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Derby Watch: Pletcher sitting pretty after early prep races

He knows he's going to hear it countless times in the coming weeks, how he has saddled 24 horses in the Kentucky Derby, all without once finding victory.

For better or worse, trainer Todd Pletcher is well versed on how to handle that topic. But despite his lack of Derby success, the events of this past Saturday might have some wondering how long the roses can elude the four-time Eclipse Award winner.

It's hard to imagine Derby scenarios in February, but it's even more difficult to think Pletcher won't be a major factor come May 1 thanks to what can only be described as a dream day of racing from his powerhouse stable on Saturday.

Pletcher saw his highly touted protege Eskendereya demolish a talented field by 81/2 lengths in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes moments before taking the Grade II Risen Star with Discreetly Mine and the Grade III El Camino Real Derby with Connemara.

Those three wins only strengthened a lineup of Derby contenders that was already looking like the best of Pletcher's career.

The sure-fire Hall of Famer spent last weekend watching the well-regarded Rule win the Sam F. Davis Stakes in emphatic fashion while Grade II winner Super Saver has yet to even make his 3-year-old debut.

Impressive as Pletcher's current lot is, Eskendereya stands out for more than just the obvious reasons. While Rule, Super Saver, and Discreetly Mine all appear to be most effective on the front end, Eskendereya has shown he can rate effectively and looked to have a lot more in his tank as he opened up down the Gulfstream Park stretch.

"I was particularly pleased with the way he finished. I don't think we've ever gotten to the bottom of him," Pletcher said Saturday. "You've got to be excited when they perform like that in these kind of races at this time of year."

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