Considering Todd Pletcher will have one of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) favorites in Florida Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming and several other promising starters in this year's Louisville classic, it's even money the most-repeated Derby-week stat will be the multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer's 1-for-45 mark in the Louisville classic.
Pletcher currently has five horses ranked in the top 20 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard used to determine the field: Always Dreaming (7), Tapwrit (12), Malagacy (13), Patch (18), and Battalion Runner (19). Should at least four Pletcher-trained horses start in the Derby, he will pass his former mentor, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, in the category of most Derby starters.
Pletcher will enter this year's Kentucky Derby with one win—Super Saver in 2010—and five other placings from 45 previous Derby starters. While the competitive Pletcher most assuredly wants to add to his Derby win column, he does find some level of satisfaction in the 45 Derby starters.
He has twice started five horses in the Derby, which is a record also matched by Nick Zito and Lukas. Three other times he has started four horses in the Derby.
"We've kind of always taken the approach that this race is the reason why a lot of people are in the business. To have that opportunity, to have a potential starter in the Kentucky Derby, it means a lot to the owners," Pletcher said. "Part of the excitement for us is to see the enjoyment and the excitement that the owners get having a participant in the Derby, participating in the race, participating in the walkover, the post-position draw. It's a very, very exciting time."
The 1-for-45 stat itself plays a bit more dramatically than reality when you consider that—short of a dead-heat—a trainer cannot win a race twice. When Pletcher starts multiple horses in a race, only one can win; and he has started multiple horses in 14 of the 16 years he's started at least one horse in the Derby. In years Pletcher has started five horses, the best he can do is 1-for-5.
In the 16 years Pletcher has sent out at least one Derby starter since 2000, he has one winner. The 1-for-16 strike rate is still lower than one would expect for a trainer who has earned seven Eclipse Awards in those years, but not as dramatic as 1-for-45.
Plus, if Pletcher breaks through with a second Derby win, the narrative would likely change. After all, Lukas and Bob Baffert only have four Derby wins.
"We want to do well. We want to win," Pletcher said. "I think our Derby record is not as good as we'd like it to be. But at the same token, I think we've had some horses overachieve on their way to getting there and in some cases, underachieve in the race itself. But, you know, we're also very thankful for the win."