Monaco could be Pletcher’s next big one

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

August 25th, 2016

Tough to dub a horse a ‘star’ before he or she ever steps foot on the racetrack, but I have a hunch we will see a fine performance from a Todd Pletcher first-time starter in Saturday’s opener. In what appears to be a loaded maiden field, MONACO will make his much-anticipated debut on Travers Day and the Uncle Mo colt has all the makings of a runner.

The juvenile colt sold for $150,000 as a yearling and was a giant pinhooking success when bringing the gavel down at $1.3 million at Ocala this March at a two-year-old in-training sale. Uncle Mo, a record-setting freshman sire in 2015 who was represented by a two-year-old champion and Kentucky Derby winner in his first crop, wins at an 18% clip first-out and his Kentucky-bred son has only a small gap in his morning drills earlier this summer. The Kentucky-bred Monaco is kin to four winning siblings from four who have raced and will be guided by the barn’s long-time money rider, John Velazquez.

Pletcher is no stranger to unveiling some prized prospects in the past on Travers Day. Nearly six years ago to the day, Uncle Mo went to the gate as a much-ballyhooed debuter and did not disappoint at 4-5 odds, steamrolling foes by a sensational 14 ¼ lengths, the first of an unbeaten championship juvenile season.

Roughly 2,873 miles across the country, an intriguing and well-bred, first-time starter will make a debut at Del Mar on Saturday for conditioner Bob Baffert. A gray filly named LIFE’S BLESSINGS will make her initial appearance in the Race 9, a 5 ½-furlong dash for two-year-old fillies. This daughter of leading sire Tapit was produced from the sensational Indian Blessing, a dual champion and one of the more electric racehorses I have seen in recent times. The five-time Grade 1 heroine was surely a precocious one, drawing off at first asking while posting a spectacular 108 BRIS Speed figure, which spearheaded her undefeated two-year-old campaign.

The elder brother of Life’s Blessings, Ten Blessings, was a debut winner at Santa Anita this winter and could be any kind with seasoning and improvement. With some fine mornings drills, including a bullet five panels from the gate in :58 2/5 in her latest morning jaunt, Life’s Blessings may be sitting on a big first-out performance for one of the best in the business.

I will be backing both of these seemingly well-meant youngsters with confidence on Saturday.