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Pletcher mapping out Kentucky Derby trails for bevy of contenders
ELMONT, N.Y. – Yes, the Kentucky Derby is still more than five months away, but it’s not too early for trainer Todd Pletcher to begin thinking about it.
On the cover of his white binder that houses his various condition books is a list of all the prep races that lead to the May 4 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Given the depth of his crop, there may not be a race restricted to 3-year-olds run in the first part of 2013 in which Pletcher isn’t participating.
When Overanalyze won Saturday’s $250,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct, it was the 56th victory in a 2-year-old race this year for Pletcher. Sixteen of those wins have come in stakes, 10 in graded races.
With horses like Overanalyze, undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby, Nashua winner Violence, and a bevy of maiden winners, Pletcher knows he will be the center of attention when the Derby prep season begins in January.
“Oh without a doubt; get a bunch of nice horses expectations are high,” said Pletcher, who is 1 for 31 while participating in 12 Kentucky Derbies since 2000. “We had a great Saratoga with a lot of 2-year-olds running well. It doesn’t always mean it’s going to continue on, but so far it has. We won a lot of important 2-year-old races, so we’ll get them down [to Florida] and try to figure out where most of them are going to start.”
Figuring out where everybody is going to start takes on added importance this year with a change in the qualifying rules for the Kentucky Derby. Gone is the graded stakes earnings rule, which, if in effect, would mean that Shanghai Bobby and Overanalyze would be virtually assured a spot in the Derby field.
That has been replaced by a new points system that emphasizes races run in late March and April such as the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, and Arkansas Derby.
Due to the new system, Pletcher has decided to point Shanghai Bobby to the $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26 to give him the option of running three times if need be, though he would prefer to run just twice.
Despite wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Champagne, and Hopeful, Shanghai Bobby has just 20 qualifying points.
“To think you have to be cognizant of earning points with a horse that’s 5 for 5 and won the Breeders’ Cup, whether he was my horse or not, that needs to be looked at,” Pletcher said. “The Breeders’ Cup champion shouldn’t have to worry about points, but it’s so heavily geared to the final preps. Hopefully, the points he accumulated already and if he earns a few more in his next prep, he’s in a position that if he ran well in his final prep that even without winning he’d qualify.”
Pletcher would like to run Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull and then Florida Derby, a 100-point race on March 30 prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Overanalyze also has run five times and picked up 10 points with his victory in the Remsen. Pletcher could wait for the Fountain of Youth – a 50-point race – to run him, though the colt’s versatility gives Pletcher several options.
“I think he’s proven his versatility; he’s a horse you have to now consider to be capable of doing just about anything,” Pletcher said. “Now, he’s won wire to wire, he’s won from last, he’s won from a stalking position. He’s run well every time, but I thought [Saturday] moved his stock way up.”
Pletcher ran two others in the Remsen with mixed results. Delhomme finished third after setting the pace. Micromanage finished last, his second subpar performance after a solid debut win at Saratoga.
Delhomme shipped to WinStar Farm – he is co-owned by WinStar and Twin Creeks Racing – for a brief freshening before rejoining Pletcher at Palm Meadows.
Pletcher said he could not find an excuse for Micromanage and said he will get him down to south Florida and regroup.
Already in Florida is Palace Malice, a son of Curlin who won a maiden race at Saratoga in August but was sidelined due to sore shins. He could return to the work tab this weekend.
Archwarrior, a debut winner at Saratoga, was stopped on after finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne.
“We felt like we were pushing a little sooner than we needed to,” Pletcher said. “He didn’t run badly in the Champagne. The one thing is the 2-year-old form is holding up great out of New York this year.”
Violence, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, is 2 for 2, including a victory in the Nashua Stakes. Pletcher plans to send him to the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 15.
Pletcher knows not all of his 2-year-olds will turn out to be Derby horses, but that does not mean he won’t give them the opportunity.
“That’s going to sort itself out when we start running in these prep races,” he said “There might be some that are better suited to start back in the Swale and Hutcheson, races like that, but none of them are such that I don’t think they’re capable of attempting to stretch out.”
Pletcher will even give his New York-bred turf horse Notacatbutallama a chance to show his prowess on dirt by running him in the Damon Runyon Stakes for statebreds on Dec. 2.
In addition to plotting a path to the Derby, Pletcher also will have fillies to point to the Kentucky Oaks. Unlimited Budget put herself on the Oaks trail with her victory in the Demoiselle, joining Dreaming of Julia, the Grade 1 Frizette winner.
Pletcher said that Kauai Katie, the Matron winner, would be kept sprinting and could run in the Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 1.
Seems like everyone has close to the same opinion of Pletcher. To many breakdowns of promising horses and empty by the time the Derby rolls around. Shame but it is true.
It will be interesting to re-read this article the last week of April, 2013. Let's see what this "BREVY" looks like then? So far he's 1 for 4 the last 4 years at Derby. Delhomme went home, and I doubt Butcher will ever get him back. That's a good thing. Maybe we will have a Classic horse running as a four year old?
Lets just keep everything the same..print articles to support political agendas of the trainers ruining the industry...good for Kentucky and Derby Commission...
Considering what TP has to work with when it comes time to spring the latch at Churchill in May he seems to come up short. Fortunately it's never his fault.
The more I look at the new points system for qualifying for the KD the more I like it. The points system makes it more competitive for the Derby aspirants. The Graded Stakes Earnings was ok but it allowed too many average or mediocre horses to get in the Derby at the expense of some late maturing ones. I would like to see some good competiotin in the Kentucky Derby Championship Series races that should weed out all the curs and provide a field of at least 14 good horses.
palace malice will be his best chance of winning and i still dont like pletcher on first saturday in may ever!
I don't see the big deal about the Juvenile winner not automatically being in the Derby. The winner of that race is 1 for forever in the Derby so it's not an important prep. Plus, Shanghai Bobby would have to fall flat on his face to not get in from this point. If he can't earn 20 more points (Churchill says any horse with 40 points should get in) he shouldn't be in the Derby.
He wins a lot of the prep races leading to the KD,but only one of his 30 entrants has ran well enough to win.Super Saver is a Winstar colt and after winning the Jockey Club in Kentucky was eased back into competition in a race in Tampa.He didnt run his best race until the Derby but after the race lost a lot of weight and wasnt competitive in the Preakness.The 2yo and 3yo races are a lot tougher now so running too many races in a colts 2yo year and then trying to win too many as a 3yo IMO will not work in 2013.
and ill bet you 3 things half of his horses will get injurred along the derby trail and never to be heard from again or for many mos. the other half will win impressively prior to the derby........ with pletcher coming up empty again when they do bomb out in the derby and classics the guy burns his horses out and cant win the big ones relative to his endowment the guy is very overrated can u imagine if mandella had his stock
His training style simply doesn't work. Half of these horses will be injured the first Saturday in May. The others will not have enough experience to handle the race. If Baffert ever made a commitment to NY racing. Pletcher wouldn't have nearly as many 2 yo's. Personally, the Kentucky Derby is the most ridiculous pursuit. Alot of horses get wasted because of the Kentucky Derby. Too many injuries related to the Derby pursuit.