Trainer Todd Pletcher has a ton of entrants heading in to the Kentucky Derby, but two from his stable will skip the first leg of the Triple Crown. Neither Malagacy nor Battalion Runner will join the 20-horse fray at Churchill Downs this coming weekend. Their body of work wasn’t convincing enough for Pletcher.
Malagacy stormed in to the spotlight after a convincing upset win in the Rebel Stakes, but a rough run at the Arkansas Derby saw him trail all the way to fifth place. The general feeling is that the three-year-old son of Shackelford out of Classiest Gem was never really meant to run 10 furlongs. Pletcher obviously wasn’t convinced that Malagacy had the legs for the 1 1/4 mile distance of the Kentucky Derby.
The work from Battalion Runner has been even less impressive. The colt ran well in the Wood Memorial with a runner-up finish behind Irish War Cry. But subsequent drilling has been troubling. Battalion Runner hit the track for a four-furlong session that left Pletcher wanting. “It wasn’t the powerful work that I was hoping for from him,” Pletcher commented.
Neither of these are really earth shifting decisions. The top of the 2017 Triple Crown class remains mounted by Classic Empire, with Pletcher’s Always Dreaming making tons of noise amongst handicappers and horse players alike.
In the absence of Malagacy and Battalion Runner, Lookin at Lee and Sonneteer will get the call as replacements. Of the two, Sonneteer is the more interesting. “He’s just constantly maturing, growing, getting bigger, coming into himself,” trainer Julie Clark said. “I think he likes a distance, he likes to go a little bit further, and that closing kick is helpful. I think we’ve got a shot.”
By my count, I prefer Sonneteer when compared to Malagacy and Battalion Runner for a longer hike like the Kentucky Derby. There are going to be a lot of longshots on the board for you to choose from. Sonneteer may be worth a flier.