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Pletcher eyeing winner's circle at Breeders' Cup
By Richard Rosenblatt | Associated Press
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Published: 10/25/2007 12:14 AM

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OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Todd Pletcher is back at the Breeders' Cup in a big way again, and this time he's hoping for better results than last year.

The nation's leading trainer sent out a record 17 horses in seven of eight Breeders' Cup races at Churchill Downs in 2006, but he never made it to the winner's circle. His only consolation was nearly $3.5 million in purse money, primarily from 3 second- and 3 third-place finishes.

Not good enough for perfectionist Pletcher.

"I would have preferred to win them all," he said.

Pletcher entered 11 horses in six of the 11 Breeders' Cup races at Monmouth Park this weekend, including two favorites Saturday -- Lawyer Ron in the $5 million Classic and Indian Vale in the $2 million Distaff.

He has strong backups, too, with Haskell Invitational winner Any Given Saturday in the Classic, and Grade 1-winning fillies Octave and Unbridled Belle in the Distaff.

In the turf races, Pletcher sends out English Channel in the $3 million Turf for the third year in a row to take on 7-5 favorite Dylan Thomas, and Honey Ryder and Wait a While are among the top choices in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf.

Pletcher's other runners are longshots, Icy Atlantic and Host are both 30-1 in the $2 million Mile, and The Leopard is 8-1 in the new $1 million Juvenile Turf on Friday.

"From top to bottom, we've got a really, really strong group of horses," Pletcher said. "That's what you hope for, and then you've got to get lucky and have things go your way on race day. Just because you bring a big group doesn't mean you're going to win a bunch of races."

Pletcher is 2-for-41 in the Breeders' Cup, his victories coming in 2004 with Speightstown in the Sprint and Ashado in the Distaff.

Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, which co-owns Any Given Saturday, feels Pletcher's Class of '07 is ready for final exams.

"As always, he does a great job and works hard at it," Walden said. "I've been around his barn, and it looks like a lot of his horses will be coming up to it the right way, including Any Given Saturday."

Pletcher is having another Eclipse Award-winning season, with 245 wins from 1,056 starters, and leads all trainers with $23.5 million in earnings through Oct. 23.

The 40-year-old Texan also ended his Triple Crown drought at 0-for-28 when the filly Rags to Riches won the Belmont Stakes. And along the way, he's grown to appreciate his older horses, especially 5-year-old English Channel and 6-year-old Honey Ryder, who will run the final races of their careers Saturday.

"It's sort of the cream of the crop that has provided us will a lot of the success we've had not only this year but the last two, three years," Pletcher said. "You get a little bit sad that they and a couple of others might not be coming back."