06/08/2014 11:04AM

Pletcher misses monster payday by narrow margin

Barbara D. Livingston
Commisioner (right) came up a head short of Tonalist in the Belmont Stakes, one of a series of near-misses in major stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Any time you win the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap it’s a good day. But trainer Todd Pletcher was about a length away on Saturday from having arguably his greatest day as a trainer.

On a day when Palace Malice won the Grade 1, $1.25 million Met Mile, Pletcher finished a combined length away from winning four other graded stakes - including the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, where his 28-1 shot Commissioner was beaten a head by Tonalist.

In addition to Commissioner’s narrow loss, Pletcher ran second with Princess of Sylmar (beaten a head) in the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps; second with Sweet Whiskey (beaten a half-length) in the Grade 1, $750,000 Acorn, and second with Micromanage (beaten a neck) in the Grade 2, $500,000 Brooklyn Handicap Invitational. Combined, Pletcher ran 17 horses Saturday with one win, four seconds, and four fourths.

Pletcher’s horses earned $1,469,584 in purse money. Had those four seconds been wins, Pletcher’s purse earnings on the day would have been $2,949,585, including a bonus of $175,000 that Micromanage would have received had he won the Brooklyn.

“You hate to be disappointed when most of your horses run well and win the Met Mile but it was a bit frustrating getting that close with some that didn’t quite get there,” Pletcher said Sunday morning.

The biggest disappointment of Pletcher’s runners was My Miss Sophia, who finished seventh as the 4-5 favorite in the Acorn without excuse.

“She scoped clean and she’s sound this morning,” Pletcher said. “I don’t know what happened. Hopefully, she just had an off day.”

Many of Pletcher’s runners will be pointed to major races at Saratoga this summer. Palace Malice, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 111 in winning the Met Mile by a length over Goldencents, will likely target the two major races for older males at Saratoga, starting with the Grade 1, $1.5 million Whitney on Aug. 2 and then the $600,000 Woodward on Aug. 30. Last year, Palace Malice won the Jim Dandy and finished fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Travers at Saratoga.

Princess of Sylmar will be considered for the Grade 1, $750,000 Delaware Handicap, a 1 1-4/mile race at Delaware Park on July 12. Another target for her is the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign on Aug. 22 at Saratoga, where she would likely face Phipps winner Close Hatches again. Pletcher said it would be a few weeks before he decides whether to run in the Delaware Handicap.

“It’s a matter of seeing if Delaware’s enough time,” said Pletcher, noting the race comes up in four weeks. “I don’t think we’ll know that for another couple of weeks.”

Commissioner, who Pletcher said “had a great trip” while on the lead in the Belmont, will likely be pointed to the 3-year-old division’s major races, including the Haskell or Jim Dandy and the Travers.

Micromanage, who won the Grade 3 Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 29, could be a candidate for the Grade 2, $500,000 Suburban at 1 1/4 miles here on July 5.

Sweet Whiskey, who outran her odds when second in the Acorn to Sweet Reason, is a likely candidate for the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on Aug. 2.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman