Winning Eclipse Awards is nothing new for Todd Pletcher. The 43-year-old Dallas, Texas, native was honored as the nation’s outstanding trainer for four consecutive years, from 2004-2007, becoming just the fifth person to accomplish that feat.
But winning his fifth Eclipse Award in 2010 may be the most rewarding for Pletcher because it came during a year in which he collected the most important victory of his career. Routinely mentioned as one the best trainers never to have won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Pletcher finally shed that unenviable label when he sent out WinStar Farm’s Super Saver to take the roses under Calvin Borel. Pletcher, whose horses had been 0-for-24 before the 2010 Derby, instantly went from a guy who “couldn’t win the big one” to solidifying his status as one of the most successful conditioners the sport has ever seen.
Pletcher, who has been based in New York since he took out his trainer’s license in 1995, put an authoritative bookend on his terrific season during Breeders’ Cup weekend at Churchill Downs when he saddled three winners, equaling his total from the previous 12 years. On Day One of the World Championships, Pletcher sent out More Than Real to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT), and the following afternoon he collected a couple of more with Pluck in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) and Uncle Mo in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
Though the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup were the highlights of Pletcher’s season, they were only part of what made it so dominant. Pletcher’s horses won 45 graded stakes during 2010, including 14 grade I victories. Both of those figures led all North American trainers, as did the $23,157,098 in earnings that those victories secured—nearly $7 million more than the runner-up. He also wound up with 274 total wins, placing him fourth in that category. In all, Pletcher won at an outstanding 25% clip for the season.
Among the trainer’s titles that Pletcher won or shared in 2010 were at Gulfstream, Aqueduct winter meet, Belmont spring meet, Monmouth, and Saratoga, where he set a new mark for the most wins at the prestigious track with 36, breaking his own record of 35 set in 2003 and equaled in 2004.
Five of Pletcher’s horses were finalists for Eclipse Award honors including three-time grade I winner Quality Road (older male), five-time stakes winner Life At Ten (older female), Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Eskendereya (3-year-old male), Spinaway (gr. I) victor R Heat Lightning (2-year-old filly), and Uncle Mo (2-Year-old male), who is the early favorite to give Pletcher his second consecutive Derby.
Voting for outstanding trainer:
Todd Pletcher, 168; John Shirreffs, 28; Jerry Hollendorfer, 17; Steve Asmussen, 8; Albert Stall, Jr., 5; W. Bret Calhoun, 4; Bob Baffert, 1; Freddy Head, 1; Juan Carlos Guerrero, 1; Kiaran McLaughlin, 1, Bill Mott, 1; Voter Abstentions, 2; No Vote, 1.