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Advocating Violence: Pletcher Star Set for Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth
“Violence is one of the most fun things to watch.” – Quentin Tarantino, motion picture screenwriter and director.
We have a strong hunch that Quirky Quentin wasn’t talking horses when he said, “Violence is one of the most fun things to watch,” but fun certainly is in store for Gulfstream fans at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Feb. 23, when trainer Todd Pletcher sends Violence to the racetrack to run in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2).
The undefeated 3-year-old colt is expected to be heavily favored to capture the major prep for the $1 million Besilu Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream on March 30 and is a leading prospect for the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 4.
Violence seems to have everything going for him: a strong pedigree, the most successful trainer in racing, abundant talent and an obvious will to win no matter where he runs.
The son of Medaglia d’Oro, who was purchased by Black Rock Thoroughbreds for $600,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, won at first asking last August at Saratoga. Despite a tardy start and getting bumped in the stretch, Violence got up to win the seven-furlong race by a neck over next-out winner Titletown Five. Jumping directly to stakes company for his second start in November, he successfully stretched out to a mile with a two-length victory in the Nashua (G2). It was his third start, though, that made Violence such an exciting prospect for Gulfstream’s 3-year-old stakes program and, ultimately, the Kentucky Derby.
Flown cross-country to run in the CashCall Futurity (G1) over the synthetic racing surface at Hollywood Park on Dec. 15, Violence closed from mid-pack to score by 1 ¼ lengths in his first start around two turns.
“He handled it so well – running on the different track, the synthetic track, and traveling from East Coast to West Coast,” said Javier Castellano, Gulfstream Park’s leading jockey. “He keeps better and better. He has a mature mind. He does things the right way.”
A lot of new experiences faced Violence in the CashCall Futurity, but Pletcher was confident that the 1 1/16-mile stakes was the right fit for the Kentucky-bred colt.
“The main thing was the timing was good. We felt like the track at Hollywood Park, although it is a synthetic track, plays more like dirt than most of them. So we felt it was a little less risky than running on another synthetic track,” Pletcher said. “It worked out well and he handled it great.”
Violence has been training sharply for Pletcher at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Boynton Beach in preparation for his 2013 debut in the Fountain of Youth.
“Violence is doing really well. We shipped him to Palm Meadows right after he won the CashCall Futurity. So far everything has gone according to plan and we’ve been focused on the Fountain of Youth as his first start back,” said Pletcher, who is well on his way to clinching his 10th consecutive training title at Gulfstream.
The Fountain of Youth has also been the goal for trainer Eddie Kenneally's Majestic Hussar, a promising son of Majestic Warrior who registered a front-running 2 ¼ -length triumph over the Pletcher-trained Palace Malice in a seven-furlong allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 19.
“He’s a fast horse. We’ll be stretching him out for the first time in the Fountain of Youth. We don’t really know how that’s going to go yet. He’s a very good sprinter. We don’t know if he wants to go long or not, but we’ll find out and learn a lot in the Fountain of Youth,” Kenneally said. “He hasn’t done anything like this yet and two turns is a totally different race. In sprints, he shows speed, so I’ll assume he wants to show speed in a long race. I think that’s going to be his running style, and I don’t think we want to take that away from him.”
While Majestic Hussar figures to be one of the top contenders in the Fountain of Youth, Pletcher doesn’t think his presence will pose a problem for Violence, strategy-wise.
“He’s very tractable. He’s been close to the pace when we’ve needed him to be and he settles when we’ve needed him to be.” Pletcher said. “He’s very versatile and we’re going to play out the pace scenario and see how quick Majestic Hussar and anyone else is going. He’s the kind of horse that won’t let anyone sneak away to an easy lead and he’s kind enough that he’ll rate well also.”
Pletcher has saddled two Fountain of Youth winners, Eskendereya in 2010 and Scat Daddy in 2007. Eskendereya went on to win the Wood Memorial (G1) to earn likely favoritism in the Kentucky Derby, only to be scratched less than a week before the Run for the Roses. Scat Daddy followed up with a triumph in the Florida Derby (G1) before finishing off the board in the Kentucky Derby.
Violence is hardly Pletcher’s only hope for a second victory in the Run for the Roses. The five-time Eclipse Award winner has several prominent Triple Crown candidates, most notably Shanghai Bobby, the 2012 juvenile Eclipse Award winner who suffered his first loss in a second-place finish behind Itsmyluckyday in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream on Jan. 26.
"I thought he ran super. Unfortunately, Itsmyluckyday ran just a little bit better. I thought it was a great effort first time off the layoff and we’re sticking to our original plan of going to the Florida Derby,” Pletcher said.
Although he has yet to make his stakes debut, the Pletcher-trained Verrazano was recently favored in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Derby future wagering. The son of More Than Ready made his debut at Gulfstream on Jan. 1 with a 7 ¾ -length victory, which he followed up with a 16 ¾ -length triumph on Feb. 2.
“We’re leaning towards his next start in the Tampa Bay Derby. Spacing-wise, running on March 9 after his February race, is good timing,” said the 45-year-old Dallas native. “It gives him five weeks rest after his very fast race. It could put him in position to either run in the Florida Derby or something like the Wood Memorial.”
Revolutionary made an impressive recovery from a very troubled trip to eke out a victory in the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct on Feb.2, giving Pletcher another strong prospect.
“He overcame a lot of adversity. I was proud of him for that,” Pletcher said. “It wasn’t the smoothest trip, but unfortunately, he created some of that on his own when he didn’t break well. That’s something that’s been his Achilles Heel so far in most of his races. He’s just not quick away from the gate. But he came out of it well.”