Pletcher entering 4 for the Derby
The first of our four-part Kentucky Derby Preview here at VegasInsider.com will focus on the horses from the barn of two-time Derby winning trainer Todd Pletcher and G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Like the King.
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Like the King
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Pletcher, who has started a record 55 starters in the Run for the Roses, has had at least one runner in the race every year of the new millennium, save 2003. He won his first Derby in 2010 with Super Saver and again in 2017 with Always Dreaming.
This year, up until about seven weeks ago, the cupboard looked bare. Now, he’s set to have four entrants, led by G1 Florida Derby winner Known Agenda.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Known Agenda
As a two-year old, Known Agenda began his career in a maiden sprint at Belmont Park where he was defeated by fellow Derby contender Highly Motivated. He broke his maiden in his following start going nine furlongs, winning a stretch-long duel with the now two-time stakes winner Greatest Honour before wrapping up the season with a third-place finish in the G2 Remsen over a sloppy track at Aqueduct, the site of his maiden tally.
Known Agenda returned to the races two months later at Tampa Bay Downs in their G3 Sam F. Davis. Towards the back of the back for the first seven furlongs of the one mile and sixteenth affair, he made up some ground late in the game to finish fifth.
Pletcher added blinkers and Irad Ortiz, Jr. for his next start, an entry level allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream Park. Known Agenda raced much closer to the pace, just a handful of lengths off the lead, before a far turn bid that resulted in an 11-length romp.
Known Agenda’s final prep in the nine-furlong Florida Derby went almost as smoothly as his previous win. He sat a similar trip, though he did make his initial move inside of rivals before accelerating away once in the stretch, He drifted about a bit through the stretch but was never in danger, winning by just under three lengths at odds of over 5-1.
Known Agenda has trained forwardly since his last effort five weeks out of the Derby, concluding his serious training with a five furlong move in 1:01 at Churchill on Friday 4/23 in company with Sainthood. He figures to be no worse than fourth choice when the gates open for the Derby.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Bourbonic
A week after the Florida Derby, Pletcher runners ran one-two in the G2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct going the same distance. And while it’s not uncommon to see a “Todd Squad” exacta, this wasn’t a result many expected as the Bourbonic-Dynamic One exacta returned over $900 on a $2 wager.
Bourbonic began his career with a couple of off the board efforts, a dirt sprint at Belmont followed by a turf route at Aqueduct before breaking his maiden over a course labeled “good” against $50K maiden claimers going a one-turn mile at the Big A when blinkers were added in early December.
Bourbonic returned six weeks later to take a starter allowance/optional claimer by a neck going the same trip in New York before getting beat in an entry level allowance/optional claimer by four lengths in the slop at Parx around two turns.
Sent off at over 72-1 in his stakes debut in the Wood Memorial, Bourbonic and his rider Kendrick Carmouche trailed the field early and was still last when the field entered the stretch but still managed to make over eight lengths to win by a head, posting the biggest upset in the history of the event.
Bourbonic has worked just twice since his upset in New York and concluded his preparations with an easy half-mile in :49 3/5 on Friday 4/23 at Churchill. He probably won’t be 72-1 but he does figure to be over 30-1.
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Kentucky Derby Contender - Dynamic One
The last horse Bourbonic passed was Dynamic One, who found a bit of trouble at the start of his debut then failing to make up any ground while sprinting at Aqueduct as the 2-1 favorite before adding blinkers to finish a solid second to Greatest Honour at Gulfstream with the addition of blinkers while stretching out around two turns.
Dynamic One didn’t do much running in his subsequent start while racing wide at Gulfstream before finishing fourth as the even money favorite. He was sent back to New York to beat a field of just four rivals going nine furlongs from just off the pace.
In the Wood Memorial, Dynamic One was dismissed at 15-1 under Jose Ortiz, raced in mid-pack while wide throughout before passing the leaders and making his way towards the inside in the stretch. He made the lead close to home but couldn’t hold off his upset-minded stablemate.
Dynamic One worked a solid half-mile in :47 4/5 on Friday 4/23 at Churchill.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Sainthood
Sainthood rounds out the Pletcher quartet and will be looking to be just the second horse since Apollo in 1882 to win this race without running as a two-year-old. Triple Crown winner Justify accomplished the feat back in 2018.
As for Sainthood, he just missed in his debut while sprinting at Gulfstream in January before taking a field of eight maidens gate-to-wire going a mile and a sixteenth at the Fair Grounds in mid-February on the Risen Star undercard.
Sainthood made his stakes debut in the nine-furlong Jeff Ruby over the synthetic strip at Turfway Park on the same day as the Florida Derby. After breaking alertly, he lost position to the far turn then launched an inside-out rally before getting stopped and losing all momentum on the turn. He re-rallied to finish a hard charging second, missing by just a length. Corey Lanerie will ride.
Kentucky Derby Contender - Like the King
Like the King will be looking to follow in the footsteps of 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom by getting his first win on dirt in this event. He’ll also be the first Derby runner for his trainer, the American-based, globetrotting Wesley Ward.
Like the King started his career with a runner-up performance in a sprint at Belterra Park in Ohio before breaking his maiden by over seven lengths on the turf at Ellis Park going a mile. A third-place finish in an off the turf allowance race at Keeneland in the fall was followed by a win in front-running fashion against entry level allowance/optional claimers over the synthetic at Turfway, his winter base.
Nearly three months after that score, Like the King made his stakes debut in the Battaglia Memorial over the course. Racing in mid-pack, he made a move on the turn before getting put in tight along the inside by eventual winner Hush of a Storm. After a lengthy inquiry, the result went unchanged.
In the Jeff Ruby Steaks, things went a bit more smoothly under Dravden Van Dyke for Like the King. After saving ground early, he launched his bid widest of all before brushing with Sainthood off the turn and holding him off by a length. You could argue the better trip got him that win. You’d probably be right.
Like the King worked five furlongs at Keeneland on Saturday 4/24 in 1:01.
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