by John Piesen
This is about a couple of New York-based trainers.
Todd Pletcher will be running seven horses in various stakes races across the land on Saturday.
Rick Violette will be lucky to run seven horses in the whole month of July, but New York players will never have a better friend than RV. Especially when it comes to 2-year-olds.
On Thursday, Violette won the second race at Belmont Park with a first-time starter named Sovereign Default. Sent off the 5-2 second choice in a field of seven 2-year-old maiden-specials going 5 ½ furlongs, SD broke on top from the outside post under Alan Garcia, was never threatened, and won by two lengths over Stay Thirsty, the much-buzzed odds-on firster from The Toddster.
It was another 10 lengths back to the third finisher.
This was Violette’s third successful 2-year-old first-starter this year in New York, with the promise of more to come. “Things in the 2-year-old division are looking pretty good for us,” he says.
Violette’s two previous 2-year-out first-out winners at Belmont were Bail Out the Cat by 2 ¼ lengths on June 10, and Let’s Get Fiscal by 5 ¼ on June 17. All three are being pointed for stakes action at Saratoga, which kicks off its 40-day meet next Friday.
Saratoga (and Monmouth) selections will be available on the red-hot John Piesen Hot Line (888 612 2283) and here on-line.
Sovereign Default, a $90,000 yearling, has the pedigree to go long. His sire is Northern Afleet, whose best son is Afleet Alex, and he is the first foal out of She Is Raging, a stakes-placed winner of 10 races on the New York circuit.
As for Pletcher, who is well en route to a sweep of the Belmont and Monmouth training titles, he is sitting pretty Saturday, starting at Delaware Park with Life At Ten in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap, the day’s biggest and richest race, and Alma d’Oro, the likely second choice In the $100,000 Carpenter Memorial.
John Velazquez rides both horses for Pletcher, who starts the day 8-5-4 from 37 starters at Delaware.
(If you’re planning to be at Delaware, don’t overdo it with the clothes. The over-under on the temperature will be 110 degrees.)
Speed is always the way to go at Delaware, and Life At Ten, a 5-year-old mare riding a five-race winning streak under five different riders, and capped by the Grade One Phipps at Belmont, looks to be the controlling speed from her outside post in a field of six going a mile and a quarter.
Prior to embarking on her five-race winning streak last Fall, Life At Ten, racing in allowance company, was a mere 1-for-8. But with Pletcher, generally when they get good, they stay good.
The one to beat in the Del ‘Cap no doubt is Milwaukee Appeal, a 4-year-old filly who, a year ago, was beaten a mere neck against males in the Queen’s Plate, the Kentucky Derby of Canada.
The Canadian-bred has lost her last seven starts, but she’s at her best going 10 furlongs, and she does her best running for Stew Elliott, yes the Stew Elliott of Smarty Jones fame.
Funny Moon, who beat Milwaukee Appeal soundly two-back in the Shuvee at Belmont, should factor with Garcia from the one-hole. Note that last summer Funny Moon won the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont at a mile and a quarter.
The Nick Zito-trained Our Edge, who snapped a six-race losing streak last out in a Monmouth allowance, will be the one to catch from the one-hole under Jeremy Rose in the 1 1/16-mile Carpenter, but fellow 4-year-old Alma d’Oro, with JV up, will get the perfect stalking trip from post two in a field of five.
The “five” is the 6-year-old Sir Whimsey, winless two years, but fresh from a closing second to Cool Coal Man in the Skip Away at Monmouth. Sir Whimsey hails from the same connections (Turtle Bird Stable and Steve Asmussen) that gave us Haynesfield, a JP Hot Line best bet, in the recent Suburban Handicap at Belmont.
Although Pletcher has nothing in the Dick Memorial, his rider has a legit shot at a stakes hat trick in the $200,000 turfer at a mile and three furlongs.
Velazquez replaces Kent Desormeaux on Treat Gently, who will be favored from post eight in a field of 10. The Bill Mott-trained 5-year-old mare exits a four-length victory in the Sheepshead Bay in late May at Belmont, but picks up seven pounds (to 123) off that race.
A She’s Adorable, Ainamaa and Trensa – the first three finishers in the Rooney Memorial, the main local prep for the Dick – all should factor, as should the late-running Katara from the Matz barn.
So why is Desormeaux not riding Treat Gently?
The answer is KD will be at Colonial Downs to ride Paddy O’Prado, who will be a short price in the $600,000 Virginia Derby for 3-year-olds at a mile and a quarter on the grass.
Following a Kentucky Derby third and a Preakness sixth, Paddy was returned to the green by trainer Romans, and, with KD up, won the Colonial Turf Cup by three lengths as the chalk, earning a page one appearance in Saturday’s Form.
Pletcher is hoping to ambush Paddy with Interactif, a multiple stakes-winner on the grass, and fresh from a seventh in the Belmont Stakes. Castellano, who rode the Broken Vow colt for the first time in the Belmont, gives up several live mounts in New York for the return call.
Interactif has speed, but look for Castellano to race him from behind in an eight-horse field that’s loaded with early gas.
Foremost of the speedsters is Krypton, fresh from upsetting the previously-unbeaten Nordic Truce in the mile Hill Prince at Belmont. Maragh, 2-1-0 in three tries on Krypton, has the return call from trainer McLaughlin.
Oh, yes. Krypton, at 117, will be getting six pounds from Paddy and Interactif.
Pletcher will be looking for a stakes sweep with Pleasant Strike in the $50,000 Kittens Joy for 3-and-up at 1 1/16 miles on the green.
The 6-year-old son of Smart Strike has lost seven straight since winning the Van Clief Stakes last June – at Colonial.
They’ll be running a pair of $100,000 stakes for fillies Saturday at Monmouth Park, and (surprise) The Toddster will be running the favorite in both of them.
For the Serena’s Song, for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, TP entered Churchill shippers Classic Affair and Happy Week. But since jockey Gomez is named on both, it is likely only one will run.
West Ocean, fresh from a pair of stakes blowouts at Fair Grounds and Keeneland, will be odds-on under Gomez in the Klassy Briefcase for fillies and mares, 3 and up, at 5 ½ panels on the grass.
Candy Mare, a 6-year-old mare claimed by Rick Dutrow for $50,000 at Gulfstream, will be a remote second choice under jockey Bravo.
Pletcher has nothing in the Belmont feature, the $200,000 Jaipur for 3-and-up at six furlongs on the grass. The favorite in the Grade 3 will be the aptly-named Formidable from the barn of Allen Jerkens. Lezcano has the call from the five-hole in the field of seven.
But that doesn’t mean Pletcher will be inactive in the State of New York on Saturday.
The Toddster has Ibboyee, who will be odds-on at Finger Lakes in the $150,000 New York Derby, the middle leg of the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds.
Obviously, the man has no conscience.
Thanks for tuning in. Good luck this weekend, don’t stray too far from the JP Hot Line, and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday with a Saratoga preview.
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