Pletcher sticks to philosophy, rules Materiality out of 2015 Preakness

Profile Picture: James Scully

May 12th, 2015

Todd Pletcher initially considered the Preakness Stakes for all three of his Kentucky Derby starters as well as Competitive Edge, winner of the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard. In the end, the 14-day interim proved too high a mountain to climb.

The 47-year-old conditioner began to slowly eliminate runners, taking Itsaknockout, Competitive Edge and Carpe Diem out of consideration before finally announcing Tuesday morning he would wait for the June 6 Belmont Stakes with Materiality.

His Preakness thought process runs counter to Bob Baffert, who continually labels the 1 3/16-mile classic as the easiest leg of the Triple Crown. Baffert, who will send Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah and third-placer Dortmund to the starting gate Saturday, said of his Preakness starters:

“Coming back in two weeks is not a big concern with them.”

Baffert knows what he’s talking about: the Hall of Fame trainer has won five editions of the Preakness, all with horses that started in the Kentucky Derby.

Pletcher, who has started a staggering 43 horses in the Kentucky Derby, has never won the Preakness, sending out only seven runners. When he sent his lone Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, to the 2010 Preakness, Pletcher said the week of the race:

“Our biggest challenge is the 14-day turnaround.”

Super Saver finished eighth of 12 horses as the 9-5 favorite, an experience that likely reinforced Pletcher’s animosity toward Preakness participation.

The leading trainer likes to give horses plenty of time between starts, repeatedly quoting statistics that show his stable being most effective when running horses back on 35-60 days rest. And Pletcher isn’t changing his philosophy anytime soon – he doesn’t want to send his Derby horses to Baltimore.

There’s no doubting the numbers when it comes to everyday races – Baffert’s stable is also highly successful when giving horses 35-60 days rest – but the Triple Crown is a different ballgame, with no major three-year-old events scheduled until later in the summer as participants are expected to receive plenty of down time afterward.

And statistics show Kentucky Derby horses dominate the Preakness, accounting for 28 of the last 31 winners. The two-week turnaround proves no obstacle, with nine of the last 18 Kentucky Derby winners coming back to capture the Preakness two weeks later and notable Horse of the Year winners Point Given (2001) and Afleet Alex (2005) sweeping the final two legs after coming up short at Churchill Downs.

Baffert was asked about the Preakness immediately following this year’s Kentucky Derby.

"We're looking forward to it," Baffert nodded. "The next one -- I call it the fun one. You know, you're coming off a Derby high, going in there to Baltimore. And the Preakness is one of my favorite races. We're just going to enjoy it.”

The contrast between Pletcher and Baffert couldn’t be more extreme.