Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

Currently: 103° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

‘Todd Squad’ returns for another Derby try

Image

Morry Gash / AP

Exercise rider Ovel Merida takes Kentucky Derby entrant Vinceremos for a morning workout at Churchill Downs Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Louisville, Ky.

California Chrome Wins Kentucky Derby

Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to a victory during the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. Launch slideshow »

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The "Todd Squad" is back for another crack at the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out four of the 20 horses in the 1¼-mile Run for the Roses on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Danza, the impressive winner of the Arkansas Derby, tops the quartet. He was 8-1 on the morning line with Joe Bravo set to ride.

Named for the star of the 1980s sitcom "Who's the Boss," Danza will be making only his fifth start. He showed promise at 2, finishing a close third in the Saratoga Special.

He returned to run third in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park before delivering a 4¾-length win in the Arkansas Derby at 41-1.

It was a strong effort, from both the visual and the speed perspectives.

"His comeback race in Florida was better than it looked and his Arkansas Derby speaks for itself," Pletcher said. "He's been doing well and we have been pleased with how he's coming up to this race."

Intense Holiday, also 8-1, was most recently second in the Louisiana Derby. John Velazquez will be aboard. The colt hit the board in three races this year, all stakes. He won the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds in February and returned there to get second in the Louisiana Derby.

Vinceremos and jockey Joe Rocco Jr. were 30-1 after stopping badly in the Blue Grass Stakes. Before that, he had shown steady improvement over the winter, winning the S.F. Davis Stakes and finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby.

The Blue Grass was his first race on a synthetic track.

We Miss Artie, primarily a turf and synthetic track specialist, switches to dirt at 50-1 with Javier Castellano in the saddle.

Pletcher seemed least enthused about running We Miss Artie, especially after the Spiral Stakes winner worked poorly last weekend.

"I just expected more from him," Pletcher said. "I'm not sure at all he should be running in the Derby."

Owner Ken Ramsey had the final say, and We Miss Artie landed in the Derby lineup.

Taking a chapter from his Hall of Fame mentor D. Wayne Lukas, Pletcher believes in numerical strength.

It certainly worked for Lukas, a four-time Derby winner who has saddled as many as five runners in one Derby.

It hasn't played out as well for Pletcher, 1 for 36 in the Derby. Only Lukas has saddled more Derby runners, 47.

Pletcher sent out five runners last year with third-place finisher Revolutionary the best result. Super Saver won the 2010 Derby winner as one of four Pletcher trainees in the race.

The biggest challenge for Pletcher with four runners is sorting out the strategy sessions with each jockey.

"In the case of a race like the Derby, the situation changes because of the multiple entries," Pletcher said. "In a regular race where I'd only have one runner going, we can talk strategy in the paddock."

That's impossible amid the noise and chaos on Derby Day.

"I talk to my riders ahead of time then, leaving me time to deal with all there is to do in the paddock that day," Pletcher said.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy