Book Review: Todd Pletcher Talks Heart Rate!
When possible, Mr. Pletcher likes to let his horses have a strong gallop without the pony as they break out of the post parade. “I want to boost them up, I want their heart rate pumping. I want to make sure when they get to the gate they are fully loosened up and ready to roll.”
Neat book above from Karen Johnson that gives us an inside look at some of America’s top trainers. A smooth, quick read of less than 200 pages, I highly recommend it. Some other excerpts:
Great insight on Curlin’s victorious trip to Dubai, topped off with a win in the signature Dubai World Cup in 2008. Well Armed won the final World Cup on dirt in 2009. Actually 4 of the final 5 dirt World Cups were won by US-trained horses – but now Tapeta seems to have knocked us out of the running. Unlike the poor performing American contingent in 2012, Asmussen sent Curlin over a few months early, and even ran a tune up race in the desert prior to the big day. Likely, our US runners this year will not do the same.
“There are trainers out there who we think are complete clowns, so you’ve got to be interested in claiming off of them. I don’t want to name any names, but they know who they are – and so do we.” – Why does anyone not like this guy?
I’ve quoted Dutrow numerous times in the past; primarily his penchant for blowing out horses the day before, or the day of, big races. Here he also talks about his success on running back from very (3-4 days) short rest.
“There’s not just one way to train a horse, there are 6 or 7 different ways, especially since a horse is different from day to day. This has to be the biggest guessing game ever invented.”
On Juddmonte turf star Exbourne: ‘If I had him today, I probably couldn’t get him to the races because I was a little more aggressive back then, and when they were sore I went on with them. Nowadays I might have backed off a horse as sore as him. I remember that I felt guilty that I went on with him because he was sore, but if I didn’t go on with him, he never would have been the horse he was.”
“I like Rick (Dutrow), we’re friends – but keep your mouth shut, you know?”- RIP Mr. Frankel.
Another blog favorite, notes his day rate in 1962 was $16, but had risen to $100 in 2008.
Also a big fan of the pre-race blowout: “He picked this up from his days playing polo, when the ponies would be allowed to ‘go as fast as they could go’ for an eighty of a mile immediately before a match was to begin. Jerkens believes that the oft-cited opinion that such a work ‘takes too much out of a horse’ is wrong, and that such a sharp move puts a horse ‘on its toes’ – but he doesn’t do it with the unsound (of mind or body) ones.
Another old timer who didn’t necessarily stop when a horse’s appetite waned:
Sky Beauty went off her feed before the 1993 Alabama Stakes. “I used to give her a strong work 5-6 days before her races. I was thinking I shouldn’t do it. But I never won a big race in my life when I hedged. I sent her a mile in 1:39 and she started to eat again. Sometimes horses are better when you put the pressure on them.” – Doug O’Neill mentioned the same concept with I’ll Have Another during his 2012 Derby/Preakness triumphs.
On cooling out: No 30-45min of hotwalking, instead his horses have their legs rubbed down by grooms. Encourages circulation, flushes out waste – and establishes personal connection between groom and horse. Ah, the good old days…
Blog readers will also remember his love of the pre-race blowout, as both his Derby winners worked 4F the morning of the Kentucky Derby. A fact he had to hide from the media, less he get criticized by some second-hander. (Extra points if any commenter can cite the origin of that term!)
I wrote much about Mr. Pletcher during the saga of Uncle Mo (much of it critical), but I have always had the greatest of respect for him, and you will too after reading this book. The man is a hard working genius, plain and simple.
Pletcher also notes how he doesn’t really evaluate a horse until he works 5F. I concur as many horses can breeze 3F-4F well due to the fact that lactic acid buildup really doesn’t kick in for 30+ seconds or so, therefore you get no real idea of stamina/mental toughness until you approach the 60sec mark.
I really felt sympathy for Pletcher as he talks about how the ‘cheating’ rumors affect him. He wins at 20% year after year with the best horseflesh, doesn’t even use Clenbuterol, and some lazy ass trainer who doesn’t even watch his horses breeze in person claims nefarious practices. Or an idiot blog comment does the same. Like in most areas of life, the guys and gals who not only put in the physical hours – but also the intellectual efforts – reap the benefits of success. Consider me a new fan.
While he gets an A+ from me based on the quote leading this blog post, here is an example of how even a brilliant horseman can still benefit from technology and science:
The Green Monkey disaster has been well-documented. This colt flew in 9.8sec for the furlong down at Calder, earning a $16 million hammer price – and was turned over to Pletcher for training.
“I saw his work at Calder and it was brilliant, he galloped out really well” – Pletcher.
However, the pioneering work from the folks at EQB (www.eqb.com) easily identified a fatal flaw from their high-speed video analysis of the work:
“…The Green Monkey, a Forestry colt recently purchased for $16-million at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale of selected two-year-olds in training, had a fabulous 9.8-second workout, but high-speed film revealed that the entire work was done at a rotary gallop, a very quick gait that can produce fast times but costs more energy and is unlikely to be maintained over longer distances.”
There are some things that even the world’s best horsemen, and women, miss with the naked eye.