Point - Counterpoint: Todd Pletcher vs Bob Baffert

Todd Pletcher vs Bob Baffert
Perennial leading trainer Todd Pletcher and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert are once again heading into the fall championships with hot hands of very good horses. But which one has had a better year? HRN blogger Angela D'Amico, Race Talk's Girl Next Door, and Managing Editor Brian Zipse of Zipse At The Track, discuss the highs and lows of each silver-haired trainer's season!

Todd Pletcher

Bob Baffert
Race Talk with the Girl Next Door
Zipse At The Track

Angela D'Amico:

Todd Pletcher began 2011 with an Eclipse Award in his hand and the best Three Year old in the nation in his barn. On the road to the Derby his horses won graded stakes including the Gotham Stakes, Sam F. Davis and the Timely Writer Stakes. Despite the first taste of defeat for Derby favorite Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial, Todd Pletcher kept the Derby dream alive and planned on having him ready to go for the first Saturday in May.


Uncle Mo scratched late, but that did not stop Todd Pletcher from calling up another trainer to help secure a mount for his top pick jockey. Pletcher’s other horse, or Stay Thirsty did not win the Derby finishing way out of the money behind Pletcher’s favorite jock Johnny V. The Preakness and the Belmont eluded Pletcher as well, but he achieved redemption with Stay Thirsty in the Jim Dandy, not to mention a win in the Travers Stakes. Those wins, along with the Jockey Gold Cup and Breeder’s Cup Classic may give Pletcher the best horse in the U.S. right now. Did I mention he did this with a horse lovingly known as ‘the other horse’?


Now the horse that was supposed to give Pletcher’s barn a Horse of the Year award was off with what could have been a career ending illness. But Pletcher waited for his superstar to get well, skipped an allowance and ran him in the Grade 1 Kings Bishop where he ran incredible second thanks to Pletcher. That is just his young guys; I didn’t even touch on the ladies yet.


Pletcher won 4 stakes races this year with Awesome Maria, including a grade 1. Hilda’s Passion also gave Pletcher 4 stakes wins this year, including the grade 1 Ballerina Stakes. He has older horses as well, like Aikenite who helped Todd add two more grade 1 wins to his name this year. But what we all really look for is his two year olds, and it appears he may deliver again in 2-for-2 Overdriven and impressive maiden winning Stopshoppingmaria.


If you are looking for stats or titles, here they are for Todd. With Repole and Johnny sealing the deal in Saratoga, Pletcher was also given the trainer title there. The Belmont meet gave him a co-leader title, but a guy like Pletcher has enough trophies so he can share this one. He also took home the leading trainer title at Gulfstream and Aqueduct. Not too shabby and he still has Belmont to go!


So far this year, the Pletcher barn has tasted victory in 70 graded stakes races and he has big plans for his barn. It is quite possible that he will have six good chances to bring home a Breeder’s Cup trophy this year. He has Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, Sidney’s Candy, Buster’s Ready, Savvy Supreme and Stopshoppingmaria all possible to show up on Breeder’s Cup weekend.


Finally, Pletcher has had the typical horse racing year full of ups and downs, things not going according to plan but he has still found success. He started this year with the best three year old in the nation, Uncle Mo and if his back up horse, Stay Thirsty stays true to form then he may just finish the year with the best horse in the country.

Brian Zipse:

I’m afraid it was just another year of Triple Crown dreaming for Todd Pletcher. I know this is a conversation about 2011, but you brought up the Derby, Angie. Bob Baffert has won 3 Kentucky Derbies, and 9 Triple Crown races. Meanwhile, Todd Pletcher has won 1 Derby and has a grand total of 2 victories in Triple Crown races. Statistics, in the big races, like that have to tell us something.


Baffert also began the year with expected stars in Misremembered and Jaycito, but both were derailed by physical setbacks. What did Baffert do? How about developing The Factor, Prayer For Relief, and Coil as three of the nation’s top 3yo males, as well as, First Dude and Game On Dudeas top handicap horses. Despite having far less horses in the stable than Pletcher, the stakes wins, and quality horses, just keep on coming for the silver-haired West Coaster.


I could say much the same about Baffert’s star, The Factor. His return in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien was amazing. And speaking of great training feats, the work he did with First Dude was remarkable. This was a horse that needed the lead and could never win the big one. That is before he entered Baffert’s barn. Three come-from-behind victories later and First Dude was the highest rated older male in the nation.


I was hoping you would bring up the juveniles … Baffert is absolutely loaded once again this year. With Drill, Gun Boat, Secret Circle, and Candrea, just to name a few, he has many of the most promising juveniles in California. I am predicting big things for the Californian juveniles this year at the Breeders’ Cup and Baffert’s horses are a big reason why, and keep in mind many of these future stars were handpicked by Baffert for his owners.


Frankly with all the money and numbers Pletcher has, he should win training titles. I am more impressed with what Baffert does with less. As far as stats, Baffert has a higher win percentage and in-the-money percentage, and while Pletcher leads the nation in money won with $13.9 million, Baffert is third with $10.1 million. This translates into Baffert having earned 73% as much as Pletcher in 2011, despite having only 47% as many starters (778-364.) Looking at it another way Baffert has earned $27,815 per start, compared to Pletcher’s $17,785.


Big plans again, but his percentage in the Breeders’ Cup, just like the Triple Crown, is not good, and I’m not so sure how many you just listed actually have a good chance to win at the Breeders’ Cup. For Baffert, I will counter with: Game On Dude, Prayer For Relief, Coil, Plum Pretty, Drill, Gun Boat, Secret Circle, Candrea, Euroears, Midnight Interlude, and of course The Factor.

 Yes, a season of ups and downs is typical for all successful trainers, but I just think, in 2011, as in years before, Baffert has done it better. He simply wins more of the nations’ biggest races than Pletcher does with fewer horses in the barn. Let’s put it this way, if I owned a horse that was preparing for a big race, I know which trainer I would want. His name is Bob Baffert. Wouldn’t you?



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Older Comments about Point - Counterpoint: Todd Pletcher vs Bob Baffert...

They are both over rated!! It's easy to be good when you have the funding behind you and you are spending someone elses money buying horses! Let's see how good they would be if they had fifteen $5000-$10000 dollar claimers with the usual day to day problems in their barn without the high dollar horses! I'm thinking they would not be much better than the rest of the bunch! If they can consistently take the average $5000-$10000 claimer that is winning one race per year (if that) and then move them up and improve the win percentage on a consistent basis then I may have a different opinion as that would be raw talent doing that without the support or backing of the rich people!
Bafferts fun personality takes him along way with high rollers, his skill in focusing his energies on the 'right' horses takes him the rest of the way.
Pletcher every time.
Baffert is more hands on and is better able to figure out his 'trouble' horses, there by enabling them to reach their true potential. If Baffert's stable was as large at Pletcher's, his numbers would be far superior, but he prefers to stay small enough to give each horse the individual attention they need. I'd much prefer to have my horse in a barn like Baffert's.
Bob Baffert: Best with three year old colts. Todd Pletcher: Best with every other type of racehorse. I know this won't make me too popular around here, but I'll have to go with Todd Pletcher...
Comparing Baffert to Pletcher is like comparing a lawnmower (Baffert) to grass. First Dude's turnaround alone makes this a runaway for this year. Coil in the Travers. PFR all across America. Plum Pretty at CD. Drill and the other dozen or so top level 2YO's in Cali and probably best of all getting Game on Dude to win at 10F. Now Baffert and the late, great Bobby Frankel is a litte tougher comparison..
Taking a horse like Super Saver and winning the KD with him is one of the greatest accomplishments in all of sports history.
Baffert over pletcher anyday!!
Baffert the best trainer in the world. Pletcher the MOST OVERRATED trainer! He gets too many horses that's why he has good ones but Baffert changes them and makes them better. Baffert over
Its not even close....Baffert in a landslide!
It would have to be Baffert. Using as a measuring stick, the Triple Crown, he easily outdistances Pletcher. Though both are great trainers, Pletcher has had a lot of disappointment in the TC, winning his first TC race, the 2006 Belmont, with Rags To Riches, and his first Ky Derby with Super Saver.
If I had a young horse I was just starting out with, I'd definitely pick Baffert. I trust his judgement a lot more than Todd Pletcher. He always knows the right moment to move a horse up to higher level, and he can get the best out of a horse.
Baffert easily! Both trainers have plenty of bullets in the chamber, but Baffert is by far the best at making them count. Pletcher might be a good salesman but in my eyes he's no trainer.
HRN is really going with the GRAY HAIR theme this week! I love both of these trainers. They are both good for the game. Some folks say I look a little like Pletcher, but I have to lean to Baffert. Coil was superb in the Haskell and Prayer For Relief's run of derbies is terrific.
They're both good trainers. But Pletcher, by far, has a lot more, and a lot better bread bloodstock to work with. To me, Pletcher is kind of the "Aidan O'Brien" of America. Because O'Brien has ton's of impeccably bread horses at Coolmore-Ireland to work with and choose from each year. But on a smaller scale, for a smaller yard, you can't beat Bob Baffert's work in America!! JMO.
I thought Baffert's turnaround of First Dude says it all about his ability to get the best from a horse. I would prefer a great trainer with a smaller string of horses. He has more time to spend with each horse, and if I owned a thoroughbred with racing potential, I'd want Baffert over Pletcher any day of the week and twice on Sundays! Good points Brian!
Baffert. He can work with any horse and get the best. He took a tough frontrunner in FD and made him into a lethal closer and got the horse his first G1.
Todd Pletcher.
I'm going with Bob the horses he has trained this year and the ones he has inline for next year are freakin beasts. Another thing I know is if Bob cut his hair short like Todd's they could pass for twins.

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