KNOWN AGENDA “GREAT” AFTER FL DERBY WIN
St. Elias Stable homebred Known Agenda, showing “good energy” Sunday morning, will remain in South Florida for the time being before heading out for his next step along the Triple Crown trail.
Known Agenda earned his spot in the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1) with a sharp 2 ¾-length triumph in Saturday’s $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, Gulfstream Park’s signature race that has produced a remarkable 60 Triple Crown race winners in its history.
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Pletcher, who extended his own record with a sixth Florida Derby victory, five of them coming in the last eight years, was pleased with how Known Agenda emerged from his first career stakes victory.
“Excellent. He came back in great shape, good energy. I’m very happy with him,” Pletcher said. “He’ll stay here for a little while. We’ll just kind of monitor the weather everywhere and play it by ear whether he has one work at Churchill [Downs] or two works.”
Known Agenda, by two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Curlin, was the beneficiary of a perfect ride from Irad Ortiz Jr. They were able to settle in along the rail and save ground before tipping out approaching the stretch, catch leader Soup and Sandwich and draw clear.
“He’s made a lot of progress in his last two starts. I think the addition of blinkers has been part of it, and part of it is he’s getting more experienced and more comfortable in those scenarios when he’s behind horses and inside of horses and taking some dirt,” Pletcher said.
“I’ve been pleased with the way he’s been able to get a better position in the race and improve his position going along. We’ve always had a strong feeling that added distance was going to be to his liking,” he added. “To have three wins at a mile and an eighth now is great, and we feel great about him stretching out even further.”
Also pointing to the Kentucky out of the Florida Derby are runner-up Soup and Sandwich and Greatest Honour, the Holy Bull (G3) and Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) winner trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey who finished third as the 4-5 favorite. Nova Rags and Collaborate, respectively fourth and fifth, will be pointed in other directions.
The Florida Derby put an exclamation point on a winter where Pletcher won his 17th Championship Meet training title – another track record – and second in a row after having his unprecedented 15-year run atop the standings ended in 2018-19.
Pletcher won 12 stakes, seven graded, including two of the three Grade 1 races on the winter calendar, the other coming with Colonel Liam in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. He was also tops with more than $3.5 million in purse earnings.
Among other stakes wins for Pletcher were Largent in the Fort Lauderdale (G2), Fearless in the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), Always Shopping in the La Prevoyante (G3), Zaajel in the Forward Gal (G3), Con Lima in the Herecomesthebride (G3) and multiple Grade 1 winner Basin in Saturday’s Sir Shackleton.
“We’ve been blessed. A lot of people put a lot of hours and effort into it and we’ve got a great group of owners and horses and staff making it happen,” Pletcher said. “Gulfstream has been a fun place for us and it’s always great when you’re able to win a meet but even more special when you’re able to win races like the Florida Derby and Pegasus Turf. It’s been a great meet.”
Approaching 5,100 career wins, the 53-year-old Pletcher has reached many of his career milestones at Gulfstream. They include his first career start (Jan. 13, 1996) and win (Jan. 26. 1996); 3,000th (Feb. 11, 2002) and 4,000th (March 18, 2016) career victories; and a record six Florida Derby (G1) triumphs.
Holder of a record seven Eclipse Awards as champion trainer and North America’s career leader with more than $402 million in purse earnings, Pletcher is a first-time finalist for induction into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame this summer. Among his biggest victories are two in the Kentucky Derby, including 2017 Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, three in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and 11 in the Breeders’ Cup.
“It’s a special honor to be nominated. We’ll wait and see if we’re voted in, but it sort of gives you pause to reflect a little bit. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years so quickly,” Pletcher said. “We’ve been very fortunate to get a lot of great opportunities and a lot of support from owners and staff, so many people contribute to something like that. It’s certainly not an individual achievement as much as it is a team achievement. I’m very grateful to everyone that’s contributed.”