When it comes to winter racing at Gulfstream Park, “Todd Pletcher” and “stakes winner” are often synonymous. The seven-time Eclipse award-winning trainer has won thirteen consecutive winter meet titles at Gulfstream Park, and on Saturday, Pletcher dominated the Gulfstream racing action by winning four stakes races with his ever-abundant crop of talented two-year-olds.
Leading the charge were Tapwrit and Fact Finding, two colts that seem bound for the Kentucky Derby trail after scoring impressive wins in the Pulpit Stakes and Smooth Air Stakes, respectively. Earlier on the card, the two-year-old filly Bode’s Dream brought her record to a perfect 3-for-3 with an easy win in the House Party Stakes, while Sonic Mule prevailed in gate-to-wire fashion in the Buffalo Man Stakes.
Arguably the most impressive performance came from Fact Finding, a son of The Factor that entered the Smooth Air Stakes off of two easy wins sprinting at Saratoga and Keeneland. Fact Finding had never been seriously challenged, and that remained the case in the Smooth Air Stakes, which he won by seven lengths after leading the way through fractions of :23.13, :46.51, and 1:11.10. His final time of 1:36.98 was solid over a sloppy, sealed track that seemed to be a little on the slow side, and it translated to a Beyer speed figure of 80.
“He’s kind of handled everything we’ve asked him to do so far. The owners have been very patient letting him find his way along,” Pletcher added. “He’s very laidback in the morning. We really weren’t sure what we had until we ran him. He’s one of those horses that kind of saves himself in the morning. We really didn’t know what we had until we ran him.”
Tapwrit also caught eyes with his win in the Pulpit Stakes, a turf event that was run on the main track due to wet conditions. Originally entered for “main track only,” Tapwrit drew into the race when it was switched to the dirt and capitalized by picking up his first stakes win.
Coming off of a maiden victory at Gulfstream Park West, Tapwrit settled just off the lead while racing four-wide through fractions of :24.55 and :47.67, then made an impressive early move to seize the lead at the top of the stretch and open up a five-length advantage passing the eighth pole. Although he got leg-weary late, he still ran the final furlong in :12.87 to hold off a late run from stablemate Master Plan and win by a length in 1:37.65. For his effort, he received a Beyer speed figure of 80, the same as Fact Finding.
Tapwrit has come a long way since his debut at Saratoga on September 3rd, when he finished last of ten in a seven-furlong maiden special weight. However, the son of Tapit–who sold for $1.2 million as a yearling–has shown significant improvement since adding blinkers for his maiden win.
“He’s certainly improved off his first start. He didn’t behave well in his first start. He kind of missed the break and didn’t know what to do after that,” Pletcher said. “Subsequently, he’s trained well and has become much more professional. I think the blinkers have helped. We’re very pleased with his last two runs.
“He’s suited to two-turns but we didn’t have too many options. So we took a shot in a main-track-only and it worked out well for him,” said Pletcher of Tapwrit. “I thought Master Plan ran really well. It seemed like he closed well the last 100 yards or so.”
Master Plan wound up finishing 12 1/4 lengths in front of third-place finisher Hey Mike, and like Tapwrit, he could be bound for the Derby trail. “I think we probably have to give it a try this time of year,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher also stated that Bode’s Dream and Sonic Mule would be kept sprinting for the time being, with the January 7th Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) for Bode’s Dream and the Jaunary 7th Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) for Sonic Mule being probable targets.
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