Sep 6 2018

Know Your Trainers – Todd Pletcher

A frequent question asked by new fans trying to learn more about horse racing is, “Where do I begin?” My immediate response is generally, “Get to know your trainers.” While learning about topics like distance, class, and pace are important … in my opinion, none are as important as learning about the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of trainers. With that thought in mind, we continue our series of articles called “Know Your Trainers.”  In this series we will dig into the statistics of some head trainers and try to make sense of the numbers we find.

So let’s continue with a big name in the business presently, Todd Pletcher. Our focus will be on two main areas; Graded Stakes and 2-Year old horses.  Statistics for this article were gathered on September 4, 2018.

Before we start, here is an explanation of each column in the charts below:

  • STR = Number of starts
  • 1st = Number of wins.
  • 2nd = Number of place finishes.
  • 3rd = Number of show finishes.
  • WIN% = Overall percentage of wins based on number of starts.
  • ITM% = Percentage of times the horse finished In-The-Money (1st, 2nd, or 3rd).
  • ROI = Return on Investment, based on a $2 flat Win bet for every starter. Over $2 is profitable. For example, if there were 100 starters, and the ROI was $3 … The total wagered would equal $200 ($2 x 100). The return would be $300 ($3 x 100). If the ROI were $0.50, then the return would be $50 (50-cents x 100) … resulting in a loss of $150.

Our first look will be in a category that Todd Pletcher was traditionally very strong in, that’s Graded Stakes Route (1 Mile or Over) races on the dirt.  Notice we said “was,” because when we last looked Todd was very strong in this category.  As you will see, something has changed.  Below are the results, separated by the level of Graded Stakes (Grade 1, 2, 3) for the past year.

Wow, I had to take a double take when I saw these results.  When we looked three years ago, Todd was profitable (in terms of ROI) in both G1 and G2, and nearly breakeven in G3.  His win percentages were 19%, 28%, and 24% for the three graded stakes levels.  Now he’s down to a single digit (9%) win percentage in G1/G3 and his ROI is clearly unprofitable in all three levels of graded stakes.  As we said, “something has changed!”


Now let’s look at his Graded Stakes results in Turf Route races.

Todd’s results are slightly better on turf than dirt with far fewer starters.  But overall, with the exception of a positive ROI on G2 races, there’s not much positive going on here, with only six wins from 39 starters.


All of this got me wondering how Todd did in graded stakes races (including sprints and routes) at the 2018 Saratoga Meeting. Here are the results:

Yikes, only two wins in 29 starts, and an ROI of only 36 cents on the dirt.  These are clearly not Todd Pletcher like numbers, based on past years.


The last thing we’ll look at is how Todd did at Saratoga in 2018 with 2-year old maidens, a category he used to dominant in past years.

Once again I had to look twice at these results, especially the three wins in 24 dirt starts.  The numbers don’t lie, and while I can’t explain what’s happened, clearly something has changed in the Todd Pletcher barn.

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By Neal Benoit

4 comments on “Know Your Trainers – Todd Pletcher

  1. I agree with Tim’s comments. Clearly Chad Brown has developed a program that works at Saratoga. I’ve read in other sources, that many successful two year olds fail to progress as three year olds, thus undermining their Triple Crown chances. Could it be that TAP has adjusted his approach to two year old trainng program with hopes of better performances in the Triple Crown races? That wouldn’t explain the Graded Stakes drop off, but his entire stable failed to perform. It’s just one of many theories to consider.

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