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 ( 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.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on February 8, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’d like to hear Plecher’s explanation how he manages to injure every horse he trains. Difficult to ignore image of Dunkirk/Rags to Riches et. al. fracturing as they cross the finish line. And, predicting Plecher’s Derby contenders to fail, due to his methods, is like sun coming up. My Q–is Plecher every 7 days in 1:02 + 3-4 weeks off breezing after races, and is that sufficient for injury prevention? Plecher flies just below what’s necessary, possibly. Maybe book gives insight. Great post!

    • I think he would say – ‘so does everyone else, horses are fragile’. I believe every stable in the US hurts 30-60% of their runners in a given year – to blame: hard dirt, fast opening paces, legal drugs, sub-par conditioning, etc.

      What I find curious is that he has above average 2yo success, but below average 3yo success – even when you consider the stock he starts with. To me that means relying on natural talent vs. fitness, but then again, so do all his contemporaries.

      Then you have a Bill Mott, with almost no 2-3yo success, but a miracle worker at 4-5. Often praised for his ‘patience’ but his workout patterns mirror those of Pletcher, nevertheless.

      • Phillip Haycock

        I see a couple of threads here.
        Above average 2yo success, but below average 3yo success! This observation will hold true in most racing codes for some types of trainers.
        -No 2-3yo success but a miracle worker at 4-5. The question here may be to ask what his successful 4-5 YOs were doing during their 2&3YO seasons,?

      • With regards to Mott and older horses, several of his stable stars were with other trainers at ages 2-3, Phillip. Royal Delta and Drosselmeyer – each who won our year end BC championships, are examples.

  2. Totally minor note, but I looked at this inflation calculator–
    (“What cost $16 in 1962 would cost $112.70 in 2008.”)

    –and it seems that Jerkins charging $16 in 1962 and $100 in 2008 means in real money his rates have slightly fallen.

  3. “I really felt sympathy for Pletcher as he talks about how the ‘cheating’ rumors affect him.”

    I’m sorry to say that your naiveté is truly breathtaking.

    • Think what you must, but I’m starting to realize that 99% of any ‘cheating’ rumors originate from lazy asses who are bad at their jobs and just want to take a top guy down, or keyboard jockeys like yourself who are green with envy.

      He gets 300 of the best horses every year, injures 200 of them, and rolls with the rest. If he was cheating some of these survivors would run the Derby in 1:56. Every sport in the world that has cheating has record performances, except for horseracing.

      Performance enhancing drugs don’t affect animals of prey like they do humans: horseracing is the only sport in the world where females beat males everyday around the world, making the presence of male hormones immaterial – now is liberal use of painkillers a performance enhancer? Yes, but sadly legal.

      I remember you Tinky, you come back here in a few days and I will have a post illustrating how your ‘we don’t need Lasix because the rest of the world doesn’t’ is bunk. That being said I am anit-Lasix, go figure.

      Such is life in the US of A these days; hard working successful guys are demonized as lying cheaters and pot smokers are seen as the heroes. Disgusting.

      • “99% of any ‘cheating’ rumors originate from lazy asses who are bad at their jobs and just want to take a top guy down, or keyboard jockeys like yourself who are green with envy.”

        Pathetic ad hominem attacks? That’s what you resort to?

        Setting aside that I have worked professionally in the industry for 30 years, and have unequivocal knowledge that many of the most successful and high-fashion American trainers have cheated at some stage of their careers, even those who have never stepped foot on the backstretch are able to deduce which trainers have systematically cheated by observing mountains of overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

        Furthermore, for someone who approaches training in a scientific manner, your arguments above relating to PEDs are shockingly ridiculous. Performance enhancing drugs don’t work on racehorses? I’m afraid that you are simply clueless.

        Milkshaking, EPO, clenbuterol and albuterol (to name the primary, widespread culprits in recent decades) are all POTENT performance enhancers. Their use has catalyzed the careers of some of the most successful trainers in the game, and lifted others from obscurity to the top of the standings, before they fell back into obscurity without the help of PEDs.

        Presumably you also believe that Jamie Dimon is a just a “hard working and successful guy”, as well.

      • The subject was Pletcher, who hasn’t risen from nowhere to the top, got caught, and bottomed out. He’s been around 20% for the win for decades. Have many other guys and gals rocketed to 30% win percentages and been filthy dirty? Of course.

        Again, if the drugs you mention are so ‘potent’ why are winning times in our classic races stagnant for 4 decades? Allow a sore horse to run and win who shouldn’t be at the track? Sure. But the equine equivalent of a 2nd baseman who hits 20 home runs a year suddenly hitting 50? Not even close.

        Typical liberal reference to a possible crook like Jamie Dimon, ignoring the 99% of the 1% who work hard and honestly. Your ilk are ruining a once great country. Congratulations and enjoy your $5 a gallon gasoline.

        I’m well aware of your “I’m an insider” boasting on all industry message boards, and nowhere have you added any value. Tomorrow at 6am I will be in the barn of a world class racing organization, and you will be at your keyboard. Go Occupy something while the rest of us do the real work.

        You know Tinky, I’ve been thinking – you know my real name, my face, my address, my phone number – and all I have is your alias. That’s the definition of cowardice. Unless you are willing to own up to your inane commentary with your real identity, I’m going to put your ramblings where they belong – the SPAM file

  4. Phillip Haycock

    “Again, if the drugs you mention are so ‘potent’ why are winning times in our classic races stagnant for 4 decades?”

    This sentence puts the whole debate in perspective.

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