Road to the Triple Crown Teleconference transcript from February 18, 2014
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Jim Mulvihill: Thank you members of the media for joining us on this our first NTRA national media teleconference of 2014. We'll be with you most Tuesdays from now through the end of May talking primarily about three year olds on the Triple Crown trail; occasionally the fillies on the Kentucky Oaks trail. This Saturday, of course, marks an important milestone on the road to the Kentucky Derby in terms of the points available to make the starting gate. We're kicking off what Churchill Downs refers to as the Kentucky Derby Championship Series. Those are the final 16 prep races, most of which carry 50 or 100—50 or 100 points to the winners. Saturday, of course, we have the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. Both of those are worth a total of 85 points. That goes down to fourth on a 50, 20, 10 and 5 point scale. Both of these races on Saturday are at one and one sixteenth miles.
In case you're wondering what's it's going to take to make the gate for the Derby, the Wynn Las Vegas is offering an over/under prop on the points needed, and that line last we checked is at 20.5 points.
Also underway Saturday, the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series, with the Davona Dale at Gulfstream, and the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds. Both of those, of course, are 85 point races as well. Later in this call we'll talk with Jeremiah Englehart. He is the trainer of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, Ria Antonia, making her three year old debut against her own sex in the Rachel Alexandra, but possibly still a candidate for the Kentucky Derby. We've also got Elliott Walden racing for WinStar Farm to talk about Commissioner, and Jose Garoffalo, trainer of the Hutcheson winner, Wildcat Red. They're both in the Fountain of Youth.
But first to start us off, we're going to bring in Rosie Napravnik who rides Lecomte Stakes winner Vicar's in Trouble in the Risen Star. Rosie currently leads the jockey standings at Fair Grounds where she's won the last three riding titles. She's one a Kentucky Oaks, of course, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Last fall she won a title at Keeneland, and finished 2013 with more than $13 million in earnings. That's the most ever by a female rider. Last year she also became the first woman rider to pick up a check in the Kentucky Derby, finishing fifth on Mylute. But, of course, she's hoping to outdo that this year, perhaps with Vicar's in Trouble.
Rosie, welcome to the call. You're on with Jim Mulvihill in New York.
Rosie Napravnik: Thank you.
Jim Mulvihill: Hey, we're glad you're here with us. We're going to start talking about Vicar's in Trouble. You're the only rider that this colt has known in the afternoons. He won the Lecomte so easily. That was his first try around two turns. What have you learned about him this winter, and especially what did you learn in the Lecomte?
Rosie Napravnik: Well, I'll tell you what, I think, breeding aside and everything aside, from a horse that came from such a speedy and impressive sprint win, there's always a question of how will it stretch out to two turns especially against graded company, and he couldn't have been more impressive in the way that he did it. I was really impressed. I I had the same questions as everybody else did just because he's so speedy and he had been sprinting. And I mean he handled everything extremely professionally. He rated and he kicked out fabulously and was very much the best, and it sort of answered everybody's question does he belong in this company, and yes he does.
Jim Mulvihill: And then for Saturday's race they drew yesterday, and unfortunately you drew the 14 hole. What kind of trip do you expect from there, and how does it change the way you ride the race, especially going into that first turn?
Rosie Napravnik: The 14 hole wouldn't have been the one that I would've handpicked for myself, but I—like I said to my husband, Joe, who is the Assistant Trainer overseeing Vickar, I said, well, it's better than the 1 hole. So—and he's very quick out of the gate, and I think there's some other speed in the race and he has the ability to stalk or go to the front. So, it's not my first choice, but it could've been worse, and I think with his tactical ability, it's—we should still be able to get a good trip from the outside.
Jim Mulvihill: Now you mentioned having some of the same questions everybody else had coming into the last start, and I think one of the ones that people latched onto was the fact that this is a Louisiana bred, and it's been many, many years since we've seen a Louisiana bred in the Kentucky Derby or even winning the Louisiana Derby. From your perspective, what does it mean anything where a horse is foaled? I mean from a jockey's perspective, the horse doesn't know where it's born.
Rosie Napravnik: Absolutely, and he's showed—in his first start at Keeneland against (inaudible) company that he was competitive there, and, you know, actually I laughed and said to Mike when I got off of him after finished third in that race, I said, well, he'll do it in Louisiana. And yet the way that he ran in the maiden race when he broke his maiden, which was a state-bred race down here at the Fair Grounds, pretty much shows that he's a little bit above that class. So I mean obviously everybody has that question when they see the state bred in front of his name, but he's, you know, it's all about the horse and he's so far proven that he's ready to go to the next level, and he's absolutely, you know, couldn't be (inaudible) in the Risen Star. So Louisiana bred or not, he's going to have every chance that any other horse would.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, and before I open it up to the media, you also ride on Untapable in the Rachel Alexandra. You were on her, of course, in the Breeders' Cup, and I'm wondering if you've been on her in the mornings recently?
Rosie Napravnik: I breezed her once I think there last week on Monday, and then I breezed her the week before that. She breezed fabulously; sat off of another horse, and just completely powered it home, and a great, great finish (inaudible). She seems to be doing extremely well, and I know Steve's really pleased with the way she's been training, so really looking forward to that. I loved her going into the Breeders' Cup, and obviously that was no display of her talent. I mean I'm not really sure why she didn't run good that day, but I'm really looking forward to her in her three year old year.
Jim Mulvihill: That's great to hear. Well, I'm going to turn it back over to Michelle to get some questions from the media. I'm sure people will be curious about some of the nice fillies that you rode this past weekend, as well as perhaps some other questions about Vicar's in Trouble. Michelle?
Danny Brewer: What about the building process that—of Vicar's in Trouble, and what kind of role have you played in getting this horse on the road to the Kentucky Derby?
Rosie Napravnik: Well, actually with this particular horse I've only been there on the race days. I don't think I've ever been on him in the morning. My husband Joe is Mike's Assistant Trainer that has been overseeing Vicar, and unfortunately he loves to get on him, so he's done all of the work in the morning with him, and basically done the building craft (inaudible). And, Mike and Joe have done a great job, and he's really been, you know, gone through all the steps the right way, and so I'm really looking forward to taking this next step a little further and against some real legitimate company to see just how good he is.
Danny Brewer: Talk about Kentucky Derby fever for just a moment and how it's gripped you. I know you've obviously been the highest finisher of any female in Derby history, so how does Kentucky Derby fever grip you, especially right now?
Rosie Napravnik: It's an exciting time of year. As far as looking directly at the Kentucky Derby, I know from the three years that I've had horses pointed in that direction that it definitely doesn't go the way it's ever planned. The first year I ended up picking up a mount in the Louisiana Derby, and that horse went straight to the Kentucky Derby when I never thought I would've ever ridden in the race. The next year I thought I was going to ride (inaudible), and he was through on entry day. And then this past year we had Shanghai Bobby was a favorite going into it, and I ended up riding Mylute and had a great finish in the Derby. So for me it's, you know, it's not really Derby fever but it's just the fever of the season, and watching the prep races, riding in some of the prep races and, you know, jockeys and up flip-flopping on and off different horses, and then, you know, come Derby time you end up on maybe someone you didn't plan on riding in the Derby or maybe nobody at all. So for me, I like to sit back and wait until it all happens and take it in then.
Danny Brewer: You have been extremely successful in a male dominated sport. When you won the Kentucky Oaks on Believe You Can, was that poetic justice for Rosie Napravnik being what you've been able to accomplish over the last few years?
Rosie Napravnik: Absolutely. Winning the Kentucky Oaks on Believe You Can was probably one of my most—or the most memorable moments of my career. Just riding that filly through the preps, and having been so close to winning the race the year before, and knowing that it was possible and then just being able to accomplish that for my own personal sense of where I've come from and how much—how hard I've worked to get here, and it was just, you know, solidified all the hard work and just flashed the question of possibility.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Rosie, before we let you go I wanted to ask about some of the promising fillies that you rode this past weekend. A lot of people were looking at Samantha Nicole, the full sister to Rachel Alexandra. She was a bit of a handful. Could you just give us your impressions of her debut?
Rosie Napravnik: Actually, I was never around Rachel when she was running, but everybody that was around Rachel said that she looked and acts exactly the same. She was a real feel good filly and she was acting up a lot in her debut in the paddock and the post-grade. And she actually stood very well in the gate but broke extremely awkward, which really put us at a disadvantage position-wise in the race considering the pace. And she ran a very good race. I mean it was really an impossible setup for—but she still did everything that I asked of her and finished well, and I think she's really going to learn from that experience and become desensitized to the whole first race experience, and hopefully she'll be a little bit better behaved next time and maybe a little less rambunctious, but she definitely has some talent and I'm looking forward to riding her in the next race.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. And then another one I'm very interested in is Fiftyshadesofgold. You went over to Sam Houston. You've had a ton of success there the past few years, but this Texas bred filly trained by Bret Calhoun and had been off since Saratoga, but comes back and looks perhaps like she might be on the Oaks trail.
Rosie Napravnik: You know, she ran a great race, and Bret did a great job getting her back from the layoff after having a very successful summer with her as a two year old, and then, you know, coming back into the full force of the three year old filly season is definitely not something easy to do coming off a layoff, but I think they managed her perfectly by putting her in the Texas Bred Stakes, where'd she be in an easier spot and the distance was perfect, 7 furlongs, so she didn't have to stretch out off the layoff for the first time going around two turns. She did it very well. In the race we sat off the pace and I was actually kind of moving out on her early but just sort of in a sense of just getting her going as opposed to trying to beat the horse in front, because once we turned for home I kind of—I knew that we were going to beat the horse that was on the lead and there was just the matter of getting there. I never ended up using my whip, because I was that confident, but she did gallop on by easily. So I think it'll be exciting to see her go two turns. I think she's going to be twice the filly that she is once she does a go round of her own, and it's very exciting to—for when she makes her next step.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, it sounds like you've got a lot of great options and lots to look forward to this spring, so we're going to wish you luck on Saturday, and hopefully talk to you again later on in the coming months. Thanks for coming on with us.
Rosie Napravnik: Thanks a lot, Jim. Thank you, everybody.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Rosie Napravnik, everybody. She's going to ride Vicar's in Trouble in Saturday's Risen Star Stakes.
Now we'll move on to our next guest, and that is trainer Jose Garoffalo. He's got Wildcat Red in Saturday's Fountain of Youth. Garoffalo is a native of Venezuela. He was born into a racing family. Grew up on a horse farm, started out on his own as a breeder, then he became a trainer before moving to the US in 1999. He's trained for more than 20 years. He won his first graded stakes in the 2012 Davona Dale. That's at Gulfstream. That was with Yara, who went on to run in that year's Kentucky Oaks. Let's see, Saturday he's got, as I mentioned, Wildcat Red; winner, of course, of the 7 furlong Hutcheson that was on February 1st.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Thanks for joining us today. Let's talk first about the Hutcheson. You said afterwards that you were very pleased with how Wildcat Red focused in that race; something that maybe he had had a little bit of trouble with before, but you saw some progress in his mental development. How did he come back from that race, and how has he moved forward since then?
Jose Garoffalo: Well, he came back very good from the race. He finished the race, winning easily with no effort during the race. And I also noticed that the horse was more focused, more relaxed; that he could run just behind the speed with no problems, and then he showed that he can finish strongly if he runs kind of relaxed in the beginning. And I think that the slower the pace, the longer he can go.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. My next question was going to be about how long he can go. I mean he's by a stallion who was a Grade 1 winner sprinting. What more have you seen that tells you that not only is a mile and a sixteenth within his scope, but perhaps further if he earns the chance?
Jose Garoffalo: Well, I've been training the horse for longer distances maybe since December, so I was looking forward to run in the Gulfstream Park Derby one mile, and he handled the mile very well. He got beat just by maybe a nose or a hair in that race. He proved that he can handle the mile in a very good way. So after that race, I still had the horse training for longer distance and I was planning to run in the Holy Bull which was—it's our race. We couldn't make it for that race, the horse already had the mile to go longer than he went in the Hutcheson was enough training for a long distance, he needed that race. So for the Fountain of Youth, he's already had a lot of mile gallops and he can go longer. He had showed me in the training that he handled the two turns very easily. His pedigree doesn’t show much stamina, but I think he might be the exception to the rule; he might go longer.
Jim Mulvihill: Okay, and you mentioned the Gulfstream Park Derby. In that race he just missed the General a Rod, and now Javier Castellano elects to ride that one back on Saturday. You pick up Luis Saez, who at 21 he's already got a thousand wins. We saw him last year with Will Take Charge the second half of the year; obviously a very talented rider. But I want to hear in your words what you like about Luis, and why you went to him?
Jose Garoffalo: Well, (inaudible) for us we wanted to have Castellano back on the horse again, but he had some commitment with some other people, so I picked Luis Saez because I know him. He won a lot of races for me. We get along very well. He understands my style of running very, very good, and we have won maybe 20 or 30 races. He's a young kid but he's tough at the same time, and he has proven that he can compete with those big guys; with Castellano, maybe Rosario, whoever. He has beaten them before, and I think he has the confidence to beat them again on my horse.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Jose, hold on one second. I'm going to turn it over to Michelle and we'll see if the media has any questions for you.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Jose, you drew yesterday for the Fountain of Youth. Could you talk about the complexion of the field, you know, 13 horses in there, and talk about the importance of perhaps you drawing what looks to be a good post position?
Jose Garoffalo: Well, it's going to be a—it's going to be a full field race; a lot of traffic in the race, but my horse, he has the versatility to run behind the speed and close to the lead. And I don't think that there's going to be a problem for him, because I think from the start he's going to be out of trouble because he's going to run very close to the lead. But if the pace is slow, he might be on the lead, too, with no problems.
Jennie Rees: He's got very high speed figures, as good as any or better than anybody in the field. He's got a great record. Just what's his potential? Have you gotten to the bottom yet?
Jose Garoffalo: Well, the thing is that since he has been more focused and more relaxed he can run any distance. Actually, when he trains in the morning you can see that his pace is very steady all the way, the entire mile, all around, so that makes me think that he can be a horse that can go longer than a mile. Anyway, we always take the horse, we see what he does, but he will have the last word in the race. But at the bottom of my heart I think that the horse is going to run the two turns with no problems. But you know how the business is. They have to run the race and we have to compete, and then we'll see if we're right or wrong.
Jennie Rees: What are your thoughts of Commissioner and Top Billing? They're going to get a lot of the prerace attention. They come from very high profile connections. Yet, you know, they haven't faced you; you haven't faced them. What do you think about those two horses?
Jose Garoffalo: Well, Commissioner is a horse that ready to run the distance (inaudible); that's a good advantage for him, but he comes from a race that, from my point of view, wasn't a big deal. There was not too much competition in that race. He beat I think that—a weaker group than the horses that he's going to see next Saturday in the Fountain of Youth.
Jennie Rees: And final question, what's the tougher way to make a living, as a breeder or as a horse trainer?
Jose Garoffalo: To tell you the truth, both are very difficult, but I don't recommend to people who like to see his horses running, I recommend them to breeding. It's a tough business. You have to understand the business. You need a lot of patience, and you have to be made of a special kind of material to be a breeder. So that's why I admire the breeders in the world and all the (inaudible) in this country, everywhere in the world, because they have the patience, they have the (inaudible)l, the knowledge, and they have the money to support the industry, they are the basement of the industry. But it's tough. It's tough to be a breeder, and that's why I recognize their merits. And I been there before and I know how it is.
Danny Brewer: You know, Jennie touched on this, Wildcat Red, his record is fantastic. He's been first or second every time out. Is he a real competitive horse? I mean does he want that lead?
Jose Garoffalo: Very, very competitive. Wherever he goes that's probably his best weapon, his competiveness, because he likes the fight; he likes to be in the lead. Now like I told you before he's mentally more mature, that's competitiveness is still there—it's still better because he has the attitude now of a race horse.
Danny Brewer: Now as far as Kentucky Derby fever is concerned, have you got a case of it now, or do we wait to see what happens in the Fountain of Youth before you really start—your fever starts spiking here?
Jose Garoffalo: Yes, well I think that we have to go step by step; one step at a time. But we're going to see in the Fountain of Youth how long he could go. And this race, the Fountain of Youth, is going to be very important, because depending on the result of the Fountain of Youth, we will be thinking about going to Kentucky. So on this weekend we will make our plans.
Danny Brewer: So obviously he's pretty doggone good, and just, you know, what he does here he could come back to maybe becoming just a sprinter all the time do you think, because I mean obviously there's a lot of three year old sprints out there, too.
Jose Garoffalo: Yes, you never know, and the sprints you never know. The horses they surprise you most of the time, especially when they're young; you don't know how far they can go. So maybe I have a horse that is going to go as fast - we don't know. Maybe he can exceed our expectations.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Jose. I'm just wondering if you could tell us about Wildcat Red as a two year old, and maybe your first memories of setting eyes on him, or maybe more specifically, like when you started to get a sense that this horse had some unusual talent? I don't know if you helped to pick him out at the Ocala sale or if you didn't see him until he came to the track, but just tell us your early impressions and when you knew?
Jose Garoffalo: Well, I went to the sale in Ocala in June, the three year old in training sale, just—at the very moment I saw the horse I saw a lot of potential in him. When you buy a horse and you like the horse and he shows you some talent, you never know how far he can go —but that one was the very first time I saw him I knew he was going to be a decent horse. I checked the breeze before the sale, and he did it very easily with no effort in that breeze, and you know, it was the way he went about that was impressive to me. And at the same time I got lucky because we had a budget—I had a budget of $30,000 exactly, and that was the price of the horse. Maybe if somebody else was interested in the horse I couldn't buy it, because that was the budget that I had from the owners to spend.
Jim Mulvihill: So he was the only one that you bought at that sale, or the only one for that owner?
Jose Garoffalo: No, that was the only horse that I bought for him; for that owner. But since I saw the horse in the sale I liked him. I liked the way he looked. He's very athletic; his disposition is very nice, very muscular body, very nice. And when he came to the racetrack, he started to develop—he started actually to run as soon as he got on the track.
Jim Mulvihill: Terrific. Well, Jose, we really appreciate your talking with us today, and we wish you luck Saturday.
Jose Garoffalo: Thank you very much, guys. We'll stay in contact.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. That's Jose Garoffalo, trainer of Wildcat Red. He's in the Fountain of Youth on Saturday, as is, of course, Commissioner. Commissioner is going to be represented on this call by Elliott Walden, who is the President, CEO and Racing Manager of WinStar Farm. He's probably known to most of you listening, but in case not, let me tell you about him. Walden's a third generation Kentucky horseman. In 20 years as a trainer, he won three meet titles at Churchill, two at Keeneland. He trained a Belmont winner and a multiple Grade 1 winner in Victory Gallop. In 2005, he became WinStar's Racing Manager, and now he oversees nearly all of WinStar's operations on and off the farm. And, for example, with WinStar's homebred Commissioner, Commissioner is trained by Todd Pletcher, but we can be certain that Elliott Walden is closely involved in all of this colt's racing and training schedules. Elliott, you're on with Jim Mulvihill in New York. Thanks for being here.
Elliott Walden: Hey, Jim.
Jim Mulvihill: Commissioner broke his maiden at Saratoga going a mile and an eighth, and then he didn't race again the rest of the year. And from what I've read that was by design, so my first question is why stop on a promising two year old in late summer if you don't have to?
Elliott Walden: Well, really because we were down at that point decided to emphasize his three year old strength, and felt like the best way to have him fresh and ready was to give him a little time then. You know, he was also a horse that wasn't as fast as some of the other two year olds at the time. He wanted to run a distance of ground, and the opportunities for horses that want to run that far don't really get to that point until late November, and at that point you're thinking about if you truly have a three year old for the spring, and you're thinking about shutting them down not getting them going. So, you know, August seemed like a good time. We got the couple runs in him and felt like it was a good opportunity to give him e a break and get him ready for the spring.
Jim Mulvihill: And right now you'd have to say that that plan is working. What progress have you seen between the summer and then his comeback in January?
Elliott Walden: Well, we hope it's working. Well, I guess we'll find out Saturday. You know, we were very pleased with his last race comeback, and, thought that—looking at it now it looks like a very good race, and the horses that he ran with were of high caliber even though it was an allowance race. You know, obviously you have the second choice or maybe even a favorite depending on what happens Saturday with Top Billing in there, and we feel like it was a very good race. Hy Kodiak Warrior, who was the third place horse, is a very nice horse, too, and the fifth horse was In the Frame at Tampa in the San Davis, so it looks like a real key race, and hopefully they'll—the two horses that came out of the last race will show back up and make it a very formful race on Saturday.
Jim Mulvihill: Elliott, I'm sure we've got some questions from the media not only Commissioner, but you've got some other talented three year old and other WinStar horses that I imagine people will want updates on, so I'm going to turn it over to Michelle and we'll see what's out there.
Jennie Rees: Did you ever imagine that—let's look at this, you've got two horse that have never even been in a stakes race before, we're almost to the end of February, and they're among like the top five favorites for the Kentucky Derby. Have you ever seen anything like that?
Elliott Walden: Well, you wonder if some of that's a product of the Churchill Downs point system, and the emphasis on not needing to accumulate graded earnings like you would've in the past. And in some ways it's a positive that allows you to develop your horses up to the last moment, but in some ways it could be a deterrent of running in graded stakes races.
Jennie Rees: That's interesting. So that came in the play in the decision to just give him more time, too, at all, or no?
Elliott Walden: Well, it didn't really come into play of giving him more time, but it did come into play about where we run him back, and the fact that we ran him in the allowance race instead of let's say the Holy Bull.
Jennie Rees: Yes. Yes, that's interesting. Well, do you think that it's a tribute to these two horses that they're so highly regarded, or do you think that it's also that people say they didn't see anything last year that didn't really (inaudible) struck them as (cross talking).
Elliott Walden: Well, you know, I think it's both. I think you do have two very good horses. I think Top Billing and Commissioner are both very nice horses, I think that that plays for them. But I also think that you have Honor Code and you have Cairo Prince sitting it out; you have the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner retired, I think you have a combination of both.
Jennie Rees: Do you think part of it is also just everybody trying to go against the grain to come up with a horse that nobody else has that they think can win the Derby?
Elliott Walden: I think if you look at Commissioner's resume, with the allowance race beating Top Billing on it, and the fact that he's won two races around two turns already, by A.P. Indy, half brother to Laugh Track, he'd have to be on anybody's list.
Jennie Rees: Well, and speaking of that pedigree, could you talk to what part of each he seems to resemble? I'm guessing you know your…
Elliott Walden: He's very much like A.P. Indy. If you go back and watch his video, he even runs like him to a certain degree, and that's kind of a steady, grinding type that has a good, strong action that's very consistent, and starts the race. He's not void of speed or out the back. He's forwardly placed in his races, but he's just very steady and strong in his races.
Jennie Rees: And just final question. Could you just talk about the field overall of the Fountain of Youth; the 13 horses?
Elliott Walden: Well, there's a lot in there. I think, the one thing that we're getting great as an industry is this lead up to the Kentucky Derby, and the passion and the excitement that it brings to owners and trainers. I think that's evident with people that want to get into the mix of things. So I think from that standpoint, you'd look at the Risen Star with 14 I think is what…
Jennie Rees: It's 16.
Elliott Walden: (Cross talking). It's 16. Right. And you had the race yesterday at (inaudible) with a high number, so as far as the industry goes, we are getting the Derby spring energy and excitement frenzy right. I mean you have a lot of people trying to make that happen.
Jennie Rees: Great. Thanks, Elliott.
Danny Brewer: So with what you said about the point system and all, good news, bad news, or is it too early to tell whether this is really going to get the best 20 horses to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May?
Elliott Walden: I was very pessimistic about it to begin with; you know, a bit of a traditionalist at heart, and I felt like the graded earnings system wasn't really broken when it came into effect last year. But I will say that after year one, the horses with the highest points were Orb and Revolutionary, and so I think that, it did (audio interference)—it did bode itself well to making the system know, viable. I think it's interesting. I think I'm a little more open to it this year, and think that with any system, there's going to be some good things and bad things, and I think now we've learned to adapt and you don't hear the chatter about it like you did last year, so people have learned to live within the system.
Danny Brewer: Good (cross talking).
Elliott Walden: The biggest concern for me, Danny, one more point. The biggest concern for me, and this is where I said something to Kevin Flanery, is I would prefer it if they have some type of out like they do with the Breeders' Cup to select a horse that gets a bad post or a sloppy racetrack right at the end in one of those big races, and the horse gets a terrible trip or doesn't handle the racetrack. I think it could be vulnerable—the system could be vulnerable to leaving out a very good horse, I'd love to have them have an opportunity to select a horse in that (cross talking).
Danny Brewer: So maybe like a wildcard like they do in pro football or Major League Baseball (cross talking).
Elliott Walden: Yes. And I think they're scared of that because it opens them up to liability, but I think it's certainly something that they should think about, and I mentioned that to Churchill as well.
Danny Brewer: Because then it would be almost like the NCAA Selection Committee, where you're…
Elliott Walden: Exactly.
Danny Brewer: You going to put yourself under fire where you're like well why did you pick horse A instead of horse B.
Elliott Walden: Yes, that's right. That's right. But it's not going to change until sometime a horse gets left off or gets a bad trip, let's say you take a horse like Commissioner and say he gets a cough, doesn't get to run this weekend for some reason and he comes back in the Florida Derby, and he's shown the talent to be in the race based on the allowance race, but then let's say in the Florida Derby he comes out sloppy and he doesn't like slop, so he gets zero points running in the Derby.
Danny Brewer: Right, or Hollendorfer's horse Shared Belief out there that (cross talking). Okay, does it—strategically speaking, does this change the way—obviously you said it did; it changes the way you map out your path or road to the Kentucky Derby.
Elliott Walden: A little bit, not much. I mean you still have the same races you want to win, I think the only way it might change things is if Commissioner, looked like he was fourth best this weekend, would you want to run back in the Florida Derby? No, you'd probably run in another race that might be against a different group of horses and see if he could do better, but I think that would be the case regardless.
Danny Brewer: Having won the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver, does that change how you guys approach anything—does that lay the blueprint down for you, or is each year its own entity and its own new challenge?
Elliott Walden: You know, it probably changes the fact that we don't want to be in the Kentucky Derby unless we're really live (ph). I look back at some of the horses we ran from 2006 to 2010, and in hindsight wish we had a few of those entry fees back. The thing about it is we want to show up with horses that have a legitimate chance and can't cut that cake too thin because sometimes horses win it that aren't the favorite or aren't the second choice, so you've got to be careful there. But I think by and large it affords us the opportunity to show up with horses that we hope have a big chance.
Danny Brewer: Last one for me. You mentioned Revolutionary. What's on tap for him in the coming months?
Elliott Walden: Well, we're regrouping. After a very disappointing run in the Donn. You know, he ran basically an identical time of Lea on the same day in his prep, and the horse that he beat finished third that day, it was just a real quandary about why he ran as a poor as he did. He did come out of the race in good shape, so we're not going to throw in the towel on one bad effort, but probably look to try to find a race like the New Orleans Handicap I'd say is the tentative mark for him. He won over the track at Fair Grounds, and then look at that race as a possible comeback race.
Danny Brewer: Could he maybe go back to Churchill for the spring meet sometime?
Elliott Walden: Yes.
Don Jensen: Elliott, a couple questions. I'd like to switch leads on one of your horses. Vinceremos, is he planning to come to the Tampa Bay Derby as of now?
Elliott Walden: Yes he is.
Don Jensen: Elliott, from the first time you laid on him until now, can you give a little quick sketch on what you saw in him at first and how he's developed to now?
Elliott Walden: Well, we saw him first at the April sale at Keeneland, and he's really done very well. We sent him back to WinStar after we bought him and gave him the summer. He came up with a little setback that we had to deal with, and—but then we got him started, got him down to Todd and he ran a really nice race in his first start; was very green. He's really been very green in all three of his starts and we're hoping that he continues to improve. What I like about him is the fact that he gets headed and he competes. And, in some ways I wish he would go ahead and leave his competition, because he looks like he has more abilities than they have to this point. You go back to his maiden race, he was up a length and a half at the eighth pole, and then again when he cut the corner in Tampa in the Sam Davis he looked like he was well on his way to victory and then he kind of greenly kind of quits running and likes to get in that head to head battle. But he has come out victorious in both those instances, and, you know, you just wonder if some horse is going to come get him where he doesn't see him. So I would hope that on each race he builds upon his own experience and improves that running style.
Don Jensen: You've brought personally 10 horses to the Tampa Bay Derby, including Menifee, Any Given Saturday, Blue Grass Cat and Super Saver all went to the Derby. Does he compare to any one of those style-wise or attitude-wise?
Elliott Walden: Oh, he's probably similar to Bluegrass Cat in the fact that Bluegrass Cat was a very kind of hot horse and had a Storm Cat way about him, and (inaudible)—I mean Vinceremos has a bit of an Empire Maker way about him. So from that standpoint he probably compares to Bluegrass Cat.
Don Jensen: Okay. Elliott, one last question if you don't mind. How did he get his name?
Elliott Walden: He's named for a therapeutic riding center down in West Palm, and it's Latin for 'to overcome', and I like both connotations to that. I liked the (cross talking).
Jon White: Elliott, I was wondering what the reaction was when you were talking or articulating your concerns about the Derby points, and how the top four (inaudible)? What was the reaction that you received?
Elliott Walden: Oh, from Kevin? Positive. I mean he listened. I think he explained to me that they were interested in trying something a little different, and, there's nothing wrong with that. I think that, again, they chose not to change the system this year, but I did voice my thoughts that they should have a wildcard option to be able to get in a horse that might not otherwise get in, and I think it probably won't happen until somebody gets left off that they wish were in the race.
Jon White: What would you say is your biggest concern as far as Saturday?
Elliott Walden: Any time you go into a stakes race for the first time you hope that they verify their form that they've had in allowance races, I just want to see him run well. I'm a little bit concerned about the distance; the cut back to a mile and sixteenth in the fact that two of his races—the two races he won were at a mile and an eighth.
Jim Mulvihill: Elliott, I did want to follow-up on some of your other nice three year olds. You've had come impressive maiden winners, both at Gulfstream and a couple at Oaklawn with Kellyn Gorder. Are any of those—do you consider them to be on the Derby trail, or might they make—be making their next start jumping up into a stake?
Elliott Walden: Well, Constitution's in Saturday, and based upon wanting to run him two turns in an allowance race because he did break so badly in his first start, we did want to run him back in an allowance race and not get caught in a 12 to 14 field like would've been in the Risen Star or the Fountain of Youth. So he's making his second start Saturday. And the horse of Kellyn's—the horse that won the maiden race Saturday at Oaklawn is probably going to run back in a stake at Oaklawn or there's a sprint stake there or look to run him in an allowance race around two turns, and we'll just see how he comes out of the race and look at that.
Jim Mulvihill: Got it. All right, well thanks for the info, Elliott. We wish you luck on Saturday, and with all these talented horses that we've talked about today.
Elliott Walden: Thank you very much.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, that was Elliott Walden, President, CEO, and Racing Manager of WinStar Farm.
And now we're going to move on to our last guest, and that is Jeremiah Englehart. He's the trainer of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Filly winner, Ria Antonia, who starts Saturday in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes. That'll be her 2014 debut. Jeremiah is a native of Upstate New York. He took out his trainer's license in 2003 and was considered mostly a Finger Lakes guy until trying the NYRA Circuit a few years ago. He's found great success with graded stakes winners like King Kreesa and, of course, Ria Antonia, who we just mentioned. A few weeks after the Breeders' Cup, Ria Antonia's owner, Ron Paolucci, was already talking about talking the boys this spring with the Kentucky Derby as the ultimate goal, so we'll start asking Jeremiah about that.
Jim Mulvihill: Thanks for coming on today. You opted for the Rachel Alexandra over the Risen Star. Both of those races came up extremely tough. Tell us about the decision to stick with the fillies at least for now.
Jeremiah Englehart: Well, I think it was we missed a little bit of time with weather from the transitions from New York to Fair Grounds, and I'd probably like to have one more breeze into her before this race, but, you know, our thoughts going into both races was the Risen Star was probably going to be a full field and it came out that way, where we thought the Rachel Alexandra would be a six, seven horse field. And not that it's any easier, because there's some nice fillies in there, but, I don't know if she's 100% just game ready, but I think she's going to give a good effort on Saturday, and we'll see what happens.
Jim Mulvihill: And she just had a bullet work on Sunday. Was that—were you looking to maybe make up for some of that lost training, or was that something that she did completely on her own? Tell us about that work.
Jeremiah Englehart: Her breezes are the same just about any—every time. My assistant Elizabeth Dobles and I, we kind of set a gauge on what she did the week—the couple weeks in preparation to the Breeders' Cup Filly Juvenile, and we kind of gauged that from the process of getting—when she started back in training until now kind of comparing her at both stages, and she really hasn't been back to what we saw before the Breeders' Cup She's a big filly. She had a little bit of time off. We gave her a little downtime. It's just taking her a little bit longer to get going. With her, she breezes on her own just about every time. I just tell Elizabeth just take a nice long hold and kind of let her do her thing. What I saw from her on Sunday was really what I wanted to see, because she made a big leap forward from the week before.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Now after the Breeders' Cup you credited the addition of blinkers as having been a big help for that race. Can I assume she's going to wear those Saturday?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, she'll have blinkers on Saturday and back on Lasix as well.
Danny Brewer: If this is not a Kentucky Derby horse, is she absolutely a Kentucky Oaks horse?
Jeremiah Englehart: We're—we made a goal for her third start off the layoff to be that week—sometime that weekend and that first Saturday in May and Friday in May. A lot of people doubt her because she only really has the one win, and it was by a disqualification; however, if you just look at her two dirt starts, I would've ran her first start in the Frizette and she ran fifth, got beat six lengths and then come back and win the Breeders' Cup, you'd say she's a pretty nice filly. I just think she's a dirt filly, and I think the long-term goal right now is, yes, we set a goal for that weekend. We want to see something solid. She doesn't have to win per se this week, but we want to see her just get off to the right start and then improve on her next start. Where that might be we're not sure yet, but ultimately, yes, we do have a goal of that weekend, but I'd say probably 70/30 right now towards the fillies.
Danny Brewer: Because she's coming in pretty tough in the Rachel this Saturday, so maybe, you know, maybe some questions will be answered for some other folks in this race you think?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes. Like I said, even Beholder last year her first race off of the—her Breeders' Cup win was her worst race actually of the year I believe numbers-wise. I think she earned a 73 Beyer. But, you know, just first start off a layoff, I think mentally I know what I kind of want to see, and that might be fourth got beat three lengths that might be a good effort. I think from this race on Saturday to where she jumps forward to in her next start, I think that's the most important thing.
Danny Brewer: So you feel like that she has got a lot of room for—obviously she is a nice horse, but she has a lot of room for improvement still, and so she's still got plenty left when she gets to the bottom of herself?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, I feel like her best races are down the road. I mean she's a nice filly. Everyone who watches her train has raved about her at Fair Grounds, and she moves different than the average horse. She's just got that long, beautiful stride to her. Even in her gallop, I mean she just covers so much ground. So, yes, I think she's going to get much better than where she is right now.
Danny Brewer: So at this stage her potential is probably her greatest asset at this juncture, you would say?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, I think from a two year old standpoint she probably had a little bit of a leg up on everybody just as far as size, but even from that little bit of down time to where we had her before the Breeders' Cup to now, she's filled out even more. She not as big as Zenyatta, but she's a big filly. You know, she's a long striding beautiful filly that I think we haven't seen the best from her yet.
Danny Brewer: How much of the decision making of where she goes do you think will fall in your hands, or does ownership—how much do they allow you?
Jeremiah Englehart: Ron he has an idea of what he'd like to do. Ultimately, I think he made the decision with the Oaks on my suggestion; not even so much my suggestion, but just me informing him where I think she's at. And, the two owners and myself, we've got a pretty good team as far as we communicate well, and I think Ron is—he takes everything into consideration and kind of makes decisions from there, because you remember him saying after the Breeders' Cup that he was going to the Derby, so he is not afraid to change his mind.
Danny Brewer: Well, regardless whether it's Oaks or the Derby, I mean there is a fever about that first—the first Triple Crown races and all that good stuff, so is that something that you guys are gripped with and just really excited right now?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, this time of year for me, I've not always been a fan of the Derby, I've been a fan of the Breeders' Cup, but I mean this is a time when the three year olds are starting to separate themselves, and even the two year olds that will be three years olds next year are just around the corner from coming in and getting ready. So being buried in snow all winter and kind of watching these three year old races from Gulfstream and Fair Grounds kind of makes you feel like spring is on the way and the first Saturday in May is right behind it.
John Pricci: So then it was kind of her scope and her size as a two year old. I mean I know you're getting excited. I understand the owner getting excited after the Breeders' Cup and all, but scope and size was the tool that made him and/or you start thinking Derby? And a follow-up to that would be just how do you assess this year's colt crop? It looks pretty salty to me.
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, it’s changed so much from just where the Breeders' Cup Juvenile where everyone was then until where the horses that have popped up now, like even Shared Belief's probably a ways away, but I mean you look at Candy Boy,(inaudible) getting back in—and coming around, and the horses that are, Tapiture yesterday the race that he ran, it's salty, and I think we'd be foolish if we thought that it wasn't going to be. There are a lot of nice horses out there, and there's a tremendous amount of trainers that are very capable and they're going to have really nice horses to get there.
But I don't know if it was so much her size or just where the two year old crop was when she won. Ron's he's a handicapper; you know, he's a gambler at heart at first, that's where he got his start in the game, and I think he wasn't as impressed at the two year olds, but I think he's definitely a lot more impressed now with some of the rising stars that are showing up.
John Pricci: Jeremiah, the last one for me. Provided she's going in the right direction at the end of Saturday's race and comes out of it well and all of that, would you go for the next one in the series at the Fair Grounds, or might you look around for whatever reason?
Jeremiah Englehart: The only way we probably wouldn't run at Fair Grounds is if we just felt in the race the track didn't suit her well. She continues to trains beautifully over it, so I would say, yes, we're leaning towards the Fair Grounds race next, because, from travelling down to Fair Grounds and getting her back started in New York, I didn't think you could cope with obvious—you know—we had just clipped her so they kind of lose a little bit of that shying to them getting to the hair underneath—I didn't feel like she was right where she was when she won the Breeders' Cup last year, but she's not far off physically.
Jennie Rees: Jeremiah, could you just reflect back on watching the Breeders' Cup, and from where you were at, did—when they hit the wire did you think, oh, she ran so hard and maybe—or did you think she'd won, did you think she got beat, did you realize that there—were you thinking inquiry?
Jeremiah Englehart: No, actually with the help of Ron (inaudible) I was able to pick her up going down the backside. I was watching the race in the horseman tent there alongside the wire, and as she was picking horses off kind of one by one I'm thinking, geez, she's going to, you know, get a piece of that since she could—maybe she'll run second; she's making a move. And then I'm like, well, she's 32:1, don't get your hopes up, you know, but she kept coming and coming and coming. I never saw the bump. Actually, one of the friends—my friend Dan (inaudible), he was on to me to go claim foul, and I'm like I can't just go claim—you know—I didn't know what to do, so I just—I made sure I went up to talk to Javier, and Javier said, listen, I think she's going to come down—that horse is going to come down; we got bothered, and then we started coming out again. So then there was a lot of excitement from there, and like the 10, 15 minute wait it felt like two hours waiting for the decision, I had a lot—there was a lot of emotions that were building up in that timeframe, but, no, I can remember every thought that I had during that race.
I remember at one point I was jumping up and down and I was screaming, and I didn't realize that Mr. Broman and his wife were right in front of me, and I kind of felt bad because their horse was fourth at the time and it didn't look like she was doing her best, so I kind of zip-lipped it after that.
Jennie Rees: You have horses for them also?
Jeremiah Englehart: No, for Mr. and Mrs. Broman? No.
Jennie Rees: Yes. Well, so you said you remember everything, so when that number goes up, what's it like being you?
Jeremiah Englehart: You know, I hear a lot of the athletes always talk about how they hear silence, and it was. It was—for me, it was silence. I didn't hear anything; I was just so elated, and all I could hear was Trevor Denman's voice, and I'll never forget him saying, “And ladies and gentlemen,” and I knew right then he said that that we were getting put up, and the feeling was surreal; if I could bottle it, I'd be a billionaire.
Jennie Rees: And final question. What was it like then going to the Eclipse Awards and you were a finalist, but you were not selected champion? Was that tough, or did you kind of read the tea leaves going in, or do you think, well, we got the money?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, you know, ultimately, you wanted to win. I wanted to win just for her. It didn't matter to me for me, but for her it would've been nice to win. But I also understand, too, it's a yearly award. She's a (inaudible) end up doing more probably on the year. I think also the fact that she got put up it's like an asterisk on something. So, you know, even though I do feel that if she does not get bumped she's going to win that race by a half a length, possibly a length, you know.
To be surrounded by—I mean, I sat at a table with Javier Castellano, and I was sitting right in front of Todd Pletcher, and D. Wayne Lukas was right to my right. I mean if you were going to tell me five years ago that I'd be in that position I wouldn't have believed it, i just tried to soak it all in and listen to—Will Take Charge owners (Willis Horton) made me a lifelong fan of Will Take Charge, because of his speech that he gave. It was a tremendous evening, and I just tried to enjoy it for what it was.
Jim Mulvihill: Jeremiah, I just want to go back to the future path of Ria Antonia if we could for a second, and remind everybody that, of course, any points that were earned by Ria Antonia in a race on the road to the Kentucky Derby would be applicable to the Oaks standings, but not the other way around. So I'm thinking if you were to finish first or second this weekend, that would open you up to take a shot in say the Louisiana Derby if you wanted to, because if you get 50 or 20 points this weekend, you're pretty much in the Oaks I would think.
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, and I know it doesn't usually seem like the Oaks overfills, and we have I believe 10 points as it is now, so I remember someone telling me that it took like maybe 15 points last year or so for the Oaks. But, yes, that's kind of a feeling. And she would still have to wow me a little bit, you know, first start off the layoff to really want to try the boys, especially because I mean even that race, you look at Vicar's in Trouble, I he's post 14 and is probably going to be the favorite going into the race, but that's just a really tough post. And so you never know, if the field comes up for the Louisiana Derby that's as big as the Risen Star then, we are thinking Derby we'd have to take a shot somewhere. I don't know if we're—where it would be.
Jim Mulvihill: Got you. All right, well, Jeremiah, thanks for all your thoughts today, and we wish you luck on Saturday in the Rachel Alexandra.
Jeremiah Englehart: Thank you very much for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: All right and thanks once again to Rosie Napravnik, Elliott Walden, and Jose Garoffalo for joining us on this call. Reminder, there is no teleconference next week. You can mark down March 4th, the week of the San Felipe and the Tampa Bay Derby for our next call. Thanks again to everybody for joining us today, and I want to give a special thanks to Jennie Rees and Danny Brewer for keeping these guests talking. That's for the benefit of all of us, so I appreciate them stepping up. Michelle, back to you.
Operator: Thank you. This does conclude the conference call for today. You may now disconnect your line and have a great day.blog comments powered by Disqus