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Almost Famous
TIM LAYDEN
April 30, 2007
Todd Pletcher is the nation's hottest trainer, but full recognition won't come until one of his horses wins the Kentucky Derby. He plans to send five into the starting gate on May 5
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April 30, 2007

Almost Famous

Todd Pletcher is the nation's hottest trainer, but full recognition won't come until one of his horses wins the Kentucky Derby. He plans to send five into the starting gate on May 5

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After buying Scat Daddy as a yearling for $250,000, Scatuorchio gave Pletcher and his father each a one-quarter ownership of the colt. In September father and son sold their shares to Tabor for an undisclosed amount that Todd calls "a financial home run, a chance to get security for my family." Most practical of all, Pletcher dropped appeals in December and accepted a 45-day suspension for a 2004 incident in which one of his horses was found to have minute--but illegal--amounts of an anesthetic in his system. Pletcher's lawyers are still litigating a civil suit that might bring vindication against charges that Pletcher calls "outrageous and unjust." (He suspects the anesthetic came from a veterinarian's contaminated syringe.) But to continue appealing and risk a spring suspension? "That would have been unfair to [our] owners," he says. It would have been bad for business.

Friends see a much looser side of the trainer. When a group that included Pletcher, Halligan and Scatuorchio took a trip to Atlantic City in December, they drank martinis and shot craps, Scatuorchio holding the dice and Pletcher leaning over the table, narrating every throw with his signature line: "That's what the people came to see!"

Several weeks later Cagnina invited Pletcher to join him at the Super Bowl in Miami. Pletcher, who relocates his family from Garden City, N.Y., to Boynton Beach, Fla., from late December through March, accepted, but he told Cagnina to hold off on buying tickets. "I was with another friend, and we met at Todd's house before the game," says Cagnina. "We had a few beers. Then we go to the game, and Todd has gotten us these unbelievable seats, 50-yard line, halfway up."

They watched the game together, and afterward they took their party deep into the night at a South Florida bar. Cagnina dropped Pletcher off at his home, and when he awakened the next morning, he found a voice-mail message that Pletcher had left him while driving to work at 4 a.m. Horses do not take days off, and Derby dreams, however elusive, will not be put on hold.

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