Todd Pletcher enjoyed a joyful June going 1-2 in the Belmont Stakes with Mo Donegal and Nest, one that segued into a jolly July over the long Fourth of July weekend as the Hall of Fame trainer swept all four Belmont Park weekend stakes.
Pletcher captured the Grade 2 John A. Nerud with Life Is Good and the Grade 3 Dwyer with Charge It on Saturday. His Jouster took the Perfect Sting Sunday, with Annapolis winning the Manila Stakes Monday.
“We’ve had a great weekend,” Pletcher told the New York Racing Association. “It’s been a lot of fun for the whole team and a lot of people putting in a lot of work for it. I’m grateful.”
That great weekend began when Life Is Good handily defeated his Grade 1-winning rival Speaker’s Corner in the seven-furlong Nerud. Using his lethal early speed, Life Is Good broke smartly from the rail and cruised home five lengths ahead.
‘Only one outcome that was OK … to win’
“You never take anything for granted,” Pletcher said after the race. “There’s only one outcome that was OK and that was for him to win. He ran against a Grade 1 winner and drew the rail, so you worry about all those things. He broke sharp, high cruising speed and just kept going. I loved the way he galloped out.”
Pletcher said that lines up Life Is Good for the Grade 1 Whitney Aug. 6 at Saratoga.
As impressive as Life Is Good looked, Charge It looked even better. He atoned for his 17th-place Kentucky Derby finish with a 23-length destruction of his overwhelmed fellow sophomores in the one-mile Dwyer. It was Charge It’s first stakes victory.
Pletcher awed by Charge It’s victory margin
Starting on the rail like Life Is Good, the 3/5 favorite took command around the far turn and that was that. He led by 10 at the stretch call and even running green toward the wire, extended his lead to a Secretariat-esque 23 lengths. Charge It’s 111 Beyer Speed Figure was the highest number recorded by a 3-year-old this year. His previous best was the 93 he posted in his runner-up finish to White Abarrio in the Florida Derby.
“That’s pretty crazy,” Pletcher said about the win margin. “We thought he would run well, and you never think of one winning by that type of margin, but he’s a colt that we’ve always been very high on and he’s always trained like a horse that was capable of great things. He’s starting to get a bit more maturity and seasoning now and I still think there’s room for improvement.”
With Charge It fully recovered from the displaced palate that affected him in that subpar Derby finish, Pletcher looks to Saratoga for Charge It’s next campaigns. Expect to see him in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy July 30 and the Grade 1 Travers Aug. 27.
Four wins across the class spectrum Saturday
That anchored a four-win Saturday for Pletcher, who also won with $2 million yearling purchase Capensis and New York-bred gelding Jerry the Nipper.
Fast forward to Monday and there was Annapolis, trying to put his first career defeat behind him — a second in the June 3 Penn Mile. He did so, with a 2 3/4-length score over a mile on the Widener Turf Course. Like his stablemates, Annapolis was odds-on: 3/5.
And like his stablemates, he made it look easy. Behind a strong ride by Irad Ortiz Jr., Annapolis found a seam in the stretch. Ortiz split two of his rivals, kicked Annapolis into another gear and had him in hand by the sixteenth pole.
Remember the Penn Mile? Pletcher does
That was Annapolis’ second stakes win in four starts. Pletcher explained that the second at the Penn Mile came due to extremely soft turf — “bottomless,” as the trainer described it. Ortiz came off the horse after that race and told Pletcher, “Todd, I got a perfect trip, the track beat me today. My horse was trying. At the eighth pole, it felt like he was going to get there and he started struggling on the track.”
Pletcher said the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational on the Aug. 6 Whitney undercard is likely next for Annapolis. The trainer said Annapolis should handle stretching out to 1 3/16 miles.