At Kentucky Derby, Super Saver gives trainer Todd Pletcher first win in 25 tries

Calvin Borel celebrates his third Kentucky Derby victory in four years after guiding Super Saver to a muddy victory at Churchill Downs.
By Baltimore Sun
Sunday, May 2, 2010

LOUISVILLE -- Todd Pletcher didn't want to watch the Kentucky Derby with friends. He didn't want to watch it with family. He didn't want to pick one of the four owners he was representing and sit with them.

In fact, he didn't even want to watch it live from the stands.

He wanted to watch it alone, on television, inside the Horseman's Lounge, halfway down the tunnel beneath the grandstands.

"Obviously I needed to change something," said Pletcher, who entered Saturday's 136th Run for the Roses 0 for 24, the most attempts without a victory in the history of the race.

And so as history unfolded Saturday at Churchill Downs, when jockey Calvin Borel made his move and guided Super Saver through the mud and along the rail to win the Kentucky Derby by a length and a half ahead of Ice Box and Paddy O'Prado, Pletcher was all by himself. He didn't have to share his emotions with anyone, which was exactly the way he preferred it.

Television cameras caught him throwing an emphatic fist pump, but by the time he emerged from the tunnel, the stoic and perpetually stone-faced Pletcher had once again wrestled control of his emotions.

The 43-year-old trainer, who learned the sport growing up in New Mexico from his father, J.J., typically has all the outward charisma of a Secret Service agent. But if you studied his face closely Saturday, you could see a hint of joy, and a touch of vindication.

"I think it will all soak in in a day or two," Pletcher said.

"Obviously it's a race I've dreamed my whole life of winning. Now that it's happened, I don't know what to feel or say. I wish I could wax poetically and tell you how it feels, but it's still kind of all soaking in."

Pletcher's preference for restraint is, of course, in direct contrast with Borel's exuberance and unbridled energy. In victory, he pounded his chest, blew kisses to his wife, Lisa, and soaked in the applause of an appreciative crowd of 155,803, the sixth largest in Derby history.

This was Borel's second straight Kentucky Derby victory, and his third win in the past four years, something no other jockey has accomplished. After the race, he even got a rare smile from Pletcher by declaring that he and Super Saver were going to go on and win the Triple Crown.

It turns out all the buttoned-downed Pletcher needed to win a Derby was a little dose of Borel.

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