HorseRacingFLA Staff Report
Todd Pletcher has some Florida momentum as he seeks his 13th consecutive Gulfstream Park championship meet trainer’s title.
That prestigious meet will begin its 2015-2016 season tomorrow and extend through April 3 at the Hallandale Beach track.
Pletcher and his team are going into Gulfstream’s championship meet after finishing third in wins and first in earnings at the Gulfstream Park West meet that ended on Nov. 28. Gulfstream held that meet at Calder, under a lease agreement with that track.
Over the last several weeks, Pletcher has brought most of his top horses down from Belmont Park to his winter base at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach.
GP West Meet
In October and November he brought down a large number of his allowance level horses and some lightly-tested 2-year-olds. He had more “early arrivals” than in some previous years, and he ran many of them in GP West races.
Pletcher had 15 wins during the 40-day meet, placing him third behind Antonio Sano who had 18 and Jorge Navarro who had 16.
Pletcher led GP West trainers in earnings with $448,513. He raced his horses mostly in stakes and allowances, while Sano and Navarro had numerous claiming races among their wins.
Anthony Sciametta directed the Florida operation while Pletcher was in either New York or Kentucky during most of October and November.
Pletcher began his Gulfstream championship meet winning trainer streak in 2004.
Since then, horses trained by him have won approximately 3,000 races and more than $250 million in purses. While saddling more than 200 winners each year during that period, Pletcher has been honored with the Eclipse Award as North America’s outstanding trainer seven times.
Prospects for 2015-2016
Pletcher is looking forward to the 2015-2016 championship meet.
“For us, it’s kind of the time of year when the 3-year-olds get revved up,“ he told the Gulfstream media office. “It’s a big part of our program – two-year-olds-turning-three. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success at Gulfstream over the years. I hope we keep it going.”
Pletcher saddled his very first winner, Majestic Number, at Gulfstream on Jan. 26, 1996,
His recent success has included training the winners of the last two editions of the $1 million Florida Derby (Grade 1). That race will be run for the 77th time on April 2, 2016.
Pletcher’s first Florida Derby winner was Scat Daddy in 2007.
He also has won the Florida Derby with Constitution and Materiality, in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Remarkably, both winners were unraced prior to the championship meet and made only their third lifetime starts in the key 1 1/8-mile Triple Crown prep.
Constitution won maiden and allowance races at Gulfstream before prevailing over multiple-stakes winner Wildcat Red in 2014. Materiality broke his maiden and won the Islamorada Stakes in preparation for his mild upset victory over Upstart in 2015.
“It’s the way our program is,” Pletcher said. “Sometimes we’ll get horses coming in a little later and start to get ready at Gulfstream. Some of the ones that come in early will get a little break and target Gulfstream,” he said.
Pletcher dominated the championship meet trainer’s standings in both victories and purses-won during the 2014-2015 championship meet. He saddled the winners of 46 races and earned $3.3 million in purses.
In addition to saddling Materiality for his Florida Derby triumph last season, Pletcher had graded-stakes victories with Constitution (Grade 1 Donn Handicap); Mshawish (Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale); Itsaknockout (Grade 2 Fountain of Youth); Commissioner (Grade 3 Skip Away); Sandiva (Grade 3 Suwannee River) and Divine Oath (Grade 3 McKnight).
Liam’s Map, one of 15 stakes winners saddled by Pletcher at Gulfstream last season, captured the Harlan’s Holiday to launch a highly successful 2015 campaign that was concluded with a dazzling Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Grade 1) win.
— Photo on home page is of Todd Pletcher at Gulfstream Park in 2014
by Barry Unterbrink