Pletcher juveniles no one-hit wonders

by | 09.05.2012 | 7:26am

By any measure, Todd Pletcher's 2012 Saratoga meeting was a huge success, providing the five-time Eclipse Award winner with his ninth training title and third in a row. Of his 36 wins from 149 Saratoga starts, 23 were with 2-year-olds, including the closing day Grade 2 Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes with Shanghai Bobby.

This isn't the first time the 45-year-old second-generation horseman has excelled with juveniles. Last year, Pletcher won 14 Saratoga 2-year-old races with 41 horses making 54 starts (when his overall record was very similar to 2012: 38 wins from 149 starts). Saratoga is the most important race meeting of the year for a trainer to showcase promising young horses, and success on the track begets more success in keeping the pipeline of promising young talent flowing from Thoroughbred owners and breeders into Pletcher's barn.

Curiosity got the best of me, though, and I wondered how those 41 individual 2-year-old runners from the 2011 Saratoga meeting have performed since then. I went into the exercise expecting to find a high attrition rate, thinking that perhaps these horses were pushed too hard, too fast.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

Only three of the 41 juveniles of 2011 have failed to run again since the conclusion of last year's Saratoga meeting. Eight of the 41 have gone on to win stakes races, and, when combined with the two Saratoga 2-year-old stakes winners of 2011, brought the number of stakes winners to 10 from 41 horses (24%). That is a damn good number.

Three of those subsequent stakes winners – Disposablepleasure, El Padrino, Dancing Solo – won American Graded Stakes. Add the two Saratoga Graded Stakes winners from 2011 (Georgie's Angel, Overdriven) and that's five of 41 (12%).

As a group, since the end of the 2011 Saratoga meeting, the 38 runners that raced again have an aggregate record of 41 wins from 224 starts (18%). That number would be a whole lot better were it not for one horse, Woods Hole, who finished eighth in his lone Saratoga start, then was claimed from Pletcher next time out at Delaware Park. He's run 26 times since then and on Sunday scored his first career win at Fort Erie.

Not every horse is a winner. That's not the way this game works, even at the top level. Pletcher's success may start with 2-year-olds, but that's not where it ends.

  • Pletcher always has great two-year-olds, but after the past two years, I am definitely not using anyone in my Derby fantasy stable from his barn and my personal pick will not be a Pletcher trainee. This year alone saw Spring Hill Farm, Algorithms, Thunder Moccasin, Discreet Dancer, Stat fall off the radar due to injuries or other inadequacies and now Gemologist and El Padrino are off the scene. All these horses were considered top class if not impressive winners when they were hot. I’m curious to see if Archwarrior can prove me wrong… not sure how I feel about Shanghai Bobby yet…

  • SteveG

    I should hope so, Ray. 

    When one starts out with the goods, an abundance of talent, the surprise would be if there wasn’t some measure of success down the road, no?  

  • kyle

    Overdriven…I’d say they don’t make them like they used to. His career spanned what…11.5 furlongs? El Padrino…another iron horse. He ran like three races this spring. No wonder he hasn’t been seen in a 100 days or so. Here’s a game we can play. Name a two year old winner from Pletcher who completed his three year old season with his form in tact?

  • Thelibrarian

    Thank God for the 2-yr-olds! When he won 70 races at GP last winter it kinda burned out the older horses. Since then & up until they let loose the youngsters…..a leading trainer standing was nowhere to be found. So it’s an interesting cycle & one they’re acutely aware of. Bottom line is when you’re loaded for bear….you’re loaded for bear! Do we really think that D. Wayne won all those big races for a couple of decades & now he’s just forgot how? They call it HORSE racing for a reason!

  • horse

    In sheer number terms, his operation has a
    steady stream of juveniles. Which could well be problematic. Churning for
    owners with unlimited wealth can only accentuate the topical problem American
    has with racing longevity of its Thoroughbreds. Early retirement to the breeding
    shed of these unable to participate horses with careers of short duration
    perpetuates genetic weakness in the breed. With this practice being the norm,
    not the exception, how is it then possible to limit and selectively down size
    breeding stock, choose individuals that are sound with a demonstrable tolerance
    to pain, have rapid recuperative response, have
    efficient cardio-vascular physiology promoting stamina, and possess
    the desire to learn, be trained, and to be competitive when

  • Cholly

    From his 2010 2yo’s, Stay Thirsty answers your query. Burster’s Ready and Excited won graded stakes in June & July as 3yo’s, but tailed off quickly after those wins. Uncle Mo…say no mo’. 

    Of the 25 he started as 2yo’s at Saratoga in 2010, 12 are currently in training, almost all of them running in claiming races for other trainers. But he did win a couple of listed stakes this year with the 4yo Maple Forest from that 2010 SAR group.

    Not exactly a great track record of building longevity into his 2yo’s, but not sure he’s any worse than most.

  • Ben K McFadden

    Supposedly Pletcher has approx. 150 two year olds in the pipeline each year.  Any decent trainer could win with the quantity and quantity he has under management. However, most others don’t have them; he does.  Grist for the mill.  

  • kyle

    I don’t accept Stay Thirsty. Like the vast majority of Pletcher runners he was able to maintain form for 90 days – Belmont through the Travers. He dropped off a cliff in the fall – and it wasn’t just the fact that he had to face older horses – and he’s never looked anywhere near the horse he did at Saratoga last August.

  • kyle

    The contrast that illuminates: Pletcher’s job with Stay Thirsty, Mott’s with To Honor and Serve.

  • Stanley inman

    Not to single out Pletcher, but if a trAiner has a 2yr. crop of the size many “name” trainers have (50 plus) every year,
    Why would we expect anything but a mill.
    Once a trainer with these numbers ascertains talent
    ( stakes , allowance, cheap claimer)
    Most horses are programed to be moved out of the barn;
    With another batch soon to fill the stalls.
    Horses are viewed as
    A scorched earth mentality modeled by these “name” trainers;
    cascades down
    Setting the example for the entire sport.

  • Figless

    No one has done so little with so much in the history of horse racing. No idea why anyone gives him a valuable colt to train, his triple crown record is abysmal. The time of the “super trainer” has passed but many still dont realize it.

    Recent results indicate that long term hard knocking horsemen are very capable of winning the TC races if only give the right horse. If you are spending big money on a few colts just split them among the many proven good local horsemen in the various regions of the country. Or just hire one as your semi-private trainer.

    You will be a big fish in a small pond, these trainers will be so grateful for the opportunity they will practically sleep with your colt.

  • Battlerbill

    This is the most ridiculous article ever. Pletcher starts with 150-200 of the best 2 year olds every year, and the great majority accomplish nothing except breaking their maiden. Where are all these horses??!! That’s your story.  Forget one hit wonders. They are not even in training. Track all his 2yos for the next year and watch them fall off one by one. In the last decade, he has had slightly more than 1500 first time starters (forget the ones who didn’t start). Yet, in that time frame he has only had 2500 winners, total. That’s obviously an average of less than 2 wins per/starter. That’s not damn good by any standard. Yes, they break their maiden, and I suppose he can be praised for that and his record with first time starters, but there is no truth in the development and the longevity of his trainees, and to give him credit for such is complete nonsense.

  • kyle

    What with the moderation?

  • kyle

    I find it interesting what Pletcher has done with Caixa Electronica. He improved the horse AND it has maintained its form much longer than is typical for that barn. Reminds me of Pletcher’s mentor and his record with older horses. Lukas’ two best older horses both spent their formative years in other barns – those being Steinlen and Criminal

  • kyle

    What a damning set of numbers. Yet, the oblivious vote him the Eclipse year after year. It’s time we went to The MLB “Manager of the Year” paradigm, where it’s who accomplishes the most relative to the talent he has to work with who gets the award.

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