01/31/2015 6:47PM

Unitarian relishes two-mile distance of Allen Jerkens

Barbara D. Livingston
Unitarian, ridden by Javier Castellano, scores by 3 1/2 lengths as the favorite in the Allen Jerkens Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - They just can’t card enough two-mile races on turf for Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher, a seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer, is obviously pretty darn good at preparing horses to run any distance. But he kept his record unblemished in two-mile grass races after sending Unitarian out to an impressive 3 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s inaugural running of the $75,000 Allen Jerkens Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The other time he saddled a horse for a two-mile turf marathon, Pletcher won the Belmont Gold Cup last spring with Charming Kitten.

Unitarian, who won the Grade 2 Elkhorn last season at Keeneland, benefitted from a perfect trip under leading rider Javier Castellano. Rating about seven or eight lengths off the pace of Reflecting, Unitarian launched his bid leaving the backstretch for the final time and finished strong down the center of the course to readily pull away from Artic North in the final furlong. Reflecting held gamely on the front end into the stretch before gradually weakening, finishing another 1 ¾ lengths farther back in third.

Unitarian, a 5-year-old son of Pulpit bred by his owner, Robert Evans, returned $5.40 after completing the grueling distance in 3.23.22.

“We thought this horse’s style would suit the distance well,” said Pletcher. “We thought he had the right temperament for it because he turns off in the early part of the race. He got a great trip. It worked out exactly as we talked about in the paddock. He was able to save ground for three turns and I actually thought he put in a pretty explosive kick for a race at this distance. It was fun to watch.” 

Pletcher was also touched by being able to win a race named after the legendary Allen Jerkens.

"When the stakes calendar came out and I saw that race I said 'Man, I'd like to win that'. That would be cool. Chief is a legend, not only as a trainer but as a person. I don't think there is a trainer on the grounds who hasn't gone to Mr. Jerkens at some point and asked him for advice."

Pletcher said the Belmont Gold Cup would be a goal for Unitarian “if it’s on the calendar” again this year.  He also mentioned the Grade 3 Pan American, at a mere 1 1/2 miles, as a likely option on March 28.




Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Marathons are almost a thing of the past here in the U.S., but overseas, they are never in short supply. In the upcoming season for Great Britain, Ireland, France, there will be plenty of these endurance races to savor. Over half of the races at Royal Ascot each year in June, are in the 1 1/2 mile or more category. Look how much fun we had watching Calidoscopio in the Breeders Cup Marathon in November 2012 and the following June, we saw him come from far back to win the Brooklyn Handicap in the slop. When Seattle Slew got beat by a nose in the Jockey Club Gold Cup of 1978, that race was run at the 1 1/2 mile distance then. But when Kelso won it 5 times in a row, it was contested at 2 miles, a real test of champions.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
these 2 mile races are great,i wish they would card more of these instead of all those 5 1/2 and 6f turf sprints
tommy More than 1 year ago
He deserved to win!!
Barbara Livingston More than 1 year ago
Great race - a wonderful winner in Unitarian, with Pletcher training...and then there's Mr. Jerkens. Well, it doesn't get better than that.
Old timer More than 1 year ago
how cool that they still card at least a few of these marathon races, at least on turf. Congrats to Mr. Pletcher and Unitarian.