Shanghai Bobby, Overanalyze, Verrazano, Palace Malice, Violence, Abraham, Forty Tales, and that’s only the horses in Florida! Revolutionary has apparently been called up from the minor leagues. After his gritty performance in this past weekend’s Withers Stakes he will make the trip from New York down to Florida on Tuesday to join the other Derby hopefuls under the watchful eye of Todd Pletcher.
I could be one of the few who view Mr. Pletcher’s stable and
say “that guy has it rough.” But how on earth can I say that? He has 7, maybe 8
serious derby contenders, and each week the fickle mob of race fans jump around
yelling “Todd’s horse, _________ will be your 2013 Kentucky Derby winner!!”
Based on rough estimations throughout the industry, it is postulated that 40-45 Kentucky Derby points will be enough to join the field of 20 on May 4th. Not a single Pletcher horse has that many yet. Not a single horse in the COUNTRY has that many yet. And now, Todd has concentrated his army
of Derby contenders in South Florida. The same South Florida that has only THREE
Kentucky Derby point qualifying prep races left. Between the Fountain of Youth,
Tampa Bay Derby, and Florida Derby, Pletcher looks to have many big guns.
There are other well known 3 year olds also based in South
Florida all expecting to punch their derby ticket with one more start, but I am
more interested in the ones that aren’t well known yet. Who is going to be this
year’s Hero of Order?
Aside from being a brilliant trainer, Pletcher will have to prove
to be one master tactician to get all his heavyweights to run for roses in May.
There are 2 obvious paths he could take: the shotgun approach or the
sledgehammer approach. Taking the shotgun approach, he could send one or two of
his major players to one of the many races east of the Mississippi and hope
they all perform as expected. This has risks because of extra (maybe unplanned)
travel, and having to wait until the last minute for a decision to put the best
horses in their own respective best races based on the competition that will be
Next we look at the sledgehammer approach. Here he could
load up a few races, putting some of his best horses against one another. This
seems very risky. Not only will Pletcher’s horses have to duke it out with each
other, but as Shanghai Bobby found out last week, there are other big fish
swimming around out there. This plan seems unlikely.
And this is all what we can see. I don’t envy the behind the
scenes conversations that include “I have to put ‘so and so’ up against ‘what’s
his name’” Two horses from the same trainer potentially racing for one spot…that
will sure bring about a lot of questions. I know I am being very pessimistic
here, but I am sure there will be some uncomfortable decisions to be made.
Needless to say, Pletcher has one intense game of chess to mastermind over the
next 3 months.
To me, the most exciting prospect of the Derby
points system is that the best horses will have to face each other before the first
Saturday in May. And although every trainer probably dreams of having a half
dozen horses in the Derby, I wonder if they will think twice after watching
Todd’s stressful spring of 2013.