Road to the Triple Crown Teleconference transcript from April 9, 2013
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Eric Wing: Welcome to today’s NTRA National Media Teleconference.
Once again, lots of racing on television and, in fact, this weekend, two separate programs to cover the two big 100 point to the winner Triple Crown—or Kentucky Derby prep races. From 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. on NBC you can watch the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and then at 6:00 p.m., switch on over to NBC Sports Network where you’ll get an hour long telecast with full coverage of the Arkansas Derby. So, again, NBC from 4:30 to 6:00 for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and 6 to 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network for the Arkansas Derby.
And we will have guests to talk about both of those big races. A little later on in the call, we’ll chat with co-owner Jim Covello, who’s one of the people behind Falling Sky, the Sam F. Davis winner earlier this year at Tampa. Falling Sky will see action at Oaklawn in the Arkansas Derby. And then after that, we’ll talk to jockey Kevin Krigger, the man of hour out West. He guided Goldencents to win last Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby and it would be a somewhat historic run for him should he indeed make it into the starting gate on the first Saturday in May aboard Goldencents.
First though, we’re delighted to welcome in trainer Gary Contessa and Gary has one of the big horses ready for the Toyota Blue Grass in Rydilluc. Gary, it’s Eric Wing in New York; thanks for being with us today.
Gary Contessa: How you doing Eric? My pleasure.
Eric Wing: Oh, good, good. Gary, the horse really has been as impressive as he could be in his last three starts. Big blow out daylight wins over the grass; his first start on the dirt, not so much. Did you realize how good he was going into that first turf start, or did he catch you by surprise the same way he caught many of us by surprise when you put him on the grass?
Gary Contessa: Well, going into his very first start on the dirt, I thought it was going to be Christmas, okay, because he had trained so incredibly well. I really was of the belief that he would win that day, and when he ran—I’ll tell you what, he very much caught us off guard that day. We took him to the paddock— he’s normally very cool, calm and collected kind of dude. He might bite a little bit and he might carry on a little bit, but he’s been, up to that point, he’s been very calm and he went to the paddock and he was a lunatic. He’s on his hind legs, he’s fully excited, if you understand what I’m saying. You know, oh boy. And he is just—it was all we could do to get him saddled and he dropped the rider two or three times. No doubt he ran his race way before he got on the race track that day.
But coming out of that race, I said—even though he was wild and crazy that day, I expected him to show more, and so I said, you know what, I can’t be this wrong about this horse. It has to be that he’s a turf horse and there’s a lot of turf in his pedigree. So therein, I made that decision to go to the turf, but we were also ready for his antics in the paddock. We got him to the paddock, he was very, very difficult but we had schooled him, we knew what to expect and we ran him on the turf and he won. So I really expected him to win that day on the grass, but I also expected him to win the time before on the dirt.
Eric Wing: Okay, and that takes us basically up to where we are now. And while you’ve been the leading trainer in New York four years consecutively from ’06 to ’09, you’ve won—you’ve had success at Keeneland having won the Ashland. You’ve never had a Triple Crown starter and I suppose even if he wins the Blue Grass by five, people are going to wonder about Rydilluc’s dirt capabilities. First of all, would you think Derby with him if he gives you the right kind of effort? And if so, would you be confident? And thirdly, how exciting would you—would it be for you to have a horse in the Derby?
Gary Contessa: Well, I’m sure guys know I’ve sold a few Derby prospects. I put a couple of kids through college by selling Derby prospects, which is a very, very good business to be in. So, you know, I’m sure everybody knows I sold Peace Rules to Bobby Frankel. I made a lot of money, I put a couple of my sons through college with that money and have lived a good life thanks to selling some very good horses. But, yes, this is the first time we’ve kept one. Leonard Green was kind enough to step up and to say, you know, we’re not going to sell this one, we’re going to take him, and I’ll tell you what, I am very confident. We wouldn’t be at the Blue Grass if we weren’t thinking Derby, so if he runs one/two, we are going to the Derby. You know, God willing, he’s healthy and sound, we are going to the Derby and I would be very confident in him in going into the Derby. I think he trains as well on dirt as he does on poly, and he’s training unbelievable on the poly track and he trains that well on turf.
So I haven’t lost the feeling that he could be a dirt horse and there’s a very good chance. I don’t know if you read Rob Whitely’s article, letter to the editor in Blood-Horse, but he explained Rydilluc’s pedigree in detail and why that horse should be a dirt horse, and he certainly convinced me. You know, I’m his trainer but he convinced me with his words and that’s the way the horse is trained. He always trained that way, but his issues are in the paddock and being at Keeneland every day, we have schooled him every day. For those people who are going to be there, he is a very vocal horse. You are going to know that Rydilluc has entered the paddock when it happens. He screams at the top of his lungs, he carries on, he’s difficult. He wants every horse in that race to know he is there and he is bad, and he is a bad hombre in the paddock. I mean, we sweat getting the saddle on him, but we have schooled him every day this week and he has been a dream.
Tomorrow, he’s going to school in Keeneland with the second race. On Friday, he’s going to school in Keeneland with a race; in between, Thursday, he’ll school in the regular schooling hours and that’s his downfall. But I don’t think it’s going to be an issue; he’s been over there every day and he’s been a real gentleman about this. And I’m a believer that he will run on the dirt, but you know, I’m not wrong in wondering, just like everybody else, what’s he going to do on the poly, what’s he going to do on the dirt? I mean, we know we have a great turf horse, maybe one of the best turf horses, but what—you know, this is a one-shot deal. This is kind of like the final—we’re in the final four here. If we win, we go—we move on to the finals, and if we don’t, we’re going to regroup and we’re going to really attack those turf stakes this year. But the way he’s training, I have never had a horse train as well as this horse is training at this moment. I can tell you that.
Eric Wing: It all sounds very exciting, Gary. I realize I’ve been mispronouncing his name. It’s Rydilluc (cross talking).
Gary Contessa: I’ll tell you what. I mispronounced his name for the first couple of months too, but the owner keeps reminding me and he’s named for Ryan, Dillon (ph) and Luc (ph), his sons and nephew, so it’s Rydilluc.
Eric Wing: Okay, that makes more sense then in terms of an aid to pronouncing it correctly.
Gary Contessa: For the longest time, I called him Rydillic and Shawn Shay would say, Rydilluc, Rydilluc; finally it sunk in.
Eric Wing: All right, it’s starting to sink in for me too, Gary, so thank you for that. I might ask you a question or two later, but I want to give our media listening in their opportunity, so for the first time today, I’m going to throw it back over to Michelle and she’ll see what questions the writers and broadcasters may have for you.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Gary, your enthusiasm is contagious and admirable, so please take this in the spirit that it’s meant, that you’ve had horses before that you’ve been very enthusiastic about. You had that really fast horse a few years ago and you thought this was the one. How is it different with this horse, that maybe this really is the one?
Gary Contessa: Well, this horse, the difference with—you know, Eightyfiveandafifty is the horse you’re talking about from a few years ago.
Jennie Rees: Yes, that’s right.
Gary Contessa: And just like this horse and the question mark on poly, Eightyfiveandafifty, we didn’t know if he was going to go far enough to be a Derby contender, but this horse is different. Edgar Prado has never beat this horse up. He has never—Edgar turned to me and he said, “You know something Gary? We have not seen this horse’s best race yet. We are nowhere’s near the bottom of this horse, yet he’s won by daylight just about every time.” So he’s exciting. You know, watching him train in the morning, he does everything with ease. His stride is probably one of the greatest strides I’ve ever seen in a horse in 30 years of training horses. So he’s a good reason to be as excited as I am, and he’s certainly—he’s caused my excitement.
Jennie Rees: Yes. And would he school (inaudible) in the paddock during races opening weekend at Keeneland, or was it in the morning, you know, regular schooling?
Gary Contessa: He has not schooled with a race yet. But interesting thing about Keeneland is that, 12 o’clock to 12:30 schooling time, there’s 20 horses or so in there, so he’s not—he doesn’t know that he’s not over there for a race, but the difference is, I really—we have detention barn here you go to first, an assembly area, which is definitely going to have an effect on his mind, so we’re going to do that a couple of times. And then he’s going to go over with horses and we’re going to saddle him just like he’s in that race, so he’s going to get to play kind of for real tomorrow and then again on Friday. I’ll be honest with you, if he’s bad enough tomorrow, I’d probably do him Thursday and Friday with races.
Jennie Rees: And final question. Trainers often are quick to want to sell because it’s a lot of money with the commission and everything and they know what can happen if you don’t, but owners, they’re doing something else for a living. You said you put your kids through college on this, but was it tough sometimes when you were selling those horses and you’d see that they’d go (inaudible) Blue Grass and then third in the Derby and think (inaudible) a really nice horse. Was it tough for you professionally (cross talking)?
Gary Contessa: You know something? I’m of the—I’m a really strong father and family guy and it really wasn’t tough for me. It was really easy to root for those horses. But I’ll be honest with you; having this experience with this horse, I wonder what my career would have been like had I kept all those horses. It certainly has crossed my mind now in the latter part of my career what it would have been like if I’d kept National Pride, Citrus Kid, Lovely Isle, Peace Rules, all the good horses I sold over the years, what my career would have been considered. Probably, I would have been—it would have been different for sure but I didn’t—I have no regrets at all. It was—you know, I rooted for those horses and I was very happy and, you know—and like I said, I was able to support my family in a good way too.
Danny Brewer: Okay, the spirit of Rydilluc, is that good news, bad news?
Gary Contessa: Well, I’m going to—as a trainer, I’m going to tell you it’s really bothered me many times, but now that we know him, we know he can be difficult and run. Many, many horses that are his kind of bad in the paddock do not run, but this horse, he does what he does and he goes out there and he wins by four or five. So he has certainly probably added an ulcer or two to his trainer, but we—you know, after watching him do this three times in a row and watching him go out there—actually four times in a row and watching him recover and go out there and be a race horse, I’m okay with it in this instance, but he is a rarity. Usually this kind of excited, where a horse is like stallion excited, if you know what I’m saying – I’m trying to mince my words here – you know, a horse is stallion kind of excited about being in the paddock, that’s—my entire career, that’s been a negative. I see a horse like that in the paddock, I take him and throw him right out of the race.
This horse has done that. He was probably at his most difficult, stallion-wise, in the Palm Beach at Gulfstream and it was 80-some-odd degrees. He didn’t sweat. He just went in there, showed off, was absolutely out of his mind and went out and won the race. So in his regard, I’m okay with it, but 99% of the time, I find it to be a real negative.
Danny Brewer: So if the Saturday dawns, he comes in the paddock and he’s cool as a cucumber, do you know something’s going to be wrong with him? I mean, do you expect him to be—is that what you’re looking for, him to be all riled up (inaudible) or is Viagra, or whatever he’s on?
Gary Contessa: He’s not going to be cool as a cucumber, but I think, from the schooling that we’ve done with him, I don’t think he’s going to stallion-esque. I think we’ve got that under control. I can’t promise it, but it’s not going to bother me either way, but he’s not going to be cool. You’re going to know that he’s there. If he went into that paddock and was quiet and cool, I would have to whip out a thermometer and stick it in him and find out what was wrong with him.
Danny Brewer: Okay. So lastly for me, the transition from grass to synthetic to the dirt, was—is Keeneland a logical place, because there have been a lot of Derby winners who have prepped there. Do you like that surface there? Do you think that’s going to really give him a good feel for what the dirt’s like at Churchill?
Gary Contessa: I think it’s a fantastic stepping stone but it’s completely different. You know, I think Animal Kingdom kind of set the table for this kind of move by winning on the poly and going on and winning on the dirt. So I mean, we’re kind of following his lead in this instance, but I do think it’s a great stepping stone. I think poly, I think it’s like a 50% step forward, going to poly and then to dirt. I believe it’s a lovely tool and it’s a great stepping stone for this particular horse. I don’t—I could have gone to the Wood Memorial, I could have gone to any number of dirt races, but between you and I, I hope I only have to find out if he is a dirt horse on Derby Day. I think this is the perfect stepping stone for this horse.
Jay Privman: In light of the behavior that you’re describing with the colt, was there ever any thought given to gelding him?
Gary Contessa: No way. No, no, he’s—again, with the exception of the first race, and every trainer forgives first races, I mean, this is a—if this horse was by nobody out of nothing and he was doing this in $20,000 claiming races, he would have been a gelding already. But he doesn’t do it in the morning training; he only does it on race day in the paddock. So at this point in his career, we’ve learned to deal with it, really. You’re going to see—if you get to watch the show and he does go full boar and he’s really bad the day of the Blue Grass, you’re going to be—it’s going to be a little—you’ll be admirable as to how we handle it. We’ve kind of figured him out and we’ve figured how to get him through it, and amazingly, the minute he walks on to the track, that’s all forgotten. He goes straight to business. He goes out there, he gallops, he does nothing wrong. It’s all about the paddock with this horse and, you know, he’s ensured that he’s not going to be caught already.
Jay Privman: And then, sort of switching subjects with him, how much scoreboard watching have you been doing regarding the Derby points list and, you know, what you need to do to get to the Derby vis-à-vis the Blue Grass?
Gary Contessa: You know, every trainer does scoreboard watching, and thanks to guys like you, we get the opportunity to see it because you guys write about it and you talk about it and—you know, because believe me, mathematician most us aren’t and it is a difficult system to grasp, but basically, he runs one/two, we’re in and that’s the way it’s going to be. If he runs third, I don’t think I’m going to—you know, I mean if there’s an outside chance, if it’s looking like, okay the numbers are going to fall in, we might take a look at it or ship over there and train. But honestly, we’re going into this thinking, we run one/two, we’re guaranteed to get in and that’s what we’re—if we run one/two, we’re going to head over to Churchill.
Jay Privman: And then just one follow-up on that. You said it’s been kind of difficult to, you know, to wrap your—not—these aren’t the exact words you just used, but you said it’s been kind of difficult to wrap your hands around the concept. I mean, are you becoming more familiar with it, do you like it, or do you still think it needs to play out? What’s (cross talking).
Gary Contessa: I’m becoming more familiar with it and I like what it’s done for the prep races. We have gotten some really strong prep races because of it. We’re getting 14 horse fields in the Blue Grass and big fields in every one of these races. I kind of think that it’s accomplishing what they were setting out to accomplish in the first place, you know, that—let’s just say somebody won a big two-year-old race last year, he can’t run once and train into the Derby anymore; you’ve got to get the points as a three-year-old. So I like it. I’m liking what I’m seeing and it hasn’t been difficult for us in any way, and I’m sure—you know how trainers are; I’m sure there’s equal amount of trainers that don’t like it, but I find it to be a great system and I think it’s made the preps really exciting.
Carol Holden: Hi, Mr. Contessa, thanks a lot for coming with us on the show today. You basically came up under what would be considered now “old school trainers”, Frank Martin, Stanley Hough, Jimmy Picou, Cott Campbell, people like that. Who from that group probably had the most influence on you? And also, do you think they would also be along with you on this Derby trail in thinking that you can make these transitions on the surfaces and that but basically have been done very little in the past?
Gary Contessa: Well, I’ve made no secret of the fact that Frank Martin made me the trainer that I am today, and Frank Martin was about as old school as it gets. And I think he would probably tell me I was nuts because he didn’t hold any punches and he probably would have taken a horse like this and made him into a great turf horse and just concentrated on being a turf horse. He wasn’t big, and I think either—he wasn’t a guy who—he viewed going to the Derby as a headache. If you knew Frank, that’s the way he was. He was the kind of guy that would say, “oh man, I’ve got to ship all these people”. Matter of fact, we won the Breeders’ Cup with Outstandingly when I was his assistant trainer and he didn’t come out because it was a headache for him to go out and be with her in California. He sent us. So he made me a trainer, he was as old school as they come and he probably would have made Rydilluc the top turf horse in the country.
But I think, you know, the owners and trainer in this instance, we all think he should dirt and I really believe. If you had seen my emails to the owners back before he ever made his first thought, I’m like, “guys, you know, I think we should really have a Derby horse here, he’s that kind of horse.” So when I ran him first time out on the dirt and he got beat X amount of lengths, you know, we were—I didn’t sleep well that night. It was just a real down situation for me; but we forgave it, we’ve made our excuse and the rest has been a good thing. So I think, you know, I think Frank Martin might not have followed this path, but I’m old school in the way that I approach the training of a horse, but I know that you have to be new school in order to survive in this industry in this day and age.
Van Cushny: All right, I see the fractions of the Palm Beach were progressively faster. Do you see him running the same way on Saturday? And a related is, how do you see the Blue Grass shaping up in terms of pace, and who are you most concerned about?
Gary Contessa: Well, honestly, I see the race shaping up—I don’t see a lot of speed. I don’t see it being a huge speed race, so I really envision—and I was talking it over with a couple—the clockers, as a matter of fact, today at Keeneland. We both—neither one of us see a whole lot of speed in there and I see it setting up perfectly. I see us being in that second tier, but you know, you got to have everything go right in a 14 horse field when that gate opens to be able to be laying second, third or fourth, but that’s where I’d like to be. I’d like to be sitting right behind the leaders like I did in pretty much all of his races. If they want to give me the lead, he could definitely run on the lead if they hand it to me and they want to hand me small (ph) fractions and they want me to be on the lead. But I would like to run the same kind of race because this horse, from whatever position he is, he’s a really powerful closer. He keeps his stride right down to the wire, he’s never short on stride, and like I said earlier, Edgar Prado, I don’t think he’s ever hit it more than once or twice ever in a race, and Edgar is the first one to say to me, “you know, we haven’t seen the bottom of this horse.” So I see the race setting up the same way.
You know Mark Cassidy is a very, very good friend of mine, and he tells me he loves the way his horse is training and I really admire Mark as a trainer and I would have to say his horse is going be the horse that I fear the most, but I hope they all fear my horse because my horse is really training well.
Eric Wing: Gary, one risk you and the other 13 trainers all take when you point to the Blue Grass, at least this year, is drawing that, you know, post 13, post 14 just because the field is so big. Now, you mentioned that Rydilluc has that tactical speed that kind of tends to put him in a nice position, but despite that, how fearful are you of getting, like, one of those real outside draws?
Gary Contessa: No fear and I would welcome it. I was talking to somebody earlier today and they said, “if you had to pick a post, what would you pick?” and I said, “nine out.” My lucky number is 13 and if I got post 13, I’d just feel it was karma. I think from out there, if a horse is acting up in the gate, you’re not going to be sitting in that gate for five minutes, you’re going to be in and out fairly quickly; and from out there, we saw Mike Smith do it the other day with Billy (inaudible) horse in the Ashland Stakes, she was the 13th, you know, go right to the lead or at least be able to set your eye on what position you want to be in going into that first turn from the outside. It would not bother me at all and if we were picking post position draws, I’d probably pick the nine or the 13 or it wouldn’t—I like it. For this horse, I like it, because he doesn’t have to stand in the gate for a long amount of time and kind of fall asleep in there or get rattled in there, and when they break that gate, you can pick your spot with—you know, by just looking to the left and seeing what’s going on inside of you.
Eric Wing: All right. Well, Gary, in what shapes up is a very exciting race on paper, yours is truly one of the most exciting prospects in the bunch. It’ll be very interesting to see how Rydilluc does on the poly track. We wish you the best of luck, and we really thank you so much for coming on and talking to us about him.
Gary Contessa: Thank you. Thanks for having me, I really appreciate it.
Eric Wing: Our pleasure, thank you. That’s Gary Contessa, trainer of Rydilluc. He comes into the Toyota Blue Grass on three race winning streak. The last one, the Grade III Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream on March 3rd, and Gary and jockey, Edgar Prado, will be looking to make it four in a row Saturday in the Toyota Blue Grass, and again, 100 points to first, 40 points to second and if he can do—finish in one of those top two positions, he’ll be looking mighty good for the first Saturday in May.
Okay, it’s ironic that Gary, earlier in the call, mentioned Citrus Kid because our next guest is—owns Citrus Kid and, among the other horses he owns is Falling Sky, who is the Sam F. Davis winner at Tampa, ran a very good third behind Verrazano at Tampa Bay and next stop, Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby. We’re happy to welcome in now Jim Covello. Jim, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being with us today.
Jim Covello: Eric, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Eric Wing: Jim, first of all, you and John Terranova had a choice to make between the Blue Grass and the Arkansas Derby. Other than the fact that your horse had never run on poly track before, how did you wind up choosing Arkansas?
Jim Covello: Yes, it was definitely a tough decision. We spent an awful lot of time going back and forth. You know, I think it ultimately came down to a couple of factors. While there’s a lot of good horses going in both races, you know, at the end of the day, I—you know, there were a couple of horses in the Blue Grass that are a little bit more wildcards, and certainly, you know, I think you were just talking about one. I mean, there’s no saying how good a couple of those horses could be, and again, obviously, we’re going to face some really good horses in Arkansas as well. But at the end of the day, there was just a couple of wildcards in the Blue Grass that we would rather have not tangled with, and then, as you say, you know, the biggest factor was the fact that the horse is training incredibly well on the dirt. You know, we think he’s run well on the dirt, and so, at this point, we didn’t see the need to switch surfaces because we’re pretty confident that he’ll run a good race on Saturday.
Eric Wing: Okay, now your day job, Jim, is that of a semiconductor analyst at Goldman Sachs. I would imagine that involves a lot of studying of past events and trying to project what’s going to happen in the future, so it…
Jim Covello: Exactly.
Eric Wing: It’s probably no surprise that you’re also a very avid handicapper. Are there any aspects of your day job there at Goldman Sachs that have yielded insights to you in terms of handicapping, or vice versa, for that matter?
Jim Covello: Yes, well I’d say the first thing is you get used to being wrong a lot in both—in doing both things. Yes, but seriously, I mean I think the biggest thing is, you know, both as a handicapper and anything related to the stock market is just being willing to go against consensus, I guess. In the form of handicapping horses, it’s being willing to try to beat favorites, which is mostly what we’re trying to do when we’re handicapping. And then, you know, in the form of stocks, it’s finding where you have out of consensus views and having that be the case. You’re never going to make any money in the stock market by always buying the stocks that everybody loves and you’re never going to make a lot of money as a handicapper always taking the horse that everybody loves, so in that regard, it’s very, very, very similar.
Lynn Smearson: We’re very much looking forward to having the horse here and I was just curious how you happened to come by him. I notice that you bought him before the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay. Could you talk a little bit about how you came to—he came to be yours?
Jim Covello: Yes, so it’s actually a pretty great story. So my bloodstock agent and racing manager, Nick Sallusto, found the horse and the horse was training in Florida and Nick had gotten word that the horse was going to be in the OBS sale, the mixed—the mix sale of horses in training in January, and he loved how the horse looked and had trained and had run in his first couple of races. And so, you know, Nick called me about the horse, we put a group together to put in a bid at the sale and so we bought him out of the OBS January horses of all ages sale and then, you know, just a couple of weeks later, we wound up running him in the Sam Davis. So, you know, it’s funny, when we—the Keeneland sale was gone on yesterday and Nick and I bought a horse together at the Keeneland sale yesterday, and I said, “you know, for this one, we’re going to need to wait a year before the horse runs, and I’d rather stick with the ones that are going to run in a couple of weeks at a stake race.” But obviously, that’s the exception, not the rule, when you’re buying horses, that you get the opportunity to run a horse in a graded stakes shortly after buying him, and obviously, you’re paying, you know, a premium for the fact that the horse is already a proven commodity as opposed to buying a horse at a training sale. But that was the story behind that. Nick gets all the credit for picking the horse out.
Lynn Smearson: Thank you. And looking at his breeding, I mean he hasn’t gone a mile and an eighth yet but it looks like, you know, the two turns, a mile and an eighth, I mean it looks like he’s going to get better as he goes longer.
Jim Covello: You know, it’s a really fascinating question. I mean, obviously we—you know, the reason we were able to buy him and the reason why he didn’t cost a lot more than he did was that he was unproven at two turns, and you look at the pedigree and you say, Lion Heart out of (inaudible), there shouldn’t be a huge problem going to two turns. However, nobody in his family had gone two turns, effectively, and some of the family—you know, there was—one of his siblings was My Lemon Drop Kid, obviously a tremendous stamina influence, and even that half sibling hadn’t been able to, you know, effectively get two turns. So there was the question about the family that had never done it even though you look at the pedigree and you say he should. Nick was convinced, and John Terranova was convinced—who was also involved with Nick in picking out the horse, that the physical suggested the horse could get two turns. Obviously, he got it well and, you know, first time going two turns, it’s never easy to win and held off what I think is really nice horse in Dynamic Sky, who I bet is going to run a really nice race in the Blue Grass on Saturday.
And then the second time, obviously, you know, going against Verrazano, we were giving up weight, we had a tough post, we were forced to go to lead early and the race dynamic, I think, you know, played against us a little bit. He actually paired his Thoro-Graph number, even in the race against Verrazano, which is Verrazano and Java’s War ran so fast that, you know, it was a little deceptive. So I—you know, what we’re hoping for is something a little bit similar to what happened with Goldencents in the last two races out at Santa Anita. You can see, you know, two races back, he gets caught up in a pace situation with Flashback and neither—and, you know, Goldencents didn’t even get the mile and a sixteenth that well, and then you stretch it out but you’re able to sit a trip better off of a horse and that can enable you to get the distance sometimes. So, you know, that’s—in the ideal scenario, that’s what we’re looking at on Saturday, but obviously, it doesn’t always play out exactly how you draw it up (ph).
Lynn Smearson: Yes. Are you coming to Oakland? Will you be here?
Jim Covello: Absolutely, we’ll be there. My wife and my three kids, we’re packing up the family and we’re all going to be down there. It’s a really exciting opportunity and who knows when it’s going to come along again, so we’re going to soak up every minute of it.
Danny Brewer: Talk for a second about the Derby fever that Falling Sky has brought you and your connections.
Jim Covello: Yes, it’s great. I mean, you know, obviously if you’re buying horses, at least a little bit of you if not a lot a bit of you is thinking, you know, to try to run in races exactly like this. It’s incredibly exciting. You know, I don’t sleep as well at night as I do the rest of the year. We’ve had horses that have had chances to run in races like this before. We haven’t quite gotten the job done. This is probably the best chance that I’ve had and maybe the best chance I’m ever going to have to make the Derby, you know, so I’m taking nothing for granted. I’m going to love every minute of the experience and I just don’t think there’s anything that really replicates this in terms of, you know, what I would call non-important things, non-family kind of things. There’s just nothing that gets me so excited as the Derby trail does. So it’s great and the—I can’t wait for Saturday.
Danny Brewer: Now, do you think—even though he didn’t win the Tampa Derby, do you think he made progress from Sam Davis to Tampa, as far as between those two races?
Jim Covello: It’s a great question. Listen, Verrazano I think is just an unbelievably good horse and I think we saw a little bit of that last week. I know there was some disappointment that he didn’t open up on the field and win by 10, but I think a lot of that was by design after what some of those connections had been through with—you know, in previous woods where they won by 10 and you win the battle and you lose the war. So I don’t think he was really meant to win that race by 10, but I think you saw how impressive it is to win a Grade I sort of, you know, without really being asked down the lane. I think he’s a great horse, and I think he—you know, it’s tough to go head-to-head with him. I don’t know if a lot of people have gotten to see Verrazano physically but he’s an absolute physical monster and, you know, Falling Sky is an average to slightly below average sized three-year-old and so you’re talking about a horse that looks like a five-year-old running against a horse that looks like a young three-year-old, and so I just think it was a tough dynamic.
So for me, you know, to be able to go toe-to-toe for three quarters of a mile or seventh eights of a mile with Verrazano and then not completely give up down the stretch, I do think it was a pretty good race, and again, I’m—as Eric mentioned before, I tend to, you know, try to be very analytical and objective about this. I look at the numbers. You know, he ran the same number on the (inaudible) as he did in winning the Tampa Bay stakes. He was just giving up some weight and, obviously, running against faster horses, so there’s no Verrazano in there on Saturday and I feel very good about that. There’s obviously some other very, very good horses, but I think we’re going to see a really nice effort out of him, and I think, again, if we can adjust the race dynamic a little bit and not be kind of pinned down inside of a whole bunch of other speed, I think we’ll be in much better shape.
Danny Brewer: So if you come out of the Arkansas Derby with the necessary points, it’s on to Churchill and into your dream of running in the Kentucky Derby?
Jim Covello: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you know, if we—obviously, if we finish—the way I’m looking, obviously, if you finish in the top three, you know, we’re going to have enough points to get in. I think there’s a reasonable chance that if you finished in the top four, we would have 30 points and 30 points looks like it’ll be on the bubble but, you know, looks like it would probably be in the Derby, but you want to do it the right way. You want to do the right thing by the horse and you want to respect the game, so if we were to finish fourth, you know, 15 lengths up the track, I don’t think anybody would be too excited to be going to the Derby. You want to belong there. But if it was a situation where, you know, it was a photo finish maybe like the Blue Grass a couple of years ago with Street Sense where there was a four-horse photo at the end of the race, then there would be absolutely no reason in my mind not to go in there; and obviously, if we ran very well and we’re right there at the wire, one, two, three, there’s no doubt about it because it’s something all the connections are very, very excited about.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Jim, you all have a lot of good luck buying (inaudible) horses privately that have gone on and won major stakes. Is that (inaudible) you’ve ever had one at auction, that was (inaudible) horse?
Jim Covello: It’s a great question and, yes, is the answer. We have—you know, we—and thank you for the nice compliment. We have—you know, thanks to Nick and John, we have bought a number of horses that have won graded stakes privately. That’s where we’ve had most of our success, but those were all privately negotiated deals. We actually did try to negotiate a deal on Falling Sky privately before the horse went to the auction ring, but understandably, the connections of the—the previous owners of the horse wanted to pursue a public sale to make sure they were extracting the value, and so this is the first time we bought a horse in an auction situation like these even though we did pursue the private sale ahead of time.
Jennie Rees: Do you ever go buy, like, yearlings or two-year-olds in training before they break? Do you—or is your…
Jim Covello: Yes.
Jennie Rees: Business (inaudible)?
Jim Covello: We’ve had the most success buying horses privately. Obviously, Citrus Kid was a really high level horse, (inaudible) won a couple of graded stakes for us and obviously Oscar Party won a stake for us earlier this year and ran in the Breeders’ Cup. Those were all horses that we bought privately. But we have and continue to buy horses as yearlings and two-year-olds. Matter of fact, I bought Hit Number 41 (ph) out of the sale yesterday at Keeneland who is a Kitten’s Joy out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare. I have a real affinity for Lemon Drop Kid. I used to have shares in the stallion and it bred a lot of mares to him.
So, you know, we’re participating at every level. We’re breeding some, we’re buying some as yearlings, we’re buying some as two-year-olds, but my preference is to buy horses that are in training and have—that have already run because I just think it’s such a huge obstacle to buy a horse out of a sale and get him to the races. You know, that’s the most risky time in my mind is when you’re really pressing on a young two-year-old to get them to the races, even if it’s an early three-year-old, to get them to the races. You just have to train them so hard to be ready to run and that’s when they usually get hurt. Whether, you know, if you’re bringing a horse back off a layoff from an injury or you’re prepping him to run the first time, that’s the period of maximum risk as far as I’m concerned, so I would always rather buy a ready-made horse but, you know, they’re not all for sale and so we try to mix it up a little bit.
Jennie Rees: And could you also just comment on, as we know it now, your perspective (inaudible) for the Arkansas Derby, you know, who’s going to be in there and how you feel about it and where Falling Sky fits in?
Jim Covello: Yes, sure. You know, I think the racing office is working off a possible complete list of 11. I think there’s eight probables and then three possibles. You know, obviously, I think the Oxbow has to be very well respected given that he ran—he’s run well over this track and obviously his Thoro-Graph numbers are the best in this field, and so obviously, Oxbow fits really, really well. He’s a forwardly-placed horse. I don’t think there’s going to be a tremendous amount of pace in this race. You know, Oxbow obviously is a horse that is near the lead, Falling Sky is a horse near the lead and I think Heaven’s Runway is a local horse; I think he finished pretty well in the Rebel as well. He’s planning on being in the race, so I would imagine those three horses would be a little bit more forwardly-placed. None of them have to have the lead but one of those three horses will probably inherit the lead.
And then, obviously, Overanalyze is the Remsen winner and people were a little bit disappointed in his comeback race, understandably, but first of all, you can never discount the connections when you’re talking about Mr. Opoly (ph) and Todd and he actually did run a very good number on the Thoro-Graph as well in that race. It was deceptive as he was wide. So you have to respect him and I know there had been some discussion about the Remsen being a negative key race, but that—I think that was before Normandy Invasion, you know, validated in a lot of ways the form of the Remsen by running so well on Saturday in the Wood. And so Overanalyze has to be really well respected, and then Bob Baffert (inaudible) and two horses to Oaklawn and I know he didn’t win the last time he sent two horses there but you have to really respect what he’s done over the years when shipping horses (inaudible) Ben’s Legacy (ph) and War Academy are probable for the race as well. Ben’s Legacy obviously ran third in the Rebel and so he’s very much to be respected, and then War Academy.
You know, the common element between Overanalyze and Ben’s Legacy and War Academy, those are the horses that tend to come from a little bit off the pace, so I think you kind of have three horses that’ll be a little more forwardly-placed and then, you know, those three I mentioned, as well as Frac Daddy, who I think is going to be in the race as well, and possibly Demonic Curve (ph) and Looking Cool are the other ones that would potentially be in the race that would be coming from off the pace a little bit. So that’s kind of how I see it playing—how I see it shaping up.
Jay Privman: Jim, you were referring to where you stood on the points list a little bit ago, and I was just wondering how much attention you’ve been paying to that over the last few months regarding Falling Sky?
Jim Covello: A lot. A lot and, you know, the funny thing is I am—I love this game and I love every part of it, and so, you know, whether we have a horse on the Derby trail or not it’s something I pay a tremendous amount of attention to just from the perspective of future pools bets or friends who have horses or, you know, if John or other trainers that I have worked with have horses, so it’s something I pay a tremendous amount of attention to. There probably hasn’t been a day—no, not probably. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since the Sam Davis that I haven’t checked the standings, and so it’s a lot of fun regardless and when you’re involved in it, it makes it that much more fun.
Jay Privman: And just being the data driven person that you are, I’m sure you’ve looked at the whole process and how it works, so now that you’ve been able to sort of look at it, what are your thoughts on it compared to the old system?
Jim Covello: I love the new system and, you know, even if the new system winds up keeping us out of the race, I am a tremendous proponent of the new system. There’s—and there’s two things and I’d seen a tweet that you responded to the other day that I thought was really on point, because I know there’s a lot of people that are somewhat up in arms about some of the fillies that have run fast enough times to be competitive against the boys, and I think you tweeted in response to somebody, “well, Dreaming of Julia could have run in the Florida Derby or any of the other preps against the boys,” and I really feel like that’s a very, very important aspect of this. I think it’s great when fillies run against the boys, but I think they should have to earn their way in because, you know, running against Live Lively – and absolutely nothing against Live Lively of the connections; I think she’s a wonderful filly and I wish I had owned her – but running against her and running against Verrazano are two completely different animals and, you know, trying to go head-to-head six furlongs with Verrazano and trying to go head-to-head six furlongs with Live Lively, you know, anybody who thinks those two things are the same needs to just spend a little bit more time in the game, and I don’t want to be overly critical about that but—so that’s the first thing I think that’s great about the new system.
And secondly, you know, I think the Derby is going to be a lot more interesting because it’s going to focus on horses with recency of form, and again, you know, I’ll take Sabercat from last year, and again, a horse I would have loved to have owned. If I were the connections, I would have done the exact same thing that they did last year, which is the rules—they played by the rules and they got into the race and so good on them. As I said, I would have done exactly the same thing that they did, but was it really a good thing for gamblers and the racing community that a horse that had one run (inaudible) sort of an off-the-track (ph) third as a three-year-old was in the Derby? There’s just no argument to be made for that, and so I think horses that have proven they can get—you know, on some level, get the distance, get—at least to get two-turn race, good recency of form and then, you know, if a filly’s going to run in the race, they can earn it. I absolutely love the new system, and I give all the credit in the world to Churchill Downs.
Of course, there’s some tweaks. I mean, there’s really no good reason why the Illinois Derby isn’t part of it and there’s a couple of other races that you could argue should have a little more or a little less, but I think even before the season started, Churchill had committed to adjusting, you know, as they went along. But I think they’ve done a fabulous thing for the game, and I think the Derby trail is even more exciting than ever this year as a result.
Carol Holden: You have had a great deal of success. You are extremely enthusiastic being in the risk-taking business with a lot of other risk-taking people and I’m wondering if you’ve had any success or been able to recruit other people into the racing industry?
Jim Covello: Yes, I have. You know, the—if you look at the horses we’ve owned, a lot of them are with different partners, and so what I love to do is to bring different friends into different horses. And, you know, even if they can only take small pieces of horses, there’s been a number of different partners on all the horses that we’ve had. If you look at Swift Warrior, you know, it’s a friend of mine from town (ph), Jim—by the name of Jim Dolan (ph), and not the Jim Dolan from—that everybody knows who runs the big company, otherwise we’d be buying a lot bigger horses. But, you know, as an example, another friend of mine, Duffy Fisher (ph), bought into Oscar Party, Carmine and Sarah (ph), and then, you know, friends of friends like Mike Imperio (ph) and Joe Bulger. So different people in different situations, I think there’s nothing like sharing racing with friends or family.
Obviously, you know, not everybody can afford to take big financial risks with horses because the first thing I say when I talk to anybody about this is, you know, you should never do this with a dime of money that you need. We’ve had a lot of luck but a lot of people tend to see the ones we’ve had success with and there’s a bunch of others we haven’t had success with, so you shouldn’t do this with money you don’t need and so that—you know, I think people should take small risks when they’re first getting started and try to bring as many people as they can along for the ride.
Carol Holden: Have any of the people who have had success gone on to buy horses just in their own right?
Jim Covello: That is a great question. Not that I can think of off the top of my head. There are other people that I brought to the races with me or, you know, there was—when we were up at Saratoga this summer, there was a prospective new client for John Terranova who I had not met before, but he was with us the day when Swift Warrior won the Win Stakes up at Saratoga and it was just a great experience, I think, for him and for all of us obviously. He kind of sat in the box with us and, you know, was in the winner’s circle with us and went back to the barns after the race and we all went out to dinner to celebrate that night at Siro’s and it was just an amazing night. And he actually just stepped up in the last couple of two-year-old sales and bought some of his own horses, so that’s probably the closest that—you know, I’d take zero credit for bringing him to the racetrack to begin with but, hopefully, he was able to feel a little bit of the enthusiasm that we all had that day. I warned him though. We went out to dinner the other night. I warned him not to expect stakes wins at Saratoga every time he runs a horse, but I think he understands that and, hopefully, he’s going to have a ton of success.
Van Cushny: I see that Jose Espinoza rode Falling Sky both races since you bought him. Will Jose Espinoza be riding him on Saturday?
Jim Covello: Jose will not ride. Martin Garcia’s going to ride on Saturday. You know, Jose is a great rider for us and he’s still riding a lot of our horses. It’s just that we think that Martin fits this horse really, really well and John has had terrific success with Martin in the past. They have a great relationship. You know, I think as many folks know, when the Bafferts ship horses to New York, they’re stabled with the Terranovas and there’s been obviously a number of times over the last few years where Martin has come east and ridden one of Bob’s horses in the big graded stakes races, and so they have a very close working relationship. Our view is that he’ll fit the horse really, really well and so Martin Garcia’s going to ride him on Saturday.
And Balance of Power is another horse that I have that’s actually a half brother to Archarcharch from a few years ago’s Derby. He’s going to run in the undercard in the Northern Spur Stakes on Saturday and Martin Garcia’s going to ride him for us as well, partly because, you know, we think it’s a great situation to be in that race, it’s a good spot for Balance of Power, who’s probably just a level behind Falling Sky at this point, but also to give Martin an opportunity to get a two-turn race over the track earlier in the card. We thought that was important as well. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned heading into Saturday.
Eric Wing: Jim, I don’t believe Jose Espinoza is getting totally shut out on Saturday. Isn’t he riding a horse for Terranova in the Blue Grass?
Jim Covello: That’s right. Jose is going to ride West Hills Giant for John in the Blue Grass. So we may not have been able to get him even if we hadn’t been going with Martin. That’s a great point, Eric.
Eric Wing: All right. Well, Jim, I don’t know if you’ve been to Oaklawn before or—let alone on Arkansas Derby day, but if not, don’t schedule your return flight home too close to post time because with 60-some-odd thousand people there, it won’t be that easy departing from Central Avenue, the main drag in Hot Springs; but one thing I do know is win, lose or draw, you’ll have a great time down there, and it goes without saying I wish you and your whole team the best of luck Saturday.
Jim Covello: I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. This is—it’s an incredible experience. This—you know, having the opportunity to chat with everybody today has gotten me even more excited, if that’s possible, so I really, really appreciate everyone’s time and great questions and, hopefully, we’ll have reasons to talk in the weeks upcoming.
Eric Wing: That’s Jim Covello who, along with Newtown Anner Stud and Joe Bulger, owns Falling Sky, the John Terranova trainee. Terranova obviously will have a busy day on Saturday saddling West Hills Giant at Keeneland for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and also Falling Sky. He’ll be saddling one of the two personally and be represented by both horses in the two big Kentucky Derby preps just four days from now.
Okay, that will bring us to our third and final guest and he won’t be taking part in the Blue Grass or the Arkansas Derby, but I’m sure he’s still living large from his big day last Saturday at the Santa Anita Derby and we’re very pleased right now to welcome in the winning ride aboard Goldencents from the Santa Anita Derby, Kevin Krigger. Kevin, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being with us today.
Kevin Krigger: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be on your show.
Eric Wing: Kevin, first of all, belated congratulations on the great performance and great ride you put in on Goldencents last Saturday. Looks like as long as the horse stays healthy, he’s got his ticket punched to Louisville. I know you grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands and there hasn’t been a black jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby since 2001. What would it mean to the folks back home in the Virgin Islands and otherwise for you just to participate in the Kentucky Derby?
Kevin Krigger: It would mean a whole lot. You know, I mean everybody from my grandmother, uncle, everybody’s been calling me to congratulate me and I’ve done a couple of radio interviews and the feedback from the Islands -they’re ecstatic right now.
Eric Wing: Kevin, we certainly learned last year that Doug O’Neill will not only give a lesser known jockey a chance on a good horse but that he’ll also stick with him. Were you afraid in any way, shape or form that you’d lose the mount on Goldencents after the San Felipe given all the controversy there was regarding the pace dynamics in that race?
Kevin Krigger: You know, the most I was worried about was, I would say from the finish line to galloping out, during the gallop out, I went over the race in my mind and (inaudible) as you know, I know these guys pretty good and they’re a good connection. I’ve been around them for the last year and I felt secured in my heart, honestly, but I felt a little worried that, just maybe I was like that, feeling like maybe these guys might be thinking of changing me, but I had that secured warm feeling in my heart that, I’ve been around them for a year, like I said, and they’ve been very supportive of me, both Doug and the owners from Josh Caplan (ph), Dave Kenney and Rick Pitino. I haven’t been around with (inaudible) too much but I got to meet him once at Del Mar and I felt pretty secure that, they were going to give me that chance to redeem myself, you know? And being the circumstances we had in the race in the San Felipe, I was pretty sure that they weren’t going to point the finger at me. We were just going to figure out what we had to do to get it done because, like I said, I’ve been on the horse from the beginning and they’ve stuck with me from the beginning. It was my second last, I mean, so (inaudible) I felt pretty secure about it and I wasn’t too worried, but at the same time, I was a little bit but I have a lot of confidence in the team.
Eric Wing: Well—and they obviously had confidence in you, Kevin, and that confidence was amply rewarded in the Santa Anita Derby for sure. Kevin, we’ve got a lot of media on the call with us right now, so at this point, I’m going to turn things back over to our announcer and she’ll check in with the writers and broadcasters to see if they have any questions for you.
Ron Flatter: Hi. Kevin, how aware are you of the history of black riders in the Derby, because obviously it predates everyone’s lifetime right now? Are—have you studied that at all? Are you aware of it?
Kevin Krigger: Yes, I’m pretty aware of it, you know, and I was fortunate enough when I started to ride in Southern California, I was given a present from a friend and it was the History of Black Jockeys, and I took the time out to actually read the book and got a chance to educate myself about the black jockeys that rode, you know?
Ron Flatter: What stands out to you in that story?
Kevin Krigger: You know, it was kind of like—it was kind of (inaudible) gave me a lot of (inaudible) reading it because it went back as far as the first jockeys were slaves and to be a free African-American right now and we’re decades beyond those times, it’s a total different time, and I felt good to see that at the time, I was one of the top apprentices in the country and from then to now, it’s like I’m not just a top apprentice anymore; I’m one of the top riders in the Southern California circuit.
Ron Flatter: Have you found it difficult to get rides?
Kevin Krigger: I wouldn’t say difficult. It’s kind of one of those things where you have to just get up and work hard, and so for me, it’s just a routine really.
Ron Flatter: And the last one from me, Goldencents is a horse that seems to like to get away, and I’m saying that politely. I mean, he seems to want to do his own thing a lot. Has—what difficulties have you had in just being able to get control of him?
Kevin Krigger: Well, like I’ve said all along if you look at Goldencents, all of his races, he’s never been on the lead most of his races but you look at him traveling, he’s never looked around except in the stands and he’s always been relaxed. He’s just a fast horse, you know? He’s naturally fast. and I’ve never really had to fight him to slow him down. I’ve just had to sit on him and relax and just be relaxed, so any time, as I said, I had to get in a bit of a tussle with him in the San Felipe and circumstances that day made it that way. You know, we ended up in a dog fight with Flashback when he came around, and the last three quarters of the race, that just really turned it into the race that we really did a lot.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Kevin, you know, you were talking about (inaudible) 1902 since an African-American rider won the Derby, but you’re also from the Virgin Islands and you were telling me who those jockeys—the current jockeys are from there, but how unusual would it be even to have a jockey from the Virgin Islands in the Kentucky Derby?
Kevin Krigger: Well, I would be the first jockey from the Virgin Islands to ride in the Kentucky Derby that would be unusual. I did an interview and I had just got back from San Francisco because I had to go to the Golden Gate to ride on Sunday, and I had an interview yesterday with radio station, and at the end I I was tired. I had a (inaudible), a kind of caught a cold when I was going up the Golden Gate (inaudible), so I just said you know what? I did so many interviews, I would just like to sit down here at home and listen to the fans calling and just wish me good luck, and I mean, the phone lines went crazy, all lighting up. The Islands are just calling and just wishing good luck, you know, and I was home laying down, getting goose bumps.
Jennie Rees: Yes. And he’s only a 5% owner of Goldencents but Rick Pitino is going to get—is already getting an incredible amount of attention. I’m wondering if you have become a Louisville Cardinal’s fan with this 5% ownership and if you watched the game last night, or was it past your bedtime?
Kevin Krigger: Well, I was laying down last night and when I laid down, The first thing I did, I put on the game. Took me a while to find what channel they were showing it, but when I did, I caught it right before it started and I did not miss a second, not even the commercials. I lay down and for the first time ever in my 29 years of life, I watched a NCAA game. I’ve never watched college basketball before. Last night was the very first time. I can’t say I’ve never, because since I met Pitino, I (inaudible) couple of the games but I’m not really into sports so I never really got to watch the whole game, but last night was the first night I looked at the entire game played out. I was next to my fiancé and there was a point where Michigan State was up by at least 10 or maybe 12 at one point and she was, like, no, you think they’re going to win? I said, “you don’t know nothing about this coach, and as I said it, the next five minutes, they were back in front, actually not one kid—I don’t know the names of the players, but when they took back the lead, I think it was 36, 37, when the kid made the alley-oop, which I think made the highlight. When he made that alley-oop pass, I told her, “you see what I’m talking about?” And from that, we just enjoyed the rest of the game and it was a nice experience.
Kevin Krigger: So I would say now yes, I am a Cardinal—a Louisville Cardinals fan and I don’t think I’m going to miss too many of their games from the next year. You know, I have a reason to watch the…The game play; now I have a very good reason.
Bob Holt: Why do you feel there have been so few black jockeys and so few that, you know, have risen to the level that you have?
Kevin Krigger: Well, I think the reason is, not too many African-Americans that I know is actually interested into riding horses, we have probably a handful or two handfuls the most or that actual African jockeys, right, because we don’t have too many African-American jockeys (inaudible), you know? So it’s already a hard enough of a goal to get into the Kentucky Derby for any jockey, whether you’re African-American, Hispanic, white; you know, it doesn’t matter what race or color you are, it’s—there’s 20 horses in, there’s 20 jockeys every year that will make it into the Kentucky Derby or a little bit more at times, you know, so it’s not a race that’s meant for everyone. And you need that special horse so—and in order to find the special horse, the majority of the races that the horses come from is from the A class tracks, you go to Saratoga, you go to Santa Anita, the Keeneland, Gulfstream, you know, this is where the horses come from and usually the top riders get it.
And I’m just fortunate enough to be as close as I am with., I came down here in 2012 and I was very, very much shown a lot of love by Doug and his crew, and they all love me because I’m there every day; wherever Doug is at in the morning, I’m there with him and—so it’s not the easiest task to get into the Derby point black, and for a handful of African-American jockeys, it’s —you can’t expect all of us to get there and you have to be in a good situation that I am the one right now that’s in this situation I’m in.
Bob Holt: Have you found a difference, shall we say, in the black community on how they view horseracing and being a part of it in the Virgin Islands as opposed to the United States? Like, (inaudible) more interest, shall we say, in other sports, you know, be it some of the other major professional sports?
Kevin Krigger: No, I wouldn’t really say—not really in the Virgin Islands. Horseracing is (inaudible) because of the (inaudible). We only run, like sometimes two Sundays in the month or maybe just one and when those races run, I mean St. Thomas—we have St. Thomas, St. Croix and we have one of the islands from the British Virgin Islands, which is Tortola, and they all come together and put on some races that fill the grandstand on a certain occasion when all three tracks compete against each other. So it turns out to be a big deal and the Island (inaudible) for these horses to run. So the Islands are pretty much interested in horseracing and they love it, you know? So right now, as far as me going to the Kentucky Derby, it’s like everybody is out of their seat right now cheering me on, you know?
Bob Holt: And one final question. Did you happen to fill out an NCAA bracket pool and did Coach Pitino give you any tips?
Kevin Krigger: I actually didn’t because like I said, I’ve never really been a sports guy. I just love horseracing. Horseracing is my sport, you know, and basketball and the whole other stuff behind the (inaudible), I’ve never really been too much into it. I was fortunate enough last night to—you know, I was so excited for Pitino as far as him coaching that team and I could see the excitement in him and I could see his emotions as the coach of that team looking at the game last night, and I was excited in that. So the first time I found myself jumping up and screaming for the basketball team to win and it was exciting last night. That was a good game to watch.
Danny Brewer: Talk about Doug O’Neill and your relationship with him and what kind of guy he is to work for.
Kevin Krigger: Well, I tell you the one thing that—the best way I think I could describe Doug is, he is a comedian, but he’s also a trainer and he’s a great trainer. These guys, you go the barn and it says ‘Team O’Neill’. It doesn’t say ‘Doug O’Neill’; it says ‘Team O’Neill’, and he has (inaudible) team, believe me. He has (inaudible). You have Lenny, you have Jack, you have (inaudible), Dennis, you have Steve (inaudible) and then you got Doug O’Neill, and I mean just those five guys, are a part of it-- in his grooms and his exercise riders and those guys, but just those five guys, no one has the chance to be down in Doug’s barn because of those five guys. Anyone has a moment where they feel like they’re down, believe me, these guys take you back up (inaudible). They have you feeling good at the same time. You won’t have a down time in the barn and Doug is cool to work for because, you know, for the most of it, he has very same instructions for his races the majority of the time and after the races, that he understands horseracing and he understands the way races are unfold, you know, and that makes it easy to work with him. And I have to say he’s a pretty good guy as far as, listening to him, dealing with his owners and stuff. He’s here all around with his owners and the riders; he gives everybody a fair chance, you know?
Danny Brewer: Has his fun-loving style made it a little bit easier for you being kind of the new kid on the block, on the circuit here? Has it made it a little easier for you?
Kevin Krigger: Yes, it has. It sure has because you know, you come back and you ride for a guy like Doug and then when you come back, he tells you, like, “don’t worry about it. Win, lose or draw, don’t worry about it.” And when you come back, it’s the same, you go out and you come back, win, lose or draw and you have the same with Doug O’Neill. He never comes back—and, you know, a lot of times, you have a trainer yelling at you, a trainer pissed off. I mean, Doug is the greatest. Doug comes back, win, lose or draw, and it’s the same Doug O’Neill you left when he gave you a leg up. I mean, that’s cool to have that kind of a response out of a trainer, you know.
Danny Brewer: Have you ever been to Louisville, Kentucky and Churchill Downs?
Kevin Krigger: Yes, (inaudible) couple (inaudible) up there already, so I’m looking forward to going back and seeing some of the trainers and some of the fans that I knew out there, and some of the riders that I rode with from being out there before, but this is my first Kentucky Derby coming into it with a horse like Goldencents, this is an exciting moment for me and I’m very happy to be the jockey that gets to ride this horse. As you can see, we get a lot of pretty good pictures, and it’s funny because I was looking at one of the pictures taken from the inside, they have a shot on the internet with him crossing the wire from the inside, and I don’t know who’s smiling more, me or the horse.
Melissa Hubert: You know, you were just talking about who was smiling more, you or the horse, and your celebration was so great after you won. Could you just tell us a little bit about what was going through your head and if you had some of the things that you did plan, or it just kind of happened spontaneously?
Kevin Krigger: You know, I’ve never had the chance really to plan a celebration. The celebration was just really, as you said, spontaneously, I came back, and you don’t know who’s going to be there or where you’re going to be in the midst of the getting back to that crowd. You know, when I looked up and I saw all those people, I couldn’t even pinpoint one from another until I really got there and then everyone just came and there was a big huddle, and there was one point where I just felt so good and I saw Doug coming out, so I gave him a big, big hug, you know, because I knew I wasn’t going to have much time to spend with everybody because I had to go back and ride the next race. I wasn’t even able to take the pictures with the horse, the owners and the trophy, so I had to run right back into the room, so it was a spontaneous moment.
Mark Doche: Do you understand the media crush, and are you prepared for it leading up to next month, the Derby, and have you had a chance to sit down and talk to Mario at all about it and get some advice from him on how he handled it last year?
Kevin Krigger: As far as that, to be honest, I’m being totally honest, I’m not probably going to ask (inaudible) advice really. This is something I want to just go through and enjoy it, and I’m prepared and ready for it and this isn’t—something that just popped up. This has always been my goal, so I’ve kind of prepared myself for it all along, so it’s something I feel like I don’t really need advice with to get through, you know?
Eric Wing: Kevin, hey, it was great having you on the call and hearing all your thoughts about Goldencents and everything else. I do want to correct one mistake I made earlier in the call. It was 2000 when Marlon St. Julien rode in the Kentucky Derby, not 2001, so it’s been 13 years and hopefully no longer than 13, because we fully hope to and expect to see you aboard Goldencents, I guess, three and a half weeks from now in the Kentucky Derby. Kevin, good luck with all the media requests and thanks so much for being a part of ours.
Kevin Krigger: Hey, thank you, guys, very much man, it was a pleasure. You guys are going to be interviewing someone about this Derby trip and I’m glad I was the first one, so thank you guys very much. It was a pleasure and an honor to be on.
Eric Wing: Thanks so much. Thank you again. Kevin Krigger, the rider of Goldencents, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby and certainly one of the horses that people will be keenly focused on should everything stay according to plan in the Kentucky Derby.
Well, that’ll bring an end to today’s call. I want to thank all three of our guests, Gary Contessa, Jim Covello and Kevin Krigger. Also want to thank, as always, our announcer, Michelle; Tracy, working behind the scenes there with Michelle and also our producer here in New York, Joan Lawrence. Don’t forget about the transcript and the podcast of this call. It’ll be up in 24 hours at ntra.com. Also, a reminder once again about the NBC telecast, the Blue Grass from 6:00 to 7:30, followed in short order—actually I think I got those times wrong, but anyway, 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. is the NBC Blue Grass telecast and then immediately thereafter, from 6 to 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, the Arkansas Derby. And we will be with you next two weeks from today, Tuesday, April 23rd, and at that time, we’ll be talking about the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands.
So glad you could be with us today and hope you can do so again on April 23rd. Thank you.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen this does conclude the conference call for today. You may now disconnect your line and have a great day.blog comments powered by Disqus