Notebook: Pletcher makes quite a splash
By Marc Connolly
ABC Sports Online
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Todd Pletcher couldn't have asked for more on Saturday.
Before the race was finished, he already had set a new record for the number of horses saddled in the Derby by a trainer in his debut. With Trippi, More Than Ready, Graeme Hall and Impeachment, the Lukas protégé broke the record that James Rowe Jr. set in 1931 with three.
So to have one of his entries finish in the money (Impeachment in third) and another right on his heels (More Than Ready in fourth), one can understand the excitement coming out of the Pletcher stable.
"I'm proud of all these horses," said Pletcher, who also started Trippi (11th) and Graeme Hall (19th). "Of course, we came to win, but hats off to the winners. I'm not surprised at all with Impeachment finishing third."
"We had a good trip, never brushed with another horse and got knocked off stride," said Impeachment's jockey Craig Perret. "Everywhere I wanted to go, we made it. We were able to save ground and he came running at the end. We just ran out of ground."
More Than Ready actually was in front late in the race before falling off the pace.
"I had a good trip and right near the eighth pole, I made the lead," said jockey John Velazquez.
That's when that fireball came storming by to win the race.
"My horse kept on digging. Then they just got me for third," said Velazquez. "I'm so proud of him. He ran his heart out."
Though two very fatigued horses -- Trippi and Graeme Hall -- were far back, Pletcher felt each horse had the potential to make something happen on Saturday.
In just his fourth year on his own, Pletcher is expected to have multiple entries in the Preakness Stakes on May 20. The 32-year-old should also be expected to be a mainstay at Churchill Downs for many years to come after making such a breakthrough outing in 2000.
Nothing doing for The Deputy:
"I could see him clearly and I didn't see anything. He just didn't have the fire," says Sahadi. "[Jockey] Chris [McCarron] said that he seemed to be struggling, but we don't know why just yet."
McCarron, mounting his 17th Derby horse, says the dark bay/brown colt wasn't himself.
"He broke OK, but he never did run a jump," says McCarron, who rode Alysheba (1987) and Go for Gin (1994) to the winner's circle at Churchill Downs. "I can't say it was the track because he trained well over it all week. He usually is pulling me the whole race. He never took a hold of the bridle."
The Deputy's Triple Crown career ended with his 14th place finish. Sahadi plans to take the Irish-bred colt back to California and skip the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Leading the way was former President George Bush and his presidential-hopeful son George W., whose appearances were coupled with one too many secret service agents scouring around the press box. Causing nearly as much of a stir was three of the Backstreet Boys -- Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell -- who took the stage at the chic Barnstable Brown soirée around midnight to perform an impromptu version of Kool and the Gang's "Celebration."
Also in attendance: actors Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Dreyfuss, Bo Derek, Loni Anderson, and Dan Akroyd; musicians Chris Isaak, George Strait, and Emmy Lou Harris; past and present NFL stars Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning and Tim Couch; and Miss America Heather French.
Hoping for Hal to no avail:
"When I saw the fractions, I got nervous," said Rose, making his second Derby start (1984 with Rexson's Hope). "He should have just let one horse [Trippi] go. That's why Lukas runs more than one horse in this race. I did think he would run a little better, but he just went too fast too early."
Jockey Roger Velez was still very impressed with his colt's efforts for getting out ahead of the pack so quickly.
"He showed me a whole lot of courage running the way he did for as far as he did," said Velez, making his first Derby appearance. "You know it had to be stinging him badly ? Considering, he ran great."
"Watch out," said the venerable Lukas. "We're loaded. I think I should be fired if we don't make it back with some of the ones we've got coming."
"I'm taking him back to California on Tuesday," said Hollendorfer about Summer Squall's colt. "I don't know what we'll do with him next. We'll just get him home and take it from there."
They said it:
Trainer Bobby Frankel on second place Aptitude's future plans: "We're going to the Belmont, but we're not going to the Preakness."
Winning owner Fusao Sekiguchi on his horse being the first favorite to win the Derby in 21 years: "I love challenges and we've been told many times that the favorite hasn't won in 21 years. So I love setting new records."
Winning trainer Neil Drysdale on how he watched the race: "I watched it on television. I have trouble seeing here. We were watching on a big screen."
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