Todd Pletcher won his fifth consecutive and 11th overall training title at Saratoga Race Course in 2014, just one of the accomplishments that paved the way to a record seventh Eclipse Award as North America's outstanding trainer. He won 28 races at Saratoga last year, 10 fewer than his career best in 2011 but enough to win by five over Chad Brown.
Pletcher's barns are always filled with well-bred and precocious 2-year-olds and the blend of babies and accomplished stars make him the heavy favorite to repeat atop the standings. He's off to a solid start through four days of racing with four wins, second to Bill Mott (6) in the trainer standings. The wins include two via disqualification - Uncle Vinny in the Grade 3 Sanford and Curalina in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Racing is a numbers game indeed and Pletcher's got the numbers. He's also got the horsemanship, organization, well-trained and dedicated team and an omnipresent attention to detail. He's also taking nothing for granted. Even on a recent afternoon, while he's relaxed and decked out in casual clothes inside his air-conditioned office, Pletcher is on top of everything and ready to go.
"You never know, every year is different," he said of this year's Saratoga meet. "We're just kind of waiting to see how our 2-year-olds do. So far they've gotten off to a decent start. For whatever reason it seems like our numbers, just in general, we have more fillies than colts. It's a little out of balance, more so than usual. So far our fillies have been a little more precocious than our colts but we'll see how they continue to develop.
"Somewhat interesting, we have a couple homebreds that Mike Repole has by Giant Surprise. He was a Giant's Causeway who broke his maiden up here in his only start, unfortunately he got hurt and Mike decided to take a shot and stand him in New York. He's bred some mares to him and he's actually got a couple that are training well that we hope to get started at the meet. It would be exciting to have those come out and do well. We've got a few from the first crop of Uncle Mo, and a few that we like."
Rachel's Valentina: "She's one filly that is obviously on everyone's radar because of who her dam is. She's a Bernardini filly who has trained well since she's come in from Stonestreet, acts very impressive in her training. She came straight here and hasn't missed a beat. I expect her to be ready in the next couple of weeks."
Tonasah: "We were thinking about the Schuylerville but it came up a bit quick after her maiden. We had the incident where she ran around loose forever, so we're happy with the way she ran. We worked her the other day and she was a little bit keen so we felt we might need to just take a little more time and look at the Adirondack. We entered her (in the Astoria) because we thought she was going to run well first time out. It's just one of those things that didn't work out. We're happy she's come back and run well when we did make it to the gate. It seemed like 80 (minutes she was loose)."
Liam's Map: "He's for the Whitney. He came back and ran a big race in an allowance race and hopefully can improve for this race. We feel like he's been very impressive."
Stopchargingmaria: "She's pointing toward the Shuvee. She seemed to like it up here last year when she won the Coaching Club and the Alabama. So we're hoping to do the same thing this year, run her twice at the meet. Shuvee and the Personal Ensign."
Competitive Edge: "We're planning on going to the Haskell for sure with him."
Rock Fall: "He's kind of established himself as one of the top sprinters. We're looking forward to getting him in the Vanderbilt."
Materiality: "We'll hopefully get him back and into the Jim Dandy. Hopefully he runs back to his Florida Derby with the thinking that if that moves him forward we go on to the Travers."
Stanford: "He just won the Long Branch. We're keeping an eye on the West Virginia Derby, the Haskell a little bit. The Jim Dandy."
Dissident (4th in maiden special weight Saturday): "He's a Medaglia d'Oro that we like a little bit. He'll make his first start Saturday in the maiden turf long. He's trained well."
Thrilled: "She's an Uncle Mo filly that Michael Tabor has who's a homebred. She's out of a mare named Excited that we trained. It's always fun when you have offspring of horses that you trained. Especially first-crop sires. Excited is out of Path of Thunder. She's been up here, trained pretty well."
Unbridled Daddy: "He's a Scat Daddy who ran closing day at Belmont, maiden on the turf. Six furlongs. Completely missed the break then ran on pretty well."