Racing: The man trusted with Magnier's biggest buy

Todd Pletcher tells Chris McGrath, in Dubai, of his excitement at taking charge of the world's most expensive racehorse

Just how do you go about making $16m for an unraced horse look like money well spent? For the owners of the colt who last month shattered the thoroughbred auction record, the first step is easy: you send him to Todd Pletcher. The next part, according to another American trainer yesterday, is not quite so straightforward: "All that horse has to do now is run like Secretariat and get foals like Storm Cat."

Pletcher is here with the colt Magna Graduate in search of the richest prize ever offered on a racecourse: $3.6m (£2m) to the winner of the 11th Dubai World Cup. The youngster purchased by John Magnier and his partners could win this race four times without recovering their investment. Of course, the idea is that he will race for maybe 18 months before finding still more lucrative employment at stud. But few can imagine what he has to do on the track to be worth $16m (£9m) as a stallion.

"I don't know," Pletcher shrugged. "That'll be for everyone else to decide. Hopefully, he'll turn out to be a good horse. He's not in the barn yet, but I saw him at the sales and he was brilliant. His work was phenomenal, he seemed very professional, and they say back home in Kentucky that he has a great mind."

The colt was bought at a "breeze-up" sale in Florida where each lot is galloped over a furlong before the sale. He is by an emerging stallion in Forestry, but his dam condemns him to a relatively plain pedigree. The only reason Sheikh Mohammed forced Magnier so deep into uncharted territory - the old record of $13.1m had stood for two decades - was that he had "breezed" his furlong like a tornado in just 9.8 seconds.

His new owners have named him The Green Monkey, after a golf course in Barbados, but to a less icy competitor than Pletcher he might be The Green Albatross. As it is, he contemplates the project with composure. After all, this is the man who has taken just seven years to become the leading trainer in the United States. In 2004 he won two races at the Breeders' Cup. In 2005 he broke the annual prize-money record. He is still only 38, but Magnier and his partners know their gamble is in the coolest hands.

"They are the best; sensational to work for," Pletcher said. "They understand the game inside out, the ups and downs of it. They give you good horses like that to train and let you go. I figured I had a 50-50 chance of getting him. Their horses go to Patrick Biancone or myself. To watch the bidding was amazing - when you get up into that stratosphere . . ."

He broke off, shook his head and laughed. "It goes without saying you're going to pay this horse extra special attention, but at the same time you have to be aware that if you train him too carefully you'll never accomplish anything. In many ways you have to treat him the same as everything else. He can't go faster [than 9.8 seconds]. Hopefully, he can just keep going that fast."

Pletcher might apply the same aspiration to the momentum of his own career, having built so rapidly on the foundations he laid during seven years as assistant to Wayne Lukas. The nonpareil of American trainers has a genius for connecting with horses and people, but his teaching emphasises perspiration as much as inspiration - something that has rubbed off on Pletcher, a tall, powerful man with neat, cropped grey hair.

"It's a 24-hour day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year," he said. "That's the reality of it. You have to stay focused because every day is a new day and when you leave the barn at six in the afternoon, everything could be different the next morning. It's a constant challenge. I have a young family at home in New York - children aged seven, six and three. Being away so much makes it demanding.

"But all that's part of the deal. It's a labour of love, no question. There's no other way you could take that kind of schedule. The excitement is that the results are concrete. If what you are doing is working, then the results are evident at the races."

The breakthrough he craves is the same as his host this week, Sheikh Mohammed: the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher made a record entry this year and is shuffling his pack in the trials. "It's such a hard race to win," he said. "Even if I get lucky enough to win it some day, it'll still be the same thing. Every two-year-old that comes into the barn you'll always dream of turning into a Derby horse."

Pletcher's father trained quarter-horses but insisted he complete a college education before following him into a precarious vocation. Having grown up among them, Pletcher professes to an ease with horses that contrasts with the sobriety of his bearing. He brings none of his mentor's extrovert swagger to the backstretch of American racetracks, where communal facilities generate the atmosphere of a travelling circus.

"It's an interesting setting," he said. "You're living with the people you're competing against. I try to keep to myself, to keep my mouth shut. Every day's competitive, and that's what I like. I wake up every day worrying about how we're going to do today, as opposed to how we did yesterday."

Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch