Trainer Todd Pletcher is one of the reigning legends in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. So when he enters a horse in to a big race, all attention gets immediately focused to his interests. When there are four such contenders ready for the most popular race on American soil, it’s a pretty big deal. The Pletcher foursome include Always Dreaming, Tapwrit, Patch and Battalion Runner.
The best of the bunch is Always Dreaming, the hand ridden winner of the Florida Derby. The son of Bodemeister impressed Pletcher with a gallop out of six furlongs in 1:12 and a mile in 1:40 during recent training. For my money, Always Dreaming feels like the best horse to back despite the obvious class exuded by Classic Empire.
Meanwhile, two other members of the Pletcher foursome found themselves working side by side in preparation for the Kentucky Derby. That included Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit and Louisiana Derby runner-up Patch. “I thought it was particularly a good work for Tapwrit. He seems to be able to handle this surface better than the one at Keeneland,” Pletcher noted. “Jose Ortiz was aboard and never had to ask him or encourage him at any point; he galloped out strongly.”
As far as Patch goes, “He needed a little bit of encouragement, but that’s very typical of the way he works,” Pletcher said. “He’s kind of an idle work horse. I thought for him, it was a better work than what we’ve come to expect. I was particularly pleased with the way he came back from the gallop out; he galloped out strong.”
Pletcher was less convinced by the work submitted by Battalion Runner, who fell to Irish War Cry in the Wood Memorial. “I thought he worked OK, but I thought he was wrestling with the racetrack a little bit. It seems like it cupped out from him a few times,” Pletcher admitted. “One thing we’ve learned here is that sometimes the track in the week leading up to the Derby is not the one you see on race day,” Pletcher said.
Supposedly, Malagacy was supposed to be joining the current Pletcher foursome but the trainer said that he’s not convinced that his Rebel Stakes winner isn’t ready after falling to 5th in the Arkansas Derby.
For all his success in this sport – and it’s mind blowing when you look at the broad body of work – Pletcher only has three Triple Crown wins. He took the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver, won the 2013 Belmont Stakes with Palace Malice and the 2007 Belmont Stakes thanks to Rags to Riches. The Pletcher foursome he has going for him in the upcoming derby is certainly full of excellent workers, and Always Dreaming seems to be cresting towards the top of the class. I wouldn’t – and haven’t – fall asleep on Tapwrit either, especially as a show bet.