Todd Pletcher will set a record if all five 3-year-olds he entered start in the Belmont Stakes, but the multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer is most concerned about the race result.
The five horses entered by Pletcher in the $1 million Belmont Stakes, June 8 at Belmont Park, include Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary, who rallied from 18th to finish third in the Kentucky Derby, and Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze, who enters off a troubled 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Also entered by Pletcher are Toyota Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Palace Malice, who uncharacteristically led the field early in the Derby before fading to 12th; filly Unlimited Budget, who won this year's Fair Grounds Oaks; and Midnight Taboo, who has just a maiden win but some promising breeding for the 1 ½-mile distance.
"There is some pride that these are all horses that we've brought along from the beginning of their careers," Pletcher said. "So the fact that they've developed into being some nice horses -- the Arkansas Derby winner, Louisiana Derby winner, Fair Grounds Oaks winner -- that's what we're most proud of. They have some very solid resumes. Palace Malice is the Blue Grass runner-up. He almost won a big one. So we're most proud of their accomplishments to this point."
Pletcher's Belmont starters have figured prominently in recent years as six of his seven most recent starters in the 1 ½-mile classic registered top-three finishes, including a victory in 2007 by filly Rags to Riches.
Pletcher tied a Derby record this year by saddling five horses in the Kentucky Derby, led by a third-place finish by WinStar Farm's Revolutionary. Pletcher, who typically provides plenty of rest between starts for his horses, did not saddle a horse in the Preakness Stakes. He thinks Revolutionary, by War Pass, will benefit from five weeks of rest.
"We felt like he's a horse who runs well with spacing between his races," Pletcher said. "It seemed to work well for him in the Louisiana Derby and then we felt like the five weeks between the Louisiana Derby and the Kentucky Derby suited him well."
The lone Grade 1 winner of Pletcher's Belmont horses is Overanalyze, a son of Dixie Union, who is the sire of last year's Belmont winner Union Rags . Overanalyze, who along with Unlimited Budget and Mignight Taboo is one of three Belmont starters owned by Mike Repole, actually made a move in the Derby that proved too late because he couldn't launch until after overcoming trouble in the far turn.
"I think he's coming into it well. He's a pretty laid back horse who doesn't overdo it in the mornings," Pletcher said. "I thought his breezes here have been very good. I think his Derby was kind of sneaky good, better than it reads on paper. He had a decent position going into the far turn and then kind of got shuffled back and went from like tenth to 18th then kind of came back on again.
"He's a horse who has won every other start of his career and he's falling on the 'other' start here. So we'll see. Hopefully he continues that trend."
Pletcher said that relaxed attitude could prove beneficial in the 1 ½-mile Belmont.
"I think it very much does [help] when you can turn off and relax the first part," said Pletcher, who added that Overanalyze has gained plenty of experience in his eight starts. "He's been in every kind of scenario you can think of, he's been in-between, behind horses, on the lead. He's pretty versatile in terms of his running style."
Jockey John Velazquez will be looking for his second straight Belmont win and third overall.
"He can adapt to any pace scenario and it's up to Johnny to kind of know where he wants to position him in the first part of the race," Pletcher said.
Based at Belmont, Pletcher said it's a little easier for horses and staff preparing for a big race.
"I think it makes some of the intangibles a lot easier when you're at your home base, in your own barn," Pletcher said. "You're kind of used to the routine; everything's the same. It makes it a little bit easier. I don't think it gives you a huge edge -- the most important thing is to show up with the best horse -- but it is kind of easier."