The Farrell Report: Pletcher Seeks G1 Wins Coast-To-Coast

By Mike Farrell

Todd Pletcher, the freshly minted member of racing’s Hall of Fame, sends out top contenders in both of Saturday’s leading Grade 1 stakes:  Dr Post in the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar and Malathaat in the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga.

While the Pletcher barn will be active in a coast-to-coast marathon, it remains to be seen just how active the all-time leader in purse earnings with $410 million can be.

Pletcher confirmed over the weekend to upstate New York turf media that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and has entered self-imposed quarantine.

Pletcher hopes to be back at his Saratoga barn on Thursday and is reportedly suffering only mild symptoms that he first suspected were seasonal allergies. Pletcher will command his far-flung operation from the comfort of his couch.

It is yet another reminder that we continue to live in strange days, indeed.

The decision to send Dr Post to California is a bold, but understandable gambit. The Pacific Classic is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race with the winner guaranteed a spot in the Classic in early November back at Del Mar.

Pletcher gets a chance to assess how well Dr Post travels in his first race west of New Jersey. He also has an opportunity to see if the 4-year-old stacks up against the West Coast’s handicap division.

Dr Post is still seeking a breakthrough Grade 1 win. He has a pair of Grade 3 wins on his chart this year: the Westchester at Belmont Park and the Monmouth Cup.

Among the Del Mar-based locals, Express Train looks to be rounding nicely into peak form for trainer John Shirreffs.

Express Train was third to Silver State in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita. He rebounded to take the San Diego Handicap (G2) last month, beating Tripoli by a half-length.

Tripoli and Royal Ship, third as the 8-5 favorite in the San Diego, return for another crack at Express Train.

Cupid’s Claws, Magic on Tap, Sheriff Brown, and Tizmagician complete the expected lineup.

Rock Your World could be a late entrant in what would be his first start since the conclusion of the Triple Crown.

If Pletcher is up-and-able, he will undoubtedly be at Saratoga Saturday for the Malathaat vs. Maracuja rematch.

It will be their second Grade 1 battle of the meet following Maracuja’s 14-1 upset by scant head over 3-10 favorite Malathaat in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

The narrow defeat snapped Malathaat’s three-race winning streak that included Grade 1 wins in the Kentucky Oaks and the CCAO.

In the four-horse CCAO, Malathaat wound up setting a pressured pace instead of enjoying her preferred stalking trip. Rob Atras, trainer of Maracuja, knows the scenario could play out differently in the Alabama.

“The way Malathaat had to run last time compromised her, I thought,” Atras said. “It won’t be an easy task to run against her again. Ultimately, I’ll leave it up to Ricardo (Santana). Hopefully, she will get the same kind of break and see how the race sets up. You never know how tricky it can be with a short field with not much pace.”

Other likely Alabama runners include Army Wife, Clairiere, Crazy Beautiful, Played Hard and Will’s Secret.

Off the track: Navarro changes plea to guilty

Jorge Navarro – Photo Courtesy of Anne M.Eberhardt

Off the racetrack — and hopefully permanently — Jorge Navarro reversed his plea to guilty last week and faces sentencing in December for his role in a horse doping and illegal drug distribution scandal.

The wheels of justice do grind slowly but it’s heartening to see the case is proceeding. Navarro, Jason Servis and more than two dozen other trainers, veterinarians and suppliers were rounded up in March 2020, charged with orchestrating a web of wide-spread corruption.

The other large shoe to fall is Servis, whose legal team is reportedly challenging the legality of the wiretaps used to collect evidence. With Navarro already conceding his crime, it will be harder for Servis to escape the same snare.

We now enter the realm of pure speculation. There are two likely reasons Navarro gave up the fight. The first is that the evidence is so overwhelming that his lawyers convinced him the case could not be won. The second is that he was offered a deal to testify against Servis in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Either way, it does not look good for Servis. The disqualification of Maximum Security for interference in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) while a crushing blow, turns out to be the least punishing run-in with the authorities for Servis.

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