Pletcher Breezes Belmont Stakes Week Prospects


Photo: Rick Samuels
Mo Donegal trains prior to running fifth in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher sent a number of his stars to breeze over the Belmont Park dirt training track May 20 in preparation for engagements at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, including Mo Donegal  for the June 11 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1). 

Joining Mo Donegal on the work tab was Pletcher's top 3-year-old filly, Nest , the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) runner-up who could run in the Belmont pending results of the May 21 Preakness Stakes (G1) and other considerations. Other workers toward Belmont Stakes week races included Wit , aimed for the Woody Stephens Stakes Presented by Mohegan Sun (G1); Malathaat , pointed for the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1); and Fearless  and First Constitution , both pointed to the Brooklyn Stakes (G2).

Donegal Racing and Repole Stable's Mo Donegal enjoyed a strong campaign at Aqueduct Racetrack, controversially winning the Remsen Stakes (G2) in December and adding the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino (G2) in April. 

The late-running Uncle Mo   colt was away slow from the inside post in the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs, rallying from 17 lengths behind a hot pace to finish fifth, 3 3/4 lengths behind upset winner Rich Strike . Pletcher chose to sit out the Preakness with Mo Donegal to await the Belmont, standard practice for the trainer when his horses do not win the Derby.

Mo Donegal breezed a half-mile in :50.02 Friday in company with Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) winner Nest, who races for owners Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Michael House.

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"It was a good maintenance breeze," said Pletcher's New York-based assistant Byron Hughes. "They both were moving well and galloped out well. They were on even terms throughout and we were happy with the breeze."

Shadwell Stable's 2021 champion 3-year-old filly Malathaat worked five-eighths in 1:01.58 in company with Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Gainesway Stable's multiple graded stakes winner Wit.

Repole Stable's multiple graded stakes winner Fearless worked a half-mile in :49.55 in company with Don Alberto Stable, WinStar Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' multiple stakes winner First Constitution in preparation for the Brooklyn.

"It was a maintenance half-mile and both were moving well," Hughes said. "They both gave us everything we wanted to see from them."

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners also figures to be in action Belmont Stakes week with a horse not trained by Todd Pletcher: the Wayne Catalano-trained Aloha West , winner of the 2021 Qatar Racing Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Del Mar.

Third in his season debut in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by Ford (G1) on Derby Day, Aloha West is under consideration for either the one-mile Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan Handicap (G1) June 11 or the 6 1/2-furlong True North Stakes (G2) on June 10.

The Metropolitan Handicap, commonly referred to as the Met Mile and widely considered a stallion-making race, is further expected to lure Flightline  and Speaker's Corner , two of the fastest one-turn horses in the country.