Trainer Todd Pletcher's office has become the major intersection of all roads to Louisville as his assault on the 133rd Kentucky Derby unfolds with clockwork precision.
Circular Quay's relentless winning rally from some 17 lengths behind in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and Cowtown Cat's score in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct over the weekend illustrate the strength of Pletcher's herd of talented Derby prospects.
A week earlier, the Pletcher-trained Scat Daddy upset Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and King of the Roxy took the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Florida. On Saturday, Any Given Saturday will be a clear favorite to win the Tampa Bay Derby. The ongoing move from strength to strength spans the continent. While Pletcher reloads for the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, the Illinois Derby and Arkansas Derby, the highly regarded Ravel is in residence at Santa Anita Park, where he will be joined by King of the Roxy for the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
With Any Given Saturday the only high-profile Pletcher-trained 3-year-old scheduled to race this week, Saturday's San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita is the next hurdle for West Coast Derby prospects, including the Merv Griffin-owned Cobalt Blue. Teuflesberg, winner of the Southwest Stakes, tops the list of those bound for the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
Things can change quickly in the hierarchy of 3-year-olds whose connections have reservations in Louisville on the first weekend of May, and Pletcher is without a Derby winner from the 14 starters, including four in the 2000 running. But it is already clear that the horse that wins the Kentucky Derby must get past Pletcher.
Paul Moran writes for Newsday.