At a Nov. 2 press conference next to the Churchill Downs paddock, trainer Todd Pletcher tried to explain the logistics of starting 17 horses on Breeders' Cup World Championship day Saturday. "Well, we're going to be moving around a lot during the saddling process, but hopefully it will run smoothly," Pletcher said. "We're used to saddling eight or 10 a day at Saratoga, and I'm hopeful it will be fun for us."
Pletcher, who broke his own record for earnings in a single season in 2006, noted that the 200 horses in his care at various racetracks present organizational challenges, and added that at some point in time, although not necessarily in the near future, "you would want to take a step back. These kind of numbers aren't for everybody. But I'm comfortable where we are now numbers-wise, and I think we're managing it well."
Pletcher laughed when asked if he encountered jealousy from other horsemen about his numbers and accomplishments. "Jealousy at the racetrack? Nah," he joked. Trainer Doug O'Neill, who shared the podium with Pletcher, quickly added, "When another trainer in your race wishes you good luck, what he's saying is he hopes you run up the track."
As for Breeders' Cup day, Pletcher will saddle three contenders in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I)--Fleet Indian, Spun Sugar, and Pool Land. He said that Pool Land likely had the most natural speed and would be forwardly placed. He added that Fleet Indian proved in her Beldame (gr. I) victory that she could come from off the pace, and that Spun Sugar would likely do her running from furthest back.
Pletcher's three horses in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I) are King of the Roxy, Circular Quay, and Scat Daddy, the latter two of whom will be well fancied by bettors. Pletcher said that Circular Quay didn't relish the Polytrack surface at Keeneland where he was defeated by Great Hunter in the Lane's End Futurity (gr. I), but added he was two-for-two over the Churchill Downs strip. Pletcher said Scat Daddy is one of his favorites since he picked out the horse with father, Jake, originally, and also owned him for awhile.
Asked about the Breeders' Cup Classic -- Powered by Dodge (gr. I), Pletcher said that he didn't feel like he had to defend Flower Alley, who finished second to Saint Liam in the race last year, but who has gone off form in his last two starts. "We need him to run back to his better races," Pletcher said. "I wish I had an explanation for why he ran poorly at Saratoga. Of course, he could run his eyeballs out Saturday and finish fifth. It's that tough a field."
When asked to pick his best chance for a win on the day, Pletcher instead picked Bernardini, then refused to single out one of his horses as a most likely victor.
Kiaran McLaughlin preceded Pletcher onto the podium, and stated that Invasor, his shot in the Classic, was doing well after getting 90 days' rest. Invasor, with three grade I wins in as many starts stateside, was forced to miss the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) last month when he spiked a temperature before the race. "I hope the layoff will be a positive for him," said McLaughlin. "The Classic is a very strong field and it's going to be exciting to see them all meet up."
McLaughlin has the likely favorite in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) in Henny Hughes, who has done nothing wrong since searing his field in the Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup (gr. III) July 1. He came back to easily annex the King's Bishop (gr. I) and Vosburgh (gr. I) and looms large here. "He is a man now," said McLaughlin, who got the horse just before last year's Breeders' Cup, in which Henny Hughes ran second in the Juvenile. McLaughlin said he hoped Henny Hughes could settle in third or fourth position, even if it means using a little speed early to get well placed. "We hope to let the speed horses go and then cross over to the outside at the half-mile pole," he said. "He does everything right."