Todd Pletcher finds himself in familiar territory as the 2013 season fast approaches, juggling training and racing schedules to optimize the Triple Crown prospects of his most promising two-year-olds. Gulfstream Park's defending nine-time training champion has a deep arsenal at his disposal, saddling the winners of a staggering 57 races for juveniles (33 percent win) so far this year.
Pletcher needs to look no further than Shanghai Bobby to start making plans for the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The undefeated colt, who is sure to be named the champion two-year-old at the Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park on January 19, is slated to make his three-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on January 26 at the Hallandale Beach, Florida racetrack.
"The Holy Bull is our target race," Pletcher said. "We'll probably get him back on the work tab within the next couple weeks.
Shanghai Bobby capped off his undefeated 2012 season with a game victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he fought back in the Santa Anita stretch to prevail by a head over He's Had Enough.
"He's got a lot of courage. We've seen that in a couple of his races," Pletcher noted. "The first time we saw it was in the Track Baron at Belmont when he set some pretty fast fractions. He was getting a little bit tired and a horse came to him, and he found more and went off and won handily.
"It was the same thing at the Breeders' Cup. I thought he was getting a little tired at the top of the stretch, but as soon as those horses came to him, he fought them off. So he's got a lot of heart."
After his gutsy triumph in the Track Barron in his second career start, Shanghai Bobby captured the Grade 2 Hopeful at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park to set up his Breeders' Cup tour de force.
The $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on March 30 is on Pletcher's radar for Shanghai Bobby's final prep for this year's Kentucky Derby.
"We'll play it by ear after the Holy Bull. If he runs well there, we might just run one more time after that, possibly in the Florida Derby," Pletcher said. "We'll also have the flexibility to run one race in between if we felt like we needed to."
Owned by Starlight Racing and the principles of Coolmore, Shanghai Bobby, like most of Pletcher's top two-year-olds, is in training at Palm Meadows Training Center.
"He'll probably have five or six breezes before the Holy Bull," he said.
Grade 2 Remsen hero Overanalyze is in training at Palm Meadows but is likely to make his sophomore debut at Aqueduct in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes on March 2.
Owned by the Repole Stable, Overanalyze ended his juvenile season with a game triumph in the Remsen, fighting off the stretch bid of Normandy Invasion by a nose.
"That was a big effort," Pletcher said. "It was the same kind of thing (as Shanghai Bobby's Breeders' Cup effort). It looked like he was going to be passed and he dug in and found a little bit more the last part. He's pointing for the Gotham right now. That's the early plan."
The Repole-owned Micromanage, a disappointing 10th behind Overanalyze in the Remsen, is scheduled to return to action at Aqueduct on January 5.
Violence, owned by Black Rock Stables, also demonstrated grit in winning his debut by a neck at Saratoga before capturing the Grade 2 Nashua at Aqueduct on November 4.
"We're planning on running him in the (Grade 1) CashCall Futurity on December 15 at Hollywood," Pletcher explained,
Delhomme, who set the pace before finishing a close third behind Overanalyze in the Remsen, will resume training at Palm Meadows next week after being freshened at WinStar Farm.
Palace Malice and Archwarrior, who both broke their maidens at Saratoga, are both scheduled for breezes next week at Palm Meadows. Palace Malice, who came up with sore shins after impressively winning on August 4, is being pointed to an allowance race in February.
Pletcher also has a strong contingent of two-year-old fillies.
Dreaming of Julia, a Grade 1 winner who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, is being freshened for her 2012 campaign.
"We're pointing her to the Davona Dale," said Pletcher, referring to the Grade 2 stakes for three-year-old fillies at Gulfstream on February 23.
Unlimited Budget, a sharp winner of the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct, is likely to return to New York for her first start.
Multiple Grade 2 winner Kauai Katie, who suffered her first loss in her first trip around two turns in the Juvenile Fillies, is being prepared for a return to sprinting at Gulfstream Park.
"She's going for the (Grade 3) Old Hat (on January 1)," Pletcher said. "We'll point for that, then hopefully the (Grade 2) Forward Gal (on January 26) and go from there."