Hot stuffCity Kitchen and more food halls to check out in NYC George Clooney eats in Astoria and more celeb dining hotspots
Todd Pletcher has special connection with owner of Whitney favorite Palace Malice
He's the all-time earnings leader, the perennial king of Saratoga and a lock for the Hall of Fame. It's hard to imagine Todd Pletcher as a struggling young trainer with a small stable. Cot Campbell remembers when, and the 86-year-old master of Dogwood Stable helped Pletcher get rolling.
When Pletcher was D. Wayne Lukas' assistant from 1989-95, Campbell noticed his work ethic. "I'd see him scurrying around the box-seat section, always going about his business," Campbell said. Late in 1995, Pletcher went out on his own.
"He told me, and I said, 'Good luck,' " Campbell said. "Then early in '96, I sent him four or five horses. I think Todd has always been grateful for that. We've had a lot of good horses together, and it's been a great partnership."
Eighteen years later, the 4-year-old colt Palace Malice has brought it to a peak. Neither Campbell nor Pletcher has had a Horse of the Year, and the winner of the 2013 Belmont Stakes and this year's Met Mile is the leading candidate. Winning Saturday's Grade I, $1.5-million Whitney Stakes at the Spa would solidify his position. Palace Malice, the even-money favorite, drew post 5 in a field of nine for the 11/8-mile Whitney. He signaled his sharpness with Saturday's 5-furlong workout in 594/5 seconds.
"It'' a huge race," Pletcher said. "He's off to a great start [4-for-4] this year, and we're just hoping for more of the same. We know he likes Saratoga from the way he ran here the last two years."
Producing a star for one of his first clients means a lot to Pletcher. "We're very pleased we've been able to do this for Dogwood," he said. "I guess you never can say you expect that kind of development, but I can say I'm not surprised."
Unlike his sire, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, a Preakness winner in his fourth start, Palace Malice was not precocious. J.J. Pletcher breaks "about 50 percent" of his son's yearlings. "Todd really liked him as a 2-year-old, but it just took him a while to learn," J.J. said. "He was such a slow learner."
After a blinkers experiment backfired in the Kentucky Derby -- he was 12th after running off in a 451/5 -second half-mile -- Palace Malice broke through in the 11/2-mile Belmont. With only a 1-for-7 resume, he went off at 13-1 odds and cruised by 31/2 lengths.
"It was very gratifying when he stepped up to win a classic," Todd Pletcher said.
Campbell said "in a perfect world" Palace Malice will sweep the Whitney, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic. In January, he wanted to make a Horse of the Year bet with international bookmaker William Hill but was told he couldn't because the result was based on voting. In April, the state of Nevada gave a special dispensation, and Campbell put his money down.
"They gave me 12-1," he said. "Had they been able to take it in January, I bet I'd have gotten 40-1."