Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will look to secure his third Kentucky Derby (G1) Win after MO DONEGAL punched his ticket to the Run For The Roses with a neck score in the Wood Memorial (G2) last Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.
MO DONEGAL, with Joel Rosario up, rallied up the rail through the final turn before angling outside of pacesetter EARLY VOTING to secure the Victory in the nine-furlong test which offered 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
The victory provided Pletcher a record-tying seventh Win in the Wood Memorial, joining fellow Hall of Famer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons.
“I thought it was a super effort on his part. We worked out the trip we hoped to with the exception of the hot pace scenario we hoped would develop,” Pletcher said. “Aside from that, everything worked out well. He put in a good, sustained run and a fast final quarter. He found a seam when he needed it. It was a big run from him.”
Last Friday, a Pletcher trained filly- NEST posted an authoritative score in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland to give Pletcher a shot at Winning his fifth Kentucky Oaks (G1) and tying the record held by Woody Stephens.
Pletcher Won the Oaks last year with MALATHAAT. Following a similar trajectory- NEST has Won both the Grade 2 Demoiselle at the Big A and the Ashland. Both fillies picked up their first Oaks qualifying points in the Tempted at Aqueduct, which MALATHAAT Won, while NEST was a closing 3rd.
“We’ll look to follow the same path we did last year with MALATHAAT. We’ll ship over to Churchill next week and she’ll have a couple of breezes there,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher said he will also send MO DONEGAL to Churchill early next week.
“We’ve always felt like the mile and a quarter distance would suit him well,” Pletcher said of MO DONEGAL. “In the Derby, it’s important for everyone to work out a trip. A lot of it will be pace dependent and being able to find seams when he needs to. It’s important not to get stopped at a bad time.”
Pletcher said he feels like he holds a strong Derby hand which also includes Florida Derby (G1) runner-up CHARGE IT and possibly PIONEER OF MEDINA, who is currently 24th on the leaderboard with 25 points.
“We’re blessed to have some candidates,” Pletcher said. “Like everyone else, we need them to continue to improve and stay healthy and keep moving forward and like the surface at Churchill, but we’re pleased with where we are at the moment.”