It's that time of the year, when Todd Pletcher is in the headlines virtually every weekend. He won last Saturday's GII Louisiana Derby with Kingsbarns (Uncle Mo), has the favorite in Saturday's GI Curlin Florida Derby in Forte (Violence) and the following week will head to Keeneland for the GI Toyota Blue Grass, where Tapit Trice (Tapit) could be the horse to beat. To get Pletcher's latest thoughts on his wealth of 3-year-old talent we had him join us on this week's TDN Writers' Room podcast presented by Keeneland. Pletcher was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.
A key topic was the draw for the Florida Derby. A small field was expected, but when the entries came out, the Florida Derby had a field of 12 and Forte drew the 11 post. That's a big disadvantage, which Pletcher was quick to acknowledge. The 11 post is just 2-for-49 at a mile-and-an-eighth on the dirt at Gulfstream.
“There's no bones about it. I don't like it,” he said. “It wouldn't have been one of my first five choices. I read the other day that since 2006, post 11 is 2-for-49 at Gulfstream going a mile-and-an-eighth. The one thing I will say, you'd have to go back and look at all 49 horses who broke from that post. But I would doubt that too many of them have the credentials that Forte does.”
He said that when the new Gulfstream was being built the Stronach team asked him his opinion as to whether or not they should build a mile-and-an-eighth main track. He told them he was against it.
“If you could go back 20 years, they actually did ask me when they were looking at the blueprints,” he said. “They asked me 'What do you think of a mile-and-an-eighth track?' I told them that I didn't care for it at all. It compromises your race and potentially could compromise anyone who draws an outside post. I've always felt it's not really a fair race for everyone. Between the Florida Derby and the Pegasus, you just hate to see the two most significant races of the meet potentially affected by post position.”
In the Louisiana Derby, Kingsbarns benefitted from a heady ride by Flavien Prat, who got his mount to the lead and slowed the pace down to a crawl. Pletcher said the plan was to be aggressive from the gate.
“Flavien and I spoke about the race,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we were kind of seeing the pace scenario the same way and that we both agreed. There didn't appear to be a lot of pace on paper. We felt like we would come out running, try to establish some position. We felt like the horse was versatile enough that if he made the lead the right way we'd be fine with that. And if someone else was ambitious and wanted to take it, then we could put ourselves in a good stalking position. At the elbow of the first turn, we were a length in front and it was pretty much all good from there.”
Scouting the competition, Pletcher admitted he was impressed with Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits), the winner of the G2 UAE Derby, who will now be headed to the GI Kentucky Derby.
“I thought it was a very impressive performance,” he said. “I think the track might have been a little bit speed favoring, but I didn't get to watch the whole card. The Japanese horses have just been performing phenomenally everywhere that their horses run. So, yes, I'm concerned. They're certainly improving by leaps and bounds in the way that their horses are performing globally.”
Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by Coolmore,https://lanesend.com/ the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Woodford Thoroughbreds, Lane's End, XBTV, 1/st Racing, WinStar Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds, the team of Bill Finley, Randy Moss and Zoe Cadman dissected last week's Louisiana Derby and the impressive win by Two Phil's (Hard Spun) in the GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks. Did he move up on the synthetic surface or is he a horse that has improved quickly? The trio also gave their handicapping thoughts for this week's Florida Derby and the GI Arkansas Derby.
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