Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Rosie Napravnik had it all mapped out.
Friday morning, the team conferred on how to best approach the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with undefeated Shanghai Bobby. It’s not often, Napravnik said, that Pletcher gives detailed instructions.
“I try to pick his brain in a roundabout way to see if he really has anything he expects,” she said. “But he doesn’t give much anyway. When we talked (Friday), he did actually bring it up and we did discuss some tactics.”
That plan, however, never came to fruition. A completely new strategy was adopted by Pletcher. Could it be he made the adjustment based on the overwhelming speed bias that reared its head Friday at Santa Anita?
“When I got to the paddock today (Saturday), he’d completely changed everything,” Napravnik said.
Napravnik gave some insight into the original plan and how it altered for the Starlight Racing and Coolmore-owned youngster.
“He told me some of the things he had heard about who was sending and who was going to sit a little bit,” she said. “We talked about what was actually printed about Baffert’s horses and how the horse on the rail was going to send and the outside horse was going to stalk. He told me he heard Sadler’s horse was going to be aggressive, so were hoping to get a stalking trip maybe sitting third outside.”
Pletcher informed Napravnik of the new plan in the paddock just prior to the race.
“(He said) just let him run out of there and get a good spot,” she said. “Basically, we wanted to be in control of the race.”
The team knew Shanghai Bobby was capable of executing various race tactics. He’s won on the front end, from off the pace and from a close-up stalking position.
When the gates opened, Shanghai Bobby was with the leaders and stayed on the pace, going three-wide into the turn. He sat in second off Title Contender and a very hot pace of :22.28. Shanghai Bobby wrestled the lead as they moved into the stretch, but started to appear leg-weary. He’s Had Enough and Mario Gutierrez, trapped and blocked on the rail, finally got through to challenge as they neared the wire.
In an amazing show of grit, Shanghai Bobby re-broke and held off He’s Had Enough to win by a head.
“Bobby gets lost when he’s out there by himself,” Napravnik said. “He came to literally what felt like a walk. I just couldn’t wait until the horses came up next to me, because he turns back on like no other horse I’ve ever felt.”