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