Moretti, You’re to Blame can extend Pletcher’s dominance in Birdstone
SARATOGA SPRINGS — There isn’t a longer race on the flats at Saratoga Race Course than the $100,000 Birdstone, and there isn’t a trainer that’s had more success at the unique 1 ¾-mile distance than Todd Pletcher. On Sunday, the 13-time meet champion will have two chances to add to his record of success.
Pletcher is a four-time winner of the Birdstone, named for the winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and Grade 1 Travers in 2004, taking its first three runnings with Rule (2011), San Pablo (2012) and Micromanage (2014). He also captured the 2017 edition with Hard Study.
“I don’t think there’s a trick to getting one to run a mile and three-quarters, you just have to identify the ones that want to do that,” Pletcher said. “I just think we’ve been able to have some success trying to pick out the right ones for these types of races.”
From his star-studded stable, Pletcher identified Moretti and You’re to Blame as this year’s candidates. Repole Stable and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Moretti has waged a fairly steady campaign in 2020 with two wins and three seconds from five starts, most recently running second to Tacitus in the Grade 2, 1 ¼-mile Suburban on July 4 at Belmont Park.
Moretti opened the year with back-to-back runner-up efforts in February at Laurel Park and April at Gulfstream Park, before scoring successive wins in an Oaklawn Park allowance May 2 and the 1 3/8-mile Flat Out on June 11 at Belmont. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, a three-time Birdstone winner including Repole’s Micromanage, rides from post 6.
“He seems to be in good form and he seems to appreciate the added ground, although a mile and six furlongs is a challenge,” Pletcher said. “I feel like he’s a horse that can get into a good steady rhythm and keep going, so we’re looking forward to it.”
The Birdstone will be the 11th career start for Moretti, a 4-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro who fetched $900,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s 2017 Saratoga selected yearling sale. Saturday will mark his Spa debut.
“I think we know him well, but it’s taken him a little time to mature,” Pletcher said. “We’ve always felt like he’s a horse that would get better as he got older, so hopefully he keeps moving forward.”
Bortolazzo Stable’s You’re to Blame enters the Birdstone off a fifth-place effort behind Moretti in the Flat Out, extending his winless streak to eight races dating back to an optional claiming win last April at Gulfstream Park. Included in that stretch was a rallying neck loss to Tenfold in the historic Grade 3, 1 ¼-mile Pimlico Special at Pimlico Race Course.
You’re to Blame has finished in the money 16 times with a bankroll of $660,378 from 28 starts, including a victory in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup in 2018. Placed six other times in stakes, the 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor will have the services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez from post 2.
Velazquez has also won the Birdstone three times, twice with Pletcher and last year with the Graham Motion-trained King Zachary.
“He’s a hard-knocker and he’s had success at these long distances before. He seems to be training well, he seems happy, and we’ll see what he can do,” Pletcher said. “He had a really tough beat in the Pimlico Special last year, but he shows up and tries hard every time.”
Among the opposition is a former Pletcher trainee, Calumet Farm and John Anthony Stables’ American Tattoo, trying the Birdstone in his first start in four months and first for Keeneland-based trainer Jack Sisterson.
A Group 1 winner in his native Argentina, the 4-year-old American Tattoo had been training steadily at Keeneland before being sent to Saratoga following a half-mile work in 48.80 seconds July 25.
“He’s been doing great. He was here at Keeneland and we shipped up to Saratoga last week and he’s settled in well,” Sisterson said. “He’s really bought into the longer gallops that we’ve allowed him to do. We’ve sort of slowed his gallops down but extended them, and he’s bought into that and focused on the gallop-outs in his works. He seems to hit the wire and the rider’s had a hard time pulling him up.”
American Tattoo has experience at the 1 ¾-mile distance, finishing third in the Grade 2 Marathon last November at Santa Anita Park.
One race later, he capped 2019 with a front-running victory in the H. Allen Jerkens at Gulfstream Park, shortened from two miles to 1 ¼ miles when it was rained off the turf. He was given some time off after being well-beaten in his lone 2020 efforts, the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight on turf and Grade 3 Hal’s Hope, also at Gulfstream.
“It’s been a learning game, getting to know each other. If I had to expect something, I assume by the way he’s acting that he’s going to jump up and go forward and try to be on the front,” Sisterson said. “He’s been great. He’s been an easy horse to train. He sort of trains himself.
“He’s definitely the type of horse that, by the way he trains, this is what he wants. He only gets better the further he goes,” he added. “I have a feeling that if we ran him a mile and an eighth people would be saying we should be running him a mile and a half. So, this is a perfect spot for him.”
Tyler Gaffalione rides American Tattoo from post 5.
Rounding out field are Centennial Farms’ Rocketry [post 4, Jose Ortiz], the 2018 Marathon winner who ran third in last year’s Birdstone; Joyce B. Young, Gerald McManis and Jerrie McManis’ Highland Sky [post 7, Junior Alvarado], also entered in Saturday’s Bowling Green; Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani’s Standard Deviation [post 1, Joel Rosario], Grade 1-placed on turf and dirt; and All In The Family Racing’s Expert [post 3, Irad Ortiz Jr.], third in the Flat Out.
The Birdstone is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race card, which offers a first post of 1:10 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks.
For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.