Todd Pletcher at the Kentucky Derby
by Trevor Whenham - 4/22/2010
Some editions of the Kentucky Derby feature one storyline that eclipses all others. Two years ago it was the dominance of Big Brown. In 2000 it was as if Fusaichi Pegasus was the only horse on the planet. This year the story is unquestionably the ridiculous embarrassment of riches that trainer Todd Pletcher has at hand. The top 20 three-year-old horses by career earnings are eligible to start the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher has seven horses among that group, and it seems as if he is seriously considering running all of them. It's quite possible that more than one out of three Derby starters would be his. If he can't break his streak of futility with that group then he may never do so.
Pletcher is the most successful trainer in the sport, and has been so for much of the last decade. He won the Belmont Stakes with the great Rags to Riches, and he's won most other big races as well. The biggest prize of all - the Kentucky Derby - is the one that has eluded him. It's not for lack effort, either - Pletcher has entered 24 horses in the race since 2000, including at least three four different times, and five in 2007. Not only has he not won, but he has only finished as high as third once, and he has finished 20th three different times. You can argue that many of the horses he has entered haven't been legitimate contenders. That's true, but horses like Giacomo, Monarchos, and Mine That Bird weren't contenders, either, and they all wore roses. Besides, though this is the first year that Pletcher is likely to have Derby favorite. he has had several - most notably Dunkirk, Scat Daddy, and Bandini - that have been major disappointments at low odds. Every trainer wants to win the Kentucky Derby, but no trainer needs to win it more than Pletcher to secure his legacy and stop the lingering questions once and for all.
Pletcher has been stunningly dominant in the prep races leading up to the Derby this year. There have been 21 graded prep races in the last three months. Pletcher has won seven of them. He also won two of the big prep races for two year olds at the end of last year. He's been dominant like no trainer before him. That's both a strength and a weakness for the trainer. On the plus side it means that he is as prepared as a guy can be - his guns are loaded. On the downside, the dominance means that he is going to have no excuses left if he doesn't pull it off.
Here's a look at the seven horses Pletcher has under consideration:
Eskendereya - This horse, off of wins in the Wood Memorial and the Fountain of Youth, is destined to be the heavy favorite in the Derby. It's hard to argue with that. He redefined easy in both wins, cruising to impressive wins while staying in second gear the whole way. There are concerns - the likely lightning fast early pace in the Derby could make it hard for him to stay close to the lead like he prefers and still make a strong enough stretch move, and he hasn't beaten a lot of quality - but if pure class and talent is enough to win the Derby then this horse will cruise.
Rule - This is the most physically impressive of Pletcher's horses, but also the most frustrating. He oozes class and potential, but has yet to fully realize it, and it's hard to truly believe that he will in the Derby. After four straight wins capped by an impressive victory in the Sam F. Davis, the horse was a disappointing third in a Florida Derby that should have been wide open for him. He's a front runner in a Derby full of front runners, so the pace scenario certainly isn't his friend - he could be burnt out before they reach the final turn.
Mission Impazible - He won the Louisiana Derby last time out. That's not a compliment. That race has turned into a heartbreaker factory in recent years. Horses like Friesan Fire, Pyro, and Circular Quay have come out of that race with extremely high hopes, and none have lived up to them. The last Derby winner to come from the Louisiana Derby was Grindstone back in 1996. This horse is improving, but I'm not convinced he is improving fast enough to be a real factor in Kentucky.
Discreetly Mine - This horse was fourth behind Mission Impazible in Louisiana. He proved his worth with a couple of second place finishes in big two year old races in the fall and a win in the Risen Star in New Orleans. I can't help but feel like this horse is just taking up space in the gate, but that's probably not fair to him.
Super Saver - This is an intriguing horse. He was frustrating in his last race - a second in the Arkansas Derby to Line of David. That was only the second race of his year, though, and he inexplicably shied away from the whip twice in the stretch - enough to cause him to lose. Those are acceptable excuses, and he was very impressive in winning over the Churchill Downs surface in the Kentucky Jockey Club in November, so we know he likes the track. He also has Calvin Borel, the winner of two of the last three editions of the Derby, on his back. This is a horse that could take a big step forward. He certainly has more than enough breeding to make it all the way.
Interactif - This is the most doubtful of Pletcher's colts, though I lean towards him getting the start. He's a wildly talented colt who just can't seem to find the right spot. He tried the turf at the Breeders' Cup, and wasn't quite good enough. In his first two preps this year he ran second. In the Blue Grass he clearly didn't like the synthetic surface and was a non-factor. He hasn't run on dirt since July, and was only moderately successful when he did. There are a lot of reasons not to run him, but one big one why I would - he's at his best staying off the pace and then picking up the pieces at the end, and there are so many speed horses in the Derby this year that could be a lot of pieces to pick up late. This race might set up just to his liking.
Devil May Care - This is the latest twist that Pletcher has thrown us - a filly. Devil May Care is seen as one of the top contenders for the Kentucky Oaks, but Pletcher let it be known on Tuesday that he's considering a Derby run for this speedy girl. She's still more likely for the Oaks, but a strong work at Churchill on Saturday could change that. Three fillies have won the race, Pletcher has won a Triple Crown race with a filly already, and there isn't as much depth in this Derby field as there is in many years, so it could make sense to give her a shot. Though she has never run against the males she was totally dominant in the Bonnie Miss last time out, and has been working very well since then.
Most Recent Kentucky Derby Handicapping
- 2021 Kentucky Derby Prop Bets and Expert Betting Predictions
- Best Trifecta Bets for the 2021 Kentucky Derby
- Kentucky Derby Field - The Lineup and Morning Line Odds
- 2021 Kentucky Derby Betting and Wagering Strategies
- 2021 Kentucky Derby Betting Trends
- 2021 Kentucky Derby Long Shots
- 2021 Kentucky Oaks Predictions and Race Analysis
- Known Agenda Odds to Win the 2021 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
- 2021 Kentucky Derby Facts
- Hot Rod Charlie Odds to Win the 2021 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions