Previewing Preakness Stakes Teleconference from May 9
Click here for Podcast (Or right click and "Save link as")
Penelope Miller: Hello, everyone, and welcome to our Pre-Preakness teleconference. Please note that Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan television coverage will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday May 17th, with Preakness Classics shown on NBC Sports Network, and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes coverage beginning on the same network at 4 p.m. On Saturday May 18th, Preakness coverage kicks off on the NBC Sports Network at 2:30 p.m., transferring to NBC at 4:30 p.m. for race coverage. At 6:30 p.m., the post-race show will kickoff on NBC Sports Network.
Today's guests will be Shug McGaughey, who trained Orb to victory in the Kentucky Derby; trainer Al Stall, who will send Illinois Derby winner, Departing, to challenge Orb in the Preakness; and Hall of Fame jockey, Gary Stevens, who piloted Oxbow in the Kentucky Derby.
Our first guest this afternoon will be Shug McGaughey. He's a Hall of Fame trainer who was inducted in 2004, and that was his—his victory with Orb on Saturday was his first Kentucky Derby win. Shug McGaughey won the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer in 1988, and has had two horses run in the Preakness Stakes, Easy Goer, who finished second in 1989, and Pine Circle, who was fifth in 1984. Orb right now is back on track at Belmont Park in New York City, where he has been diving (ph) and galloping over a very muddy surface, and we would like to welcome Shug and thank him for joining us. Shug, are you on the line?
Penelope Miller: Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. Can you tell us how Orb is doing?
Shug McGaughey: He's looking good to me. I mean yesterday I had planned on galloping him, but when the weather turned the way it was I just jogged him. But he galloped a mile, this morning, and he looked to me like everything's going really well.
Liz Clark: Thanks. Shug, congratulations on the Derby win. I wanted to ask you about the fairly compact Triple Crown calendar. So I'm wondering if you would mind describing the challenge that Orb faces in this quick turnaround from the Derby, you know, and if he campaigns at the Belmont, you know, what the whole three in that short time demands of a horse, and I guess of a trainer as well?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I'm an advocate of the way the Triple Crown is set up. I know a lot of people try to question it and spread it out and this and that, but I think that's what makes it difficult—the difficulty in it, and the same as the 20-horse field in the Derby. But, you know, that's my job, and you know, my peoples' job is try and get him over the Derby, get him fresh and happy again, and, you know, starting next week sort of start pointing him for another race again on that next Saturday.
We'll breeze him on Monday and try to put him back in the game, and get into Pimlico and sort of get him used to the surroundings, and, you know, but that's a part of—it's part of what we've got to do. Then the same thing, get him out of Preakness and if everything's still a go, you get to relax a little bit longer with the three weeks, and go a mile and a half there at Belmont, obviously be a lot easier on me because I'm going to be living at home, and Orb's going to be living at home, too. So, I mean I've been through this one other time, and I remember—I have nothing but fond memories except getting beat. But, we had a good time in Louisville, and we had a good time at Baltimore, and we're planning on having a good time when we come back. I think that as of right now, Orb's doing really well, and I think he'll continue to do that.
Danny Brewer: Now, in team sports they often will say a team is a representative of the coach. Now you've got a pretty cool demeanor about yourself and kind of taking all of this stuff in stride, and Orb seems to be the same way. How has he connected with you and gotten your vibe, or do you think there's anything to that?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I do think there's something to it. I think that a horse can sense nervousness, and I think they can sense if you're a bit uneasy being around them. I've tried to take a relaxed attitude towards this whole thing. I know a lot of times, if I feel like maybe I might be going to be a little bit nervous and maybe make my people nervous, I'll just sort of stay away. I mean the last time we schooled him at Churchill, which was Wednesday before the Derby, I stayed back at the barn, because I said, all I'm going to do is I'm going to see things that don't mean anything and I might relate that back to them, so the groom and one of my assistants and his exercise rider did it. And the same thing with the walkover on Saturday, I was (inaudible) the barn and sort of stayed in front of them so I wouldn't be nervous, for one, and then wouldn't try and make them nervous, because they're all staying pretty relaxed, and I'm trying to stay that way, too. When we got into this process I told them, I said let's make this fun, and so far it has been.
Danny Brewer: Well, that's great, and that's the whole idea behind it all. Now, with that in mind and the short turnaround, how hard is it to keep it business as usual?
Shug McGaughey: It's difficult to keep it business as usual, because it's been a pretty whirlwind life I've been living since last Saturday night. And I've got to remember I've got 35 or 40 other horses that are depending on me also, so sometimes I've had to stay at the barn another—an extra hour or something, or like this afternoon I probably didn't leave until about noontime just to sort of sort through some things, because normally I would leave between 10 or 11 or so. But, it's all been a huge thrill for me, and you know, that's part of the excitement I think.
Danny Brewer: And lastly for me, does the track at Pimlico present any special challenges to Orb?
Shug McGaughey: I don't think the track does, we're having to move again, so you never know how all that's going to relate. I mean we had to move from Florida to Louisville, and now we've moved Louisville to Belmont, and then Belmont to Pimlico. But I think we'll be fine. Sometimes it maybe is a little bit more speed-favoring than some of the others, but I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to take it as-- what will be will be.
John Pricci: Let me ask you, would you consider, say there's a scenario where Orb is not showing you the energy level that you're looking for, what you want to see, would you possibly then, you know, cancel that timed workout on Monday and, say, maybe just kind of gallop him up to the race once you get to Pimlico?
Shug McGaughey: Yes, that could be a possibility, John. He's fit enough. The whole reason I would maybe work him is to just try to kind of get his mind back on what he's supposed to be doing, because, right now we're trying to get him away from a race, and then we're going to try and put him back in one with the work on Monday. But I mean we could get him down there and if I wasn't pleased with his energy level before we went, it's not etched in stone that he's going to work.
John Pricci: Got you. And one more from me. Let's say, you know, we're coming down—head to head down the stretch and it's, you know, you on the inside and (inaudible) colors on the outside, how strange is that going to be for you?
Shug McGaughey: Well, it will be different, but, John, we went through it before with Seeking the Gold and Forty Niner, so it's not something that I'm not altogether not used to. And,, Departing is a very worthy participant in the Preakness, and just as we do, they've got every right to be there, and, I hope we both have some good racing luck.
Debbie Arrington: How has life changed for you since winning the Derby? Has it changed at all?
Shug McGaughey: Yes, it has. It's changed a bit. I mean, one thing is it's a relief to have finally won it and fulfilled the life-long dream. And, there's been quite a demand on our time; not only mine, but the people at the barn and stuff, but, that's all been fun, too. And the other thing that's much appreciated is, how nice the media's been through this whole thing, and how much the fans and friends, and people who aren't even friends, the nice things that they've said especially, well even before the Derby and especially since then. I mean —I got home today and I started reading some notes that came through the mail from people that I really haven't even heard from for a few years.
Debbie Arrington: That's really good. And has Orb—how is he reacting to all of this attention?
Shug McGaughey: So far so good. He handled himself pretty well at Louisville under unbelievable attention, and since he's gotten up here it hasn't been nearly as much, but he'll be fine. When we get him to Pimlico it'll all start again, and he seemed to handle it all pretty well. So I'm pleased that he's getting all the attention, and I'm pleased that he's handling it well.
Debbie Arrington: That's great. And what kind of horse is he around the barn? Is he pretty laid back?
Shug McGaughey: He's a little of both. I mean he's pretty settled in what he does; he's pretty settled in his stall. Yesterday morning he just jogged and we got him out to walk him yesterday afternoon and he came out (inaudible) on his back legs. And Jen was walking him and he was sort of pulling her around there just feeling good. So he does have that in him a little bit, but he's fine. You know, he's not a hard horse to gallop, and this morning he hadn't galloped since last Saturday morning, and he went out there sitting on the track and he just stood there as long as we wanted to, and jogged a good ways and galloped and turned around dropped his head and walked home.
Debbie Arrington: Very good. Well best of luck.
Tim Wilkin: Hey, Shug. You've been in this game a long time. The—going to this race a week from Saturday, do you think you, yourself, will feel pressure?
Shug McGaughey: I don't know that I'll feel pressure, Tim, but I found that I'm a bit more nervous than I was leading up to the Derby just kind of in the morning around the barn, and when I start thinking about it. But, I'm looking forward to it. As I said in Louisville, I can't wait for a week from Saturday.
Tim Wilkin: I mean did you—and you know the historical impact that a win could have, and then—in the Preakness, and then being heading back to New York. Do you think about that?
Shug McGaughey: Well, you know, I'd be lying to you if I said I don't, because I do, but I'm trying to block it out. I'm trying to take this thing one race at a time, but I just can't imagine how much fun it would be if that were to happen and to come back to New York being—you know, really most of my adult training life's been at Belmont Park and under the New York eyes, and, I’ve got a lot of friends around here and I think that it would be a heck of a lot of fun.
Ron Flatter: Hi, Shug. Congratulations again for the umpteenth time I suppose. But looking at the new shooters coming into the Preakness, do you look at any of them as being a particular threat, or even a particular horse that could change the style of the race?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I haven't looked at it deep enough about changing the style of the race. I mean I think Departing is a pretty darn nice horse, and he's fresh; probably coming into the race the right way. Oxbow made a pretty good run at him there coming towards the end of the stretch, and Will Take Charge, they say he was making a run and got in some trouble. I haven't really looked back at that. And if Chad runs his horse, Normandy Invasion, he's a good horse. I don't know, he may believe (inaudible), but, I'm not going to let myself sit around and worry about what—who I've got to beat or this or that. I mean I just—I think if Orb runs his race, which sitting here on Thursday afternoon I don't see any reason in the world why he wouldn't, I think they can all have him to beat.
Ron Flatter: In that case, too, if there's maybe a little bit more out front, I mean it's hard to imagine more pace, but maybe if there's more—there are more horses than just say, like Palace Malice was out there alone for awhile, if you have a few more out on the lead, does that change this at all in your mind?
Shug McGaughey: Well, it depends on what kind of horse it is. If it's a horse like Departing, if he got on an easy lead, he probably would be hard to catch. We'll just have to see who it is. If the pace is too fast they're going to stop. But,I really when I looked up and saw how fast they were going in the Derby, I really wasn't worried that they were going to last. Now sometimes, a sloppy track carries people a bit farther, and I imagine that's what they were thinking about with Palace Malice, we're going to have a chance, let's go and see and make them catch us. But I'll have to just take that as—take that as it comes just. We caught a fast pace in the Fountain of Youth and he won, and we caught a slow pace in the Florida Derby, and he won, and I think that, I really think that these races he's been a pretty convincing winner.
Ron Flatter: To that extent, he's won with a fast pace, won with a slow pace, and won in the slop. Does it give you that much more confidence because he's shown that versatility?
Shug McGaughey: I think so, I didn't know in the Florida Derby, I knew what Johnny's game plan was, because I'd heard through the grapevine, and we talked about it in the paddock that he felt that with no pace he was going to have to let him run a little bit closer. And he let him run away from the gate a little bit, and, we were able to catch up and win fairly easy that day, too. And then last Saturday we caught a, hugely fast pace, and Joel just sat patient on him, and I thought when he made his run in those horses I thought he got to them pretty quick and pretty easy. And, then kind of the playing starts, and it has been really in every one of his races this year when he made the lead he sort of turn it off a little bit, and, then he did it again on Saturday, and Joel just kind of kept him going and got him straightened out and he went on to finish fine. So, I think that really no matter what the scenario, we'll be fine.
Ted Lewis: Hi. Yes, Shug, you were referring to Departing a little bit ago. What advantage or disadvantage do you believe a horse that's fresh like that will have in the race on Saturday?
Shug McGaughey: Tthe one thing, he's going to his legs under him and he's going to be fresh, and they've been able to sort of map out a training strategy for him, and, if everything's gone right, they've been able to hold onto that to where, we've got to come back in two weeks. But I think we'll have—I think we'll have fresh legs, and, I think that Orb will be fine. We haven't overcooked him by any means over the winter, and I think he'll be just as fresh as the rest of them even though he just ran.
Tim Sullivan: Hi, Shug. I just was wondering, there seems to be a consensus that the Preakness is the more difficult of the races for you than the Belmont. Do you agree with that? And if so, what are the factors you think that would make this the tougher of the two?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I think the biggest factor is I've got to ship down there and get him acclimated to the Pimlico racetrack and the scenario that that's going to bring. Iif we make it through this one and we get to the Belmont, we're going to be at home, he's going to be in his own stall, and, we're all ultimately around. I think that that's all a big plus. When I was in Louisville, I used to live in Louisville, I trained out of that same barn at Churchill, and I was comfortable there. This is going to be a bit different. I don’t know where I'm going to stay down there, but I'm probably not going to know for the first day or two how to get from the hotel to the racetrack. It's not going to be quite a comfortable, but I've got to kind of make myself get in the mood where it is going to be comfortable. So I think that that's kind of the biggest challenge in front of us is—that we will have when we come back to Belmont.
Lenny Shulman: Shug, take us behind the scenes a little bit. I mean you all are pretty stoic, you and Stuart and Denny, but how excited are those guys over having won the race?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I think it showed on Saturday, really. They were in their own way they were pretty excited two men. I think that as much as they love racing, and as much as they love the horse racing game, that they were delighted to win—to have won America's premier race. And, somebody asked me, have you all had a conversation since, and I'm going to answer that, no—or what did they say after the race? I said they didn't have to. I said we've been together for so long that they knew what it meant to me and I knew what it meant to them and just by taking a look at each one of them, I think that pretty much answers the question for me. I'm sure that when everybody gets settled down a little bit, we will talk, but really we don't have to, because we know each other well enough where we all know what this means.
Pia Catton: Hi, Shug. You mentioned that at Belmont, you—or sorry, Orb will be going to his own stall and he'll be on familiar ground. Are there any other advantages you feel to your familiarity and Orb's familiarity with the track?
Shug McGaughey: Yes, I think there is. He's trained over it a whole bunch, so I know he's going to like it. I'm going to be a lot more settled just being able to come home instead of going to a motel room. So I think that he knows the paddock, he knows the way to the racetrack, and knows his way around there, and knows his way home, so it's not going to be an unfamiliar thing to him, and I think that that's a pretty settling factor not only to the people around him but to the horse itself.
Jerry Bossert: You looked pretty confident after Orb worked the Monday before the Derby. I just wondered how confident—I know you said earlier you said you feel a little bit more nervous, you know, thinking about the big picture, but how confident are you right now?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I'm pretty confident, Jerry. Each day I get a little bit more confident. Sitting here talking to you, I can't wait to train him tomorrow morning just to see again what I've been seeing since then. Sitting here on Thursday afternoon talking to you all, I mean I just can't see any reason in the world why he wouldn't go over there and run his race. Now, we've got another nine days to go, or whatever it is, and, as we know, anything can happen. These things can reverse direction on you in a minute. But I sure don't expect that to happen, and so as I said, I'm really, really, really looking forward to taking him over there and running him in the Preakness, just as I was really in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby.
Jerry Bossert: And on Monday, I know you said it's not etched in stone, but it's still scheduled for 6 o'clock Monday morning if he does go to work?
Shug McGaughey: Yes. Yes, as long as the track's okay.
Jennie Rees: Hey, Shug. I was wondering if you've had many other offspring of Malibu Moon, and if—given the royal pedigrees of your clients that you would've ever thought when your first Derby winner would be by a stallion who started off in Maryland for 3,000?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I hadn't thought about that, but that is kind of interesting. Yes, I have had one other offspring of Malibu Moon, and he's a riding horse on a ranch in Montana right now. So I've had two. They were both three year olds this year, and Orb won the Kentucky Derby and the other one couldn't break his maiden.
Jennie Rees: That sort of sums up racing, I guess.
Shug McGaughey: Well it does. I agree with you.
Ed MacNamara: You're welcome. I noticed that Orb has one (inaudible) 14-day break; November 10th to November 24th.
Shug McGaughey: Yes.
Ed MacNamara: Does that give you more confidence that he can handle the turnaround?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I don't know—yes, it is something that I've thought about that I have run him back in a hurry and he ran well off of it. And—but, what’s really given me the confidence is what I've seen with him coming out of his races; his races in Florida, whether he's shipped down two and a half to three hours to sitting around in a receiving barn all day and then went over and ran when it was hot, and got on a van and went back to that place, and (inaudible) you'll see him the next morning and acted like he'd never ran and I'm seeing a little of that here. After the race Saturday, once I got back to the barn he was standing up from the front of the stall and eating out of his hay rack, and the next morning he was—before we shipped him back up here, he was sure—anybody that saw him that day, he was sure enjoying the attention he was getting.
Ed MacNamara: So that's a big aid for you in dealing with something like as stressful as the Triple Crown. He seems to be extremely adaptable.
Shug McGaughey: So far he has been, I would have never dreamed that he would be as effective over Gulfstream Park racetrack as he was, especially the speed favoring it was, and he took it all—he took it all great. And he went down there and he shipped down there three times to run and it didn't seem to bother him any of the three times.
Jessie Oswald: I just had a question. When you took Easy Goer to the Derby in 1989, your children were too young to experience that with you. What does it mean to you to have your children experience this run with Orb?
Shug McGaughey: Well, it's been a lot of fun. I mean they've been very enthusiastic. My oldest one was over there, I think from about Tuesday on. He was spending the mornings with me, and would come back in the afternoon, and he'd get off work if he could, or—he watched him school a couple times. And the younger one was—he was working at Keeneland, but I saw him over there a couple of times in the afternoon and he was with Wise Dan's connection, so after that was all said and done he came and walked over with us and got to participate in all that. I was tickled to death that they could be part of it, and I hope they can be a part of coming to Baltimore next week. I know the older one is. I don't know how tied up Reeve, the youngest one is, but it made it that much better that Chip and Reeve could be there with me.
Mark Doshe: Hi, Shug. How big of a factor is the confidence that Joel Rosario brings to riding Orb, and do you think that there would have been a similar result if Johnny V. had elected to ride Orb in the Derby?
Shug McGaughey: Well, I think both of them are every bit as good as each other. And, yes, I do. I think Johnny would've been just fine on him. And he's an excellent rider, just circumstances, you know, didn't benefit him. But we're tickled to death to have Joel; we were tickled to death to get him. And, to have the year that he started off with, this year, makes us that much more confident; coming off a good Gulfstream, a great Keeneland, winning Five opening night over at Churchill Downs. The kid's riding with all kinds of confidence, and—as you saw him riding Orb in the Derby.
Penelope Miller: Shug, hi. It's Penelope again. Just one last question before we let you go. Will Orb be going into the traditional Preakness stall when he arrives at Pimlico?
Shug McGaughey: He will.
Penelope Miller: Excellent. Well, thank you so, so much for joining us this afternoon and best of luck as we go into the Preakness Stakes.
Shug McGaughey: Okay, Penelope. Thank you very much. Bye again, and thank you, everybody. I appreciate it.
Penelope Miller: Up next we have trainer Al Stall, who will be bringing Departing to the Preakness. He is no stranger to Pimlico's premier race, having finished seventh in the Preakness in 2007 with Terrain (ph). This year he brings Departing to the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Departing won the Illinois Derby on April 20th, and also defeated the Kentucky Derby runner-up, Golden Soul, in the Louisiana Derby on March 30th. Many of you know that Al Stall is not afraid of a challenge. In 2010, his trainee, Blame, defeated Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic for the same connections as those that own Departing. Al, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. Can you tell us a little bit about how Departing is doing?
Al Stall: Oh we're happy with him. He's acting like a fresh horse. He's had one breeze since the race in Illinois, and he's scheduled to have another one this weekend and ship over to Baltimore on Wednesday, so we're very happy with the horse.
Penelope Miller: Excellent. As we have press on the line right now, I will open up questions to them, and thank you so much again for joining us.
Al Stall: Sure. My pleasure.
Ron Flatter: Al, on first blush looking at the charts, it would seem off the PPs that Departing would need a slower pace to win. Is that accurate from looking at the charts, or would you disagree with that?
Al Stall: A slower pace? No, I think a fast pace would help us. He comes from, you know, he relaxes really well and he lays off of any kind of pace. I mean he's a pretty versatile and handy horse if the pace is slow; he'd certainly be closer. But if they went out of there like they did in the Derby, he'd have been back by Orb and then Mylute. So he can handle whatever's thrown at him, but fast or slow, he'll be just fine.
Ron Flatter: And could you just go over what the thought process was to—as far as not going to the Derby, and why the Preakness, and maybe even just sort of the road map going forward after the Preakness?
Al Stall: Well, he just—he'd only had—the Louisiana Derby was only his fourth start, and we felt like he lacked a little seasoning in that race. He might've gotten in a little bit of trouble, but it just kind of looked like the gaps were closing a little faster than he could get to them. So after that race we said, well, the Derby's just too tough, and it's a tough race, and he's a gelding who we're looking for, you know, quite a bit of longevity out of him, so we decided to pass on the Derby. We didn't even really consider it to be quite honest with you. And now that they moved the Illinois Derby back a couple weeks because of their lack of the points that they didn't—they didn't have any points to give away, we thought it fit our schedule very well and set us up possibly to run the Preakness. And after he ran such a good race, then we started considering the Preakness. So we just fell into that.
And as far as going forward, we just, you know, like I said, he's a gelding and we're just trying to do what's right by the horse, so we'll just, you know, as corny as it sounds, we'll just take it one race at a time, and we'll see how he does in Baltimore, and play it off there.
Debbie Arrington: Hi, Al. Thanks for coming on today. And how has Departing developed since the Illinois Derby? Has he continued to progress?
Al Stall: Well, we think he has. He's—just in the last 60 days, I've seen just a lot of change in him in; just a typical three year old that is going in the right direction. It seems like he was better out at the Louisianan Derby within 48 to 72 hours, and out of the Illinois Derby it seems the same way. He's—we have to really slow him down a little bit, gallop him in the morning and slow him down a little bit in his breeze—in his breeze since the Illinois Derby, which beforehand, he was just kind of going around there. So he's definitely more into it, and he's, you know, perfectly fit and a very strong horse right now. He's using himself very well, and there's definite progress, no question.
Debbie Arrington: As an interested observer, what did you think of the Derby this year?
Al Stall: Well, I mean I'm—from an emotional and a racing fan, I love the way it turned out. I know the Phippses and I know Shug very well for a long time, and I've trained horses for Wayne Hughes, who (inaudible) Malibu Moon, and the fact that the horse was raised on same farm. So, you know, I was just happy that all those people got their just desserts, and especially, you know, especially the owner and trainer of the horse. And I like the way it played out. It was no real surprise that there was going to be a fast pace in the Derby, and the horses that were way in the back early finished up and ran one, two, three, four, five. So I enjoyed it, and, you know, I'm looking forward to the next leg.
Ted Lewis: Hi. Could you talk a little bit about your relationship with the—your ownership group? They seem to be one of the O-line (ph) breeders, which you don't see much of anymore.
Al Stall: Right, no, they're great people. The horse comes first. We actually go back, you know, a long, long time. When I was a kid, my grandfather and father, you know, they knew not to follow empty wagons, and they tried to breed their mares to Claiborne's (inaudible) going back to Tom Rolfe, and Drone, and the horses like that. And Seth and his Dad were always—or his dad at first and then Seth were always kind enough to, you know, let a mare or two come in there, and so there's always been that connection. And then it goes down the line a little further and we try and keep our others working for Claiborne Farm, and I worked—the only person I've ever worked for in the race track was Frank Brothers. And so, you know, we're kind of all tied in, and when Seth gave me a phone call and we met, you know, years ago, and he said I want to give you a majority of the horses, he was very excited and we got very lucky with Blame in the first crop, I believe it was, and we've been together ever since, and hopefully we can keep going forward.
Ted Lewis: One other thing, if I might. I'm not sure if Tom has made a decision yet on Mylute, but what would that mean for the two of you to both be in a Triple Crown race at the same time?
Al Stall: Yes, no, that's—we've never—we've hooked up in hundreds and maybe thousands of races, but we've never been in a big one like that. It would be fun. You know, we—(inaudible) probably be go out to eat and do all those kind of things, and it would be exciting. I'm like everybody else waiting to see what he's going to do with his horse, because his horse is a definite factor.
Tim Wilkin: Hey, Al. Horsemen don't usually like to run horses back in two weeks. In your experience with your own horses, what do you do to bring a horse back in two weeks when you absolutely have to?
Al Stall: Well, I've done it on a cheaper level. I've brought cheaper horses back in five days, seven days. I have no experience with the classics. I'd imagine, you know, knowing, you know, the horses that get into those type of races are usually very good horsemen, and you just watch your horse and let him tell you what to do; whether you—some people just gallop, some people just throw in a little breeze. Like I think Shug said, he might breeze on Monday or Tuesday, and you just kind of follow the horse. And you don't want to do it too often; you don't want to go to the well too often, but the Derby form, if the horse doesn't have a hiccup between the Derby and the Preakness, the Derby winner usually comes back and runs a pretty powerful race in two weeks time. It's been proven over time that that will happen.
Tim Wilkin: What has to happen for anyone to beat Orb do you think in Baltimore?
Al Stall: Well, yes, I mean I'm not sure. I mean I'm going in— you know, we're going in with a horse that we know is doing well, and we think is a nice horse, and other than that, I have no idea. I mean we plan on going in there without hesitation, and running (inaudible) race, and whether that's good enough to beat Orb, I have no earthly idea, but all we can do is just take care of our horse and lead him over there with confidence.
Liz Clark: Thanks, Al. This is another one about the schedule in general. And I totally understand your explanation for Departing's schedule. But I'm wondering just as a trainer, you know, taking the broad view, do you think it's worth the sport taking another look at the turnaround for those three Triple Crown races, the scheduling, or do you feel that the tradition is so important it's really not to be messed with, or something in between?
Al Stall: Yes, no I like the way it is. I mean that's what makes it so hard. I think it would be, you know, it would take away from what's happened with the horses that have won the Triple Crown. I know it might've been set up quite a bit different in the forties, but, you know, and back to the sixties and seventies, and we haven't had a winner since then, so—since the late seventies. But, you know, if you're, you know, you can kind of—it's up to the horse and the trainer. If the horse is ready for those races grouped together, sure, go ahead and run, but if the horse isn't, they shouldn't be in there. So I think—I'm not saying it's just perfect, but I like the tradition. I'm not that old, but I'm kind of an old school type person, and I respect what's happened in the past, and, you know, the odds of me ever running a horse in all three Triple Crown races would be remote unless you just had the exact right horse for that type of thing, and that's what the Triple Crown is all about.
Tim Sullivan: Yes, I was wondering if you've had any second thoughts about not running in the Derby based on how well you ran in the Illinois Derby, and whether you think that he would've handled the sloppy track very well?
Al Stall: Well, no, no, we (inaudible), and if you look back and, you know, (inaudible) on a daily basis like we do, if you look back at what was done or might've done, you'll drive yourself crazy, so there has been no looking back whatsoever. We were very careful with our horse, like I said earlier. We have a gelding that we want, you know, quite a bit of longevity out of, so we're happy with our spot right now, and very excited to run in the Preakness.
Tim Sullivan: About the track, do you think he would've been able to handle…?
Al Stall: Yes, nothing's bothered him. He's been good. We got a lot of rain this winter at the fairgrounds, and he's (inaudible) breezed over it. We shipped him from New Orleans to train in (inaudible) and he handled that track. We shipped him to Churchill to (inaudible) and he handled that track. So his pedigree says he'd have been just fine on that racetrack, and I think the same that he would've been just fine, and he'll be fine in the rain (inaudible) wherever he might go down the road.
Jerry Bossert: After getting points in the Louisiana Derby when you were third, I mean why didn't you, you know, try for another point race, you know, with the possible Derby—thinking of Derby, or—and why did we also have to add Lasix in the Illinois Derby?
Al Stall: Now the point system is fine. I mean I don't—we were just trying to act in the best interest of our horse. We certainly don't want to go around chasing points to get into a certain race. I mean that's just—that was something we'd never even really talked about. I mean we would've had to have gone to, you know, the Blue Grass on poly, which was never under consideration. And nothing against the poly, it was just kind of tight. Arkansas would've been tight. So, you know, as soon as he crossed the line in the Louisiana Derby we felt like the Illinois Derby made all the sense in the world for us with our type of horse.
And as far as the Lasix, we just thought it was time for him to, you know, just try it and see how he would do. We've never had an issue with him bleeding, maybe just trying to use it now at the races and the (inaudible) getting deeper as a prophylactic type of thing. And—I mean every once in awhile he's had a speck or so, but nothing—no streams or anything that would be performance, you know, it would hurt his performance. So he just had a small dose in the Illinois Derby; the minimum that you could give up there, which I think as 3 CCs. And I haven't decided what we're going to do for the Preakness, whether it's going to be 3 or 5, or something like that. But I don't think it's an issue. It's how we ran. I really feel like he gained just a ton of seasoning out of the Louisiana Derby, and we can see it in his—I mean after his race, and I think that's what propelled him forward so much.
Jerry Bossert: Okay, but just, you know, it seems like when it's Derby time everyone gets that Derby fever. It's so unusual to see someone take your approach is what basically I'm trying to…
Al Stall: Well, you know the connections. I mean (inaudible) Hancock does not get Derby fever and never is going to have Derby fever. I mean he'd be willing to run the right horse in the Derby down the road, but it just—we just didn't feel like this was the right horse to go bang heads in a 20-horse field. It ended up being a 19-horse field going a mile and a quarter at that time, and we just—we just didn't feel like he was the right horse to do that with.
Jerry Bossert: And you'll be getting there on Wednesday with the horse?
Al Stall: Right. He'll come on the plane—the charter that's going to come out of Churchill Downs with the rest of the horses that are coming from this way, and he'll most probably get there around 2, 3 o'clock Wednesday afternoon.
Lenny Shulman: I know you guys have been playing to this race obviously for awhile, and I know these folks are sportsmen who you work for. But after Orb won the Derby, was there any hesitation, you know, with the Farm to run against their long-time clients in this race?
Al Stall: No, no, none that I heard. We always had Preakness in mind, and, you know, I mean it was kind of obvious that we were pointing in that direction, so not really, no. They just—like I said, we just—we'll just tee it up. They've done before, you know, speaking of Gold and Forty Niner, and different type of horses; I'm sure there's been others, and we're just—we're hoping for the best ride (ph) horse, and wishing them the best.
Danny Brewer: Four wins in the last five starts, five times in the money, where is Departing at as far as on his scale? I mean is he getting close to peaking right now, or what's your thoughts on that?
Al Stall: I mean I think he's—I don't know about peaking, but I think he's heading in the—he's on an upward swing. I just think he's a typical three year old who is a good horse, and hopefully going to even higher than a good horse. So it's very exciting to have—you know—horses go in different directions, and they do it in a hurry; usually it's south. But this horse seems to be getting better, and you can see it right before your eyes. And in the spring of the three year old year, a nice three year old will raise his hand and say, you know, I'm—I want to get better and I'm going forward, and he certainly gives us every indication that he's that type of horse.
Danny Brewer: As far as game plan, you touched on it a little bit earlier, it's pretty much Departing being Departing and the best Departing he can be is what needs to happen for you at Pimlico?
Al Stall: Right, right. We'll just—hopefully we'll get a nice draw, and then nice trip, and we fire, and where that puts us that's where it puts us. And I mean obviously if we can't win we certainly would love to see Orb go down the road as the Triple—you know—as a potential Triple Crown winner. And so, you know, there's a lot to be gained from this race, but like I said, we're going there without hesitation and we feel very good about our animal.
Katherine Terrell: I was just wondering, you said you plan to work Departing this weekend. Is there any way those plans would change perhaps if the weather was bad, and would you consider just galloping him through the week?
Al Stall: No, no, no, he'll definitely have a breeze. The weather looks good. I mean I—we've been watching the weather close and it looks like we have some stuff coming in this evening and tomorrow, and so let's assume the track might be a little wet tomorrow and Saturday, and then air is going to cool right off, I mean like almost frost warnings in the—out in the country and here, and I imagine Sunday morning will be a nice dry, crisp day, and the morning after the break I would imagine the track will be nice and hydrated, and almost perfect. So—and if it's not like that, we can always go Monday; it's not a big deal. So that's the beauty of having this four weeks in between races, you have a little bit of flexibility.
Penelope Miller: Okay, Al. Well, thank you so, so much for joining us, and we wish you the best of luck as you go into the Preakness with Departing.
Al Stall: Okay, thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
Penelope Miller: Thank you.
Al Stall: Bye-bye.
Penelope Miller: Bye-bye. Up next we have Hall of Fame jockey, Gary Stevens, who is a veteran of the Preakness Stakes, having ridden 16 horses in the race, including two winners. One was Point Given in 2001, and the other was Silver Charm in 1997. Of his 15, excuse me, 16 Preakness Stakes starts, Stevens has finished in the money 10 times. And Gary announced his retirement from racing on November 27th, 2005, moving into the television and movie world. He has starred in such motion pictures as "Seabiscuit", and the television show, "Luck", as well as joining NBC and HRTV as a horse racing analyst on air. Stevens returned to racing on January 6th, 2013, and notched his first victory back on January 12th. Most recently, Gary rode Oxbow in the Kentucky Derby, and we're delighted to have him here on the teleconference. Gary, how are you today?
Gary Stevens: I'm doing great, Penelope. Thank you.
Penelope Miller: Thank you for being here. So tell us a little bit about what it was like getting back in the Kentucky Derby?
Gary Stevens: It was exciting. I'll have been back riding for five months now, and I think my focus has returned every bit as much as what it had been, you know, upon my retirement. I'm very comfortable out there right now. And I'll tell you that the exciting part for me, it wasn't just getting to the Kentucky Derby and going out there and being a participant, but being out in the post parade and admiring the way that Oxbow was handling everything from the time in the paddock to out on the racetrack playing "My Old Kentucky Home", and walking up to the starting gate. I had a smile on my face, and I looked over at the girl that was ponying me and I said, man, I'm liking this. And she said, what, being in the Derby? And I said, no, the way this horse just warmed up. I walked in there just full of confidence, and that's a great feeling.
This horse gave me all the right signals warming up, and stood in there like a total gentleman. You know, he was loaded first, and he just—he stuck his nose in the V of the starting gate, and was looking down the racetrack and was just very focused, and that's a pretty good feeling. I've been on the other end of it when, you know, a horse hasn't warmed up real focused or his mind is drifting and maybe hasn't warmed up to your liking, and you know that your chances are not as good as they should be or what you had hoped prior to the race. And he gave me all the right signals warming up, so that was a good feeling.
Ron Flatter: Gary, any ongoing effects from the injury you absorbed early Saturday?
Gary Stevens: No, just I was a little banged up. I needed to get some therapy and get loosened up a little bit and focus on the Kentucky Derby. And, you know, I rode Slim Shady in the Turf Classic just prior to, and that wasn't an easy mount either. He's a fractious horse in the starting gate, and reared up in there a couple of times banging me around a little bit. But I'm heading to Churchill right now; I ride a race later on this afternoon, so I feel great.
Ron Flatter: What was the extent of the aches and pains or bruises or whatever? What exactly did you end up with?
Gary Stevens: Just my shoulder, it got knocked around pretty good on my first mount of the day, so that was the extent of it. It just needed some Jacuzzi therapy and a bit of a rubdown and stretched back out again. As you know, it was pouring down rain, it was a cold rain, and I'll just tell you, at 50 years old, you don't—you feel things a little differently than you did when you were 16 years old.
Ron Flatter: Yes, is there any bit of this comeback or anything in the process where you feel like an apprentice all over again; like a rookie or anything like that?
Gary Stevens: Yes, no, not at all. I mean from my first day back in the job (inaudible) and that was out in California, and, you know, that's sort of home base, and I know all the guys there, and that's been my backyard for years and years, and I went right back into my old locker and it was almost like déjà vu. You know, coming here to Churchill and with all the media blitz prior to the Kentucky Derby, you know, I keep trying to answer as many questions as I could for the press. You know, I—you start thinking, man, am I really that old, you know, and I tried to just keep it out of my head and think about the guys that are out there that have a few years on me that are close to my age, you know, that are doing extremely well. And as I've said, you know, in the months past, that I feel better right now than I did in the last five or six years that I was riding competitively before my retirement in 2005.
Danny Brewer: How—has—did you play any part in Oxbow being cool and collected going in the gate, because I know he's been kind of a handful, or that's what I've heard in the past?
Gary Stevens: Well, you know, I only met him in the afternoon and the Arkansas Derby was the only time I'd been on his back, and I was fortunate enough to get the work him two times prior to the Kentucky Derby. And I was really impressed with his demeanor. Wayne, you know, he would have me get up on his back about 20 minutes prior to the workout, walk around the barn a couple of loops and then go out to the gap so he could be the first one on the track. And his workout the Monday before Derby, you know, there was a huge slew of photographers out there, and most horses would've been agitated and maybe got a bit upset, and he just—he handles it with so much class. So I don't know if I contributed to that or not, I just know I'm very comfortable on his back and we mesh pretty good.
You know, after our initial meeting in the Arkansas Derby, which didn't go well, but I knew what I had done wrong immediately when it happened early on in the race. And, you know, I'm a guy that lives and dies by the sport, and if I make a mistake I call it out, you know, and try and correct the problem. And that's probably what I've been known for throughout my career, and had a lot of faith in myself that, you know, it's all right to make a mistake, just don't make the same mistake twice.
So he's just a cool head. He's a cool horse to be around, and he's very competitive when those doors open up or when you're giving him a workout in the morning. When he turns around and he knows that he's going to have a workout, he becomes very aggressive. You know, but he's got a high cruising speed, and I think the thing I was most impressed with him at the Derby, that he was the only one of the top six horses that, you know, was part of that heated battle early on at those fast fractions that stuck around to the end of the ace. And, you know, I'm of the opinion that he's the type of horse that he'll sit off of a couple of horses like he did in the Derby, but he's not going to want to be too far away. So a lot of it depends on what type of pace he may be setting if he's in front, or the horses that are in front of him. And I'm of the opinion if they go, you know, 23 and 4 he'll go 24 and 1. If they go 22 and change, you're going to see what you saw in the Derby; that's just him. And I found out in the Arkansas Derby you can't reach up and take a big hold of him, you've got to make him happy.
Danny Brewer: Is that what makes you think that he's got a real chance in the Preakness how he was able to lay close to the pace and still be there at the end in the Derby?
Gary Stevens: Yes, definitely so. He's got a huge tank. I mean, you know, we came into the stretch and I thought to myself at the five sixteenth just before we entered the stretch, I said, man, I'm going to win my fourth Derby. And the feeling, it only lasted for three or four seconds, but the thing that was great about him is he had every right to just chuck as the rest of the pacemakers did in the race, and he paddled on to the finish line and actually gassed out the same from the finish line until I pulled up. I almost ran over the top of Oxbow pulling up. Oxbow, he was a fresh horse after the race, and the reason I know that is he wasn't looking to pull up, and when the outrider came up next to him to pull him up with that red jacket on, he was like a two year old that was like, what are you doing, and he (inaudible) under Joel. And I was right behind him and almost ran over the top of him. But I was real proud of Oxbow.
Debbie Arrington: Hi, Gary. Thanks again for coming on here. How do you think you're going to turn the tables on Orb?
Gary Stevens: Well, first of all I just want to pass out my congratulations to Mr. Phipps, Mr. Janney, and most of all, Shug McGaughey; long overdue. And as you just heard me say, Orb was a fresh horse after the race, and I don't know what I'm going to do to change the tables. I'm hoping that Oxbow likes Pimlico. He's proven travelling. I mean he went into Louisiana and won the Lecomte Stakes earlier this year by a large margin. He likes travelling, he likes new scenery, and so we've got that going for us. I've got going for us his style of running that he'll be up close to the pace, and you don't have as much traffic to kind of fight your way through. And what I've got to hope is that Orb has—doesn't show up the same horse that did for the Derby and that he may have some traffic problems, because I'm going to be flat honest with you, we're all up against it. I liked what I saw in the winner, and I think that we're seeing a colt that really hasn't—he has untapped resources right now. I think he's still improving, and that's kind of a scary thought, and, you know, I'm going to have to figure something out there; you know, when they draw the race, figure out what post positions we're all in and I'll decide what's my strategy. But I do know I'll be up close if not on the lead.
Liz Clark: I know that female jockeys aren't exactly a new phenomenon in Triple Crown races, but I'm wondering in the four decades since, I guess, Diane Crump was the first in the Derby, from your point of view, I mean how would you rate the inroads that women have made as jockeys at these very important races; at the Triple Crown races? Is it about what you might've thought over the past four decades, is it a little less, or a little more, or, you know, how do you kind of sum that up?
Gary Stevens: I think it's about what I expected. I mean you go back to Diane Crump, and then Donna Barton Brothers, and Julie Krone, and the list is growing ever bigger as time goes on, and, you know, Chantal Sutherland. But Rosie Napravnik, to me, she's cut from the same cloth as Julie Krone. And Julie Krone won at Belmont Stakes, she won a Classic, she won a Breeders' Cup. And Rosie's already won a Breeders' Cup. I mean she's talented, and I don't care what kind of clothes she puts on after her races are over or what kind of perfume she puts on, she's competitive, she's tough, she rides a good race, she rides a smart race, and she's fiery. She's got all the tools of a great jockey, and she's still improving, that's the beauty of it. I—the same as Orb, I don't think we've seen the best of Rosie Napravnik if she stays healthy.
Gary Stevens: Hey, Tim. Thanks for the great article, by the way.
Tim Sullivan: Oh, thanks. I wanted to follow-up on your comment about Orb, and of all the horses that have had a shot at the Triple Crown over the last 35 years, how high do you rate him, and maybe what horse that didn't win did you think had the best chance?
Gary Stevens: Well, I think Point Given, who obviously I rode, and he (inaudible) leg, but he's the best horse never to have won a Triple Crown. I think that Easy Goer, who Shug trained, I guess the great Sunday Silence, had it not been for Sunday Silence, and vice versa, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, I think those two—both those two horses would've been Triple Crown winners. But, you know, (inaudible) I thought had the challenge with what we saw him do in the Derby, and then the horrific breakdown in the Preakness (inaudible). And Smarty Jones, he, you know, he was kind of a—I wouldn't say he was one dimensional, but he was a fast horse, and got and got attacked by all sides early on in the Belmont Stakes, and, you know, that was a fault of his, if you want to call it a fault.
But what I see in Orb, he has no faults about him. Joel knew to keep him out of trouble once he got him wound up. He did keep him out of trouble. And as I said, Shug McGaughey, he's a throwback, and one of those greatest trainers that, you know, of my generation for sure. And, you know, just watching this horse progress and everything, I think he has an excellent chance of pulling it off. If he pulls off the Preakness, then he goes to his own track at Belmont where he's been training every day since he was a baby (inaudible), it's going to be fun to watch.
Tim Wilkin: Hey, Gary. I'm sure that when you were in the booth people were asking you how much you missed racing. Now are anybody asking you if you're missing broadcasting?
Gary Stevens: Well, it's funny you ask that. I went over and did the press call with NBC on Thursday before the Derby, and it was the first time I'd gone over to the compound. And, you know, I was set there with Tom, and Jenny, (inaudible), and the whole crew. And the Jerry was in there and Randy Moss (ph) and stuff, and the hardest part for me was being there for a moment with Tom Hammond. Tom and I have grown to be very close friends, and, you know, he's big daddy. He runs the train, and I just follow along when I'm working with him. The way I look at it, I'm not done with that. I'm on a leave of absence right now, and NBC has been very gracious and has given me loads and loads of support. And I miss it up there, but I'm loving what I'm doing right now. And as I've said time and again since this comeback, I don't know how long it will last, but it feels good, it feels right, and it's fun watching the show. You know, we turned on the telecast (inaudible) as it came on in the jockeys' quarter the other day and were watching everything, so, you know, I was just another jockey riding in the Kentucky Derby the other day. But I hope that answers your questions as best as I can.
Tim Wilkin: Yes, and one more, Gary. The—do you think we're ever going to see a Triple Crown winner again?
Gary Stevens: I think we have a very good chance of seeing one, buddy.
Tim Wilkin: Not this year, though, if you have anything to do with it.
Gary Stevens: The tough part about it is I'm—I feel a lot like I did with—when I was riding Victory Gallop against Real Quiet in the Kentucky Derby. You're paid to go out there and try and beat them and devise any way that you can to try and beat them. And I'm trying to do that right now. That's my job, that's what I'm paid for, but you can bet if I'm getting passed by horses at the 16th pole, I'm going to rooting for that other horse.
Ron Flatter: Yes, Gary, I wanted to jump back on. I wanted to get some reaction from you with the news today that Hollywood Park is closing after this year. What are your thoughts?
Gary Stevens: Well, I hadn't got the news yet. I just came from lunch with my wife, and I haven't been keeping up real well today. But we knew it was coming, and, yes, I'm not surprised about it. We felt that it was coming probably after this summer. I don't even know if they're planning to run the fall meet there, Ron, this fall.
Ron Flatter: Yes, December 22nd would be the last day.
Gary Stevens: It's sad, but it's something that we've had plenty of time to prepare for. And I don't know if we've done a very good job preparing for it as far as where all these horses that are stabled at Hollywood Park are going to go, but I'm sure that all the horseman organizations will get together along with the California Horse Racing Board and devise the best plan.
Penelope Miller: Hey, Gary. It's Penelope again. One more quick question for you. You talked a little bit about Rosie Napravnik and her skills as a jockey. Can you tell us what you think about Joel Rosario and his remarkable year this year?
Gary Stevens: He's a freak in a good way, and I'm proud to say that my job analyst, I was one of the first guys to pick him out when he moved to (inaudible) in Northern California. He had all the tools, and he continues to sharpen the edge of all of his tools, and it's fun to watch right now. What he did at Keeneland, breaking Randy Romero's record, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. And then opening night here at Churchill Downs, Derby (inaudible) saw (inaudible) come in and win Five. If he can carry that over from one track to the other, granted his business is unbelievable right now, but he deserves the business that he's getting, and I look forward to watching him throughout the rest of his career.
Penelope Miller: Well, we look forward to watching you at the Preakness a week from Saturday, and thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.
Gary Stevens: All right, Penelope. Thank you.
Penelope Miller: That is it for our weekly NTRA teleconference. We will be back again with our preview of the Belmont Stakes at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 30th.
blog comments powered by Disqus