- Todd Pletcher returns at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, and he'll saddle Circular Quay in the Risen Star, though he's not officially listed as the trainer. But his name is back in the Form on Sunday, with horses entered in races at Aqueduct and Gulfstream, including the return of last year's Risen Star winner Lawyer Ron at the latter in an allowance with conditions that could have been written specifically for him. Looking at his past performances since he switched to natural dirt, his Derby and Classic lines are ugly scars that deface an otherwise nearly flawless record. Nice to see him back, and hopefully we'll see him join what is already shaping up to potentially be one of the best handicap divisions in some time. With all due respect to Bernardini, the two best horses in the world (or at least on this side of it) are still in training and supposedly slated to meet (though on the other side).
Pletcher will also start Master Command in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap in the 6th race on the Louisiana Derby Preview card. He's listed at 8-5 on the morning line, and has that big 114 Beyer at the Meadowlands, and doesn't that look a bit high to be true? He was allowed his own pace on the inside according to the chart, and freaked a bit on a track playing very quickly all night; 16K claimers went 1:09.25 in the first.
Of course, he could win this race based on some of his lesser efforts, and it is Pletcher off the layoff after all. But I dunno, it will be the first horse Pletcher has saddled in 45 days. Maybe he'll be rusty and screw something up. Do you think he practiced on a mechanical horse?
Well Said (Aptitude) makes his third start off the layoff, and achieved a career best 100 Beyer in a sloppy track allowance over this track. He ran a clear second to Good and Lucky, a vastly improved four-year old who was coming off a stakes win. Well Said was having a fine three-year old season early in 2006, capped off by a respectable 4th in the Rebel, just 3 1/2 lengths in back of Lawyer Ron, and a neck behind Steppenwolfer. Prior to that, he defeated Brilliant - twice - on the dirt, just before that one went on to take four grass races, two of those graded stakes, in six tries on that surface. He was gone for nine months after the Rebel, and won his return. though both of comeback races were in the slop, he's shown he can run on dirt as well. He's 9-2 morning line, and I guess that's about right, especially if the favorite's saddle slips. I'm not in love with Purim on the dirt here, and if he goes off at his 5-2 morning line, he's overbet in my opinion.
- Back to the Risen Star for a moment, Spankey Come Home, who was involved in that wacky race at Santa Anita when his DQ gave Giacomo's half-brother Tiago his maiden win, is amongst the entries despite still being a maiden. He posted a bullet seven furlong work last week, and jockey Gerry Olguin is in for the ride. I know at least one - actually, two - people who will probably have him on his ticket at 30-1 morning line.
- Pletcher's return has reader Jim L fuming over the Eclipse Award that Pletcher collected while under suspension and notes:
The NFL has instituted a policy in which no player shall be eligible for the Pro Bowl or reap any contractual benefit of being selected if he is caught using illegal substances. Maybe racing should have a similar policy.It would be a way for the industry to do something without really doing much. Who cares, really, about the Eclipse award for trainers; it's not like it would have cost Pletcher any endorsements for Just For Men if he didn't win it. This would spare any trainer who's a victim of an "accidental" positive from any dire fate.
Still, it is rather symbolic, and a potential embarrassment to be sure. It would at least show that the industry is serious. If it can't even take a symbolic step, then how will they ever tackle the problem substantively?
- Brilliant was reported to be on the comeback trail in a January 25th article in the Form.