By Ray Paulick
Todd Pletcher isn't the only who had a big weekend last week, winning three American Graded Stakes races for 3-year-olds on Feb. 20: the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park with Eskendereya, the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds with Discreetly Mine, and the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields with Connemara.
Coolmore Ashford's Giant's Causeway sired two of the Pletcher-trained AGS winners, Eskendereya and Connemara, giving the 13-year-old Storm Cat stallion a total of three AGS winners thus far in 2010 (San Pasqual Handicap winner Neko Bay is the other one). For good measure, another top 3-year-old prospect by Giant's Causeway, Northern Giant, finished a solid third for Pletcher's mentor, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, in the Risen Star. Only 16 days earlier, Northern Giant turned in a huge effort winning an Oaklawn Park maiden race by 11 1/4 lengths. He's obviously a slow developing colt, the win coming in his sixth start.
On the strength of those AGS winners, Giant's Causeway is atop the general sire list thus far in 2010 after being leading North American sire in 2009 for the first time since his first crop reached the racetrack in 2004. He was a truly outstanding racehorse and it's no surprise that he's developed into an elite sire. Giant's Causeway has yet to sire his first American classic winner, but Eskendereya, who moved to the top of many Kentucky Derby lists with his Fountain of Youth victory, could easily change that.
With his weekend victories, trainer Pletcher now has won eight AGS races of 2010 with seven different horses. That's 16% of the 50 AGS races run so far this year. Pletcher is on a brief “vacation” now, the result of a suspension stemming from a positive test at the 2008 Breeders' Cup. His stable is deep in talent, is coming off a very strong 2009, and is ranked as the leading trainer by money won so far in 2010 (with reigning Eclipse Award winner Steven Asmussen in hot pursuit) while winning at a 27% clip. With Quality Road leading the way in the older male division, an incredibly deep roster of 3-year-old talent, and undoubtedly a talented group of 2-year-olds now going through early training, this could be a year to remember for Pletcher.
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