On the Road to the Kentucky Derby With Todd Pletcher

Todd Pletcher watches a Kentucky Derby contender prepare in 2015. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla of America’s Best Racing will interview prominent racing personalities as they travel the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. The opening leg of the Triple Crown will be run on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

The series debuted last week with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and continues with Todd Pletcher, winner of seven Eclipse Awards as the leading conditioner in North America. Pletcher reached the Derby winner’s circle with Super Saver in 2010. He takes aim this year with a number of top 3-year-old prospects.

PEDULLA: How many Derby contenders do you have?

PLETCHER: I don’t like to put a number on them because these things can change pretty quickly. We are blessed right now with a lot of horses that appear to be moving forward, but the next six weeks or so will determine the status of a lot of horses and how far they are going to make it on the Derby trail. We have a number of owners who are happy to have some nice horses. At the same time, they are not hell bent on making the Derby. In a lot of cases, we’ll just kind of let it come to us and let the horses decide.

One Liner wins the Southwest Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)
PEDULLA: How impressive was One Liner when he won the Southwest Stakes?

PLETCHER: Very impressive, considering he only had two starts and those were six months apart.

PEDULLA: What did you think of Tapwrit’s runner-up finish to McCracken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes?

PLETCHER: He finished up with good energy. He seems like the kind of horse that is going to continue to mature physically and mentally. There is reason to be optimistic that there is still more to come with him.

PEDULLA: When will Tapwrit run again?

PLETCHER: Hopefully, he’ll be going back to Tampa for the Tampa Bay Derby (March 11).

PEDULLA: Battalion Runner opened some eyes when he romped in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park at the start of February. Your thoughts on him?

PLETCHER: Right now, the plan is to go straight to the Florida Derby with him. He’s a horse we’ve always had high hopes for. He’s shown us a lot of ability. We kicked around the idea of running in the Fountain of Youth (March 4), but we just felt he seems to do well with a little extra time between races.

PEDULLA: With the points system, would that make the Florida Derby an all-or-nothing proposition for him?

PLETCHER: We decided to take a shot in the Florida Derby and, if he runs well, he’d probably get enough points. If he didn’t, he probably didn’t need to be going to the Derby anyway.

PEDULLA: What did your Derby win with Super Saver mean to you?

PLETCHER: Any time you win a race like the Derby, I don’t want to say it completes your career, but it was one of the things missing on our resume for quite a while.

Super Saver wears the 2010 Kentucky Derby roses. (Eclipse Sportswire)
PEDULLA: You do not usually show emotion. What was going on inside that day?

PLETCHER: It’s great. It’s a lifelong dream to win a race like that. My parents were there to see it and that was a lot of fun for me.

PEDULLA: Does the Derby top the list of races you most want to win each year?

PLETCHER: What the Derby does is give you something to get excited about when you have 2-year-olds and young horses at this time of year. I can honestly tell you it is not the end all for me. I don’t consider the year to be a success or not a success based on just that race. There is a lot more to the picture.

PEDULLA: You have a larger number of horses than most trainers. Does that help your Derby chances?

PLETCHER: We have 165 horses in training. Everyone says it is 300, but it is 165. The more chances you have, the more likely you are going to have success. That goes without question. We are fortunate our 3-year-old colts are really starting to come around right now.

PEDULLA: What would a second Derby win mean?

PLETCHER: Our Derby record is not great. We have run a lot of horses. Some have run well, some of them haven’t. So having a win is huge. I think one more would be icing on the cake and hopefully some day we can do that.

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