Trainer Todd Pletcher was the featured speaker at the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club meeting April 11 where he discussed his early career, Polytrack, and the Triple Crown.
“I started out on my own in 1995 with seven horses, and three of them belonged to my dad,” the 39-year-old Pletcher said of his operation, which now contains approximately 200 horses in training at tracks across the country. “In January of 1996 I didn’t think it was such a good idea, but I’ve been fortunate enough to build from there.”
Pletcher also covered topics from horse selection to the development of a successful feed program.
“We really like training on the Polytrack, but I don’t like the way races are being run over it,” Pletcher said. “We went from Keeneland being the old inside speed-favoring track to now it’s kind of an outside closer track. What I’d like to see is a neutral surface where a horse can win on the lead and can win from coming off the pace; I think there are still some adjustments to be made. But from a training perspective, the horses we have out here are certainly doing well. In a perfect world, I guess, I’d like to see the opportunity to train on Polytrack and still race on the traditional dirt surface.”
Later in the evening, Pletcher spoke about his potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
“Obviously the upcoming weeks are the most exciting in American racing, and we’re fortunate enough to be in the position we’re in,” he said. “I definitely feel that we’re holding the strongest hand we’ve had going into the Derby. I’m not going to tell you which horse I think is the best because I don’t know. Scat Daddy is obviously coming off two key races, and Circular Quay is a horse we’ve always felt would handle the distance. We’ve got several others coming up the right way and ready to go the distance.”
Speaking of Circular Quay’s eight-week break before the Derby, the trainer said the layoff was his best option for the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner.
“I always feel that I have a better feel of how my horses are going to run when I give them more time off between races,” he said. “What I was afraid of is going to the (grade I) Wood (Memorial, April 7), running a real hard race, and then asking him to come back four weeks later and do that all over again. I felt more confident that I could send him to run his best race off a great performance in Louisiana. We can study all the information out there and what everyone else has done, but ultimately it comes down to what works best for us.”
A graduate of the University of Arizona, Pletcher grew up in the racing business under his father, Jake Pletcher, who trained Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. After serving as an assistant to trainers such as Henry Moreno and Charlie Whittingham, he became an assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Since opening his own public stable in 1995, Pletcher has re-written the record books for yearly earnings and stakes races won in a year. Last year, his horses earned $26,820,243 in purses.