Kentucky Derby 2019 Radar: Pletcher in the mix with Moretti

Kentucky Derby 2019 Radar: Pletcher in the mix with Moretti

By Jonathan Lintner

The calendar will turn, somewhat surprisingly, with trainer Todd Pletcher’s 2-year-olds having earned two total points on the road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby. But this is the time of year when he’s known to unveil some promising prospects, and on Thursday, Moretti stamped himself as one to watch moving forward.

Jockey John Velazquez traveled to Aqueduct to ride only in the fifth race aboard the son of Medaglia d’Oro, a $900,000 purchase who cruised to a 3 1/4 length win despite looking a bit green in the stretch, moving out when urged from his left, then back in toward the rail as the Hall of Fame jockey guided him.

“Johnny gave Moretti an ideal education and schooling in his first race last month,” said Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, “and he’s a horse that’s been crying out for two turns ever since he was originally broken. This was a target from right after his debut.

“We let Johnny know about it, and we were pleased he was able to make the trip up. Hopefully Moretti represents the type of prospect that we’re all in the game for.”

Wellman said the “synergy” among Pletcher, bloodstock agent Jacob West and Mike Repole, another of the trainer’s top clients, led Eclipse and Repole Stable to partner for the first time in purchasing Moretti.

“It was obviously a huge plunge at the time, but we’re where we want to be,” Wellman said.

The bay colt debuted Nov. 14 at Aqueduct, running second to eventual Remsen Stakes (G2) contender Bourbon War in a mile race taken off the turf. Wellman reasoned that had the event remained on the grass, Moretti would have gone the two turns connections believe he wants in his debut. Given the forecast, connections expected the race to go as a one-turn mile on the main track.

“One way or the other, we were going to be pleased with the situation and hope he just got experience moving forward,” Wellman said.

Now, “we’re leaving all options on the table,” he added after Moretti pressed the pace Thursday and moved to the lead leaving the turn. He finished up 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct in 1:54.86.

If the horse remains in New York, Aqueduct hosts the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes on Feb. 2. Or he could go to Florida and join Pletcher’s string at Palm Beach Downs. Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2, $350,000 Holy Bull runs the same day.

Pletcher’s Derby trail points earners so far are Sombeyay, fourth in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and King for a Day, fourth in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2).

Current, another campaigned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, made the switch to dirt for the Kentucky Jockey Club but encountered a rough trip, finishing seventh. Wellman said the son of Curlin is likely to return to grass for Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3, $100,000 Dania Beach on Feb. 2 but could “earn his way” back on the Derby trail should he rebound there.

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