Horse Racing

Todd Pletcher – Kentucky Derby 2024 Trainer Profile

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Todd Pletcher – Kentucky Derby 2024 Trainer Profile

Todd Pletcher has entered more horses in the Kentucky Derby than any trainer in history. The Hall of Fame trainer has started 64 contenders between 2000 and 2023: 14 more than second-place D. Wayne Lukas. Two of those horses have won the blanket of roses on the first Saturday in May. Super Saver parlayed a second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1) into Kentucky Derby glory in 2010, while Always Dreaming swept the Florida Derby (G1)-Kentucky Derby double in 2017. This year, Fierceness will try to complete the same double as Always Dreaming.

He has very different records in the other two Triple Crown races. Pletcher has not done much in the Preakness: his only money finisher was third-place Impeachment in 2000. On the other hand, he has been excellent in the Belmont Stakes. Pletcher has trained four Belmont winners, most recently with Mo Donegal (2022), and hit the board in that race 12 other times.

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Chances are good that in 2024, Todd Pletcher will only start Fierceness in the Kentucky Derby. The champion juvenile of 2023, Fierceness was sired by City of Light, out of the Stay Thirsty mare Nonna Bella. He was bred by Repole Stable, who still owns him. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, in the irons for his last three starts, is expected to stay in the saddle.

Two-Year-Old Season

Fierceness marked himself one of the divisional leaders after clearing to the lead and winning by 11 lengths in a muddy maiden sprint in his debut last August at Saratoga. However, he fell back to earth and began to show his inconsistency in the Champagne (G1) at Aqueduct in October. Sent off the odds-on favorite, he started poorly, got nowhere near the lead, and finished a well-beaten sixth behind Timberlake.

Off of that disappointment in the Champagne the bettors dismissed him at 16-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Under his new jockey, John Velazquez, Fierceness once again looked like the horse he was at Saratoga: he stalked the pace, took over into the lane, and bounded clear for a 6 ¼-length victory over Muth.

Three-Year-Old Season

Fierceness started his 3-year-old season at Gulfstream Park in the Holy Bull (G3) in February, going off as the odds-on favorite. After a rough start, Fierceness could do no better than third behind Hades and Domestic Product. Hades needs four scratches to make the Kentucky Derby field, though Domestic Product is in the field after a win in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3).

He bypassed the Fountain of Youth, but in the Florida Derby (G3) on March 30, Fierceness returned to his brilliant best. He bounced to the lead and refused to let anyone else get into the race. He glided clear down the lane to become a 13 ½-length winner. He will face second-place Catalytic again at Churchill Downs. Grand Mo the First, who finished third in the Florida Derby, awaits one scratch to draw into the field.

How Fierceness performs will be one of the biggest questions of the Kentucky Derby. Off of that impressive Florida Derby romp, he made it up to second-place in the points standings, and is poised to be one of the favorites at Churchill Downs. Futures markets indicate that it will be either him or Sierra Leone. At his best, he could romp. But, for bettors, the strong chance for him to disappoint if anything goes wrong means his price will be far from playable.


Protective, a maiden, would be a long shot if he draws into the Kentucky Derby. Then again, qualifying at all is a long shot: as of April 20, he needs nine defections in front of him in order to make his way into the field.

Protective is a colt by Medaglia d’Oro out of the Grade 1-winning Empire Maker mare Grace Hall. A $250,000 yearling, he is owned by Repole Stable, the same ownership as Fierceness.

Two-Year-Old Season

Protective raced only once as a juvenile. Sent off a lukewarm 6-1 in a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint at Saratoga in July, he rallied with good interest to finish second, three-quarters of a length behind Valentine Candy. Society Man, who finished seventh in that race, is the only horse from that race who has sealed up a berth in the Kentucky Derby.

Three-Year-Old Season

Protective returned March 10 in a two-turn maiden special weight at Tampa Bay Downs, and was sent off the odds-on chalk in a field of five. He drifted out while making a run in the lane, crossing the wire third but being taken down to fourth place. Even so, he stepped up to his graded-stakes debut in his next race, the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct. He overcame a rough start, chased on with interest, and finished third, beaten 3 ¾ lengths by Bill Mott trainee Resilience. He has an interesting pedigree for both distance and a bit of time to grow into himself, but will have a lot of class to prove if he draws into the Kentucky Derby field.

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