02/04/2014 12:51PM

For Pletcher, 41 shots at Kentucky Derby roses

Barbara D. Livingston
Todd Pletcher has 41 nominees to the Triple Crown, including Havana, Commissioner, Harpoon, Vinceremos, and Intense Holiday.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – A training chart with 41 horses isn’t all that uncommon. Many of the top trainers in North America have at least that many horses to look after. The powerhouse stables have two or three times that number, some even more.

All of which boggles the mind in regard to what Todd Pletcher is doing this winter. Pletcher has 41 3-year-olds nominated to the Triple Crown, an all-time record that once again will make his stable the most-watched on the road to the 140th Kentucky Derby on May 3 at Churchill Downs. (The original list has Pletcher as trainer of a 42nd nominee, Bashart, but that colt is now with Christophe Clement at Payson Park.)

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

There has yet to be a Pletcher runner to emerge as a favorite for the Kentucky Derby in the way Uncle Mo, Eskendereya, or even Verrazano distinguished themselves in recent years. But with nearly three months until the Derby, and all the major prep races still to be run, there might be a dozen or more Pletcher horses with the potential to be among the core of favorites by Derby Day. Five of his nominees are fillies, and they are more likely to end up in the May 2 Kentucky Oaks, but Pletcher said he wants to “keep our options open.”

“I guess if you asked me to name our top five prospects right now, they’d be Havana, Commissioner, Harpoon, Vinceremos, and Intense Holiday, but that’s only because they’ve all gone out and actually done something so far,” he said. “You’ve got that next tier of horses where they’re only one more good race away from being in the top group, but it’s hard to put them on any kind of list until they go out and do it.”

Four of those colts just below the radar not only have impressive debut victories as the only race on their past-performances but also share another thing in common: they all were sired by Tapit. They are Anchor Down, Constitution, Hartford, and Matterhorn.

“I guess it’s quite a coincidence they’re all by the same sire,” he said. “They’re all at pretty much the same stage right now, where their next race is critical in determining how we proceed. Obviously these next few weeks are very important in our decision-making process.”

Well before dawn on a recent morning at the Palm Meadows training center, where all but a handful of his Triple Crown nominees are training, Pletcher could be found intensely inspecting his horses. This daily routine is factory-like, but the individual attention Pletcher gives each horse is not. Pletcher carefully touched each horse from withers to rump before running his hands over all four legs and then watching the horse jog for its handler.

Later that day, Pletcher took time to go through each of his 41 Triple Crown nominees and comment about each one. Some took just a few seconds, but others, such as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Havana, he took a little more time discussing.

“He’ll go next in the Swale,” said Pletcher, referring to the seven-furlong race at Gulfstream Park on March 1. “He just breezed here Saturday and I was pleasantly surprised at the level of fitness he showed. It made me feel good that we’re on schedule with him, maybe even a little ahead.”

Pletcher had a record-tying five Derby starters last year, with third-place Revolutionary being his best finisher. He shares the record for most starters in a Derby with D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito. From 36 career Kentucky Derby starters, he has had one Derby winner, Super Saver in 2010.

Todd Pletcher 2014 Triple Crown nominees
Horse Owner Best race won Plans/comment
All Tied Up Dogwood Stables N1X (turf)  alw. followed by Spiral or BG
All In Blue Starlight Stables MSW recently in from Ocala
Anchor Down Alto Racing LLC MSW alw. then maybe Fla. or Ark. Derby
Atreides Stonestreet Stables unstarted half-brother to Dreaming of Julia
Camden Street Coolmore MSW (turf) GP turf alw. Fri.
Canzoni Alto Racing LLC MSW (turf) probably dirt opportunity soon
Commissioner WinStar Stables N1X Fountain of Youth Feb. 22 at GP
Constitution WinStar/Twin Creeks MSW alw. then major Derby prep
f-Dame Dorothy Bobby Flay N1X Davona Dale Feb. 22 at GP 
Danza Eclipse Thor. Partners MSW hoping for a race around March 1
Divine Oath Let’s Go Stables MSW (turf) alw. then maybe Spiral
Edison Coolmore MSW (turf) alw. next but may be better turf
Gala Award Coolmore MSW (turf) alw. or maybe Risen Star 
Global Strike Stonestreet Stables winless shouldn’t be maiden much longer
Goodnewsisnonews Repole Stables winless needs to make a leap
f-Got Lucky Hill ‘n’ Dale MSW keeping our options open
Harpoon Let’s Go Stables MSW Tampa Derby or Gotham next
Hartford Stonestreet Stables MSW little behind but has it talent-wise
Havana Coolmore G1 Champagne on schedule for March 1 Swale
Hines Let’s Go/Coolmore winless makings of a 12-furlong horse
Holy Wildcat Ken/Sarah Ramsey winless a little behind schedule
Intense Holiday Starlight Stables MSW improving and thriving on racing
Killer Crossover Repole Stables winless needs to win to show he belongs
King Cyrus WinStar MSW returns to race (alw.) on about March 1
Lord Trondor WinStar unstarted be ready to run about March 1
Madd Exchange Green Hills Farm winless disappointing last weekend
Master Lightning Alan Cook/Larry Pratt N1X Gotham if next race OK
Matterhorn Coolmore MSW GP alw. race on Feb. 22
Misconnect Repole Stables MSW still in Ocala and behind schedule
Monopolize Repole Stables MSW just has to improve
New Saloon Robert Evans unstarted be ready to run about March 1
f-Onlyforyou Glencrest Farm G2 Forward Gal keeping options open
f-Our Amazing Rose Repole Stables MSW GP alw. on or about March 1
Pacific Stonestreet/Gainesway unstarted still at Stonestreet in Ocala
Palace Gate Michael Tabor winless acts like farther the better
Pax in Terra Eric Fein MSW (restr.) to run back in NY-bred allowance
f-Stopchargingmaria Repole Stables G2 Demoiselle keeping options open
Surfing U S A Stonestreet/Bolton MSW Gotham a good possibility
Trail Blaze Stonestreet/Bolton MSW probably a break upcoming
Vinceremos WinStar/Twin Creeks G3 Sam Davis back in Tampa Bay Derby
We Miss Artie Ken/Sarah Ramsey G1 Br. Futurity Palm Beach to Blue Grass
f –filly      


Linda Broussard More than 1 year ago
Make that "40 shots" for Todd... 08/09/2014 Trainer Derek Ryan, owner Stonestreet Stables et al. Horse, 3YO colt Trail Blaze broke down during a $70K ALW… EUTHANIZED ON THE TRACK. The race which killed him was the colt’s first start of a six-month layup. *THE COLT BEGAN HIS CAREER WITH TODD PLETCHER, winning first time out of the box in a $70K MSW on 11/20/2013 at Aqueduct. Second start, Pletcher bumped him up into the $100K Spectacular Bid Stakes on 01/04/2014 at Gulfstream (and we all know what that meant) where the colt finished 4th out of six. For his third start, Pletcher bumped the colt up again and ran him in the G3 Hutchison Stakes at Gulfstream on 02/01/2014 where he finished 8th out of nine, followed by a six-month layup, followed by a transfer to a lesser barn at a lesser track, followed by lying dead in front of the grandstand at PARX.
denali1 More than 1 year ago
It must be nice heading into the 3 yr old campaign with a boat load of horses. When many folks would be happy with just one chance to win it all the first Saturday of May. It kinda takes the fun out of it(just my opinion). The chances are slim even with a talented barn some many things can happen. Its not how many you have in beginning but how many you keep fit at the end. I think that defines greatness even if you don't win the roses. I bet out of the 41 maybe 4 to 5 make it to the gate and not one crosses the wire. That is how hard it is win the Derby!
mikey More than 1 year ago
Todd and Bob are good trainers no doubt but the horses bred today are not classic distance horses. They are mostly milers and speed horses with no stamina. 10 furlongs is just too far for the vast majority of them. Sure everybody get excited they have high beyers at 8 to 8.5 to 9 furlongs on their pre-derby races but they turn to G3 or worse at 10 or longer. Lukas had great success at the triple crown because back then there were still some leftover dnas to go the classic distances. But with the hard breeding for speed at the expense of stamina after Lukas, we now have basically milers. BTW, I am prepared for those thumb downs but before you do that, look at your last 5 HOTY.
Steve Wilson More than 1 year ago
No "thumbs down" here, Mikey - I believe your post is spot on!
Joey W More than 1 year ago
Pletcher will hit the Derby this year. Just not sure if it will be West Virginia or Pennsylvania. All kidding aside, I do believe he will be live with Commissioner, Constitution and Hartford. That is if they make it there.
Jay Stone More than 1 year ago
Success breeds envy which brings on great scrutiny which I'm sure TAP handles very well. I watch every horse of his in South Florida and they all look the same. As healthy and ready to run first out as an group I've ever seen. They are all well bred and most are blessed with excellent confirmation. The comments that a few trainers have locked up most of the better young horses is true but it just mirrors our society where the upper class has prospered and the gap to the middle class has widened.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Well, only 20 of them can possibly start in the race....which, based on Pletcher's past history in this event, is what it will take for him to bring home the roses!
Dan More than 1 year ago
The 41 horses nominated to the Derby only means the owners agreed to put them in to the Derby equation. How many will qualify is another story. Pletcher has great success, but not with Derby horses. He has fired many bullets, without great accuracy. His total early focus is the Derby, which makes his record even less impressive.
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
Good luck to TAP and his Toddsters! He takes so much (undeserved) criticism, but I'm a big fan of his. Obviously, many people with lots of money and lots of good horses feel the same way. It would be good to see him win a few more TC races - clearly, his record has not been stellar so far, but it sure is fun watching his babies tear up the competition as 2 year olds and early 3 year olds.
michael More than 1 year ago
But no fun watching many of them get torn up. Too many for one person to control and monitor properly. Bad for the stock and game.
Rogelio More than 1 year ago
40 horses.........what does it matter if most of them are lame in June? We hear the same story every year about the power of Pletcher..........not drinking this Kool-aid for the 20th time.
Matt Banchero More than 1 year ago
Constitution will win the derby
Perl More than 1 year ago
I saw this one's debut and it was super impressive. If he wins the Derby he will have to do it off only 3 starts. I'm not sure what history says about that, although in this day and age I definitely wouldn't rule it out. I know he would be the first with no 2yo start in like a billion years, but I have felt that streak was ripe to be ended any time now. I think Big Brown won off only 4 career starts, and Showing Up ran quite well in the Derby off only three career starts, back in 2006.
Matt Banchero More than 1 year ago
I agree Perl.....that was an impressive maiden win after such a poor break
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Big brown was 2008.