04/21/2011 3:19PM

Keeneland: Pletcher again has strong B squad


 LEXINGTON, Ky. – When he isn’t looking after Uncle Mo and focusing on winning another Kentucky Derby, Todd Pletcher still finds time to win the occasional race or two. In fact, Pletcher won back-to-back stakes on the Blue Grass Stakes undercard last weekend at Keeneland, and a similar scenario might well unfold a week later on the Coolmore Lexington Stakes program.

Pletcher will have the favorites in both secondary stakes Saturday: Exhi is the 6-5 program choice among just five older runners in the Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (race 7), while Rose Catherine looks like the class of 11 fillies and mares in the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway (race 8) at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

Exhi has become the prototype of a synthetics specialist, and with the Ben Ali run at 1 1/8 miles over Polytrack, the colt could have things his own way – especially with a startling lack of speed in against him. Exhi led throughout last year in upsetting the Lexington at nearly 20-1, giving Pletcher his fourth winner in the race.

The Giant’s Causeway will be the second start of the year for Rose Catherine, whose last two starts both have come at five furlongs against male rivals. After finishing seventh at just 5-1 last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the filly was away more than four months before finishing an even fourth in a tough March 18 allowance at Gulfstream Park.

“The 5 1/2 is a little better distance for her,” said Pletcher, who won the Derby last year with Super Saver. “Even though these are tough fillies she’ll run against, she is taking a drop down in class of sorts after running against the boys. That last race at Gulfstream should be a good conditioner for her, too.”

Javier Castellano has the mount on both Exhi and Rose Catherine.

Last Saturday, Pletcher was here to see Stratford Hill win the Shakertown and Aikenite prevail in the Commonwealth before none of his three starters in the Blue Grass hit the board.

Paddy O’Prado working toward return

Paddy O’Prado, one of the top turf horses of 2010, is scheduled to work again Sunday morning at Churchill while trainer Dale Romans determines whether the 4-year-old colt is ready to start off his year in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the May 7 Kentucky Derby undercard.

“We might make it, and we might not,” said Romans.

Paddy O’Prado, who earned nearly $1.6 million last year, has had five workouts since mid-March, including a five-furlong breeze last Sunday at Churchill.

◗ A vast collection of racing memorabilia from the riding career of the legendary Bill Shoemaker will be on exhibit starting Monday at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville. “Shoemaker: Start to Finish” will honor the career of one of the best known racing personalities of all time.

Shoemaker rode 26 times in the Derby, more than any other jockey in history, and won four times. He died in October 2003 at age 72.

◗ Well Deserved ($6.40) resisted a swift early pace before taking command turning for home and going on to capture the $58,000 allowance feature here Wednesday under Alan Garcia. The victory was the second in the career of trainer Ronan Cunningham, a longtime former assistant to Barclay Tagg.

“The filly ran just like she worked,” said Cunningham. “Wow, I feel like I won an Eclipse Award.”

◗ There will be no racing here Sunday because of the Easter holiday. The final three-day stretch of the meet runs April 27-29.

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