News and STORIES
Pletcher Sets Sights on Oaklawn with 3-Year-Olds
Author: Don Mckee
Published: Friday February 14, 2020
Two of Todd Pletcher's 26 early Triple Crown nominees for this year, Alpha Sixty Six and Chase Tracker, are set to make their season debuts at Oaklawn Park. The Hall of Fame trainer has been very successful at the track, and he started his first horse in Hot Springs, Ark., over 20 years ago.
Alpha Sixty Six and Chase Tracker left their South Florida base for Arkansas Feb. 11. Alpha Sixty Six will run his first-level allowance race on Feb. 15, and Chase Tracker will run in the Feb. 17 Southwest Stakes (G3). The distance for both of the races is 1 1/16 miles.
Both of the horses have not started since Chase Tracker finished third and Alpha Sixty Six in sixth, in the Dec. 7 Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack. According to Pletcher, Chase Tracker was set for the Southwest following a five-furlong workout Feb. 9 in 1:01.19 at Palm Beach Downs.
The son of multiple grade 1 winner and millionaire Verrazano began his career with Pletcher, and he scored his Sept. 21 debut at Parx Racing.
Following that victory, he finished third in the Nov. 3 Nashua Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct and the Remsen, beaten 4 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/8-mile race.
"He was good enough to break his maiden first time out. Ran a respectable race in the Nashua and a good, solid third in the Remsen," Pletcher said. "He has been training steadily. We didn't really have a firm plan in mind but thought he worked very well here this past weekend, so we decided the timing for the Southwest was good."
According to Pletcher, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will join Chase Tracker, and the Southwest will be the first time.
The Southwest is Oaklawn's second of four Road to the Kentucky Derby races. The series also includes the March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2) and the April 11 Arkansas Derby (G1). Post positions will be drawn on Feb. 14 for the Southwest, and the race will offer points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers. The points will go toward eligibility for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
Alpha Sixty Six
Alpha Sixty Six, coming from the first crop of Liam's Map, scored his Sept. 7 debut at Belmont Park. After that, he finished fifth behind winner Tiz the Law in the Oct. 5 Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont.
Alpha Sixty Six was beaten by 17 1/2 lengths in the Remsen as the betting favorite. Ramon Vazquez will be his jockey.
"Just trying to get back on track with him," Pletcher said. "His last race was a bit of a disappointment. He's been training steadily. Just looking for an opportunity to get a start into him, and if he were to run well, it could hopefully put him in position to possibly come back for the Rebel or something like that. We'll see if he can step forward for us."
The pair of Pletcher and Velazquez won the 2017 Southwest with One Liner. Pletcher has scored the Arkansas Derby a record five times with Graeme Hall in 2000, Balto Star in 2001, Overanalyze in 2013, Danza in 2014, and Magnum Moon in 2018.
He also took the Rebel twice, with Malagacy in 2017 and Magnum Moon in 2018.
Pletcher ran his first horse at Oaklawn in 1999, and he has won 28% of his starts at the track (24 of 85). Twenty-one of those were stakes races. Pletcher has a record seven Eclipse Awards and is one of the country's top trainers.
"Oaklawn's been great to us over the years," said Pletcher. "I have fond memories as a teenager going there when my dad was racing there, so it's always been a cool place. They've really got a great product going on there at the moment. There are some very lucrative races, including a great series of 3-year-old preps, so we're excited to have somebody back there and hopefully can continue some of the success we've had."