Mo Donegal Could Be Ace In Pletcher’s KY Derby Hand - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Mo Donegal Could Be Ace In Pletcher’s KY Derby Hand

Mo Donegal, winner of the Wood Memorial

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will look to secure his third Kentucky Derby (G1) win after Donegal Racing's Mo Donegal punched his ticket to the “Run for the Roses” with a neck score in the Wood Memorial (G2) Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Mo Donegal, with Joel Rosario up, rallied up the rail through the final turn before angling outside of pacesetter Early Voting to secure the victory in the nine-furlong test which offered 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

The victory provided Pletcher a record-tying seventh win in the Wood Memorial, joining fellow Hall of Famer “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons.

“I thought it was a super effort on his part. We worked out the trip we hoped to with the exception of the hot pace scenario we hoped would develop,” Pletcher said. “Aside from that, everything worked out well. He put in a good, sustained run and a fast final quarter. He found a seam when he needed it. It was a big run from him.”

On Friday, Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbreds Partners and Michael House's Nest posted an authoritative score in the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland to give Pletcher a shot at winning his fifth Kentucky Oaks (G1) and tying the record held by Hall of Famer Woody Stephens.

Pletcher won the Oaks last year with Shadwell Stable's Malathaat, who followed a similar path to Nest's, winning both the Grade 2 Demoiselle at the Big A and the Ashland. Both fillies picked up their first Oaks qualifying points in the Tempted at Aqueduct, which Malathaat won and Nest was a closing third.

Pletcher said Nest, by Curlin and out of the A.P. Indy mare Marion Ravenwood, is following a tried and true path.

“They both broke their maidens on debut at Belmont before running in the Tempted and the Demoiselle and then the Ashland,” Pletcher said. “Both are Curlin fillies out of A.P. Indy mares and not that they physically resemble each other that much, but both are extremely talented.”

Pletcher said Nest will continue that trend by training at Churchill Downs.

“We'll look to follow the same path we did last year with Malathaat. We'll ship over to Churchill next week and she'll have a couple of breezes there,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher said he will also send Mo Donegal to Churchill early as he looks to provide Donegal Racing with their first Derby score after previous attempts with Paddy O'Prado, (3rd, 2010) Dullahan (3rd, 2012) and Keen Ice (7th, 2015).

“We've always felt like the mile and a quarter distance would suit him well,” Pletcher said of Mo Donegal. “In the Derby, it's important for everyone to work out a trip. A lot of it will be pace dependent and being able to find seams when he needs to. It's important not to get stopped at a bad time.”

Pletcher said he feels like he holds a strong Derby hand which also includes Whisper Hill Farm's Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Charge It and possibly Sumaya U.S. Stable's Pioneer of Medina, who is currently 24th on the leaderboard with 25 points.

“We're blessed to have some candidates,” Pletcher said. “Like everyone else, we need them to continue to improve and stay healthy and keep moving forward and like the surface at Churchill, but we're pleased with where we are at the moment.”

Mo Donegal was one of three Pletcher trainees in the Wood along with maiden Long Term (7th) and New York-bred maiden winner Golden Code (8th), who finished third in the Grade 3 Gotham in March at the Big A.

“We were taking a chance, so we'll regroup and get back in a maiden race with Long Term and Golden Code is eligible for New York-bred allowance races. We'll give them plenty of time after that and let them re-group,” Pletcher said.

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