Pletcher Finishes 2018 as King of the Road to the Kentucky Derby

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On April 27, trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Audible, Magnum Moon, Noble Indy, and Vino Rosso for their final pre-Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) workouts at Churchill Downs.

That would be this year's respective Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) winner, Arkansas Derby (G1) winner, Louisiana Derby (G2) winner, and Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets Stakes (G2) winner. In the 21st century, no trainer has won four of the six biggest United States Derby preps--based on the current Road to the Kentucky Derby system, which also lists the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) in that category--with four different horses in the same year.

In 2013, Pletcher won three of the races with three different horses, and in four other years he has won two in the same year. But four is the new standard.

Keep in mind that because of date changes of these races and horses starting fewer times ahead of the classics, racing has only recently entered an era where horses generally only start in one of these six races.

Before Pletcher this year, the most recent trainer to win four of these six races in a single year was Bobby Frankel, who sent out Empire Maker in 2003 to victories in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial and Peace Rules to scores in the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass.

Pletcher figures to set the standard for career Derby starts this year as he currently is tied with his mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, for most starts in the Louisville classic with 48. Pletcher said there's Derby-week pressure for a trainer whether you have one starter or multiple starters.

"It goes both ways. In some ways, it adds more pressure because you have more horses you're trying to prepare and hoping everything goes smoothly. I also think when you only have one, that's pressure, too, because if something happens, you're out of the race period," Pletcher said. "So it kind of goes both ways."

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