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Todd Pletcher hopes to play spoiler at Belmont Stakes

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Trainer Todd Pletcher will race three different horses at Saturday's Belmont Stakes.Bryan R. Smith /Bryan R. Smith

Trainer Todd Pletcher will race three different horses at Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

Todd Pletcher wasn’t wearing a black hat and mask at his barn Sunday morning.

Instead, the 47-year-old trainer was wearing an orange polo shirt, jeans and a pair of reading glasses.

When asked if he was trying to play the role of spoiler in Saturday’s $ 1.5 million Belmont Stakes, Pletcher quickly answered, “Oh yeah. I want to win the Belmont. Don’t make any bones about that, none whatsoever.”

Many have painted Pletcher as a villain, entering three horses in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, trying to deny American Pharoah’s bid at trying to become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.

“I should probably run four,” Pletcher said, when asked if he’s a bad guy for running three horses.

Pletcher will saddle Carpe Diem, Materiality and Madefromlucky in the mile and a half Belmont Stakes, “The Test of the Champion”.

All three horses are owned by different connections and all have the qualifications to start in the Belmont.

Carpe Diem was a $ 1.6 million purchase who won the Tampa Bay Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes this year before finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby.

Madefromlucky is coming off a victory in the May 9 Peter Pan Stakes, a race that Tonalist won last year before ending California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid in 2014.

Materiality may be Pletcher’s best hope in the Belmont Stakes, after finishing a troubled sixth in the May 2 Derby. The 3-year-old colt won his first three starts, including the Florida Derby, before finishing sixth in the Derby.

If the roles were reversed, Pletcher said he would have no problem with another trainer entering three horses in the race.

“I would fully expect everyone that had a horse that they thought belonged in the Belmont to run in the Belmont,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher took some heat after not starting any of his horses in the May 19 Preakness Stakes, opting to give them more rest for their rematch with American Pharoah, a move Pletcher typically does with his horses.

“I just felt like we needed more time,” he said.

Pletcher won the Belmont Stakes twice in his career with Rags to Riches (2007) and Palace Malice (2013). Both horses had five weeks between their prior start, Rags to Riches in the Kentucky Oaks and Palace Malice in the Kentucky Derby.

The seven-time Eclipse winning trainer doesn’t believe there should be any rules regarding the Triple Crown.

“What if I wanted to run a horse in the Kentucky Derby and he was 21st on points, so then I wouldn’t be able to run in the Preakness or the Belmont because of that,” he asked. “Nah. There are no rules to say you have to run in any of the three.”

By giving his horses the extra four or five weeks off, many feel Pletcher is preparing to ambush American Pharoah on Saturday in his Triple Crown bid.

“I think any time you’re trying to win three consecutive races it’s hard to do under any circumstances,” said Pletcher, who owns a record of two winners from 18 Belmont starters in his career. “Maybe those three consecutive races, in five weeks, at three different racetracks, in three different states just to start with that’s pretty hard. Plus, it’s very difficult competition at different distances. I don’t think it’s any big secret why it’s hard to win.”

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