Trainer Todd Pletcher had a banner day on Belmont Stakes Day 2014, even after being on the losing side of four photo finishes to win. In total, Pletcher saddled 17 horses on Saturday, compiling a record of 1-4-0 and earning in excess of $1.4 million.
The trainer's most notable second-place finish came in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes with Commissioner, who led nearly every step of the way before getting nailed by Tonalist on the line.
"I was a little surprised Commissioner made the lead, but I wasn't surprised that he was close [to the pace]," said Pletcher. "I was pretty sure we had lost the photo. At the top of the stretch I didn't know [if he would win], at the eighth pole I thought we had a big chance, and still did at the sixteenth pole. It was a pretty nasty beat."
Commissioner and Matterhorn, who finished eighth in the Belmont for Pletcher, will take divergent paths exiting the race, according to the trainer.
"Commissioner is going to WinStar for a little and will hopefully come back in the [Grade 2] Jim Dandy or the [Grade 1] Haskell," Pletcher said. "Matterhorn we always felt might improve on the grass, so he'll most likely make his next start on the turf."
Pletcher was dealt another tough beat in the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps, when Close Hatches narrowly held off the Pletcher-trained Princess of Sylmar.
"I'm very proud of Princess of Sylmar; she always shows up and runs well," Pletcher said. "That was a Breeders' Cup quality field, and unfortunately we were on the wrong side of a tough head bob. To Close Hatches credit, she worked out a beautiful trip from the rail."
The Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap at Saratoga Race Course or the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap could be next for the talented filly, according to the trainer.
Pletcher's highlight came in the Grade 1, $1.25 million Metropolitan Handicap with Palace Malice, winner of the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
"I thought it was another remarkable effort from him. To win the Met Mile carrying 124 pounds and breaking from the rail in a large field, I don't know what else you can do. A year ago he won the Belmont at a mile and a half; it speaks volumes about his quality and versatility. He's just in terrific form this year."
According to Pletcher, Palace Malice could make his next start in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 2 at Saratoga Race Course.