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Monday, March 12, 2007

Closer Look

- The win by India (Hennessy) in The Azeri Breeders Cup at Oaklawn is worth a closer look than the passing mention made in a prior post. You may be thinking, 'why, because it's another Pletcher horse?' Well, it's mostly because it was a great stretch drive, which you can watch at Cal Racing, or right here on the NTRA site. Kettleoneup, who was eating up ground late, was outgamed and plain outclassed by India. Once sensing the threat, the daughter of Hennessy was ste
Blogger: Left at the Gate - Edit Post "Closer Look"adfast, winning by a head that seemed longer than that. Jockey Chris DeCarlo said: "My filly really dug in there nearing the end.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]

India is also an interesting story; you may remember she was bought back by her breeders for $2 million after winning by 12 at Saratoga. They had sold her for $400,000 at sale as a yearling. It wasn't looking good when she finished dead last in the Matron at even money after smacking her head on the gate, and subsequently faded to third at 4-5 at the Big A. After winning her three-year old debut, she lost three more in a row (at 4-1, 6-5, and 2-1). But since then, she's won three stakes in a row, triple-digit Beyering in the first two. And the Azeri was her first race in five months.

And that brings us back to Pletcher. I read on another blog, the guy saying that his readers wanted 'less Pletcher.' I have no problem with that concept; I mean, I'm kinda sick of writing about the guy winning every stakes. But if you're not writing or talking about him, you're not writing or talking about this sport. It would be like The Queen without Helen Mirren, the NHL without Sidney Crosby, a Congressional hearing on privacy issues without Alberto Gonzales. He's become so dominant that he can win four graded stakes in one day - plus one on Friday to boot - and there's really little fuss made of it. Despite being under suspension for the first five weeks of the meeting, he's already the leading trainer at Gulfstream, with four more wins than the closest competitor who's not his assistant. Combined, Pletcher/Sciamatta have 41 wins, 24 more than second place Bill Mott; this at the current center of the universe as far as racing on the east coast. If you turn your head for a minute, you could miss yet another potential superstar winning on ">one coast or another.

It's unfortunate that he's not the type of guy that generates any publicity for the sport. Not many trainers are, really, but for sure he sure ain't no Bob Baffert or Nick Zito, or even Wayne Lukas when it comes to an interview. Even with all of his Derby contenders, I don't get the sense (and please tell me if you think I'm wrong) that he's created the same kind of pre-Derby buzz that Nick Zito did in 2005. Then, everyone knew that Zito had four Derby contenders - oh, there's Andromeda's Hero, make that five! Do you know how many Pletcher has this year? I don't. I'm looking it up now....

He had six in Pool 2 (though King of the Roxy is on the fence at best), but neither Cowtown Cat nor Deadly Dealer were included. Nor Rags to Riches. Anyone I'm forgetting? He just doesn't provide the kind of copy that Zito does. He generally sticks to the rote answers, and you rarely see too much interesting or revealing out of him (unless he's talking to Sean Clancy). I don't think that he's a bad guy - not being effusive to people sticking microphones in your face is not necessarily a bad trait (though certainly one that comes with being king). He's always cooperative with the press, though, as I've noted a couple of times, he seems to me to be a bit defensive this year, a little surly even, regarding horses whose abilities have been questioned. But he's very much the man right now, and it's hard to go much more than a day with his name not coming up. (Though let it be said that he had no winners from two runners at Gulfstream on Monday.)


Valerie said...

Not sure it's fair to consider them all "contenders" but according to the Courier-Journal's Derby Data Track (, Pletcher has 32 horses (including 2 fillies).

Jim L said...

Didn't Angel Cordero, Jr. come out of retirement to ride her in a stake?

I was at the Spa the day she debuted and won. It was fairly impressive. She ran against Sometinaboutbetty which is now in Pletcher's barn.

Anonymous said...

no cordero rode indian valle i beleive at philly park. india does seem to have improved since she has been going 2 turns, i beleive she is 3 for 3 going 2 turns. seemed when she was sprinting she couldnt relax

Anonymous said...

Pletcher does not generate Derby Buzz due to "boy who cried wolf" syndrome. He has failed with so many favorites on BIG race days the press is afraid to jump on the band wagon.

He wins Graded races all year, but does not come through in the Classics, which is all the mainstream press cares about.