Pletcher Sophs Work Towards Belmont Day Spots

A trio of 3-year-olds from the barn of Todd Pletcher took to the Belmont dirt training track Friday morning as they prepare for stakes engagements during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo), who defeated GI Preakness S. hopeful Early Voting (Gun Runner) in the GII Wood Memorial S. Apr. 9 ahead of a closing fifth in the GI Kentucky Derby May 7, breezed a half-mile in the company of his GI Central Bank Ashland S.-winning stable companion Nest (Curlin) in :50.02. Owned by Donegal Racing and Repole Stable, Mo Donegal is pointing for the GI Belmont S. June 11, while Nest is under consideration for a start against the boys in the 'Test of the Champion.' Nest's sire was famously defeated by the Pletcher-trained Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy) in the 2007 Belmont.

“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.”

'TDN Rising Star' Wit (Practical Joke) went five furlongs in the company of fellow 'Rising Star' Malathaat (Curlin) in 1:01.58 Friday morning. Wit most recently returned from a six-month break to take out the GII Bay Shore S. by a nose Apr. 9 and will remain at the seven-furlong distance for the GI Woody Stephens S. on Belmont S. day. Malathaat also made a victorious return to action in Keeneland's GIII Baird Doubledogdare S. Apr. 22, besting Friday's GII DuPont Distaff romper Super Quick (Super Saver), and faces a mouthwatering matchup with champion Letruska (Super Saver) in the GI Ogden Phipps S. the same afternoon.

“Both are good breeze horses and made a good matchup,” Hughes said. “They went head-and-head throughout in 1:01 and change and had a good, solid gallop out.”

Highland Chief On to Manhattan…

Highland Chief (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}), who caused a 19-1 upset in the May 14 GI Man o' War S., is likely to make his next appearance on the Belmont S. undercard in the GI Manhattan S.

“I think we'll point to the Manhattan if he's doing well,” trainer Graham Motion said. “The timing is right and I don't have a concern whatsoever about the mile and a quarter for him. I think he's pretty tactical and I think we're certainly going to keep him over here and not consider taking him over to England anytime soon. It had been mentioned to me before the race, but after we all got together, I think we'll keep him for an American campaign.

BC Champ Possible for Met…

Trainer Wayne Catalano has told the NYRA racing office that his GI Breeders' Cup Sprint hero Aloha West (Hard Spun) could make the trip to the Big Apple for the GI Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan H. June 11. The Maryland-bred 5-year-old made his seasonal debut in the GI Churchill Downs S. May 7, finishing third behind Jackie's Warrior (Maclean's Music) and Reinvestment Risk (Upstart).

“He went on the dead rail and got pushed a little early,” Catalano said. “It was a tough race. The only horse that went up the rail the last eighth of the mile was the Derby winner [Rich Strike]. From what I saw, everyone else was on the middle of the racetrack.”

The Met is also likely to attract undefeated 'TDN Rising Star' Flightline (Tapit) and GI Carter H. hero Speaker's Corner (Street Sense).

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