04/16/2008 11:00PM

Pletcher may add to Derby arsenal


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Except in the case of jockeys, who can't clone themselves, having an embarrassment of riches seldom creates a dilemma. While Edgar Prado had to discard Monba and Tale of Ekati in declaring his Kentucky Derby mount to be Adriano, trainer Todd Pletcher gets to keep all his Derby horses to himself.

Pletcher, who last year tied the Derby record for most starters with five, already has two confirmed runners for the 134th Derby with Monba and Cowboy Cal, the one-two finishers last Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes. At the post-race press conference, Pletcher reminded everyone that he still would have had Derby bullets in case his Blue Grass horses had not run like they did.

"We've got a couple more for the Lexington," he said.

Indeed, Pletcher will be represented by Behindatthebar, a mid-range wagering choice, and Atoned, who figures as one of the favorites in the 1 1/16-mile Coolmore Lexington on Saturday at Keeneland.

Atoned, with Edgar Prado to ride for Dogwood Stable, is favorably drawn on the rail, but like some other trainers in the Lexington, Pletcher is non-committal in regard to what a victory might mean toward the Derby.

Pletcher said he and Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell "have spoken, and I wouldn't rule out the Derby at this time, but we're not necessarily running to accumulate enough earnings."

Atoned, runner-up in the Remsen and Tampa Bay Derby, was most recently fourth in the Illinois Derby.

"After getting him back to Keeneland, I was just impressed with the way he was getting over the Polytrack," said Pletcher, noting a sharp half-mile breeze in 47 seconds on Sunday. "The Lexington made a lot of sense, so we're going to take that step and see how it goes. Running in the Derby would be back awfully quick. Although you never say never, it's not really what we're thinking at this time."

For Prado, the ride on Atoned is a chance to cap what has been an amazing road to the Derby, considering he already has won the Lane's End on Adriano, the Wood Memorial on Tale of Ekati, and the Blue Grass on Monba.

Royal Chase: One-two finish for Sheppard

The race was about 2 1/2 miles, but all that mattered was the final desperate yards when one Jonathan Sheppard trainee, Sovereign Duty, caught another one, Sweet Shani, in the Thursday feature, the Grade 1, $160,125 Royal Chase for the Sport of Kings.

Sweet Shani, an 8-year-old mare ridden by Xavier Aizpuru, maintained a huge lead throughout the only steeplechase event run each year at Keeneland, and down the stretch the final time, it appeared she had turned back a sustained run from Best Attack. But then Sovereign Duty ($7.20), with Danielle Hodson aboard, came flying in the final furlong, and he was up to prevail by a neck in 4:48.13 over firm turf.

Sovereign Duty is a 6-year-old gelding owned by the Hudson River Farms of Edward Swyer.

The morning-line favorite, Preemptive Strike, was scratched, leaving a field of six.

Undercard stakes appear wide open

Two $100,000 stakes lead into the Lexington on a 10-race Saturday card: the Fort Harrod (race 6) and the Giant's Causeway (race 8).

Jade's Revenge, winner of the Ben Ali Stakes here last spring, is one of five plausible contenders in a field of eight older horses in the Fort Harrod, which will be contested at the infrequently run distance of 1 5/8 miles on Polytrack. The other main players are Save Big Money, Nolan's Cat, Rathor, and Successful Affair.

The Giant's Causeway, a 5 1/2-furlong grass race that drew nine fillies and mares, looks very competitive, with Danceroftherealm and Jazzy staging a rematch of the Bienville Stakes last month at the Fair Grounds.

Because of television scheduling for the Lexington, most races will be run about 33 minutes apart Saturday, compared with the usual 30. Post times for the Giant's Causeway and Lexington are scheduled for 39 minutes apart, with the Lexington set for 5:40 p.m. Eastern.

Go Between looks solid in Ben Ali

Go Between, a $2 million earner who most recently was second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, figures to be a heavy favorite Sunday under Garrett Gomez in the Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack.

From the rail, this is the Ben Ali field: Sterwins, Go Between, Crossword, Mayan King, Sir Whimsey, It's a Bird, and Leonnatus Anteas.

* Of the 41 winning $2 pick six tickets, each worth $18,342.20, sold Wednesday after the bet had gone unhit through the first eight days of the meet, 10 were sold at Keeneland. Three favorites were winners in the sequence, along with a 5-2 shot, 9-2 shot, and 7-1 shot.

* Tickets are still on sale for the Monday evening charity auction and dinner on behalf of ailing jockey Justin Vitek. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville. Tickets are $50 and available by calling 859-760-4418. Vitek, 34, was found in February to have acute myelogenous leukemia and recently was readmitted to the hospital.

* Trainer Rusty Arnold became just the third trainer to win 200 races at Keeneland when Tiger Woodman rallied to take the fourth race last Saturday. Into Thursday's action, D. Wayne Lukas, with 270 wins, is the all-time leader at Keeneland, while Bill Mott is second with 207. Arnold has since added two more victories to get to 202.

* Churchill Downs announced Friday that general admission tickets to the Derby ($40) and Kentucky Oaks ($25) are available this year for the first time through Ticketmaster, with sales ending April 30. Previously, only cash admissions were taken.

* Kent Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame jockey who appears headed to his first-ever Keeneland riding title, booted home four winners on Thursday's program.