Keeneland news: Pletcher works on plans for Derby contenders

Keeneland Barn Notes
April 09, 2019 11:57am
Keeneland news: Pletcher works on plans for Derby contenders
Photo: Coady Photography

Trainer Todd Pletcher, in town for Tuesday's Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training and Horses of Racing Age Sale, has not finalized plans for shipping his Kentucky Derby hopefuls from Florida to Churchill Downs.

The two-time Derby winner has Sunland Park Derby (G3) winner
Cutting Humor and Louisiana Derby (G2) runner-up Spinoff among the top 20 points leaders to qualify for the Run for the Roses.

“They are both doing well at Palm Beach Downs (training center) and they will have a couple of works there,” Pletcher said. “I have not decided on shipping. We will keep an eye on the weather, but recent history shows it is not necessary to have a work over the track.”

Pletcher, who has won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) three times, might have a runner this year in Repole Stable’s
 Always Shopping, who won the Gazelle (G2) last Saturday at Aqueduct.

“I’m going to talk with Mr. Repole. She is not 100 percent certain to run in the Oaks,” Pletcher said. “If she doesn’t run in the Oaks, it will be the Black-Eyed Susan ([G2] on May 17 at Pimlico).”


Following a half-mile work on the turf here Saturday, trainer Brian Lynch says defending Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) champ Heart to Heart is good to go for Friday’s race.

“This is his fourth shot at the race and this will probably be his last,” Lynch said of the 8-year-old, who finished second in the race in 2016 and 2017. “It is a competitive race, but if he runs his ‘A game’ race I think he is the horse to beat.”

After finishing ninth in last fall’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) here on a course rated as good, Heart to Heart had a three-month vacation from the races.

“Now that he is 8, you look for signs that they don’t want to do it anymore,” Lynch said. “But he has good energy and his mind is still in it.”

In his 2019 starts, Heart to Heart finished third in the Tropical Turf (G3) at Gulfstream Park and was fourth in the Tampa Bay (G3) in his most recent start Feb. 9.

“In his first race back, he got tangled up leaving the gate, settled and got in position but got a little tired,” Lynch said. “At Tampa, he moved early after a longshot put pressure on him but only got beat a length. I thought it was a credible race.”

The main concern Lynch has for Friday is the weather and a forecast that calls for rain early in the day.

“He has shown that he doesn’t run well at Keeneland when (the turf) is soft,” Lynch said.


Toyota Blue Grass (G2) winner 
Vekoma was booked on a Tex Sutton charter flight Tuesday afternoon to return to Palm Beach Downs training center in Florida for trainer George Weaver. …

Trainer Jorge Abreu said Tuesday morning that the Kentucky Oaks was no longer under consideration for 
Espresso Shot, who finished fifth as the favorite in Saturday’s Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct. Winner of the Busher in March, Espresso Shot had earned 50 points toward the Oaks, a figure good enough for 14th on the leaderboard. The Oaks is limited to the top 14 point earners that pass the entry box. …

Tyler Servis, son of trainer John Servis, will make his training debut Friday afternoon at Keeneland when he saddles Main Line Racing Stable’s 
Wentz in the sixth race.

“I am going to have a string at Monmouth and Parx and then in the winter keep them together at Palm Meadows except for the Pennsylvania-breds, who will stay at Parx,” said Servis, 28.

What is the best advice he received from his dad about training?

“Put the horse first. That’s always been his motto,” Servis said. “Let them tell you when they are ready. They are the ones that make the money.”

Motion Emotion bids for her first career stakes victory in the $500,000 Fantasy (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Friday at Oaklawn, the final major local prep for the Kentucky Oaks.

The 1 1/16-mile Fantasy goes as the eighth race and headlines a 10-race program to open the annual Racing Festival of the South. Probable post time is 4:42 p.m. (Central). Doors open Friday at 11 a.m., with first post 1:30 p.m.

Owned by Mark DeDomenico and trained by Tom Van Berg, Motion Emotion exits a runner-up finish in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 9, the final major local prep for the Fantasy. Motion Emotion had won her first two starts at the meeting in front-running fashion and opened a large lead in the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee before being collared late by Chocolate Kisses. Motion Emotion switches to Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and is the 5-2 program favorite for the Fantasy, which drew a field of 12.

“All systems go right now,” Van Berg said. “I hope we get a good trip, get out of the gate cleanly. Everything else is in Mike’s hands. The filly’s ready.”


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