Pletcher Outlines Summer Goals for Belmont Winner Mo Donegal, Runner-Up Nest - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Pletcher Outlines Summer Goals for Belmont Winner Mo Donegal, Runner-Up Nest

Mo Donegal defeats Nest in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was reminded on Saturday why he trains racehorses when Mo Donegal provided the Hall of Famer with his fourth triumph in the Belmont Stakes (G1).

Mo Donegal rated in between horses down the backstretch under Irad Ortiz Jr., 1 1/2 lengths off pacesetter We the People, and angled wide around the far turn, surging to the front past the quarter pole. Fending off an inside rally from stablemate and fellow Repole Stable colorbearer Nest, Mo Donegal won by three lengths in a final time of 2:28.28 over the fast main track.

The win was a first Belmont Stakes coup for owners Donegal Racing and Repole Stable.

“Yesterday was why you do this,” Pletcher said Sunday. “To win a race like that for the ownership group with all the Donegal team, Repole family, it's a dream race for Mike [Repole] and his family, being a native New Yorker. It was a dream race for him. He had told me that this was the race he had dreamed of winning the most. That's the most gratifying part of my job is to win races like that and see the enjoyment and excitement people get from it.”

Pletcher added a fourth Belmont Stakes triumph to his resume with Mo Donegal, having previously saddled Rags to Riches [2007], Palace Malice [2013] and Tapwrit [2017]. The win put Pletcher on even terms with his former boss, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who also boasts four Belmont Stakes victories.

“That's an honor, I consider him to be the best of all time so that's pretty cool,” Pletcher said.

Mo Donegal arrived at the “Test of the Champion” off a troubled fifth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, where he broke slow and was forced wide in the final turn, still managing to make up ground in deep stretch.

Nest, the lone filly in the Belmont Stakes field with Jose Ortiz up, stumbled out of the gate but was still able to secure forward stalking position and made a valiant bid in the stretch finishing second.

Pletcher said the race could have been closer between his two runners if Nest had a cleaner break.

“I got the feeling Mo Donegal had a little something in the tank if he was challenged. If you watch the two trips, she had a tougher go of it,” Pletcher said. “She stumbled at the start and kind of had to force her way inside to get position and then Jose had horse at the five sixteenths pole, but he couldn't go anywhere because Mo Donegal got the jump on him, so he had to wait until he cleared to get her out. She surged when he did. With a little different trip it would've been closer.

“He bounced out of it well. Both he and the filly,” Pletcher added.

Mo Donegal added $800,000 to his bankroll, which now stands at $1,511,800 with a 7-4-0-2 record. The Belmont Stakes elevated Mo Donegal's status among his sophomore counterparts while adding to an accomplished resume, which includes victories in the Grade 2 Remsen in December and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April, both at Aqueduct.

“Like always, there's no need to rank anybody yet because what happens in the summer and fall always seems to carry a little more weight in terms of divisional championships,” Pletcher said. “I think with his win in the Wood and the Belmont, the fact that he beat the Preakness winner [Early Voting] in the Wood, that puts him right at the top of the list.”

Mo Donegal could continue his upward trajectory in the $1.5 million Runhappy Travers (G1) on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course, a race which Pletcher has won with Flower Alley [2005] and Repole's Stay Thirsty [2011].

Pletcher said Mo Donegal could follow the same path as his two prior Travers winners, who prepped for the “Mid-Summer Derby” with a victory in the $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) on July 31 at Saratoga.

“I haven't really talked to the ownership group about it too much, but both of our Travers winners went through the Jim Dandy. So to me, if he has a prep between now and the Travers, that would make the most sense,” Pletcher said.

Nest will likely have sights set on the $600,000 Alabama (G1) on August 20 at Saratoga and before that the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) on July 23 at the Spa.

“I thought she ran great. We'll target the Alabama and decide if we want to target the Coaching Club before that or not,” Pletcher said. “I think she solidified what we already felt going into the Kentucky Oaks (G1) . Everyone talked about it being one of the deeper Oaks in a while. I think that Nest showed that to be the case yesterday.”

In the Kentucky Oaks, Nest finished second behind Secret Oath who is trained by Lukas, whom Pletcher worked under before going out on his own in 1996.

Mo Donegal also gave his prolific sire Uncle Mo, also owned by Repole and trained by Pletcher, his second victory in a Triple Crown race. He produced 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in his first crop.

“It's remarkable when you go to the sales, you don't need your catalogue page in most cases. You can tell when you see an Uncle Mo,” Pletcher said. “A lot of people say that's a sign of a great stallion when they really stamp their progeny.”

Pletcher's prosperous Belmont Stakes day also included a triumph in the Grade 2 Brooklyn with Repole's Fearless as well as game runner-up efforts with Happy Saver in the Grade 1, $1 million Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan Handicap and reigning champion 3-Year-Old filly Malathaat in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps.

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