Danza Shocks the Field at Oaklawn


Danza Comes In 40-1 Longshot, Leaves With Ticket to Kentucky Derby

HOT SPRINGS, AR – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Danza came in as the lesser heralded stablemate, but is leaving Oaklawn as the 78th winner of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and with a ticket to the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs after earning 100 points. The winner, sent off as the second highest odds on the board by the crowd of 63,186, returned $84.60, $28.40 and $11 at odds of 40-1.

Taking advantage of his rail position under jockey Joe Bravo, Danza settled into third place early as 3-5 favorite Bayern led the field through fractions of :23 3/5 and :47 3/5 for the first half mile. The winner slipped through on the rail as the field entered the stretch, engaged the early leader and then proceeded to draw off convincingly by 4 ¾ lengths in just his fourth career start. Ride On Curlin, who had been third in both the Southwest and Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, was bumped at the start and raced near the back of the field before rallying late to finish second. Bayern held third.

Southwest Stakes winner and Rebel Stakes runner-up Tapiture was fourth and was followed by Conquest Titan, Commissioner, Thundergram and Strong Mandate.

“That was a pretty great effort,” said Bravo. “Todd (Pletcher, trainer) was pretty high on the horse and he told me this morning that he was going to be fresh so don’ take anything away from him. Try to save as much as you can and let him run his race. It was textbook, just textbook. Everything unfolded like a dream. That was pretty cool down the lane. It’s really fun to have a special horse like that and have him run like that. I’m not a fortune teller, but hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can do that again. I’m crossing my fingers he’s my Derby horse.”

“We were searching for the right race and the right option and it seemed like the Arkansas Derby was the race for us to step out and take our shot,” said Pletcher, who was winning his second straight and record fourth overall Arkansas Derby. “We’re certainly very excited that we did and very proud of the way the horse ran today.”

Pletcher won the 2013 edition with Overanalyze. His other two runners were Balto Star (2001) and Graeme Hall (2000).


  • Born 06/26/67 in Dallas, TX
  • Wife, Tracy; sons, Payton and Kyle; daughter, Hannah
  • Todd began working for his father, Jake Pletcher, as a hot walker at the age of 7 at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico.  Jake Pletcher was training quarter horses and thoroughbreds throughout the Southwest.
  • During his summers off from junior and senior high school, Todd worked as a groom for his father at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, LA and at Ak-sar-Ben Racetrack in Omaha, NE.
  • Between his junior and senior years in high school, Todd went to Southern California, where he worked as a hot walker for Henry Moreno at Hollywood Park and Del Mar.
  • Graduated from high school in San Antonio, TX in 1985.
  • Todd began college at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program in Tucson, AZ in the fall of 1985.
  • Between his sophomore and junior years in college, Todd worked as a groom for D. Wayne Lukas at Arlington Park in Chicago, IL.
  • Todd spent the following summer with another Hall of Fame trainer, Charlie Whittingham, working as a groom at Hollywood Park.
  • Graduated from college with a Bachelor of Animal Science in May, 1989.
  • Todd traveled to New York to begin working for D. Wayne Lukas as a foreman immediately upon graduating from college.
  • In 1991, Todd was promoted to assistant trainer for D. Wayne Lukas, splitting his time between New York and Florida.
  • Todd was Lukas’ East Coast assistant until the end of 1995, in which time he was instrumental in the development of such horses as Thunder Gulch, Harlan, Serena’s Song, A Wild Ride and Flanders.
  • Todd took out his trainer’s license in December of 1995 and saddled his first winner, Majestic Number, in February of 1996.

Danza, a Street Boss colt, improved his record to two wins in four starts and the $600,000 first prize increased his bankroll to $666,428.

Saturday was closing day of the 2014 race meet.

Courtesy Oaklawn Park

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