By Ryan Martin

  • Pletcher Sends Spinoff for Grade II Louisiana Derby


With 52 starters, no trainer in history of the sport has run more horses in the Grade I $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve than Todd Pletcher. He’s started at least three horses in the race a record nine times, winning it twice, with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017). Year in and year out, his stable is strongly represented in the Triple Crown preps. On Saturday he’ll shoot for a record-enhancing fifth victory in Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Grade II $1 million Louisiana Derby with the lightly-raced Spinoff.

Pletcher has won previous runnings of the final local prep on the Road To The Kentucky Derby with Circular Quay (2007), Mission Impazible (2010), Revolutionary (2013) and Noble Indy (2018). In addition, Pletcher has either won or placed in five of the last six runnings of the event, which awards a total of 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10).

The Wertheimer and Frere-owned homebred son of Hard Spun emerged from a six-month layoff in impressive fashion last time out when defeating winners over the main track at Tampa Bay Downs by 11¾ lengths. The eye-opening performance was his first start since finishing third in the Grade II Saratoga Special Stakes on August 12, where he was beaten 2¾ legnths behind two time stakes winner Call Paul.

“We’ve always had high hopes for him,” Pletcher said. “He had a little setback after the Saratoga Special and we felt the two-turn race at Tampa was the best starting point to the path moving forward. He was so much the best in that race. He was looking around at the starting gate and idling a bit. (Jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) had to keep him to task.”

Since his astonishing win at Tampa Bay Downs last out, Spinoff has recorded a pair of works at Palm Beach Downs in South Florida, the most recent of which was a five-furlong drill in 1:00.40.

“He’s trained like we had hoped since the Tampa race and the timing of the Louisiana Derby is good for him,” Pletcher said. “With six weeks before the Kentucky Derby, we can still run back in the (Grade I $ 1 million) Arkansas Derby (at Oaklawn Park on April 13), or if he runs really well on Saturday, I would also feel very comfortable just training him up to Louisville.”

Spinoff is the most lightly raced horse in the 11-horse field with only a threesome of starts under his belt. When Pletcher sent Noble Indy to Fair Grounds for last year’s Louisiana Derby, he also only ran three times  He’ll be stepping up against the likes of Grade III Lecomte and Grade II

Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford winner War of Will, who is No. 1 on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. Pletcher is aware the test that awaits his horse on Saturday will be no easy task. Spinoff is the 8-1 co-third choice in the field.

“War of Will has been very impressive,” Pletcher said. “We are drawn outside of him (post ten), so Johnny (Velazquez) should be able to keep tabs on where he’s at. Spinoff has a lot of natural early speed, so we expect to be forwardly placed. We’d like to save some ground, but we can be on the lead or targeting. Maybe we will be targeting War of Will, it all depends on how it plays out.”

Spinoff arrived at Fair Grounds on Tuesday morning along with Noble Indy, who runs in the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on the undercard. Both Pletcher trainees will be ridden by Hall of Famer and two-time Louisiana Derby winning jockey John Velazquez.

Spinoff comes from a nice family of Grade I winners. His dam was Zaftig who won the Grade I Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park in 2008. Her half-sister Zo Impressive also was a Grade I winner over the Belmont Park main track when she took the Mother Goose Stakes in 2012. Both are out of Zoftig who won the Grade I Selene Stakes over the dirt at Woodbine in 2000.