05/04/2012 2:02PM

2012 Kentucky Derby: Pletcher enjoying Louisville visit more than a year ago

Barbara D. Livingston
Todd Pletcher is pleased with how both Gemologist and El Padrino are coming into this year's Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -  On the day before last year’s Kentucky Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher sat at a podium in the Churchill Downs auxiliary press box with his owner, Mike Repole, and somberly announced the scratch of Uncle Mo from the world’s most famous horse race.

On the day before this year’s year Kentucky Derby, Pletcher was in much better spirits as he gets set to run Gemologist and El Padrino in Saturday’s 138th running of the Derby.

“I’m feeling good about it at the moment, they’re locked away and hope for everything to go well the next 24 hours,” Pletcher said Friday in the Churchill horsemen’s lounge before his Crespano ran third in an allowance race. “So far, so good.”

Gemologist is undefeated in five starts including a neck victory over Alpha in the Wood Memorial. He is 2 for 2 at Churchill Downs, winning the Kentucky Jockey Club as a 2-year-old.

At 12:30 p.m., Gemologist was the slight 6-1 favorite in the early Derby wagering. He was followed by Hansen and Union Rags, both at 7-1.

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Following the Wood Memorial, Pletcher sent Gemologist back to south Florida to train at Palm Meadows - where he had spent all winter. Unfortunately, rain slightly messed up Gemologist’s training schedule, but Pletcher feels, other than that, everything has gone according to plan for Gemologist, who will break from post 15 Saturday under Javier Castellano.

“The horse has done exceptionally well, everything has gone just like we laid it out last December you know,” said Pletcher, who trains Gemologist for WinStar Farm, the same outfit for whom Pletcher trained 2010 Derby winner Super Saver.

If there’s a question surrounding Gemologist it’s that, with the exception of Alpha - whom he beat by a neck in the Wood - he has not faced any of the top 3-year-olds running in the Derby.

“We managed him the way we wanted to manage him, we haven’t managed him around anyone,” Pletcher said. “The only easy spot we chose since he broke his maiden was in the allowance race as opposed to going to the Rebel and that was with the sole purpose of avoiding a complicated ship.”

El Padrino has become one of the forgotten horses of the Derby. After winning an allowance race at Gulfstream and the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, El Padrino finished fourth in the Florida Derby.

In the early Derby wagering, El Padrino was 33-1.

“No one is paying him much attention which I think is good,” said Pletcher, who trains El Padrino for Let’s Go Stable. “I felt like we had a legitimate excuse in the last race in the way that we rode him. This is going to be his first opportunity to relax in the early part of a race and let the race unfold as opposed to riding towards the bias of the track or worrying about the 1-5 favorite.”

Pletcher feels this is a deep Derby field and said he wouldn’t be surprised if any of 12 horses won the race.

“From that perspective it’s deeper than a lot of them,” Pletcher said. “But I’ve always said it’s easier to judge the quality of these races six months after they’re run than it is the day before, but it certainly appears to be a fair, evenly-matched field.”