Keeler Johnson's Kentucky Derby Top 10 - 12/27/17
Much has been made through the years about trainer Todd Pletcher’s perceived lack of success in the Triple Crown races, primarily the Kentucky Derby.An oft-quoted statistic from years ago spoke of Pletcher’s early disappointments in the Derby, in which his starters went 0-for-24 before Pletcher scored a victory with Super Saver in 2010. But much like the Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who lost with his first twelve Derby starters before going on to win four editions of the “Run for the Roses,” Pletcher’s record has taken on a new light in recent years, and now it’s impossible to deny that Pletcher has been highly successful in the Triple Crown races.
Consider the following: Pletcher has sent out 19 horses to finish in the top three in a Triple Crown race, including three wins in the Belmont Stakes (with Rags to Riches, Palace Malice, and Tapwrit) and two wins in the Kentucky Derby (with Super Saver and Always Dreaming). Furthermore, Pletcher won two of the three Triple Crown races in 2017 with two different horses, and he’s had a horse hit the board in the Derby in four of the last eight years.
In other words, it could pay to keep an eye on Pletcher’s up-and-coming three-year-olds this winter, as it would be a surprise if Pletcher doesn’t come up with a horse or two that can factor in the Triple Crown. At this early juncture, the impressive Belmont Park maiden winner Montauk might be his best, though according to a report from the Daily Racing Form, Montauk is currently behind schedule and it is unclear when he’ll return to training.
But Pletcher has plenty of other candidates for Triple Crown glory, including Noble Indy, a WinStar Farm runner that won his debut at Gulfstream by 8 ¾ lengths on December 3rd. That race was held at seven furlongs, but Pletcher has also sent out some eye-catching winners going a mile or longer, including Smooth Air Stakes winner Bal Harbour and the promising Marconi, who won a nine-furlong maiden race at Aqueduct by 5 ½ lengths on December 15th. The half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man is bred to run all day and could certainly be a candidate for the Belmont Stakes.
Adding further depth to Pletcher’s stable are the recent main track maiden winners Navistar, Impact Player, and Blewitt, plus Gidu, who won impressively sprinting five furlongs on the Gulfstream turf last Saturday, and Vino Rosso, an exciting son of Curlin that is 2-for-2 following an effortless win in an allowance optional claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs on December 22nd.
At the moment, I don’t have any Pletcher horses ranked in my Kentucky Derby Top 10, but it’s likely just a matter of time before one or more join my list. But for the time being, here’s how I rank the top contenders….
- Good Magic
- Bolt d’Oro
- Le Vent Se Leve
- Principe Guilherme
- Catholic Boy