NEW YORK – Todd Pletcher’s approach to the Kentucky Derby is simple: keep his best 3-year-olds from facing each other, win a bunch of big races around the country and then let them meet up in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May,
Once again, mission accomplished.
The nation’s leading trainer is set to send out at least four of the 20 Derby starters on May 4 – that’s 20 percent of the field – and likely will have the favorite in undefeated Verrazano, winner of the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on March 30.
His other starters will be Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary, Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze and Blue Grass runner-up Palace Malice. Plus, there’s an outside chance Charming Kitten can make the field if a few horses with more Derby qualifying points drop out.
And to think he could have had two other Derby starters if not for health issues with Shanghai Bobby and Violence.
Pletcher ended an 0-for-24 streak by winning his first Derby with Super Saver in 2010. A year ago, he had two chances, and back in 2007 he equaled the record for most starters in a single Derby with five.
So here we go again, and this time Pletcher’s really loaded.
In the AP’s latest Run to the Roses’ Top 10 list of Derby contenders, Verrazano is first, Revolutionary third, Overanalyze fifth and Palace Malice eighth.
A pair of weekend preps, the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass – put three new horses in the top 10 in Overanalyze, Blue Grass winner Java’s War and runner-up Palace Malice.
While Pletcher was adding to his strong lineup, three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert was going the other way. Currently, Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie will be Baffert’s lone Derby horse. Among his others who won’t make the cut are War Academy, Den’s Legacy and Flashback.