Photo: Sue Kawczynski / Eclipse Sportswire
Saratoga Springs, NY
The talent has always been there; Todd Pletcher has never had any doubts about that.
His colt named Charge It, at some point this year, is going to make some loud noise in the land of the 3-year-olds. That big bang could be coming, and soon.
Show up to Saratoga Race Course at the end of August. That very well could be the coming-out party for Charge It, a gray son of Tapit.
Just listen to the words from Pletcher, who doesn’t hand out compliments like some might hand out M&Ms on Halloween.
“From the talent prospective, he can be as good as anyone in the crop,” Pletcher said while sitting in his office at his barn at the Oklahoma Training Track, “if he can just, you know, continue to mature.”
Pletcher hopes it all comes together for Charge It, who is owned by Whisper Hill Farm, late in the day on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Spa. That is when the New York Racing Association runs the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes.
It is expected to attract some of the best 3-year-olds in the country. Preakness winner Early Voting is being pointed to it. So are Epicenter and Zandon, the well-regarded sophomores who finished second and third in the Kentucky Derby.
If Pletcher is right – and the Hall of Famer often is – Charge It might just kick down the door of the 3-year-old club.
While Early Voting and Epicenter and Zandon are running prep races before the Travers, Pletcher will train Charge It up to the Midsummer Derby. After training downstate at Belmont Park for the spring, he’ll get his first work at the Spa later this week, probably Friday.
Pletcher likes to have space between starts for his horses, and the last time Charge It ran, he made Belmont Park his personal playground in a 23-length romp in the Dwyer (G3) at a mile on July 2. Granted, he didn’t beat a lot in that race, but a 23-length win is a 23-length win.
“It’s the first time I ever watched a race at Belmont and actually looked at the Secretariat pole as they came to the finish line,” Pletcher said. “It was like, ‘wow!’ “
The blue and white pole, signifying the colors of Secretariat’s owner, the late Penny Chenery, was put into place at Belmont in 2013 to mark the 31 lengths – the margin of Big Red’s win in the 1973 Belmont – from the finish line.
Of course, Pletcher is not comparing his horse to one of the all-time greats, but Charge It’s staggering win did have his trainer shaking his head.
“He’s a horse that we have always thought a lot of from the beginning,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher thought so much of him that after Charge It broke his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream Park in February in his second start, he threw him into the deep end of the pool. Charge It ran next in the Florida Derby (G1) and finished second despite a less than ideal trip.
He banged into the gate at the start and lugged twice in the stretch. He lost to White Abarrio by 1 1/4 lengths.
“We were trying to figure out how to get (to the Florida Derby) the right way,” Pletcher said. “I think he would have benefited from another start in between. There just wasn’t time for it. So, yes. I think his greenness cost him the Florida Derby.”
He then displaced his palate in the Kentucky Derby and was no factor, finishing 17th. After a regroup, he ran off the screen in the Dwyer. Now, here he is.
Time is certainly on Charge It’s side now. He has 65 days between the Dwyer and the Travers.
“The Travers is the race that you want to win the most,” Pletcher said. “We felt that we are taking our shot at that by giving him the additional time. Hopefully, we are on the right track.”