JC / Railbird

Todd Pletcher

Pletcher Baby ROI

Everyone knows that trainer Todd Pletcher is dominant is Saratoga juvenile races, but he’s profitable, too, in certain scenarios: His five-year win stat for first-time starters in dirt sprint maiden special weights is 32%, with an ROI of $2.57. In the same conditions, restricted to state-breds, he’s 46%, with an ROI of $3.25. “Perhaps the time to take down a Pletcher juvenile firster is in maiden special weight turf routes,” writes Dan Illman, who pulled the preceding numbers from DRF Formulator. Good luck getting a big price in any circumstance, though: The longest juvenile shot Pletcher has won at Saratoga with in the past five years is Interactif, in the 2009 With Anticipation. He was 16-1 at post time. The only other Pletcher winner with double-digit odds was Lawn Man, in a 2012 six-furlong MSW. He was 10-1 going into the gate.

Pletcher: “Closed” Doors Troubling

Trainer Todd Pletcher has issued a statement in advance of the KHRC Life at Ten report due today. After recounting the events at the Breeders’ Cup and the investigation that followed the mare’s poor showing, he gets to the point:

What we don’t know are the contents of the “Report” which is scheduled to be presented to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission today because our request for a copy was declined. What we also don’t know is why this presentation is being made to the Commission behind “closed” doors where the public is excluded. This is a troubling approach and may be ignoring fundamental due process principles.

Wait, the report isn’t being presented publicly? That is disturbing …

The Paulick Report will attend the meeting and live blog whatever is released.

6:30 PM Update: The KHRC meeting may have been closed to the public, but the complete report is available for reading (PDF via TT). You can find the summary recommendations here (PDF). A couple notable quotes: “Many of the participants seemed to be waiting for someone else to take action” … “It is clear a communication breakdown contributed to this controversy” … “All three Stewards regretted their lack of action in this matter.”

So-So Prospects

A couple of years ago, I was listening to one of the Road to the Roses teleconferences hosted by the NTRA each spring. Trainer Todd Pletcher was taking questions. In February, a well-bred 3-year-old from his barn had won a grass race impressively at Gulfstream, briefly sparking Kentucky Derby talk. A reporter asked about the colt. Pletcher replied, “Who?”

It was funny, but as I listened to the trainer smoothly make up for his startled first response, I realized he had said everything about how he perceived the colt’s potential, and it wasn’t anything to look forward to on the Derby Trail.

I was reminded of that call yesterday after Brethren won the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs by four lengths as the 4-5 favorite. The final time was 1:45.07, for which Brethren was given a Beyer speed figure of 83. DRF Formulator gives his fractions as a steady :24+ per split. His final sixteenth was :6.87, and the way he drew off in the stretch was visually impressive.

For Pletcher, it was his fourth Davis win in five years, a Tampa record, but the trainer wasn’t in the winner’s circle. He watched the race from Gulftream, where he had two horses entered on Saturday afternoon, both in claiming races. “Obviously we have some things to work on at the gate but all in all I thought it was a great effort,” Pletcher told Mike Welsch.

A great effort isn’t Who?, and the trainer may not have been at Tampa for several reasons. Yet I’m getting a sense that, as a Kentucky Derby prospect, Brethren isn’t one to get too excited* about this season.

Mike Watchmaker has a less subjective reason to question Brethren’s Derby potential: “Brethren’s profoundly pedestrian preliminary Beyer of 83 in the Davis didn’t even match the pair of 84’s he earned last year.” The handicapper wasn’t any more impressed with the other two preps on Saturday, and Brad Free reports pessimism at Santa Anita after Tapizar’s dismal run.

Beyer speed figures of 93 and 90 for Silver Medallion in the El Camino Real at Golden Gate and Anthony’s Cross in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita. Charts and replays via the updated Kentucky Derby prep schedule.

First-round Triple Crown nominations are out. Search the 364 nominees.

*The one everyone is excited about worked this morning. Uncle Mo breezed four furlongs in :47.45 in company with Stay Thirsty at Palm Meadows. “It was a tad quicker than we expected. We wanted him to go in :48 and change, but he did it effortlessly,” said Pletcher of the move.

Good News Sunday

Doug O’Neill reports Square Eddie is looking good after his first race in a year:

“He came out fantastic, legs ice cold, jogging sound at the shed row and ate up everything,” Santa Anita’s three-time training king said.

Nice to hear! The Donn could be next for ‘Eddie.

This is Todd Pletcher gushing about early Derby fave Uncle Mo:

“Yes, I think he will get better,” Pletcher said. “And it’s kind of scary to think about that.”

The famously cool trainer just can’t contain himself, can he?

Jerry Bossert’s a fan of the Belmont Café:

It’s amazing, but in a month the NYRA put together a better OTB than NYCOTB, which opened its first parlor in 1971.

Almost makes me wish I still lived in New York so I could check the place out.

Talking with Todd

Tim Wilkin interviews trainer Todd Pletcher:

Q: When you won the Kentucky Derby in May — your first — how much of a relief was that to you, especially with all the scrutiny people put on you [he had started 28 horses in the Derby, four of them this year, before getting a win]?

A: I don’t know. I didn’t really feel like I thought I would feel. It didn’t feel like a big relief. It was exciting, it was great to have done it. Maybe I looked at the Derby a little differently than most people maybe perceived it. I have an appreciation for how hard it is to win, how many factors have to go right and there are so many things out of your control that have a say in the outcome of the race. I never just assumed it would happen. People kept saying, ‘you are going to win the Derby, you are going to win the Derby eventually.’ I was certainly happy when it happened.

Understated, as always.

See also, response re: trainer Derek Ryan’s post-Whitney comments.

Weekend Review and Blind Luck over on BC360.

Managing Expectations

Trainer Linda Rice on defending her 2009 Saratoga title:

“A lot of people are expecting an awful lot, but realistically I just hope we go there and have a good meet, the horses run well and we win our share of races, have good racing luck and try not to embarrass myself.”

Since her history-making win last summer, Rice has picked up a few new clients, but she’s still seeking owners offering the sort of financial backing that would allow up her to acquire and train top-class horses. Somewhat ironically, her current stock, largely comprising turf horses and NY-breds, may actually better position her for a repeat title than would a barn full of champions, as 2009 runner-up trainer Todd Pletcher tacitly acknowledged:

“What we need to be successful at Saratoga is to be able to participate in open allowance races. If the cards are weighed heavily with a lot of New York-bred races and sprint races on the turf, we just don’t have the horses to participate in those categories.”

The trends of the past decade aren’t in Pletcher’s favor.

The headline says it all: “Rachel towers over Lady’s Secret field.” Monmouth anticipates the reigning HOTY will go to post “at the absolute minimum price” of 1-20. “I think we are running for second,” said trainer Patrick Biancone, who will saddle Queen Martha on Saturday. “But second would be good.”

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