It seems not a week goes by without trainer Todd Pletcher saddling a three-year-old maiden winner (or two, or three).
Since the beginning of the year, Pletcher has sent out eight sophomores to break their maidens, giving the two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer a strong hand as the Road to the Kentucky Derby heats up.
Let’s review Pletcher’s latest winners, plus a couple of other promising weekend winners to watch:
After finishing fifth in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Gulfstream Park, Pletcher’s Atlantic Road appreciated shipping north to Aqueduct for a seven-furlong dash on Feb. 8. Showing newfound speed while equipped with blinkers, the son of Quality Road dueled for the lead through splits of :23.57 and :47.67, then showed tenacity down the lane to hold off the consistent Nepotism by a head in 1:26.28. Produced by the Smart Strike mare Smart ‘n Special, Atlantic Road is bred to run long and should improve again when stretching out around two turns.
The third time was the charm for Manitowish. After failing to challenge in his first two starts, the Dale Romans trainee sprung a 10-1 upset in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden sprint on Friday at Gulfstream. After tracking fractions of :23.09 and :46.32 posted by the front-running Secret Potion, Manitowish briefly lost ground at the top of the stretch, but reengaged down the lane and battled back to win by a length in 1:17.83. This was a big step forward off Manitowish’s previous form, suggesting the son of Blue Grass (G1) winner Carpe Diem is finally putting everything together.
Runner-up in his sprint debut at Fair Grounds last month, Run Classic took a big step forward when stretching out over 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Settling into third position behind splits of :24.38, :48.70, and 1:13.88, Run Classic pounced boldly to the front and drew off down the stretch to beat eight rivals by 3 1/4 lengths. A son of champion sprinter Runhappy out of a mare by two-time Hal’s Hope (G3) winner Chatain, Run Classic is bred to be more of a sprinter/miler than a true router. But the way he finished on Saturday (rocketing the final five-sixteenths in :30 2/5) hints this Bret Calhoun trainee might have more stamina than first meets the eye.
Pletcher’s second winner of the week exited the same six-furlong dash at Gulfstream in which Atlantic Road finished fifth. In Sainthood’s case, the key to success was stretching out over 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Fair Grounds. Racing straight to the lead under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, Sainthood carved out modest fractions of :24.91, :49.59, and 1:13.77, then dug deep in the drive to stem off the pace-tracking Dolder Grand by a nose in 1:45.26. As a son of Mshawish (a Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf) out of a mare by Lemon Drop Kid (whose descendants have thrived on dirt, turf, and synthetic alike), Sainthood has the breeding to be a multi-surface threat himself.