There was a time, not too long ago, when just about any 2-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher was expected to win whenever and wherever they were entered. Between 2009 and 2017, Pletcher’s annual winning percentage with juveniles ranged from 24% to 34%, eye-catching numbers that signified the strength of his stable.
Times have changed. After striking at just a 21% rate with 2-year-olds in 2018, Pletcher’s win percentage has fallen again to 18% in 2019, and he hasn’t won a Grade 1 race for juveniles since 2016. But in my opinion, Pletcher can bounce back in a big way with #10 Gouverneur Morris in Saturday’s $500,000 Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
A son of Pletcher’s two-time Grade 1 winner Constitution, Gouverneur Morris was bet like a “can’t lose” proposition in his debut on September 2 at Saratoga. Racing over a sloppy, sealed racing surface, Gouverneur Morris tracked quick early fractions, took command in the homestretch, and powered clear to win by nine widening lengths.
This was an exciting debut from a promising prospect, and Gouverneur Morris was suitably rewarded on the speed figure scales, receiving an 83 Beyer and an 85 Brisnet. He’s come back to post a couple of sharp workouts at Belmont Park, so from all appearances, Pletcher has this $600,000 auction purchase ready to continue his ascent through the ranks.
Just as importantly, Gouverneur Morris appears poised to work out a clean trip in the Breeders’ Futurity, Drawing post 10 should allow him to stay out of traffic and hopefully secure a perfect position early on, possibly stalking #1 Tap It to Win and #7 American Butterfly. Pletcher has already won the Breeders’ Futurity twice in the last decade, including in 2014 with Carpe Diem, a Saratoga maiden winner stepping up in class just like Gouverneur Morris.
I plan to make Gouverneur Morris the key horse in my wagers on Saturday, but I won’t bet him exclusively on top. I’ll also support the above-mentioned speedster Tap It to Win and the proven graded stakes winner #2 By Your Side.
Both of these runners have strong points to offer. For example. Tap It to Win is a well-bred son of Tapit out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare, giving him a stamina-oriented pedigree perfect for the Breeders’ Futurity. Trained by Mark Casse, who won this race in 2016 with champion Classic Empire, Tap It to Win had no difficulty winning an August 24 maiden race at Saratoga, earning an 86 Beyer while scoring by 3 ½ lengths over Complexifier, who returned to break his own maiden at Churchill Downs with an 83 Beyer.
As for By Your Side, this Eddie Keneally-trained son of Constitution started his career in very promising fashion, defeating future Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes winner Basin in a Churchill Downs maiden race before winning the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga by three lengths. Yet despite this bright start, By Your Side never really fired in the Hopeful, weakening to finish a dull fifth behind Basin.
It’s hard to say why By Your Side misfired in the Hopeful, but if you draw a line through that effort, he looks like a good fit for the Breeders’ Futurity. Stakes-experienced colts have won seven of the last 10 editions of this race, and By Your Side has posted two fast workouts at Keeneland in preparation for Saturday, suggesting he has an affinity for this track.
Let’s play these three in the exacta while also betting Gouverneur Morris to win:
Wagering Strategy on a $20 Budget
$10 to win on #10 Gouverneur Morris
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $10 to win on #10
$2 exacta: 10 with 1,2 ($4)
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $2 exacta 10 with 1,2
$3 exacta: 1,2 with 10 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $3 exacta 1,2 with 10
The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series continues on NBC Sports with Fall Stars Weekend from Keeneland on October 5 at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and October 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC.