scat Daddy carried two Saratoga Stakes under his belt, a win in the G2 Samford followed by a 2nd in the G1 Hopeful. From there Scat Daddy and guess who took down another Champagne field?
So here we are. Not only does Team Pletcher – Velazquez go again looking for their fourth title together but so does both types of Pletcher entries. Pletcher enters with a very strong hand of three contenders in the seven horse field but there is only one Johnny V. So, the other pair will have to make do but they should not be overlooked going into the G1 $400,000 Champagne Stakes.
Let’s begin with the horse that has been the most talked about so far. Obviously we’re going to be referring to a horse that has received such attention because he has a lot in common in with Scat Daddy, two stakes races. After scoring with ease in his MSW debut at Aqueduct, Shanghai Bobby, owned by Starlight Racing, was set for his first stakes race. The son of Harlan’s Holiday was probably carrying the most hype heading into the Track Barron Stakes at Belmont but he lived up to it and won again.
The electric start over races of 4 ½ and 5 ½ Furlongs put Shanghai Bobby in the spotlight where it was time to shine against Graded Stakes class for the very first time. Maybe he was the odds on favorite because he was paired with another Pletcher entry, Lawn Man, but it didn’t matter because the favorite won. The score in the 7 Furlong G2 Hopeful was a brilliant effort and certified him as a legitimate BC Juvenile contender as the win awarded him an automatic qualification.
The only question that remains for Shanghai Bobby in this his second Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series – “Win and You’re In” race is the distance factor. What solves that query for me is the length of time that it has been since his racing career began. More and more it’s common for BC Juvenile horses to be held out of racing until late summer or early fall whereas Shanghai Bobby began rather quickly. His first race was in April, followed by June and then August. There’s something about this progression that leads me to believe that he’s developed the legs for the distance and that Pletcher’s original plan is well underway. This however leads me to my only other question – can he beat his stable mates?
Both horses enter after notching maiden wins within two days of each other at Saratoga this summer. Yet, according to the Belmont Park odds maker Eric Donovan, there’s a big enough difference between them. ArchWarrior by Arch – Winner’s Edge by Seeking the Gold has been tabbed the ML favorite at 5/2. There’s always a horse in every Juvenile field that is going to receive high accolades on the morning line without much racing to support it. Usually it has everything to do with their connections or in Archwarrior’s case maybe it’s the monster of tag teams - Pletcher and Velazquez.
More so, it might be his final time in his 6 furlong debut followed by his works at Belmont Park. His winning time of 1:10.07 after being urged to the wire by hand was a very nice start. Since landing at Belmont it’s been a breeze – 5f @ 1:00.22 on 9/24 and 1:00.09 on 9/30.
I’m not sure if these factors alone give him enough to have earned the role of the Champagne favorite over Shanghai Bobby and Jockey Rosie Napravnik (3-1) but that can always change before they break from the post.
Rounding out Pletcher’s Trio is Micromanage, son of Medaglia D’Oro. Like Uncle Mo this colt is owned by Mike Repole who will be going for his second Champagne win. If you think Archwarrior’s first appearance was fast, Micromanage wasn’t too shabby either. Not only did he finish 7 furlongs in 1:23.01, he split through 6f in 1:10.72. If you like him you’re looking at a much better price on the ML: 5-1
My guess is that one of Pletcher’s three horses is going to prove that the 1 Mile distance was too much of a stretch at this point in their racing career. Secondly, for Archwarrior and Micromanage it’s almost mandatory that they crack the top three for me to believe that we’ll see them enter into the BC Juvenile.
As for the other four horses that round out the field there are two familiar faces that are looking to settle the score. Fortify returns after a 2nd place finish to Shanghai Bobby in the Hopeful and Bern Identity returns after finishing 3rd. The difference between these two promising Juvenile’s is where they’re header after the Champagne. It’s been speculated that Bern Identity is more likely to enter the BC Juvenile Sprint while Fortify looks destined for the Juvenile. But something tells me that like all Stakes races with BC implications at this point in the calendar, nothing will be decided until the chips fall where they may on Saturday.
After a disappointing second place finish with Know More in the FrontRunner Stakes, Doug O’Neil heads east in attempt to score his first BC Juvenile automatic qualifier this year. There are high expectations for Goldencents, a lightly raced youngster as well. Coming off his Maiden win and only start he showed enough to meet Shanghai Bobby at 3-1 on the ML and become the co-second choice. There has been speculation that this colt may be better than Know More so it will be interesting to see him match up against this talented field.

Chief Havoc rounds out the field as the expected long shot but he still deserves a good look especially for any exotic plays. Here is the field for Saturday’s Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. 


PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Goldencents (KY) K Krigger D F O'Neill 3-1
2 Shanghai Bobby (KY) R Napravnik T A Pletcher 3-1
3 Chief Havoc (KY) C H Velasquez J Noseda 15-1
4 Archwarrior (KY) J R Velazquez T A Pletcher 5/2
5 Fortify (KY) R A Dominguez K P McLaughlin 6-1
6 Bern Identity (KY) E S Prado K J Breen 15-1
7 Micromanage (KY) J Rosario T A Pletcher 5-1


Good luck to all of our entries but who's popping the Champagne on Saturday? It should be a very interesting race as this field have very bright futures ahead of them. Don't be surprised if any of these contenders reappear on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" as the Champagne is also a Graded Stakes race for the new points / qualification system.  


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Older Comments about Pletcher to Play a Heavy Hand in the Champagne...

when I saw the name Micromanage, i knew it had to be a Repole horse
What's all the rumpus over Archwarrior? We may just find out in less than 48 hours...

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