Pletcher Masters Juggling Act with 2-Year-Old Prospects
Had Todd Pletcher joined the circus instead of the Thoroughbred racing world, Gulfstream Park’s defending nine-time training champion surely would have made his mark as a juggler extraordinaire.
Having saddled the winners of 57 races for 2-year-olds (as of Wednesday), clicking at a 33-percent rate, Pletcher finds himself juggling training and racing schedules to optimize the Triple Crown prospects of his most promising juveniles. As in the past, he has proven very adept at the art of keeping his hopefuls apart to enhance their respective chances of making the Classics.
Pletcher needed to look no further than Shanghai Bobby to start making plans for the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The undefeated colt, who is sure to be named the champion 2-year-old of 2012 at the Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 19, is slated to make his 3-year-old debut in the $400,000 Holy Bull (G3) on Jan. 26 at the Hallandale Beach racetrack.
“The Holy Bull is our target race. We’ll probably get him back on the work tab within the next couple weeks,” Pletcher said.
Shanghai Bobby capped off his undefeated 2012 season with a tremendously game victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which he fought back in the stretch to prevail over He’s Had Enough by a head at Santa Anita.
“He’s got a lot of courage. We’ve seen that in a couple of his races. The first time we saw it was in the Track Baron at Belmont when he set some pretty fast fractions. He was getting a little bit tired and a horse came to him, and he found more and went off and won handily,” Pletcher said. “It was the same thing at the Breeders’ Cup. I thought he was getting a little tired at the top of the stretch, but as soon as those horses came to him, he fought them off. So he’s got a lot of heart.”
After his gutsy triumph in the Track Barron in his second career start, Shanghai Bobby captured the Hopeful (G2) at Saratoga and the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park by open lengths to set up his Breeders’ Cup tour de force.
The $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on March 30 is on Pletcher’s radar for Shanghai Bobby’s final prep for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
“We’ll play it by ear after the Holy Bull. If he runs well there, we might just run one more time after that, possibly in the Florida Derby,” Pletcher said. “We’ll also have the flexibility to run one race in between if we felt like we needed to.”
Owned by Starlight Racing and the principles of Coolmore, Shanghai Bobby, like most of Pletcher’s top 2-year-olds, is in training at Palm Meadows Training Center.
“He’ll probably have five or six breezes before the Holy Bull,” Pletcher said.
Overanalyze is in training at Palm Meadows but is likely to make his sophomore debut at Aqueduct in the Gotham Stakes (G3) on March 2.
Owned by the Repole Stable, Overanalyze ended his juvenile season with a game triumph at Aqueduct in the Remsen (G2), in which he fought off the stretch bid by Normandy Invasion by a nose.
“That was a big effort. It was the same kind of thing (as Shanghai Bobby’s Breeders’ Cup effort). It looked like he was going to be passed and he dug in and found a little bit more the last part,” Pletcher said. “He’s pointing for the Gotham right now. That’s the early plan.”
The Repole-owned Micromanage, a disappointing 10th behind Overanalyze in the Remsen, will return to action at Aqueduct on Jan. 5.
Violence, owned by Black Rock Stables, also demonstrated grit in winning his debut by a neck at Saratoga before capturing the Nashua (G2) at Aqueduct on Nov. 4.
“We’re planning on running him in the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 15 at Hollywood,” said Pletcher, referring to the $750,000 final Grade 1 stakes for 2-year-olds of the year. Delhomme, who set the pace before finishing a close third behind Overanalyze in the Remsen, will resume training at Palm Meadows next week after being freshened at WinStar Farm.
Palace Malice and Archwarrior, who both broke their maidens at Saratoga, are both scheduled for breezes next week at Palm Meadows. Palace Malice, who came up with sore shins after impressively winning on Aug. 4, is being pointed to an allowance race in February.
Pletcher is readying El Padrino, a top prospect last year, for a return to the races at Gulfstream. El Padrino, who finished fourth in the Florida Derby and won the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds last year, hasn’t raced since finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby last year.
“He’s had his second five-eighths (workout). He’s probably about a month away from being ready to run,” Pletcher said. “So far, he’s training great. We’re hoping if everything’s going well and he gets a satisfactory prep, a race like the Donn is a possibility for him,” said Pletcher, referring to Gulfstream’s featured Grade 1 stakes for older horses on Feb. 9.
Pletcher also has a strong contingent of 2-year-old fillies.
Dreaming of Julia, a Grade 1 winner who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, is being freshened for her 2012 campaign.
“We’re pointing her to the Davona Dale,” said Pletcher, referring to the Grade 2 stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream on Feb. 23.
Unlimited Budget, a sharp winner of the Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct, is likely to return to New York for her first start.
Kauai Katie, who suffered her first loss in her first trip around two turns in the Juvenile Fillies, is being prepared for a return to sprinting at Gulfstream Park.
“She’s going for the Old Hat (G3, Jan.1),” Pletcher said. “We’ll point for that, then hopefully the Forward Gal (G2, Jan 26) and go from there.”