Thursday, November 29, 2018
HALLANDALE BEACH - Todd Pletcher has clearly taken the Championship Meet to a new level. The seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer has distinguished himself as the undisputed champion of Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet for 15 consecutive years. Pletcher will begin a campaign for an unprecedented 16th straight training title during the 2018-2019 meet that will get underway Saturday and run through March 30.
“Gulfstream’s been a great meet for us for a number of years," Pletcher said. "I think Gulfstream’s program fits our program well. It emphasizes 2-year-old and 3-year-old races if you include the December part and especially the 3-year-old part in January, February and March. It seems to be a racetrack that suits our program but it also seems to suit our training style. It’s a track where you want to be somewhat involved in the early part. It seems horses that tend the pace have a little bit of an advantage.”
Pletcher-trained horses have been dominant in Gulfstream's 3-year-old program during his championship reign. The Dallas native has saddled a record five winners of the $1 million Florida Derby, including four of the last five winners of the premier Triple Crown prep. He notched his first Florida Derby win with Scat Daddy in 2007 before finding the winner’s circle with Constitution (2014), Materiality (2015), Always Dreaming (2017) and Audible (2018). Always Dreaming went on to win the Kentucky Derby.
“I think over the years the meet has complemented our program and we’ve been fortunate enough to develop a lot of good 3-year-olds due to Gulfstream that have gone on to success in Triple Crown races and other such events as well,” Pletcher said. “It’s always a fun time of the year when you’re winding up the 2-year-old season and starting to look forward to the 3-year-olds.”
While Pletcher will be gearing up his horses for the 3-year-old program and an attempt to win a sixth Florida Derby, the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 26 is a more immediate goal. Audible, who finished third in last year’s Kentucky Derby and who recently returned to action with an impressive stakes victory at Churchill on Nov. 3, is being pointed to North America’s richest race.
During the 2017-2018 Championship Meet, Pletcher saddled 70 winners from 221 starters for a 32-percent strike rate.
“I always look at each meet as a different challenge," Pletcher said. "You kind of have the streak in the back of your mind. You’d like to keep it going but at some point it’s going to end. We had a little bit of a lull during the summer, but I feel like it’s picked up the last month or so. We were able to have a good Keeneland Meet and win a Breeders’ Cup race.”
Pletcher won the Keeneland Fall Meet title and saddled Bulletin for a victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. “We have some horses moving in the right direction now," he said. "We’re looking forward to the Gulfstream meet but also respect how challenging it is to win races there. We certainly don’t take anything for granted.”
In addition to dominating the Championship Meet, Pletcher has maintained a year-round presence at Gulfstream the past few years and has won or taken a share of the trainer’s title during the Spring Meet for the last two years). Bulletin debuted at Gulfstream during the Summer Meet, capturing a Sept. 29 maiden special weight race before going on to win at the Breeders' Cup.
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