Todd Pletcher is one of the most accomplished trainers in horse racing and that makes the relative anonymity of his undefeated horse Zulu something of a head scratcher. Zulu doesn’t have any Kentucky Derby qualification points–yet. But with the points awarded for prep race victories going up that’s really a non issue. For example, the winner of Saturday’s Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream Park will get 50 points and will be tied with Gun Runner atop the standings. A second place finish is worth 20 points and that would put a horse in a three way tie for fifth place.
Forget the Kentucky Derby–Zulu isn’t even getting much attention heading into the Fountain of Youth. To be fair, it’s a race full of prime Kentucky Derby contenders including Mohaymen, Awesome Banner, and Awesome Speed. Still, handicappers and race pundits ignore Pletcher’s legacy of success at their own peril. But maybe the Hall of Fame trainer likes it that way. He was certainly pleased with the horse’s final timed preparation for the Fountain of Youth last Sunday at Palm Beach Downs: “He breezed by himself, got into a comfortable rhythm and clicked off 12s all the way around. He looked good and galloped out well. We love what he’s done in his previous two starts. There are easier spots to shop around for, but the horse is 2 for 2 at Gulfstream, and we feel like we’ve got to test the waters and see where we stand even though we know it’s going to be a tall order.”
The aforementioned Awesome Speed also worked on Sunday at Palm Beach Downs and trainer Alan Goldberg liked what he saw: “He went great. He galloped out in a minute and change and pulled up three-quarters in 1:14. He came back fine and not blowing. We’re ready.”
At this point, even the top horses in the Derby qualification field have a tenuous grasp on their position. Eight of the final ten prep races offer a whopping 100 points to their winners making them essentially a ‘win and you’re in’ situation. By the time the Kentucky Derby rolls around an ‘under the radar’ horse like Zulu could be the biggest name in racing.