LOUISVILLE, KY – The multiple Eclipse Award winning conditioner, Todd Fletcher, came into Derby season with many possibilities for the Run for the Roses. As the race loomed closer, his “Todd Squad” was at six runners. Then the number went to five. Then Saturday afternoon it went to three.
Pletcher announced that Sumaya U.S. Stable’s Malagacy and St. Elias Stable’s Battalion Runner would not run in the Derby.
On Saturday morning, Malagacy who did not work with his stablemates Friday, again did not work at Churchill Downs. Pletcher said at the time, Malagacy is “99.9% likely not to run in the Derby.”
”We’re not closing the door completely just yet, but it is all but sure he won’t go,” he said at Barn 40 on the Churchill Downs backside.
The next candidate to step out of the dance was Battalion Runner, who merely walked the shedrow this morning after working four furlongs in :48.20 Friday. What made the walk noteworthy is the fact that Pletcher’s other three Derby workers from Friday returned to gallop at Churchill Saturday morning, all looking good as they went trackside just before 6 a.m.
“I’m going to talk to Mr. Viola (St. Elias’ Vince Viola) about (Battalion Runner’s) situation and Derby participation today,” Pletcher said. “We might make a call on it then.”
The trainer had noted that the gray colt by Unbridled’s Song “wrestled with the track” in his Friday drill, done in company with the stakes winner Made You Look. He said the work was just “OK.”
Pletcher is still in good shape for Derby dancers, however, and might even be looking at saddling the possible favorite in Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, et al’s Always Dreaming, who turned in a sparkling drill Friday that had race watchers all abuzz.
Always Dreaming (with Adele Bellenger up), along with Calumet Farm’s Patch (Isabelle Bourez) and Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta’s Tapwrit (Silvio Pioli) all galloped “about a mile and a quarter” according to Pletcher Saturday morning on a sealed racetrack following a night of storms that had deposited a copious amount of water on Louisville.
“I’m pleased with how they came out of their works yesterday,” Pletcher said. “Always Dreaming (who had worked in a bullet :59.60 under his rider John Velazquez) especially so. He demolished his breakfast after that work, then ate up again last night. You love to see that when you put a good work into them.
“I liked the way he galloped this morning, too. He was more relaxed. We took some of the vinegar out of him with that work, which is what we wanted to do. I don’t have any problems with a good, stiff work eight days out from the race. It’s what he needed.”
It is unusual for a Pletcher horses to work in :59 (for five furlongs), but, he noted, not unheard of.
“I remember working Invisible Ink in :59 and change here back in 2001 ahead of the race and he came running to finish second.”
The trainer’s recall is right on. He drilled Invisible Ink in :59.80 on the Sunday before the Derby in 2001, then saw him come running up the rail to beat everyone except Monarchos in Derby 127.
Tapwrit, who worked in 1:00.20 in company with Patch (same time) Friday, had his rider Jose Ortiz up for the exercise. Patch was handled by Bourez Friday and still hasn’t had an official rider named for the Derby.
“(Tyler) Gaffalione rode (Patch) well last time (a second in the Louisiana Derby-GII) and we’d have to give him serious consideration for the mount,” Pletcher said.