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Pletcher planning California invasion
ELMONT, N.Y. - Having dominated racing on the East Coast for the last several years, two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher will try to make an impact on the West Coast this coming fall and winter.
Pletcher confirmed Monday that he will be sending a string of horses to Southern California beginning with the opening of the Hollywood Park meet, which starts Nov. 1. Pletcher will keep horses stabled at Hollywood Park through at least the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita.
Pletcher, who has more than 150 horses in training, said it is still unclear how many horses he will be sending to California, but it will likely be two dozen or more.
"Depends how many owners are interested," he said.
Pletcher said the main reason for opening up a division in California at this time is that state's decision to mandate the installation of a synthetic surface at its three racetracks. Hollywood Park's fall meet will be the first to utilize such a surface, which is made up of synthetic fibers, elastic fiber, and granulated rubber, all of which are coated in wax.
"The main reason is Polytrack is out there," Pletcher said. "We thought about going out there before, but one of the concerns was always how safe the surfaces are out there. Obviously, the purses are good. . . . Mister [Michael] Tabor wants his horses training on Polytrack when possible."
Tabor, one of Pletcher's major clients, owns such horses as leading 2-year-old Circular Quay and the unraced The Green Monkey, the $16 million 2-year-old in training purchase who has yet to debut. Pletcher said The Green Monkey "probably" will train in California.
Pletcher said the California division will be run by Michael McCarthy, who currently oversees Pletcher's Churchill Downs division.
Wait a While's next is Yellow Ribbon
Wait a While, the leading 3-year-old turf filly in the country, will beat the rest of the Pletcher contingent to Southern California as she will make her next start in the Grade 1, $400,000 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita on Sept. 30. This will be Wait a While's second trip to Southern California. In July, she shipped to Hollywood Park to win the American Oaks.
Pletcher said the likelihood of firm turf at Santa Anita and the five-week spacing to the Breeders' Cup were the two major reasons he chose the Yellow Ribbon over the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 14.
Also, by running Wait a While against older fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles, Pletcher will get a better line on whether Wait a While belongs in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf or whether he should cut her back for a possible run against the males in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
"I think she'll get a mile and three-eighths," said Pletcher, referring to the distance of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, "but I also think she likes firm ground and obviously we're going to get that in California.
On Monday, Wait a While worked five furlongs in 1:05.92 over a yielding Belmont Park turf course. Orange cones, commonly referred to as dogs, were set up on the turf, forcing all of Monday's grass works beyond the middle of the course.
"She gets over it fine but she doesn't relish it like she does firm ground," Pletcher said. "I think she's exceptionally good on firm ground. We'll try to keep her on it as much as we can."
With Wait a While going to the Yellow Ribbon, Magnificent Song, the Pletcher-trained winner of the Grade 1 Garden City in her last start, will run next in the Queen Elizabeth. Pletcher said a solid effort in that race could earn her a trip to the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 4 at Churchill.
Honey Ryder, among the leading older filly and mare turf runners, worked three furlongs in 37.99 seconds in company with Dancing Band. Honey Rider is on target for the $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational here on Oct. 7.
Panty Raid out until November
The 2-year-old filly Panty Raid, a sharp debut winner for Pletcher at Saratoga, will be sidelined the remainder of the year due to some hind ankle issues, the trainer said. The daughter of Include, who won her debut on Aug. 10 by 7 3/4 lengths, will likely be out of training until early November.
Pletcher labeled the problem "bone remodeling" and said X-rays did not reveal any chips or fractures.
Without Panty Raid, Pletcher will be still be represented in Saturday's Grade 1 Matron with Octave and Featherbed. Octave, a daughter of Unbridled's Song, comes off a victory in the Grade 2 Adirondack while Featherbed, a daughter of Smart Strike, won a maiden race in her second start by 9 1/4 lengths.
Others pointing to the Grade 1 Matron include Cash's Girl, Eternal Grace, Magical Ride, and possibly Five Star Daydream and Meadow Breeze.
Albertrani: Bernardini above elders
Trainer Tom Albertrani doesn't believe his talented 3-year-old Bernardini has to improve in order to be successful against Invasor and the other older horses who may show up to meet him in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 7.
"I think the older horses need to take a step forward," Albertrani said. "I mean, how much better can you get? From what he showed us from his last two races, I think the 4-year-olds might have to step up to beat him."
Bernardini, who added Jim Dandy and Travers wins to his Preakness victory, worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Monday at Belmont. Under exercise rider Simon Harris, Bernardini looked the picture of relaxation as he cruised through an effortless work. He got his last quarter in 25 seconds.
"Today he was just galloping," Albertrani said. "Couldn't ask him to go any easier than that. With the rain we kind of lost a couple of days on our schedule, so today we were looking for something easy, and we'll probably come back in five days and breeze him on the weekend."
Invasor, meanwhile, worked four furlongs in 48.65 seconds on Sunday in company with stablemate No Reply. "Looked great," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
* Premium Tap, the upset winner of the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 2, worked four furlongs in 47.51 seconds Monday. Trainer John Kimmel is considering three races for him, including the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park on Sept. 30, the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 7, and the Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 13.
Kimmel said the most likely scenario is the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup and then the $500,00 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24.
* Henny Hughes, the King's Bishop winner, worked four furlongs in 50.02 seconds on Sunday. He is being pointed to the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Oct. 7.
* Songster, who finished fifth in the King's Bishop, worked four furlongs in 50.72 seconds on Monday. He is likely to run next in the $200,000 Perryville at Keeneland on Oct. 13.