Todd Pletcher takes sure and steady approach to Preakness

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BALTIMORE (AP) The Preakness has never been Todd Pletcher’s race.

Sure, it’s the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. But Pletcher has made a habit of skipping Baltimore in order to beat the pack to his home base of New York after the Kentucky Derby and await the Belmont.

The Preakness’ position two weeks after the Derby is too soon for Pletcher. He prefers giving his horses more rest between starts. He’s 0 for 8 in the race, with his best finish being third with Impeachment in 2000.

Of course, it’s become incumbent for the trainer of the Derby winner to bring the champ to Pimlico for a shot at making a Triple Crown bid. So Pletcher is here with Always Dreaming and he’s enjoying himself in his customarily restrained way.

Click here to stream the 2017 Preakness Stakes on NBC Sports

He’s wolfing down crab cakes at every opportunity and offering up local restaurant tips to anyone who asks.

“He never was a real charismatic, funny person,” mentor and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, “but he always handled himself well.”

And his horses even better.

Pletcher has won Eclipse Awards seven times as the nation’s leading trainer, including four in a row. He has won nine Breeders’ Cup races and four Triple Crown races, while finishing second or third 13 other times.

“He was going to be good if he never met me,” said Lukas, the career leader with 14 Triple Crown victories, who employed Pletcher as assistant for seven years until he went out on his own in 1995.

Always Dreaming has surprised Pletcher in how quickly the dark bay colt bounced back from his 2}-length victory in the Derby on May 6. He galloped 1+ miles on a warm, muggy Thursday and will jog on Friday because “that’s what we did the day before the Derby,” Pletcher said.

“The tank seems full and he seems eager to go,” he said.

Always Dreaming is the first Derby horse Pletcher has run in the Preakness since Super Saver in 2010. That colt earned Pletcher his first Derby victory before finishing eighth in the Preakness.

Never one to ignore lessons learned, Pletcher is using his experience with Super Saver to guide Always Dreaming’s preparation. He gave Super Saver a breeze – or timed workout – between the first two Triple Crown races. He didn’t with Always Dreaming.

“The two weeks is a quick turnaround, and sometimes you don’t know until they get in the stretch and you see what you have in reserve,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep it as simple as possible. We’re not overthinking it. We’re just letting the horse gallop and be happy.”

Pletcher sent Always Dreaming to Pimlico three days after the Derby, wanting to give the colt known for some aggressive behavior in the mornings a chance to get used to his new surroundings well before race day. It was quiet around Pimlico last week, when Always Dreaming practiced standing in the starting gate and visiting the paddock area where he will be saddled indoors on Saturday.

“I like the way he’s behaving around the barn,” Pletcher said. “He’s quiet in the stall. When he gets on the track, he’s strong but in a good way. We don’t want to see him get too excited and step on himself.”

Always Dreaming will have nine rivals in the race, including four that ran in the Derby.

If the colt is showing an eagerness to compete again, so is Pletcher.

“I just want the race to get here,” he said. “He’s doing so good.”

Despite overseeing a stable that runs in races nationwide, Pletcher is single-minded in his approach with each horse in his barn. So don’t even get him started on talk of winning the Triple Crown.

“Let’s hope that Sunday morning we wake up and have to think about that,” he said.

Late owner of Secretariat to receive Big Sport of Turfdom

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Penny Chenery, who owned Triple Crown winner Secretariat, will be presented posthumously with the Big Sport of Turfdom award given to a person who enhances coverage of thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists.

The Turf Publicists of America said Monday that Chenery will receive the award for the second time. She was the winner in 1973, when Secretariat swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

Chenery died Sept. 16 at age 95. For years after Secretariat’s Triple Crown win, she was a careful steward of the colt’s legacy.

The award will be presented to Chenery’s daughter, Kate Tweedy, at the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program’s luncheon on Dec. 5 in Tucson.

Chenery joins two-time winners jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., and trainers Bob Baffert and Carl Nafzger.

Rekindling storms home to win the 157th Melbourne Cup

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Rekindling stormed home to win the Melbourne Cup by a long neck on Tuesday, overhauling Johannes Vermeer near the finish to give trainer Joseph O’Brien a victory over his famous father in Australia’s most famous race.

Max Dynamite was 2 + lengths further back in third to give the Irish a 1-2-3 finish in the 157th running of the 2-mile classic .

Joseph O’Brien said one of the first things he did was phone his father, Aidan O’Brien, who trains Johannes Vermeer but was not at Flemington for the race.

“He is delighted. Unbelievable,” the younger O’Brien said. “I’m just so thankful to (Williams). They suggested to bring (Rekindling) down and that he’d have a good chance in the race and his prep went really good, and Corey gave him an unbelievable ride.”

It was a second Melbourne Cup victory for jockey Corey Brown, and a sixth for owner Lloyd Williams, who is also a co-owner of Johannes Vermeer.

“It’s extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary,” Williams said of Joseph O’Brien, who won in his first attempt at the Melbourne Cup. Williams said the 24-year-old former jockey had a big future as a trainer. “He’s going to emulate his father and maybe more.”

Big Duke was the first Australian-trained horse across the line, finishing fourth, in a field containing 11 foreign horses.

British-based jockey Frankie Dettori rode 2016 winner Almandin, which finished 12th.