Todd Pletcher takes sure and steady approach to Preakness

Leave a comment

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.

British horse racing inspired by Formula 1 for new series

AP Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) British horse racing is drawing inspiration from motor racing for a new championship.

Twelve branded teams will compete over eight consecutive Thursdays at different race courses across Britain when “The Series” is launched by Championship Horse Racing in 2019.

The aim is for each team to feature 30 horses and four jockeys. Each of the teams will enter one horse into each of the races to create 12-runner fields.

Organizers say a Formula One-style points system will be used to determine the winners of championships for teams and jockeys.

Championship Horse Racing CEO Jeremy Wray says it’s a chance to engage fans with “bite-size, interactive content.”

The Series has been developed with the Jockey Club, which hopes to attract a new audience to horse racing.

Kanthaka wins San Vicente prep at Santa Anita

AP Photo
Leave a comment

ARCADIA, Calif. — Long shot Kanthaka won the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths on Saturday at Santa Anita, giving Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer a second Kentucky Derby prospect.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Kanthaka ran seven furlongs in 1:22.62 and paid $24.20, $7.20 and $4.80 at 11-1 odds in the field of six 3-year-olds.

Hollendorfer also trains Derby contender Instilled Regard.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Nero returned $7.80 and $5.60 at 9-1 odds. All Out Blitz, another 9-1 shot that was another 12 lengths back in third, returned $5 to show.”

Ax Man, the 2-5 favorite also trained by Baffert, was under intense early pressure from his post along the rail and faltered badly in the stretch to finish fourth.

“I would completely throw this race out,” said Drayden Van Dyke, who rode Ax Man.

Kanthaka was next-to-last midway around the far turn before cutting inside All Out Blitz a quarter mile from the finish of the Grade 2 race.

“He gave me a great run and he did everything right,” Prat said. “He broke like a bullet but then we had quite a lot of speed in front of us. So he sat really nicely behind the speed and made a really nice run around the turn.”

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Kanthaka’s career earnings to $153,440, with two wins in three starts.