SARATOGA SPRINGS — It could’ve been a spring day at Keeneland.
Sometimes trainer Todd Pletcher gets allergy symptoms at that time of year when he’s at the track in Lexington, Kentucky.
Problem was, it was an August day. At Saratoga Race Course.
Then someone at his barn tested positive for COVID-19, so Pletcher, who is fully vaccinated, got himself tested, and it came back positive last Sunday, placing him in isolation this week.
Pletcher was cleared to return to the barn and was there on Friday, just in time to oversee the final touch of preparation for his Alabama filly Malathaat, among other myriad routines from a typical day on the backstretch.
“First time in 31 years,” he said, of calling in sick for work. “The good thing about today’s world is you can see everything going on. I had video on the works and all that stuff, so I felt like I was in touch as [much as] I can be without being here.”
Any Saratoga meet is eventful for Pletcher, who has won the training title 14 times.
This one has taken that to a different level, since he was not only inducted to the National Racing Hall of Fame on Aug. 6, in his first year of eligibility as a head trainer, but then he had to deal with COVID.
“I didn’t have what you’d describe as the classic COVID symptoms,” he said. “I thought I had allergies earlier in the week, scratchy throat, little bit of drainage and coughing, a little bit achy, but my taste and smell and those type of things that you have on the radar to be looking for didn’t really develop.
“I felt similar to the way I feel sometimes when I go to Keeneland in the spring. It felt like allergies, but when someone else tested positive, I thought the responsible thing to do was test, and sure enough, it came back positive.”
As a sure sign that everything was back to normal on Friday, Pletcher won the first race on the card, with Starlight Racing’s Mr. Briggs.
COAST TO COAST
Besides Malathaat in the Alabama, Pletcher has Grade I action at a mile and a quarter on both coasts, as Dr Post is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line for the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
The Pacific Classic is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Dr Post, who was second to Tiz the Law in the Belmont Stakes and fourth in the Jim Dandy last year, is coming off a victory in the Grade III Monmouth Cup.
“It’s a Grade I, which is important for a horse with his pedigree and physique and everything as a potential stallion prospect,” Pletcher said. “Just felt like the right time to take a shot at it, and with the Breeders’ Cup Classic being out there, this will give us more information about that, as well.
“We never really got the opportunity to do it [race at a mile and a quarter] last year because of the way everything unfolded, but he’s run some good races at a mile and an eighth, and he finished up the other day with a stout mile and an eighth and still finished strongly. He ran on well in the Belmont even though he was second-best to Tiz the Law. He’s held great form, and he gives the impression from watching him train that he’ll like the extra furlong.”
GOLDEN PAL SEVENTH
The Wesley Ward-trained Golden Pal finished worse than second place for the first time in his career when he was seventh in the Group 1 Nunthorpe at York in Great Britain.
The 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner was coming off an easy win in the Quick Call on opening day of the Saratoga meet.
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