Todd Pletcher has taken the lead among trainers with stakes victories at Keeneland with 51. This weekend, he looks to open some daylight on any and all pursuers as he takes aim at Friday’s Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and Saturday’s Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) at 1½ miles on the turf.
Pletcher will send out Red Oak Stable’s Unbridled Mo in the 23rd running of the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare and Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s Red Rifle in the 32nd running of the $ 250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn.
“They both arrived here Monday from Palm Beach Downs (in Florida) and shipped well,” said Pletcher, who secured his 51st Keeneland stakes victory Saturday when American Patriot won the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1).
Unbridled Mo is a lightly raced homebred daughter of Uncle Mo who will be making her first start since winning the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) at Sam Houston on Jan. 29. She defeated 2016 Juddmonte Spinster (G1) winner I’m a Chatterbox in that race.
“We were originally going to go to the Azeri (G2 on March 18 at Oaklawn Park) but she had a foot abscess and that put us back a couple of weeks,” Pletcher said. “This was an alternative spot and we felt like it was a good spot.”
Red Rifle, who could become a millionaire Saturday with a win or runner-up finish, is a three-time graded stakes winner. He returned to the races March 10 at Gulfstream Park after an eight-month layoff.
“He has been doing well and he ran very well after the layoff,” Pletcher said of the third-place finish in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race in which he was beaten a neck. “He was a little unlucky that day, but he bounced out of it in good order.”
Pletcher has had a Kentucky Derby starter every year since 2000 except for 2003 and won the race in 2010 with Super Saver. He has five horses among the top 20 point earners on the trail to this year’s race. The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box.
Two of those horses are at Keeneland: Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta’s Tapwrit, fifth in the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass (G2), and Sumaya U.S. Stables’ Malagacy, fifth in last Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G1).
“Tapwrit is going to work here Friday or Saturday,” Pletcher said. “Malagacy arrived here Monday and looks to be in good shape from what I could see this morning. We will give him a week and then finalize our plans.”
Brooklyn Boyz Stables and Teresa Viola Racing Stables’ Always Dreaming, winner of the Florida Derby (G1), and Calumet Farm’s Patch, runner-up in the Louisiana Derby (G2), both on April 1, remain at Palm Beach Downs.
“They are going to breeze Friday there and then ship to Churchill Downs on Tuesday,” Pletcher said. “I was going to go to Churchill this week, but I looked at the long-range forecast and saw six straight days of rain.”
Still at Belmont Park is Wood Memorial (G2) runner-up Battalion Runner, owned by St. Elias Stable.
“He is going to breeze up there Friday or Saturday and then go to Churchill after that early next week when we consolidate there,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher, who has won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) three times, also trains Ghalia, winner of the Sunland Park Oaks. Owned by Sumaya U.S. Stables, Ghalia has earned enough points to give her a spot in the starting gate for this year’s Oaks.
“I am thinking the ($ 200,000) Eight Belles (G2 at 7 furlongs on May 5) for her,” Pletcher said. “It looks like there will be no Oaks for us, unless we pull a rabbit out of the hat.”
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