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Pletcher Plotting Stakes Dates for Star-Studded Stable

Undefeated Life Is Good a possibility for Jerkens, Colonel Liam to rest until winter.

Trainer Todd Pletcher

Trainer Todd Pletcher

Coglianese Photos

While trainer Todd Pletcher prepares his acceptance speech for his Aug. 6 induction into racing's Hall of Fame, the sport's all-time leader in earnings also has his hands full getting his star-studded stable ready for some important graded stakes dates at Saratoga Race Course.

While Pletcher's hand in the centerpiece Aug. 28 Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) will be shaped by the performances of Dynamic One in the July 30 Curlin Stakes and Dr Jack in the July 31 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2), Pletcher has another 3-year-old colt who could re-emerge as a major player in the division before year's end. (Dynamic One was victorious in Friday's Curlin.)

Dynamic One wins the 2021 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta
Dynamic One wins the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

Pletcher said China Horse Club and WinStar Farm's undefeated Life Is Good is a possibility to return from a hiatus since early March in the Aug. 28 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1), a $500,000 seven-furlong test for 3-year-olds at the Spa.

"He's a very impressive horse, obviously," Pletcher said about the son of Into Mischief . "I've seen his races and he trains impressively. We'll see how the time frame goes, but maybe he can make the Jerkens."

The Sept. 25 $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) at Parx Racing is also on the table for the grade 2 winner.

Life Is Good will be making his debut for Pletcher after winning all three of his career starts for trainer Bob Baffert. Life Is Good was the future wager favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) until he was sidelined in March with an ankle chip. He was moved to Pletcher's barn earlier this summer in the aftermath of the Baffert-trained Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failing a post-race drug test following the Run for the Roses.

As for his other top 3-year-olds, Pletcher said Calumet Farm's Bourbonic, the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino (G2) winner, is headed to the Aug. 7 $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort. The Bernardini homebred has not raced since finishing fifth in the June 5 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1). 

Also, St. Elias Stable's Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa (G1) winner Known Agenda , who was fourth in the Belmont, is getting a freshening at WinStar Farm.

"He came back a little tired after the Belmont and is getting a bit of a breather at WinStar," Pletcher said about the son of Curlin . "We'll regroup with him but he's not in the Travers picture and the Pennsylvania Derby is probably too close."

Maracuja with jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., left comes up to beat Malathaat with jockey John Velazquez to the wire to win the 105th running of The Coaching Club American Oaks at The Saratoga Race Course Saturday July 24, 2021 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Malathaat (right) is narrowly beaten by Maracuja in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course

Pletcher said his top 3-year-old filly Malathaat came out of her first career loss last week in fine shape. Shadwell Stable's daughter of Curlin was second by a head to Maracuja in the July 24 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and the winner of five of six starts is expected to face that rival in an Aug. 21 rematch at the Spa in the 1 1/4-mile $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) for 3-year-old fillies.

"She came back really well from Saturday's race," he said about the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner. "We'll get a few breezes in her, but the Alabama is the target. I think she will appreciate the mile-and-a-quarter. She had a little bit of a layoff before the (CCA Oaks, 12 weeks off) and she probably got a tick tired. Hopefully it moves her forward for the Alabama."

Pletcher has another talented 3-year-old Shadwell filly in Zaajel, a daughter of Street Sense  who is coming off a win in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose Stakes (G2) after two subpar efforts. But rather than face her stablemate in the Alabama, Zaajel will cut back to seven furlongs and run Aug. 7 in the $500,000 Longines Test Stakes (G1).

"The race before the Mother Goose was an experiment on turf (the Edgewood Stakes, G2T) that didn't work out and the time before that (in the Fair Grounds Oaks, G2) she misbehaved in the gate and got off to a poor start and was a little rank going into the first turn. I think she will handle two turns down the road, but we want to keep her and Malathaat separated so we backed her down to seven furlongs for the Test," Pletcher said.

Pletcher won the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1T) in January with Colonel Liam and is hoping for an encore next year.

The son of Liam's Map  owned by Robert and Lawana Low has not raced since an eighth in the June 5 Resorts World Casino Manhattan Stakes (G1T) at Belmont Park and is being pointed to a winter campaign at Gulfstream Park.

"He wasn't training like he normally does and we decided to give him a little freshening," Pletcher said. "We know he likes Gulfstream and our hope is that similar to last year, we'll give him a little bit of a break around this time and get him ready for a prep race for the Pegasus."

Wit wins the 2021 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Wit wins the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

As for the future generation, Pletcher has a strong hand for a fourth Hopeful Stakes (G1) victory, led by Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Gainesway Stable's Wit, a Practical Joke  colt who romped in the Sanford Stakes (G3) for 2-year-olds.

Pletcher also hopes to breeze grade 1 winner Happy Saver Saturday morning and will then make a determination on his status for the Aug. 7 $1 million Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.