The Todd Squad: Pletcher Discusses His Derby Trio's Tactics

The Todd Squad: Pletcher Discusses His Derby Trio's Tactics
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Pletcher: Bandini is a perfect kind of horse.
Trainer Nick Zito leads all trainers this year with five candidates for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), including the likely favorite Bellamy Road. But what about the Todd Squad? Todd Pletcher has a trio of talented runners: Bandini, Coin Silver, and Flower Alley.

"Obviously, we've got their works coming up, which will be the most important part of the equation as far as the training goes, but at this point I'm very happy with where we are," said Pletcher, who has sent out nine previous Derby starters, including 2001 runner-up Invisible Ink and 2000 third-finisher Impeachment.

Pletcher also discussed his three 2005 Derby prospects on an individual basis. Here's what he had to say about their running styles:

Bandini, winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II): "To me, he's a perfect kind of horse to ride because he's not going to let anybody steal anything and yet, if they're flying, he can sit back as far as he needs to. He's versatile that way. He's tractable. You can kind of place him where you want, and he's got enough tactical speed away from there to maybe get you out of some situations if you need to. Yet, if you need to bring him back to you a little bit after you get him started, he's kind enough to do that."

Coin Silver, winner of the Lexington Stakes (gr .II): "I'll go back to the old thing everybody else says; these 3-year-olds transform quickly this time of year. What we've got to hope is that the change in tactics, getting him off the pace, is what made the difference (in the Lexington). That it wasn't just the sloppy track. Or that we get a sloppy track for him in the Derby. He's not a colt that when you look at his p.p.s or his numbers you say, 'Wow. This horse was beaten 30 lengths, 40 lengths and now all of a sudden ...' He's always been knocking on the door, on the verge of stepping into that next level. Hopefully, the change in tactics, getting him off the pace a little bit, was what made that little improvement that we were looking for."

Flower Alley, winner of the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) and second in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II): "I think in order for him to succeed, he needs to be farther back than he's been. Maybe the blinkers are going to take care of this, but he's still a pretty green colt. I think what's happened in the last couple of spots is that he's broken, put himself in a good position, and then, because he's a little bit green, he starts looking around. He gets a little bit of dirt in his face and he starts to back up, so (jockey Jorge) Chavez has been 'no, you can't back up now, I need to you to stay here.' I think in this race (the Derby) we need to let him back up a little bit. If he wants to back up into 12th, 14th, whatever it is, let him back up. Let him get comfortable and then make a run. We can't chase them for a mile and a quarter. We've got to let him settle and make his run, so I'm hoping that the blinkers take away a little bit of that and maybe keep him focused enough so that Chavez can leave him alone and he'll lay in the middle of the pack. But I don't want him (Chavez) knuckling him at the five-eighths pole like he was in the Arkansas Derby because you just can't make that long of a run."

Pletcher also addressed Bandini's performance in the Blue Grass Stakes and some people's contention that Spanish Chestnut acted as a rabbit, setting it up the race perfectly for the son of Fusaichi Pegasus  .

"Bandini doesn't necessarily need a rabbit," Pletcher claimed. "Patrick Biancone trains Spanish Chestnut, and if he decides to run him in the Derby, then that's what they're going to do. The horse's last two races haven't been great, but prior to that, he was one of the leading candidates on the West Coast. So, if you look at it that way, he's got every much a right to be in there as Going Wild or some of the other horses whose last couple of races haven't been good. Everybody made a big deal after the Blue Grass,'Oh Bandini didn't run as good as everybody said because Spanish Chestnut was in there as a rabbit.' Well, he was a rabbit for the whole field. He cleared the field. High Limit got a perfect stalking trip right off of him, which they said before the race they wanted to do, and had absolutely no excuse. We were parked three wide on both turns and ran by everybody and now they're saying, 'Oh, the Blue Grass wasn't a good race, Keeneland's a bad racetrack, and I didn't want to win the Blue Grass anyway.' Geez. There have been a lot of horses that haven't necessarily won the Blue Grass that come back to win the Derby, but I wouldn't think too many of them were beaten double-digit lengths."

Pletcher also talked about how he thought the Derby would be run in general.

"I think Bellamy Road, Spanish Chestnut if he goes (will be in front), and Consolidator is going to want to be part of the pace," the trainer said. "I think you're going to see a low :46 half – a :46.18.

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