01/19/2014 1:36PM

Pletcher shows humor, emotion while accepting Eclipse Award

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Trainers Todd Pletcher (left) and D. Wayne Lukas at the Eclipse Awards dinner Saturday night.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – In private, Todd Pletcher can be quite clever, but it’s a side he rarely shows publicly. But at the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards dinner Saturday night at Gulfstream Park, during which Pletcher received his record sixth title as champion trainer, he showed both his sense of humor and the emotional toll taken on him by the recent loss of one of his favorite horses.

Pletcher became audibly and visibly choked up while accepting his Eclipse Award when speaking about his parents, who were in attendance Saturday night, and the popular horse Caixa Eletronica, who died this month in a freak training accident at Belmont Park when a loose horse crashed into him.

“All those awards are special, and I think the older you get, you have more of an appreciation of how hard it is to win,” Pletcher said Sunday at the Palm Meadows training center. “Any time you talk about a horse like Caixa Eletronica, when you lose a horse like that, it makes you sad. And I think talking about your family, your parents, brings out your emotions a little more.”

Pletcher’s parents are divorced. His father, J.J., is a former racetrack trainer who now runs a training facility in Ocala, Fla. His mother, Jerrie, flew in from San Antonio for the dinner. They, along with Pletcher’s wife and three kids, all were at the same table, sharing in the moment.

At the dinner, Pletcher said one of the most enjoyable things about success in racing is “you can share the moments with people who mean a lot to you.” He said the biggest break he got was “being born to my parents.”

Pletcher said Caixa Eletronica, who became a multiple stakes winner after being claimed by Pletcher and owner Mike Repole, “personified everything that’s terrific about this game.” He called Caixa Eletronica “one of my favorites.”

A little later Saturday night, Pletcher presented the Eclipse Award of Merit to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, for whom Pletcher worked before going out on his own. Before introducing Lukas, though, Pletcher joked, “Anyone who missed ‘Duck Dynasty’ tonight, you can thank Mr. Horton for making up for that.”

Willis Horton, the owner of Will Take Charge, had a little earlier been responsible for the most entertaining acceptance speech of the evening. In his thick, folksy, Arkansas drawl, Horton twice refused to budge when the house band tried to play him off the stage, his banter increasingly engrossing the audience.

“Me and my wife have been on a honeymoon for 57 years,” Horton said, “and I know Wayne won’t last that long.”

Lukas, 78, recently got married for the fifth time.

Regarding his award, Lukas said, “John Nerud told me that when they start giving you awards, they’re trying to get rid of you.”

“Well,” Lukas continued, “to all you young trainers, I’m coming after you, so you better get up a little earlier.”

Lukas closed by saying, “Live every day like it’s your last, and one day, you’ll be right.”

Lukas’s longtime friend, former basketball coach Bobby Knight, paid tribute to Lukas in a brief video played as an accompaniment to Pletcher’s remarks. Knight called Lukas “the Babe Ruth of Thoroughbred racing.”

Video also was used to reveal the Horse of the Year, with Secretariat’s popular owner, Penny Chenery, opening an envelope and announcing that Wise Dan had indeed become a two-time Horse of the Year, just like Secretariat in 1972-73.

Wise Dan also won titles as champion older male and champion male turf horse, becoming the first horse to win three Eclipse Awards in each of two consecutive years. He is trained by Charlie LoPresti.

Morton Fink, who bred and owns Wise Dan, said one of his goals this year was “hoping to convince Charlie to run on dirt, long.”

Wise Dan is getting the winter off but is scheduled to return to action at Keeneland in April.

Daniel Alvarado 7 months ago
Morton Fink is so full of crap!...apparently he's “hoping to convince Charlie to run on dirt, long.” How dumb does he think we are? We know it's YOU, not LoPresti, who doesn't want to run Wise Dan outside a mile on turf. Way to throw your trainer under the bus Mortie you old fart.
Jackson Jackson 7 months ago
You nailed it Daniel ! Morty said the same thing last year . He had a GWB smirk on his face when he said it this time. That smirk was saying I fooled you suckers once and I'm going to fool you again. What a poor excuse for a human being he is ! He has a very fitting name .
Daniel Alvarado 7 months ago
I thought it was a classless and shady...Fink is trying to redirect all this displeasure over the ultra conservative way WD is handled toward LoPresti meanwhile he continues to rack up trophies...what a joke!
Jamie Murphy 7 months ago
how wrong is he though? I think its the fault of people voting him as HOY again. to win 3 eclipses again, why change? if they didn't make him HOY, maybe he would give it a better, legitimate look to run on dirt.
Daniel Alvarado 7 months ago
It wouldn't matter...with or without awards, Morton Fink would be as conservative as ever and wouldn't change a thing. He doesn't care about racing fans or the sport...Fink is all about himself and what HE wants.
B 7 months ago
Pletcher showed emotion? I don't beleive it. I also can't beleive that he won an Eclipse Award as trainer. No one person can train the amount of horses credited to him as trainer. Simply not possible. Apparently all the Eclipse voters care about is the amount of money taken in by his equine operation.
edb 7 months ago
Todd has the best operation in the sport. It is ironic that he can't catch a break in the Derby, but that's life. Hats off to a good year
Mark 7 months ago
TAP !
Mark D 7 months ago
My question is....Is Todd Pletcher and powerhouse barns like his good or bad for the game?? Personally....I hate betting on him...but hate betting against him.
Amy Hurley 7 months ago
Congratulations to TAP on his well-deserved, record-setting Eclipse. He's one of my favorites and only wish he would show his more personable side a bit more often. I had the chance to speak with him briefly following the Del 'Cap years ago and he was very accomodating when he didn't have to be, as he busy checking on his other horses. His training record speaks for itself.
ghost2_ 7 months ago
Some people just don't like it or understand it when other people are reserved and don't wear their emotions on their sleeves. I'm pretty reserved myself, so I get what Pletcher is like. He's as human as anyone else, and it's not very kind to call him a robot, an automaton, emotionless, or similar insults. Not everyone shows their feelings in the same way, and that's okay.
Gunner 7 months ago
To quote Thurston Howell III (from Gilligan's Island): " I'd walk out on that picture even on an airplane."
Mike 7 months ago
Its sad Baffert will probably get blamed for CA death... he gets blamed for every other horse racing death
rahman Williams 7 months ago
Because HE DID IT!!!!!LOL. Crazy huh he had a horse die in a breeders cup race and its his fault.
John Flynn 7 months ago
Pletcher has the "Personality of a Cork Screw"!!! Bad Image for the Industry. Lukas is Always FUN.
Jd Staton 7 months ago
it seems a lot of rich people have bad personalities. maybe counting all that money makes them a little simple in the head
Joseph Giambra 7 months ago
I can't agree with your assessment of Pletcher, he is dealing with some of the wealtheist people in the horse racing world, and they do not like to lose. Even though they entrust him with some of the best stock money can buy, he has to also deal with their inflated ambitions and demands, to run some of these horses where they don't belong. Do you really think he didn't know at least 5 of the 7 horses he entered in a recent Kentucky Derby had little chance of even hitting the board.. I think he and Bill Mott are two of the very best trainers I have seen in over 55 years of being a fan of the game.