01/27/2006 1:00AM

Pletcher tops again and primed for a third


Aside from forgetting to thank a few people he deemed instrumental to his success at last year's Eclipse Awards dinner, Todd Pletcher made very few mistakes in 2005.

Loaded with arguably the top stock among all horsemen in the country, Pletcher set a single-year record for purse earnings by a trainer with $20,867,842 and had a personal best 257 victories, including 77 stakes. Pletcher's purse earnings broke Bobby Frankel's record of $19,147,129, set in 2003.

Thus it was no surprise that Pletcher earned his second consecutive Eclipse Award as the leading trainer in North America. Pletcher received 226 of the 259 votes cast. Steve Asmussen was next with 15. There were three abstentions.

In 2004, Pletcher won his first two Breeders' Cup races with Ashado (Distaff) and Speightstown (Sprint). For that year, Pletcher won 240 races and $17.5 million in earnings.

In 2005, Pletcher did not win a classic race or a Breeders' Cup race, yet still easily surpassed his previous highs in wins and earnings. Led by Flower Alley's win in the Travers and Bandini's win in the Blue Grass, Pletcher won 38 graded stakes, including 10 Grade 1 events.

"It was just a great year from the beginning to the end," Pletcher said. "We had a lot of significant wins even though we didn't win a Triple Crown or Breeders' Cup. There were a lot of big races along the way when you put the Blue Grass and the Travers and even the E.P. Taylor and English Channel's run through Virginia, Magna Graduate in the Clark, and Indian Vale in the Falls City. It was a collection of a number of big races that sort of added all up."

Three of Pletcher's 10 Grade 1 victories came with Ashado, who became the first filly since Life's Magic (1984-85) to be champion at 3 and 4. Other Grade 1 winners sent out by Pletcher were Adieu, Forest Danger, Honey Ryder, Host (Chi), and Purge.

With the exception of Ashado, Forest Danger, and Purge, virtually all of Pletcher's major stakes winners in 2005 are due to come back in 2006. Add in a few dozen regally bred 2-year-olds, and Pletcher has to be considered a front-runner to win his third straight Eclipse in 2006.

If so, Pletcher will be able to thank anybody he may have forgotten to last Monday.

"Last year I got up here and I got a little case of stage fright, and there's a couple of people I failed to mention," Pletcher said upon accepting his award on Monday. "Anita and Stuart Sobotnick were my first clients and they've been loyal supporters the last 10 years, and we'll always be grateful for the opportunity they've given us. Of course, Wayne Lukas, he's paved the way for a number of trainers out there, especially me. Also, his son Jeff Lukas, who is probably the single biggest influence on the way I handle my business, and I consider him to be a terrific racing mind."