BOYNTON BEACH, Fla., February 9, 2012—It becomes apparent the moment you walk into Todd Pletcher’s stable office here at the Palm Meadows training facility or, for that matter, any other venue he cares to hang his tack, that this is a little different.

It has become his trademark, this uniformity, organization and attention to detail that jumps out at visitors. Indeed, it’s what separates his outfit from most others, the reason why owners continue falling over themselves beating a path to his shedrow door.
Todd Pletcher, a study in organization and intensity.
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Todd Pletcher, a study in organization and intensity.
That, and the winning, of course.

It’s one thing to seemingly train all the good young horses in America. It’s quite another to get so many of them to the races, all looking like split silk and performing accordingly, which is to say winning races in bunches on what seems like a daily basis.

The Pletcher barn is not so much a place where horses live as it is a base of operations where the business of racing is conducted. He has taken his mentor’s game, that of Hall of Famer Darrell Wayne Lukas, and has raised it a notch or two.

All the great and successful trainers in today’s sport engender this quality, but it’s only Pletcher who more closely resembles a corporate CEO and not simply the top horseman who lives next door.

Pletcher is a man who walks his talk but also one that has raised the art of “couldn’t-be-doing-any-better” trainer-speak to another level: On balance, his answers are thoughtful, precise, informative and insightful.

His responses only conform to old school sensibilities in the way he is careful not to volunteer more than what is asked. If he were ever on a witness stand, he’d be a barrister’s dream.

He rarely makes a gaffe, although there was one, a big one, two years ago at the Breeders’ Cup, the infamous Life At Ten incident, which unfortunately will be as much a part of his legacy as all the great accomplishments.

But that’s how things work in this culture. Pletcher considers the regretful matter closed. And there’s no time for reflection now. There’s a huge operation to be run and races to be won, the biggest races this country has to offer.

And what races are bigger than the American classics?

Speaking of the Kentucky Derby, the first opportunity to wager parimutuelly in the Derby Futures pool opens today, and it should come as no surprise that Pletcher has four colts listed among the top 23 top contenders.
The Pletcher Trademark - Uniformity, Organization and Attention to Detail
Photo by: Toni Pricci
The Pletcher trademark - uniformity, organization and attention to detail
That’s twice as many as his closest rivals, Bob Baffert and Mike Harrington. It’s a list that includes undefeated Algorithms at 8-1, the shortest early line price listed following the “All Others” field at 9-5.

The accepted wisdom among turf writers and handicappers give four Pletcher runners to wear roses on May’s first Saturday: Algorithms, Discreet Cat, El Padrino and Gemologist.

“Those are the ones that put themselves at the top,” Pletcher conceded inside Barn 11 on Tuesday morning. “The question mark—as with all Derby horses—is the mile and a quarter.”

“I trained his half-brother (Keyed Entry) who probably at his best from a mile to a mile and an eighth. But Algorithms is by Bernardini out of a Cryptoclearance mare.”
Algorithms has the formula for winning.
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Algorithms has the formula for winning.
[Of course, Bernardini was a Travers winner and Cryptoclearance was third in the 1987 Preakness and second in the Belmont Stakes].

Discreet Dancer is undefeated in three starts and never has been asked for his best effort either in a race or in morning trials. Those closest to the colt consider the chestnut “an absolute freak.”

Pletcher calls both wet-track wins scored by El Padrino “coincidental. His second [career] race was very good and he was competitive in the Remsen,” Pletcher said. “He always trained very well right from the beginning.”

Gemologist hasn’t yet started at 3 but was 2-for-2 at 2, including the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, both wins coming over the Derby track. “He had his first breeze the other day and is on the same schedule as Super Saver,” Pletcher’s lone Derby winner.

But horsemen don’t live on classics alone, not even one who is odds-on to win his ninth consecutive Gulfstream training title. There are Oaks to be considered and Disposable Pleasure, the Demoiselle winner of 2011, has had “a really good winter; she’s really grown from two to three.”
Discreet Dancer - Dancing With The Stars
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Discreet Dancer - Dancing With the Stars
It is likely that the filly will debut in the Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds, Feb. 25th.

It has been widely circulated that 2012 might be a great here for the handicap set and Pletcher will be a major player in that category as well. Remember Stay Thirsty?

The Belmont second and Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1) winner will be back to serious training by the end of the month and currently is stabled at the Ocala, Fla. farm of Jim Crupi.

“We wanted to give him a meaningful break so we gave him the rest of November, December and January off,” after running his second poor career race at Churchill Downs in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

This year, the Classic will be run at Santa Anita and naturally “the Whitney and Woodward on high on our list as major first objectives.” The ultimate goal, obviously, will be to earn a best in show title.

At the end of racing Thursday, Pletcher needed five more winners to reach the 3,000 win milestone. But when you run an operation this large, is there any time left for reflection?

“I don’t even know there’s an answer to that,” Pletcher said. I remember asking Jerry Hollandorfer at Keeneland last September about his 6,000th winner last year. ‘It’s like saddling 100 winners a year for 60 years’ I said to him.”
Disposable Pleasure - Mighty Oaks from Raspberries grow
Photo by: Toni Pricci
Disposable Pleasure - Mighty Oaks from raspberries grow
If his operation stays on schedule, it’s highly unlikely Pletcher will need 60 years to reach 6,000. This past January 26 he celebrated the 16th anniversary of saddling his first winner, Majestic Number, at Gulfstream Park.

According to research provided by Equibase, a contemporary of Pletcher’s, Steve Asmussen, who has also reached the 6,000 win plateau, took a little over 19 years to saddle his 3,000th on his 14,337th try.

Pletcher then is on course to become the youngest trainer to reach the 3,000 win plateau.

“I knew I was getting in the vicinity [of 3,000]. “Certain things happen that sometimes can make you pause and reflect. You need to take the time to step back and appreciate a milestone.”

Given Pletcher’s attention to detail, one gets the idea that’s easier said than done.