His name is synonymous with New York racing. Year after year, Todd Pletcher has been at the top of the earnings pig pile in one of the most competitive racing markets in the United States, which clearly shows up in strength when it comes time to determine the top twenty colts keen on the Kentucky Derby.
A graduate of the Race Track Industry program at the University of Arizona, Pletcher worked as a foreman under racing titan D. Wayne Lukas before taking flight with his own racing stable. A seven-time Eclipse Award winning trainer, Pletcher has won the Kentucky Derby once with Super Saver (2005) as well as the Belmont Stakes twice with Rags to Riches and Palace Malice, complimenting a record $313 million in total career earnings.
However, despite prolific success in developing young horses into Grade 1 champions, Todd Pletcher’s lone Kentucky Derby victory is dulled by the fact he has sent a grand total of 40 horses to the post in that race, a number dwarfed only by his mentor D. Wayne Lukas, who has sent 47 (winning four). His starters have altogether performed abysmally, placing second twice and placing third three times for a record of 40:1-2-3. For a trainer that has nearly a 1-in-4 win percentage on most tracks, it’s indicative of poor betting value in the Kentucky Derby.
This year, the “Toddster” sends two interesting horses: Wood Memorial (GI) winner Outwork and Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner Destin. While Outwork has the Grade I win, it is Destin that catches the most attention. Todd Pletcher has successfully used the Tampa Bay Derby in the past as a prep race for his winner, Super Saver, as well as his runner-up Bluegrass Cat in 2006.
Destin could follow a similar path as an improving horse — and potentially offer better value than his stablemate, who he beat in the Tampa Bay Derby. However, it is the opinion of most bettors that both horses have their work cut out for them, as Outwork’s Wood Memorial win in the slop was the slowest-ever running of that prep race and Destin would have to improve significantly.
While Pletcher has a 26-percent win rate with shippers overall and will be utilizing the services of two top jockeys — Javier Castellano on Destin and John Velazquez on Outwork — chances are he’ll still be an outsider given the attention placed on Californian horses.
Pletcher believers, get excited.