Todd Pletcher’s stable is loaded and deep. This is nothing new, at least in recent memory, as Pletcher begins his quest for a seventh straight and 13th career training title when racing begins today at Saratoga Race Course. (Editor’s note: Originally published in July 22 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
The stalls of his barn on the Oklahoma Training Track are occupied by Breeders’ Cup winners, Grade 1 winners, combatants from the spring classics, graded stakes winners, allowance horses and promising 2-year-olds, some with names and some without. Pletcher knows the performance of the latter group is what holds the key to his continued success at Saratoga.
“As always how our 2-year-olds perform is going to define how strong our meet is,” Pletcher said Wednesday afternoon, working in his office alongside assistant Tristan Barry and office manager Maggie Sweet.
A year ago, when he also led off the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour as the meet’s defending training champion, Pletcher won 34 races at Saratoga. He’s won as many as 38 in his career, that total coming in 2011, and the race for last year’s title came down to the last week in a battle with Chad Brown.
Pletcher won six of the meet’s graded stakes, including Grade 1 triumphs with Rachel’s Valentina in the Spinaway, Rock Fall in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Curalina in the Coaching Club American Oaks.
He’ll undoubtedly factor in those and many other of the meet’s featured events, including the Schuylerville, Sanford, Diana and possibly the Coaching Club American Oaks this weekend.
“We’ve been fortunate to win a lot of races up here but we also appreciate how hard it is to win here,” Pletcher said. “There are no easy spots. You think you might be dropping down in class into an allowance race and then pick up the overnight and say, ‘I can’t believe that horse is in there.’ You’ve got to have some breaks go your way. Stay on the turf when you need it on the turf, come off the turf when you need it to come off when you’ve got a main track only in. Things like that.”
A native of Texas who lives in Garden City, the 49-year-old Pletcher met with The Special’s Tom Law Wednesday afternoon.
Stopchargingmaria: “We were a little disappointed in her last race obviously, it was uncharacteristic to her but she seems to be training well. Haven’t decided if we’re going to the Shuvee or maybe possibly train up to the Personal Ensign. She tends to run well fresh and felt like last year she ran great in the Shuvee and didn’t run quite as well in the Personal Ensign and then obviously ran well in the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll play it by ear, see how her next breeze goes and go from there. Maybe one start here then the Spinster and then see about a Breeders’ Cup (Distaff) defense.”
Curalina: “She’s definite for the Shuvee. She’s training well and could be on a similar path. She ran in the Phipps, was fourth, and it was maybe a better race than it looks. Kind of wide throughout. Funny track that day; seemed like some horses really loved it and some horses didn’t. I didn’t think she loved it but still tried hard like she always does.”
Anchor Down: “It’s sometimes hard to be excited to be second when you’re beaten that far but he was still second in the Met Mile. We scratched him the other day from the 1 hole in the Belmont Sprint Championship, which he doesn’t love. Part of the reason we were looking at that race is because there isn’t an ideal race here. I think 6 and 7 is a little short of his best and a mile and an eighth a little further than his best. We’re going to try the Vanderbilt, back to 6, but concerned it’s a little short for him.”
Stanford: “We gave him a little bit of a break. He’s down at Stonestreet in Ocala and will probably be back training in the next month. Without getting too ambitious, if I had a perfect world I’d run him once at Gulfstream and then maybe he’d make the $12 million race (Pegasus World Cup Jan. 28). We’ll see.”
Sandiva: “She’s a filly that’s run well fresh. We weren’t really intending to run in the Diana two or three weeks ago but she’s been training like she’s back in top form so we decided to take a shot. A Grade 1 is the only thing missing on her resume.”
Isabella Sings: “She’s also in the Diana. Same thing, the only thing missing on her resume is a Grade 1. Hopefully she can run as well as she did in the race against Tepin (second by a length in the Grade 2 Hillsborough). Tepin’s hard to beat and she came about as close as anybody has.”
Off The Tracks: “Big effort in the Mother Goose. Now we’re just trying to figure out what to do. We ran her back off three weeks after the Acorn. We’re not going in the Coaching Club. The decision we’re going to make is do we back up into the Test or wait until the Alabama at a mile and a quarter. We’ll let this weekend unfold, see what happens in the Coaching Club, survey up ahead what the Alabama is going to look like and where Songbird and Carina Mia might go next.”
Destin: “He’s going to work this weekend and right now is pointing to the Jim Dandy. We’re not 100 percent ruling out the Haskell.”
Donegal Moon: “We’re thinking West Virginia Derby.”
American Patriot: “(The Kent at Delaware Park) was a big race for him. He’s 2-for-2 now with blinkers. We’ll see what Elliott (Walden) and those guys want to do. When I spoke to Elliott after the race we kicked around the idea of the Secretariat at Arlington as a possibility. If we didn’t go there probably the Saranac.”
Keen Ice: “He just arrived this morning. He’s been galloping a couple weeks at WinStar and we’ll carry on from there. He’s unlikely to make a race at this meet. I don’t know, we’ll see how he does and how quickly he gets ready. Then we’ll come up with a game plan when we see how fit he is.”
Bronson: “He’s in the Sanford. It was a good debut, he surprised us a little bit being a Medaglia d’Oro with pretty much a turf pedigree on the bottom side. As precocious as he’s been physically I think he’s a little immature. There’s room for improvement. We’ll see how this goes, going from a maiden at Monmouth.”
One Liner: “He’s a horse for WinStar and China Horse Club. Into Mischief colt, he’s training well and I’m looking forward to getting him started.”
Coal Front: “I guess we’ll promote our own stallion, we’ve got a couple Stay Thirstys that have been training pretty well. He’s one of them, came from OBS April and cost quite a bit ($575,000). Probably be ready for Book 2.”
Unnamed by Stay Thirsty-Magical Victory, by Victory Gallop: “That’s another Stay Thirsty that Mike Repole bought at Keeneland September (for $80,000) last year. Training well.”
Unnamed by Uncle Mo-Five Star Dream: “We’ve got a couple Uncle Mos that would not be big secrets. He cost $1 million at (Fasig-Tipton Florida sale at) Gulfstream. Probably Book 2 at the earliest, but maybe more toward the end of the meet.”
Unnamed by Uncle Mo-Setareh: “He cost $1.3 million at OBS March. We’re hoping Uncle Mo continues his roll and has as good a year this year, or continues to have as good a year as he’s having. So far this year and all of last year. Same with this colt, Book 2, but maybe at the end of the meet.”