A four-time Eclipse Award winner and the leader by earnings in 2010, trainer Todd Pletcher undoubtedly has one of the top, if not the top, stables in the country. Whether judging by the sheer size of his stable or his longstanding success, Pletcher must be respected every time one of his horses steps on the racetrack.
That is no different in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup, where Pletcher has pre-entered 11 horses—more than any other trainer at the two-day World Championships to be held Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs. In and of itself, that is not major news. Pletcher has pre-entered the most Breeders’ Cup horses on several occasions, including last year when he had 12.
Numbers have not always translated to success, however. Though he has started 65 Breeders’ Cup horses since 1998, Pletcher has only won three times—with Ashado (Distaff) and Speightstown (Sprint) in 2004, and with English Channel in the 2007 Turf. In 2006, the last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at Churchill, Pletcher sent out a record 17 horses without winning (three horses finished second).
Speaking at a teleconference Oct. 27, Pletcher said he has learned from all of his Breeders’ Cup experience. Riding a 14-horse losing streak over the last two years, he has decided to do things a little bit differently in 2010.
“We’ve tried to make some adjustments over the years and improve what we’re doing,” Pletcher said. “This year we chose to ship most everything in and get a work over the racetrack, and we’ve also come in with a lot of horses that rather than prepping a few weeks out, we’ve given them more time. Generally, that seems to work for our program. I think we’re holding a strong hand and hopefully those things will work in our favor.”
This year, Pletcher would figure to have solid chances with several horses, including Uncle Mo (Juvenile), R Heat Lightning (Juvenile Fillies), Pluck (Juvenile Turf), and Life At Ten (Ladies Classic)—all expected to be among the favorites in their respected races. Threats will also come from filly Rose Catherine in the Turf Sprint, Malibu Prayer (Ladies' Classic), Aikenite (Dirt Mile), Stay Thirsty (Juvenile), and More Than Real and Allure d'Amour in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
But Pletcher’s big gun is Edward Evans’ four-time grade I winner Quality Road , who will be backed by many in the $5 million BC Classic (gr. I). He won’t be the favorite—that honor will go to Zenyatta—but Quality Road has done nearly nothing wrong in 2010, winning three grade I races—the Donn Handicap, Met Mile, and Woodward, and four of five starts overall. His only blemish came in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) when he was caught at the wire by Blame while giving five pounds.
In many handicappers’ minds, the big question mark for Quality Road is distance. He is winless in two starts at the Classic distance of 1 1/4 miles and has not gone that far this year. Pletcher is unfazed by those doubts and is expecting a huge effort from the 4-year-old son of Elusive Quality, who will make his final career start before being retired to stud.
“He’s run twice at a mile and a quarter and in both races he ran well,” Plether said. “Unfortunately in both races we caught sloppy racetracks in the Travers and Jockey Club (Gold Cup). I’ve never felt like a mile and a quarter is an issue with him. Hopefully this go around we’ll catch a fast, which he prefers. He’s classy enough that he tolerates an off racetrack, but he prefers fast ground. I think we have a horse going to Churchill that is fresh and ready to go.”
Many eyes will also be on Mike Repole’s Uncle Mo, the expected favorite for the Juvenile. The son of Indian Charlie has been brilliant in both of his starts, breaking his maiden by more than 14 lengths in August and then scoring by nearly five in the Oct. 9 Champagne (gr. I) in his stakes debut. Uncle Mo is already being talked about by some as a 2011 Triple Crown threat. And while Pletcher is obviously hopeful about Uncle Mo’s chances, he also said not to forget about Stay Thirsty, who was runner-up to the BC Juvenile’s probable second choice, Boys At Tosconova, in the Sept. 6 Hopeful (gr. I) after breaking his maiden by 12 lengths in July.
“I think Stay Thirsty is flying under the radar screen a little bit partly because he hasn’t raced since he finished second in the Hopeful and he is owned by Mike Repole, who also owns Uncle Mo,” Pletcher said. “But he’s a son of Bernardini who should enjoy the stretch out (to 1 1/16 miles) and he is doing great.”
Pletcher also stated that he is optimistic about Bobby Flay’s More Than Real in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, saying the chestnut filly is “training extremely well.” More Than Real enters the Breeders’ Cup off a runner-up effort in the Natalma (Can-IIIT) at Woodbine.