Destin tunes up at Churchill Downs (Photo by Holly M. Smith Photography used with permission)

New York titan Todd Pletcher looked like he wouldn’t have any major shooters for this year’s Kentucky Derby until a few sprung to life somewhat late in the game by way of the Tampa Bay Derby (II), with winner Destin and placed Outwork (who would soon grow up to be the 2016 Wood Memorial winner) showing up with great performances. The gray colt Destin is arguably Pletcher’s best chance at snagging Derby win #2…

Career Highlights

  • G2 winner at 3 in the Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles
  • G3 winner at 3 in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles

Basics

  • Sire: Giant’s Causeway (Storm Cat)
  • Dam: Dream of Summer (Siberian Summer)
  • Trainer: Todd Pletcher (Super Saver, Palace Malice, Uncle Mo)
  • Jockey: Javier Castellano
  • Owned by: Twin Creeks Racing Stables LLC
  • Record: 5:3-1-0
  • Earnings: $390,700
  • Best speed figures: 100 Beyer, 100 BRIS Figure, 110 Equibase

The Details

Background: While it’s been a few years since his first and it has taken a couple tries for Todd Pletcher to win a Kentucky Derby (he has sent a total of 40 hopefuls to the gate), the leading New York trainer is back in Louisville this year with Destin, a full brother to G1 winner Creative Cause. While Destin has yet to win a G1 like his older brother and like his fellow contender and stablemate Outwork, he takes a familiar path for Pletcher in running for the roses. Todd Pletcher has used the Tampa Bay Derby in the past to prep some keen runners including eventual G1 winners Verrazano (who finished 14th in 2013), Carpe Diem (10th in 2015), and Bluegrass Cat (2nd to Barbaro in 2006). Limehouse was also 4th in the 2004 Derby at long odds. However, there is a key difference between these horses and Destin– all four Tampa Bay Derby winners of Pletcher’s also ran in another race afterwards, leaving questions about Destin’s current fitness.

Prep Schedule: Lightly raced with just five total starts, Destin has had an excellent ROI on his race days, producing two graded stakes wins as well as no finishes worse than fourth.

Debuting a winner at Belmont in October, Destin sat behind a robust pace in a 7-furlong maiden special weight to win comfortably ahead of next-out winner Sea Wizard and future Florida Derby (I) runner-up Majesto. At Gulfstream in December, he was second the whole way around in a pokey 1-mile allowance, beaten by winner Golden Ray by about a length.

Shipping to the Fair Grounds for the Lecomte (III), Destin stayed fairly distant of the rest, finishing fourth behind Mo Tom some 5 lengths. Packing up the tack trunk for Tampa, Destin blossomed on that surface, snapping up the Sam F. Davis (III) by a driving 2 1/4 lengths followed by a new track record in the Tampa Bay Derby (II), both at 1 1/16 miles, by a length over future G1 winner Outwork.

Pedigree: Destin has been on the watch list for many considering the success of his older full brother Creative Cause, who ran a good fifth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. He is line-bred to Nearctic with popular speed and familiar distance influences Siberian Express (which has produced the popular Indian Charlie line) and hails from the successful Storm Cat sire line.

Giant’s Causeway needs little introduction as the famous “iron horse” of his racing days, where he never finished worse than second in all his exploits from turf to dirt against the best competition. He’s been even better at stud, producing multiple graded stakes winners every year including champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi and G1 winners Carpe Diem, Eskendereya, Imagining, Giant Oak, First Samurai, and many more. Sired by champion producing machine Storm Cat, he is out of talented race mare and blue hen Mariah’s Storm (Rahy).

Destin’s mother Dream of Summer (Siberian Summer) is a G1 winner and a producer of a G1 winner in son Creative Cause. Dream of Summer was most successful at dirt routes, claiming the Apple Blossom Invitational at age 6, and she is her sire, G1 winner Siberian Summer’s highest earner with over $1 million. Line-bred to Native Dancer, her broodmare sire Skywalker (Relaunch) won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1986.

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A+ Variant 5.95

Dosage Index: 1.43

Running Style: Off the pace

Pros: Destin showed strength in his Tampa Bay Derby (II) win, where he took over in the stretch and cruised home super easy to crack the track record. His running style also compliments the flow of the Derby, and having top jock Castellano can’t hurt.

Cons: No horse has won off a layoff as long as Destin’s eight weeks. Although Pletcher has a fairly decent layoff return rate, this is the Derby and that’s a race he has won only once despite sending out many excellent contenders.

Final Word: Destin’s failure to start in another race after the Tampa Bay Derby is discouraging in many ways, as it would have made the most sense from virtually every angle to get another race– and potentially, a G1 win– into this horse before he runs 10 furlongs. Most horses here have run at 9 furlongs already and leave few fitness questions. Destin will have to be better than ever off his layoff, and I don’t see that happening here.

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