Pletcher readying Destin, Stradivari for Belmont Stakes
The Belmont Stakes is a different story for Pletcher, who has two wins and four seconds from 20 starters in the 1 ½-mile classic. Neither winner was favored, with Palace Malice heading postward at 13-1 odds in 2013 and Rags to Riches at 4-1 in 2007, and Pletcher just missed at a price with Commissioner (head second at 28-1 in 2014) and Stay Thirsty (beaten less than a length at 16-1 in 2011).
His other second-place finishers, Bluegrass Cat (2006) and Dunkirk (2009), were both 9-2.
From the six horses who finished either first or second in the Belmont, four raced in the Kentucky Derby. And Bluegrass Cat (a well-beaten second to Barbaro) was the only one to hit the board.
Destin, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Sam F. Davis (G3) in his two starts prior to the Kentucky Derby, is confirmed for the Belmont. The Giant’s Causeway colt took an unorthodox route to the first Saturday in May, boycotting a final prep as he entered off an eight-week freshening, and Destin had never raced at 1 1/8 miles beforehand.
He didn’t perform badly finishing sixth, beaten only seven lengths by Nyquist, and the well-bred gray is eligible to improve significantly with the race under his belt. Destin possesses tactical speed in a projected Belmont field lacking pace and could wind up showing the way up front with Javier Castellano.
Pletcher is also considering Stradivari, who would come back a little quick for the stable if they opt to run him three weeks later. The Medaglia d’Oro colt is lightly-raced, making only his fourth career start and stakes debut in the Preakness, and flashed excellent promise breaking his maiden by an 11 ¼-length margin at Gulfstream Park before capturing a Keeneland allowance by a resounding 14 ½ lengths.
Stradivari will be evaluated over the next week before a final Belmont decision is made. Pletcher said he appeared to bounce back well from the Preakness and has scheduled a work for next weekend. Stradivari would bring more speed to the table, with the Pletcher trainees possibly running 1-2 in the early stages barring the addition of more front-runners to the field.
Preakness winner Exaggerator will be the horse to beat, but the Belmont Stakes is easily Pletcher’s strongest Triple Crown event and he could be well-represented this year by Destin and Stradivari.
Photo courtesy of SV Photography/Tampa Bay Downs