On Sunday, Febuary 24th, Todd Pletcher announced that Violence - one of many derby prospects in the Pletcher barn, will be retired with a sesamoid injury. Violence was not just one of the bunch, he was one of the top three year olds Pletcher had going this Derby season. The injury apparently came during Saturdays running of the Fountain of Youth. A race where the son of Medaglia d'Oro, ran a gallant second behind Orb, the newest buzz horse to the Derby scene, who is trained by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
Although he is consistently one of the top trainers in the country, Todd Pletcher is becoming more synonymous with running as many talented derby prospects into the ground, as he is with putting them in the gate. The injury was said to have been suffered during the stretch drive when the horse switched leads, however after looking at the horses past performances, a strange pattern seemed to raise a red flag.
Many owners and trainers have been burned by prepping their horses for the Kentucky Derby on synthetic surfaces. If done correctly, it is designed to reduce wear and tear on the horse for the tough derby prep season. But more often than not it has only served to take a talented dirt horse and throw it out of form. And as the years have gone by, horsemen have become aware of this trend; take for example the G1 Bluegrass Stakes, when it was run on dirt it was one of the most important prep races for the Derby. Now run on synthetic, the race has become an afterthought in its importance.
In December, Pletcher took Violence out to California to run in the G1, CashCal Futurity, which is run at Betfair Hollywood Park, a synthetic track. What is questionable is why would the horse be shipped out to California as a Derby prospect when his first two races were impressive victories on dirt tracks in New York. Perhaps the horse was already beginning to show signs of an inflammation, and getting him a win in a G1 race on polyturf would serve a couple of purposes. Run in December, the race itself offers 10 points in the new points system required to get into the Derby, fearing an injury, a victory in a G1, race would solidify his breeding value, and the obvious, running on the cousion surface could possibly prevent an injury to an ailing sesamiod bone.
Of course this is all conjecture, as I am speculating about the circumstances, but the one thing we do know is that Todd Pletcher is not going to be putting another good one in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.