Spa Stars: Pletcher, as always

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As far as trainers go, there is no bigger star than Todd Pletcher. Nationwide and certainly at Saratoga. He’s won the Saratoga title the past three seasons and has secured nine titles overall. The trainers’ race stops and starts at the TAP sign at the end of his barn.

As always, the 46-year-old Texan will come loaded with tents staked in every camp. Palace Malice, Verrazano and others for 3-year-old stakes. Princess Of Sylmar, Dreaming of Julia and others for the 3-year-old filly stakes. Hudson Steele, Channel Lady, Notacatbutallama, Micromanage, Charming Kitten, Yes Liz, Caixa Eletronica, San Pablo, Forty Tales…the list goes on and on. Beyond the stakes horses, Pletcher can rack up numbers with the Repole Stable’s approach to winning the leading owner title. To put the numbers in perspective, Pletcher breezed 40 horses at Saratoga, Monmouth and Belmont Park July 7. One morning, 40 breezes. Think about all the ones who galloped, jogged, walked and grazed. It’s an arsenal.

“We’ll try to approach it as we always do, never take anything for granted,” Pletcher said in early July. “I know Saratoga is a very difficult place to win horse races. We are appreciative of that. We’ll see how it shakes out, and hopefully we’ll get lucky and be successful in the stakes. We have a nice blend of young horses and some established 3-year-olds and older horses that we can be competitive in these races that are very tough to win.”

Last year, Pletcher outgunned Chad Brown by seven wins and over $1.5 million in purses. Brown won at 31 percent, while Pletcher popped at 24 percent. Pletcher dominated the 2-year-old races, winning 23 during the meet. Pletcher unleashed the likes of Palace Malice, Dreaming of Julia, Overanalyze, Kauai Katie and Shanghai Bobby. Sixteen of the 23 were debut winners.

Pletcher’s juveniles won the title for him. This year won’t be any different.

“As always, our success at Saratoga is a direct correlation to how our 2-year-olds run, that’s hard to project a long way out, it’s constantly evolving and changing, some are going to make it, some are going to need more time, you have to take it as it comes,” Pletcher said. “Like everybody else, we were held up a bit by the tremendously wet spring that we’ve had, because of that, we might be a little behind scheduling as where we were this time last year.”

In early July, Pletcher was realistic about trying to make predictions or comparisons between this year’s crop and last year’s prolific fleet.

“Last year, we were blessed with the 2-year-old winners up there, to think we’re going to do that again is unrealistic, I just hope that we do well,” Pletcher said. “From a pedigree standpoint, a lot of our horses are later types and two-turn types, that’s what we were looking for when we bought them. Hopefully we’ll have enough precocious types to keep us rolling until those longer type horses get ready. I thought we were holding a pretty strong hand coming into last year and I think we’re holding a pretty good hand this year, maybe not the precocity that we had last year. Some of the 2-year-old winners might come later in the meet.”

Between the time this article was written and the time it was posted Thursday afternoon, Pletcher’s Ari The Adventurer won her debut by 6 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park. Early or late, Pletcher’s juveniles will be leading the charge at a fourth consecutive trainer’s title.

This is one in a series of articles previewing the Saratoga Race Course meeting, which opens Friday, July 19. Be sure to check back between now and then for more and pick up a copy of The Saratoga Special if you’re in town or jump on TIHR to download digital editions of the daily publication.

Check out earlier pieces on Fort Larned and Orb.