Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. reached a career milestone at Gulfstream Park April 6 with his 2,000th trip to the winner’s circle after saddling Salt Water Cowboy for a victory in the fourth race (VIDEO).
Following a winner’s circle celebration, the South Florida-based trainer reflected on his impressive body of work.
“It didn’t mean anything until you get close. Then, you look back. You’ve been in it for a lot of years and you’ve been lucky enough, fortunate enough to still be in this game and have the kind of owners I’ve had for however many years it’s been,” Plesa said. “You’re just very, very thankful for the people you have working for you that have been with you for a number of years, which my people have been. They’ve been a big part of this.”
Salt Water Cowboy ($8) stalked the early pace in the 6 ½-furlong maiden claiming race before being asked for his run on the turn into the homestretch. Jockey Joe Bravo lost his whip on the turn, but the 3-year-old colt proved much the best, scoring by 3 ¾ lengths under a strong hand ride.
Plesa, a Plantation, FL resident, has saddled the winners of more than $43 million.
The 62-year-old native of Seattle, Wash., won the training title at Gulfstream Park in 1997 and has captured numerous titles at Calder Race Course. His father, Eddie Sr., was a leading rider in the Midwest before turning to training and relocating to Florida in 1971. Plesa worked for his father, who trained privately for Fred Hooper, and also learned under Stanley Hough before going out on his own in 1986.
“It’s not something you go in and say, ‘I’m going to go out and win a thousand races, two thousand races,’” said Plesa, whose was joined in the winner’s circle by his wife, Laurie, who owns Salt Water Cowboy in a partnership with Trilogy Stables. “It’s just an accumulation of a lot of hard work and a lot of luck.”
Plesa has trained many stakes winners, including Three Ring, who captured the Davona Dale (gr. II) and Bonnie Miss (gr. II) at Gulfstream and the Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont Park. She also ran in the 1999 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), finishing off the board. Three Ring had previously finished third in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).
The Plesa-trained Gotcha Gold finished second in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile before going on the win the 2008 Skip Away (gr. III) at Gulfstream. Other Plesa-trained stakes winners include Wander Mom, Magic Mecke, Adhrhythm, Best of the Rest, Electrify, Successful Mission, J J’sdream, Yesbyjimminy, and Tekken.