There were a couple of articles published recently about Todd Pletcher's Derby record. One was rather, well, odd, and another from Ed DeRosa focused on some statistics.
Skipping the first one and just looking at DeRosa's, he does make a decent case on expected winners, versus actual winners from the Pletcher stable. As Crunk pointed out on twitter, we can have a little bit of a discussion on Ed's numbers regarding expected winners via pre and post-takeout odds, but on a whole I thought he made a proper case.
Not looking at numbers, but spying the landscape from a birds-eye view, I think Pletcher's 1 for 31 record in the Derby is probably at the very least disappointing, though. When you are a top trainer and you are given such supreme stock, you pretty much have to deliver.
This is not unlike a coach drafting Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson and being given carte blanche to sign six top defensive free agents and delivering one Super Bowl in a decade. The media would scorch him, no matter the circumstances. With horse's like Eskendreya, Uncle Mo and several others like this year's Violence, he has those top players. The fact that his record is criticized by many (like the commentors on the article when linked to the Paulick Report) should surprise no one. It would be more surprising if he was not criticized.
A strong case can be made that the current numbers mean little. I can be the world's most profitable horse handicapper over 50,000 bets, but look at me in a subset of 50 bets and I can go 1 or 2 for 50, and it's perfectly fine to call me the dumbest bettor alive. With the thoroughbred - fragile, high strung, where a million things can go wrong - looking at a small subset is mind boggling. Add to the fact that one thoroughbred, out of thousands bred, has to be great at 10f on a given day, while getting supreme racing luck in a field of twenty, we're talking some serious statistical noise.
Conversely, a good trainer tends to have his horses ready for the Derby: Not ready to perform at level "X", but ready to perform at "X plus". The connections want the horse to run a top. Pletcher seems to have had some trouble achieving that. A number of his horses have raced very, very poorly in the Derby. People who use that as ammo, do make a strong point too. Considering that Pletchers only Derby win was with a horse who was not on schedule (Super Saver did not begin his prep sked until mid-March because of issues), it might add some credence to that critique.
The bottom line for me is that no matter how many people deride Pletcher as a guy who can't train a poodle to pee on the first Saturday in May, or how many people call those people "haters", they might both be terribly wrong. With a tiny sample, the massive error variables that go into having a horse win one race on one day at one track in May, and the skeletal make up of the modern thoroughbred, arguing that man does or does not create global warming seems easier to be sure about.
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