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Kentucky Derby trail: Pletcher barn hurts after Violence injury
By Jay Privman
To commit to the life of a trainer, there are no days off, no overtime pay, little time to even mope, so Todd Pletcher was back at work on Monday, overseeing workouts of five of his potential Kentucky Derby prospects at the Palm Meadows training center. But he still hadn’t recovered from the body blow of Sunday, when he reported that Violence, the future book favorite for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, had come out of Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park with a career-ending injury.
The news came as a painful blow, Pletcher said.
Violence fractured a sesamoid bone in his right front ankle while finishing second in the Fountain of Youth to Orb. It is an injury that Pletcher said would not require surgery. Still, considering that Violence is a Grade 1 winner – having captured the CashCall Futurity – his value at stud heightens the risk of bringing him back from such a significant injury.
While Pletcher certainly is loaded with 3-year-olds this spring, Violence had to be at or near the top of his depth chart, so his defection was crushing, all the more so considering his gallant performance on Saturday, when he went down bravely after pressing a wicked pace.
The Fountain of Youth was one of two important Derby preps on Saturday, and they could not have been a bigger study in contrasts. While the Fountain of Youth found Orb and Violence dominating their rivals, the Risen Star at Fair Grounds saw the first eight finishers separated by less than four lengths, with sob stories aplenty for several runners who finished behind the upset winner, 135-1 shot Ive Struck a Nerve.
Most prominent was Normandy Invasion, who finished fifth in his first start of the year after stumbling at the start and racing wide. Only the first four finishers in the Risen Star received the critical points that will be needed to gain a berth into the Derby if the race, as it does seemingly every year now, oversubscribes.
“He got back to Palm Meadows on Sunday and so far he looks great,” said his trainer, Chad Brown. “It was very frustrating in the Risen Star. He just lost all chance at the start. But we’re going to regroup.”
According to Brown, he and owner Rick Porter are going to send Normandy Invasion to the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6.
“He’s run two of his four career starts there, and both of them were really good,” Brown said. “It’s a no-brainer, especially with him having only one shot now to get the points. He has a race under his belt now. We got a good race into him Saturday; he ran a strong last quarter. The race should set us up for start two off the layoff.
“However, we didn’t earn any points, that’s the bad thing. We knew going in, when we decided to run him only twice before the Derby, that we could be putting all our eggs in one basket in his second start. But we’re still happy with that plan, because if we do earn our way in we’ll have a horse third off the layoff that will be sitting on a new top. If I get there I want to get there with a chance to win. I don’t want to go just to say I’m in the Derby.”
The top four finishers from the Risen Star – Ive Struck a Nerve, Code West, Palace Malice, and Oxbow – all could be back for the Louisiana Derby on March 30.
Ive Struck a Nerve utilized new tactics in the Risen Star – being taken back and making one run – and it paid off.
“I don’t know if he can do it again,” trainer Keith Desormeaux said Sunday. “We just won’t know until we run him back how he’s going to be.”
If Palace Malice does return for the Louisiana Derby, jockey Rosie Napravnik will be in a tough spot. She had several live mounts at Fair Grounds on Saturday, including stakes winners Mark Valeski and Unlimited Budget, and many of those horses could run back at Fair Grounds on its stakes-laden March 30 card. However, Shanghai Bobby – whom Napravnik also rides – is also scheduled to run March 30, but in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream.
Ive Struck a Nerve received a Beyer Speed Figure of 95, two points lower than the 97 Orb earned in the Fountain of Youth.
Orb came out of the race in good order, said trainer Shug McGaughey, adding that it made the most sense for Orb to simply run again at Gulfstream in the Florida Derby, rather than ship to a race like the Wood Memorial.
Also Saturday, Dry Summer won the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park, earning a Beyer Figure of 81. That race did not offer points to the Derby. But Dry Summer’s next scheduled start, the Sunland Derby on March 24, has the same point structure (50-20-10-5) as the Risen Star and Fountain of Youth.
The only Derby prep this week worth points is the Gotham on Saturday at Aqueduct, in which Overanalyze is scheduled to make his first start of the year. He worked a half-mile in 48.75 seconds on Monday at Palm Meadows for Pletcher, who said Overanalyze would travel to New York on Wednesday.
Pletcher also worked Shanghai Bobby (a half in 49.61 seconds) for the Florida Derby; Revolutionary (half in 48.43 seconds) for the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, or Wood; Delhomme (five furlongs, 1:00.09) for the Rebel March 16 at Oaklawn; and Verrazano (five furlongs, 59.21) for the Tampa Bay Derby March 9.
– additional reporting by Marcus Hersh, Mary Rampellini, and Mike Welsch
Hey, Pletcher worshipers - where is Devil May Care, huh? Anyone with half a brain could see what happened Saturday - a trainer who should know better sent a three year old into a stakes race, off of a layoff and ran him as fast as the horse could possibly run. What could possibly go wrong? It takes a certain type of ignorant moxie to defend that, and this publication actually has the nerve to write a "poor Todd" story. EVERY YEAR the Pletcher barn leaves at least one (or more) injured horses by the side of the Road To The Roses. Coincidence? Hardly.
Hey, what the hell. Many here knock Pletcher, and the same amount praise him. The problem is that all of us here sending in comments have nothing better to do all day.What better way than to bash or praise trainers.
When your pounding on a 2yr.old,especially,you're going to get some injuries. Not all horses are built to withstand that pressure. A good trainer and exercise rider can make all the difference. Slow and easy,they don't know they'll hurt themselves,so when they are a well broke horse at least you have a fighting chance w/the real runners. Pletcher can handle the haters,lol.
I believe what is happening here is that some have such a hatred for Pletcher that it clouds their thinking and thus, their opinions come across a lot of times as ranting and raving. If statistics were available to show Pletcher's 2-3 year old horses injury rate vs. the rest of the industry, it may prove one way or the other and take the emotional argument out of it. Everything has to be a level playing field, folks. You need to take injuries per 100 horses to get a viable rate. Just raw numbers are never telling as Pletcher may have had 3 horses get injured and that looks horrible compared to someone that only had 1 horse get injured but Pletcher trained 100 horses for a 97% success rate vs. the trainer that only had 1 injury but only had 10 horses for a 90% success rate. Just some thoughts on how to quantify real data vs. influenced / emotional arguments.
Mr. Pletcher gives the owners what they come to him for, wins which = money and prestige. I would give him my horse to train and race IF he'd have it,i'd also due my due diligence in raceing it in a healthy and safe condition which i believe mr. pletcher does, because i also have a heart and love for the animals.
Just more Pletcher defense, almost refreshing, almost HA! Your failure to realize that you make us rational peoples point of Pletchers meat grinder tactics of sqeezing everthing out of his young horses to run as fast as possible right into the ground, and then on the van to the stud shed because most can no longer get there on their own.
You don't get to be a 20% graded stakes winning trainer by putting you horses in bad spots and injuring your good horses. Leave Pletcher alone. Also, like many have pointed out, many of his horses get retired over the smallest things so they can breed.
Sorry guys I must have been dumb to think such a self-assured and mostly respected form of media would be so poorly operated. The fact that I used to think DRF was unbiased, (now laughable to me), or not politically motivated(ridiculously undeniable) shows me how manipulative DRF can be. For there to have been a reported failed physical for a pending sale of Violence on Jan. 22 by Ed DeRosa , and then recieve no mention or follow-up to prove accuracy in any form by the so named Daily Racing Form is reprehensible and shameful to continue to defend the plague that is PLETCHERITIS as a mere sad coincidence.
I lke Verrazano and I'm going to drive up that bridge while the race is on. If he wins, I will get out and kiss the bridge...if he looses, I'll get out and kiss the bridge... goodby..and jump...!
The triple crown trail is now in full force. Todd Pletcher no doubt will lead the injury list.