CHESTER - Take a look at Todd A. Pletcher's resume and you'll see five Eclipse Awards as North America's outstanding Thoroughbred trainer. Only one other conditioner, the late Bobby Frankel, has matched that total. And chances seem solid that within the near future, Pletcher will stand alone.
A week from today, the 46-year-old Pletcher plans to run two of his colts in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort. There aren't many major races on these shores that Pletcher has yet to win. But the W.Va. Derby is among the few.
To date, Pletcher has sent horses to the Derby post at Mountaineer seven times. He finished 10th with Flax Jacket in 1998; third with Colita in 2003; second with Pollard's Vision in 2004; second with Magna Graduate in 2005; seventh with Circle the World in 2006; fourth with Sam P. in 2007; and second with Exhi in 2010.
Todd A. Pletcher
Pletcher's going to give it a try with Overanalyze, who was a 4 -length winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 13; and with Forever Thing, whose best career effort was a second-place finish in the $107,000 Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 7.
There's no question that in regard to racing accomplishments, Overanalyze is the most prominent of the pair. Purchased for $380,000 at Keeneland as a yearling, he has a career record that includes nine starts, four victories, one third-place finish and purse earnings of $956,381.
Last November, Overanalyze won the Grade 2 Remsen Handicap at Aqueduct. With the Arkansas Derby, he thus has already achieved two victories in graded company at the West Virginia Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles. Overanalyze also won the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont Park last fall. He's a proven deal, at the ages of both 2 and 3.
Forever Thing failed to sell at Keeneland as a yearling. But at age 2, he fetched a price of $1 million at an Ocala, Florida, auction. Forever Thing didn't race until this year. He broke his maiden at third asking in a 1 1/8-mile race at Belmont in May.
His career record includes just five starts, from which Forever Thing has gained a single victory, a trio of second-place finishes and purse earnings of $83,245. The W.Va. Derby will be his first effort in a graded event.
One can get buried in Pletcher statistics - they are so massive, so voluminous. Through July 24, the horses he has trained during his career had earned $249.6 million in purses. They had been victorious in 924 stakes, 492 of which have been graded.
Pletcher won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. He has twice won the Belmont Stakes, with the filly Rags to Riches in 2007 and with Palace Malice this year. Pletcher has also won seven Breeders' Cup races. He will deservedly be in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame as soon as he's eligible to be inducted.
His overall stats at Mountaineer are pretty fair. Pletcher has made 26 starts at the Hancock County track, winning five and placing 11 times. That works out to a strike ratio of 19.2 percent, which is better than he's achieved at most other tracks. He has an excellent win-place-show ratio at Mountaineer of 61.5 percent.
In 2006, Pletcher won Mountaineer's Firecracker and Summer Finale Stakes with the filly Stormina. In 2009, he won the Mountaineer's Memorial Day Handicap with Blues Street.
Pletcher also has two stakes victories on Derby undercards: with For Royalty in the 2009 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies; and with Modern Cowboy in the 2011 W.Va. Governor's Handicap.
But a triumph in the Derby, itself? That's something that has eluded him.
Dixie Strike, who won the 2012 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie, is among the nominees for the $100,000 West Virginia Senate President's Cup, at 1 mile and 70 yards on the turf on the Derby undercard.