Todd Pletcher Todd Pletcher (Bill Frakes/SI)America’s leading trainer Todd Pletcher  was thrust into Kentucky Derby calculations over the weekend when he prepared the first two over the line in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

As notable as the win of Monba may have been, the Blue Grass Stakes proved more significant for the defeat of ruling Derby favourite Pyro who finished 10th of the 12 runners. An even-money chance in Saturday’s race, Pyro appeared to dislike the all-weather surface at Keeneland.

Monba, a son of Maria’s Mon, was right at home, stalking his front-running stablemate Cowboy Cal and then surviving a dour struggle to win by a neck. “At the beginning of the year, if you’d asked me which horses I’d like to nominate to the Triple Crown, it would have been these two,” Todd Pletcher said.

Click here to watch video of Monba winning the Blue Grass Stakes 2008.

“Both horses showed today that they belong at the highest level and both have pedigrees to show they should run a mile and a quarter. So we hope to show up with the good horse and get lucky on the day.” Scott Blasi, assistant to Pyro’s trainer Steve Asmussen, indicated the Kentucky Derby was still the target.

“He didn’t handle the track - you could see that early on,” he said. The other two recognised Kentucky Derby trials on Saturday both went to favourites. The Grade 2 Arkansas Derby, a $1 million event at Oaklawn Park whose recent winners include Smarty Jones and Curlin, was won by 2-1 shot Gayego (Paulo Lobo/Mike Smith), who held Z Fortune by three-quarters of a length. In the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, at 1900m the longest Derby prep of the spring, the even-money favourite Hey Byrn pulled away in the stretch to score by two and a quarter lengths over Dream Maestro. The Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs on May 3.

Click here to watch video of Gayego winning the Arkansas Derby 2008.

Click here to watch video of Hey Byrn winning the Holy Bull Stakes 2008.

 Extract from Stallions Daily News