2014 Road to the Triple Crown Conference Call – March 25, 2014

NTRA Road to the Triple Crown transcript for March 25, 2014 covering the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Guests: Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Owner Jack Wolf, Trainer Larry Jones

Jim Mulvihill:     Thank you members of the media for joining us today.  Over the past week we’ve all seen the worst of thoroughbred racing from many corners, but fortunately, this Saturday we get to be reminded what still makes this sport irresistible.  We’ve got two historic races with major Kentucky Derby implications, populated by many of the most promising three year olds in America.  It’s our version of March Madness.  We’ve got the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, and the $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.  Both of those are a mile and an eighth; both worth 170 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings, with 100 points to the winners.  Those are the races we’ll be focusing on during today’s call.

Also, keep in mind, though, there’s another important Kentucky Derby prep Saturday; that’s the UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup undercard at Meydan.  That’s also a 170 point race.  The Dubai World Cup, the Dubai Sheema Classic, and the UAE Derby are all part of the Jockey Club Tour on FOX’s 90 minute show Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern on FOX Sports 1.

Now those stakes-laden cards from Gulfstream and Fair Grounds, those are part of a three hour broadcast on the Horse Racing Radio Network.  That you can hear on Sirius XM HRR and affiliates or online at horseracingradio.net.

While we’re talking about Kentucky Derby preps this weekend, keep in mind that Gulfstream and Fair Grounds are also running their major Road to the Kentucky Oaks preps.  Those are both on Saturday; the Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Now later in this call we’ll be talking to Jack Wolf, founder of Starlight Stables.  They own the Risen Star Stakes winner and Louisiana Derby contender Intense Holiday.  We’re also going to chat with Larry Jones, trainer of Albano, runner-up in the Risen Star, and he is coming into the Louisiana Derby in top form.

But first, we’ve got Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Cairo Prince, the easy winner of the Holy Bull Stakes in January, and the likely favorite in the Florida Derby.  McLaughlin, he’s a native of Kentucky and attended UK.  He worked for several trainers before landing as an assistant to Wayne Lukas.  He also worked as an agent for jockey Chris Antley before striking out on his own as a trainer.  He spent several years in Dubai and won the World Cup in 2007 with his then reigning Horse of the Year, Invasor.  He won the 2006 Belmont with Jazil, and he’s had a number of other Grade 1 winners, including Henny Hughes, Flashy Bull, Questing and Alpha.

Kiaran, you’re on with Jim Mulvihill in New York.

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Thanks for having me.

Jim Mulvihill:     Oh, it’s our pleasure.  Thanks for being with us.  Now, you haven’t really missed a beat with Cairo Prince since the Holy Bull.  It seems every Saturday he works like clockwork at Gulfstream.  Tell us how he’s been doing and how he’s coming into the Florida Derby?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         He’s doing great.  We’ve worked every week.  We thought we might skip a work because we had quite a bit of time and a lot of Saturdays, but he was doing so well we decided to work every Saturday.  Mainly we don’t want any changes, because he’s a very special horse doing great, and everything continues to be great with him.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     Excellent.  We’re happy to hear that.  Now let’s talk about the spacing of these races.  He has had a lot of time.  The Holy Bull was January 25th.  Why have you gone so light on him this year?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Well, it was a big effort and the weights, and the point system, so many things, but he did win impressively.  And he was given most horses six pounds on the day, and if he ran back in the Fountain of Youth he would’ve been given the majority 6 pounds again, so we decided to wait until the Florida Derby where everyone carries 123.  We have all year, it’s not just first Saturday in May, so we’re pointing to the first Saturday in May obviously, but there is a lot of racing after that, so it’s hard to run him every four weeks.

Jim Mulvihill:     Yes, and that relates to my next question, you know, the spacing that you all have chosen.  It shows a lot of confidence in the horse because he’s only got 14 points now, so if he got caught in traffic on Saturday or something—for some reason didn’t fire, you could have one of the top three year olds in the country but perhaps not the points to get into the Derby.

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, exactly.  We don’t like to think that way, but that’s a whole other issue about the points, whoever invented them and how they came up with it.  Breeders’ Cup winner or the Remsen winner or the Holy Bull winner getting 10 points, but yet you finish fourth in the big races this weekend and you get 10 points.  There’s a lot to be confident about there and sorted out as they tell you every year they’re going to try and sort things out, whether it’s grade earnings or a point system.  I don’t agree with what they have come up with right now, so I’m happy to speak loudly about it, and I’ll go to Churchill Downs to talk about it and see if the complaint box is open.  But anyway, hopefully we finish one, two, three, four, and it’s not an issue.

Jim Mulvihill:     All right, well there’s a lot more to talk about with Cairo Prince, so I’m going to turn it over to the media and see what questions they’ve got for you.

Art Wilson:          I’m curious, how would you like to see the point system different?  Say they put you in charge, what would you do?  What do you think would be a good way to determine it?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Well, that’s a good question, Art.  I feel like that either point system or graded earnings, whatever they would choose, but also maybe like the Breeders’ Cup and have a selection committee for, God forbid, the unforeseen crazy thing that’s going to happen sometime to somebody, and have the last four spots a selection committee; five spots, two spots, whatever you want.  But right now to win on different surfaces around the world and get 100 points for races or 50 points, and then have proper dirt preps that have been there forever and the Breeders’ Cup be worth 10 points, I just don’t understand.

 

Art Wilson:          Okay.  Also, you made the decision pretty quick after the Holy Bull that—to skip the Fountain of Youth with Cairo Prince and head right into the Florida Derby.  Are you more convinced today than ever that you made the right decision?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Oh, there’s no question that we made the right decision, and it’s just now you have to worry about the weather down here if the track comes up real sloppy wet.  There’s rain in the forecast.  We think he would love the wet track, but as long as it’s not under water or get unlucky to get inches of rain.  But, we feel like we have a very nice horse and we’re not that concerned about anything.  He should finish one, two, three, four Saturday in the Florida Derby.

Art Wilson:          So you’re comfortable then bringing him in—if all goes well, bringing him into the Kentucky Derby with just two preps for the year?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, and we like the timing of five weeks to the Kentucky Derby from the Florida Derby; we like that also.

Art Wilson:          Right.  My final question, Kiaran, looking around the rest of the country, have any other three year olds besides the one in your barn kind of caught your eye and impressed you?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Well, there’s been a few.  Obviously the horse down here by the same sire Pioneerof the Nile was pretty impressive beating Honor Code, but, again, he’s another horse that doesn’t have any points.  He’s going to the Wood Memorial.  California Chrome was impressive.  There’s a lot of racing still to happen, but, you know, those were two.  The winner and the second place finisher of the Fountain of Youth down here will run back Saturday, and we have a lot of respect for them also, and Todd Pletcher’s horses in general.

Jennie Rees:       Hi.  You’ve talked about this horse from the beginning, where you do not normally talk about horses.  Could you for lay people just articulate what it is about him that he was showing you, and at what point he was showing that that you thought this might actually be the horse for you for the Derby?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         From the earliest would be back in June I would say that he just was working effortlessly and doing things that every day horses don’t do; you know, galloping out strong and not getting tired; looked great.  Then we had a little setback with the shoe issue at the beginning of Saratoga; the blacksmith got him with a nail.  We were penciled in to run at Saratoga.  And maybe it all worked out in the end, but he always has just trained very well and has done everything right, and he’s got a great mind.  Sometimes horses mentally are not as sound as they are physically, but he has both.  He’s just very sound mentally and physically.

 

Jennie Rees:       Could you talk about the sale how it all came down?  Were the original owners looking to take some money off the table knowing that these horses unless they go on and win the next couple will never be more valuable, or getting (cross talking)?

 

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Not so much, you know, they weren’t really soliciting a sale, but I thought it might be a good idea for developing the company and start (inaudible) part of him if it would work out.  I was not involved in negotiations. I didn’t want to get into any trouble, Jimmy Bell dealt with the group of four guys that currently own him and—owns him, and it worked out great.  It was just a, you know, it worked out great if he goes on to win the Florida Derby or Grade 1 at some point so he could be a stallion, but it’s nice to have Godolphin on board.

Tom Pedulla:      Yes, Kiaran, do you feel like you’re going to have the horse fully charged for Saturday given that the stakes are awfully high for you on Saturday?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, he’s ready to perform a top race; an A plus race.  We are a little worried, like I said, about the track weather-wise.  If it’s real wet, he’s never run on a real wet racetrack.  That’s always a concern.  But we feel like he’ll handle a wet track, and he is ready to go.  We just have had, you know, 60 days of great training.  We haven’t missed a day, everything has gone well, and we hope the next four days goes as well.

Tom Pedulla:      If I could just follow-up, Kiaran, what would a Derby win mean to you?  We saw how much it meant to Shug last year.  I imagine that was inspiring for you.

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, being we’re both Lexington natives.  I grew up 73 miles from Churchill Downs, and traveled 7,300 miles to Dubai for 10 years, and to end up back 73 miles again from home with a possible chance to win, it would be priceless.  The words aren’t there to describe it, so it would mean a lot for our whole team and family.

Gary Long:            Kiaran, it’s clear you have a special reverence for the Kentucky Derby obviously being where you’re from and the business you’re in.  Can you trace back maybe some of your history with the race, maybe the first time you attended; special memories?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, I grew up in Lexington and my best friend’s father owns horses and then he started training horses.  I want to say it was mid-70s, and I watched the race from the backstretch at Churchill Downs on top of Barn 10.  We sat up on the barn.  They probably don’t allow that now.  But I, you know, Secretariat won it, I was 12 years old, but I remember the Belmont more than anything else winning by so far.  So at Churchill Downs I was there pretty much from the time I was 15 on watching it as a spectator, and it’s just been an unbelievable event, and I’m glad to be part of it.

Gary Long:            You said mid-70s.  Who won that race, so I can pin that year down?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, it’s hard to say who won.  I don’t remember.  I was just a kid sitting up on the barn, so it’s hard to say.  You know, I can’t really say if it was ’77, ’78.

Gary Long:            Is it natural that when you get into the business you got into that that is the ultimate goal just to get there and then obviously to win it?

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Absolutely.  Whether you’re a jockey, groom, hot walker, owner, trainer, that is the race that everybody dreams of winning, and it would be great—it’s great to have an opportunity, if we get there, to win it, but especially everybody dreams of winning that race.

 

Gary Long:            One last thing, if I may.  How in the world did you initially come to the attention of the Dubai Group?

 

Kiaran McLaughlin:         That’s a good question.  Helen Alexander passed my name and the phone number to Anthony Stroud, who was a racing manager for Sheikh Mohammed at the time in 1992/93, and they asked me to come to Dubai and interview for the job.  So I went over in 1993 October, and I started to work in November.  So I got very lucky.  I’ve had some doors open and close for me; it’s very fortunate.

Gary Long:            If I may, a quick follow-up on that?  Was it a shock to the system?

 

Kiaran McLaughlin:         No….

 

Gary Long:            (Cross talking) your wife?

 

Kiaran McLaughlin:         No, it was a great—my wife and children loved it; a great quality of life over there.  We were there six months in Dubai and six months in America, so we had the best of both worlds.  We were out of the cold and in Dubai for the winter and back for the spring, summer, fall in New York, so it was a fabulous time of our life.

 

Tom Pedulla:      Yes, Kiaran, if I could just ask you, have you had a three year old that compared to this horse?

 

Kiaran McLaughlin:         No, I haven’t.  I’ve had some three year olds who were second in the Kentucky Derby with Closing Argument, but we really haven’t had a three year old to compare with Cairo Prince.  No, it’s only Invasor as an older horse did things like he’s doing, and so this is our best chance for sure.

Jim Mulvihill:     All right, Kiaran, I’ll ask you a couple more.  You were talking about some of the three year olds that have caught your eye, and another one that didn’t get mentioned is Intense Holiday.  We’re going to be talking to Jack Wolf here next.  Intense Holiday was third in the Holy Bull.  What does the effort of Intense Holiday in the Risen Star subsequently say about either your horse or the Florida contingent coming out of Gulfstream?

 

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, it looks good for this Florida group.  He ran very well at the Fair Grounds.  It was a very good race, and good connections with Jack and Todd, and so hopefully they continue their winning ways on to the Derby.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     You know, just to talk a little bit more about Dubai and maybe setting the scene for Saturday.  You spend so much time there; you won a World Cup.  Can you talk about the atmosphere of a Dubai World Cup Day?

 

Kiaran McLaughlin:         Yes, it’s pretty special.  A lot of money they’re giving away and a lot of great races.  It’s great.  People from around the world show up.  And to win that race was obviously the biggest moment of my racing career; to go back with Invasor and win it for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in his country, and with him sitting on the couch was very special to all team McLaughlin.  So going, you know, watching the World Cup is pretty special every year.  We hope to go back there one year to try and win it again.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     Now we’re going to move on to our next guest, and that is Jack Wolf, a native of Louisville, Kentucky.  Jack worked as a teacher and hedge fund manager with Columbus Partners in Atlanta before retiring to concentrate on racing.  Jack and his wife Laurie founded Starlight Stables in 2000 after purchasing six yearlings.  Jack also orchestrated the launch of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the industry’s first broad-based initiative dedicated to helping retired thoroughbreds.  He currently serves as that organization’s Board President.

Jack, you’re on with Jim Mulvihill in New York.  Thanks for joining us.

Jack Wolf:             Hi, Jim.  Thanks for having me.

Jim Mulvihill:     You got it.  You know, let’s talk about Intense Holiday.  You know, this is a horse that I suspect that he’s going to do better as the races get longer.  I mean is that something that you see as well?

Jack Wolf:             Well, I think that’s what Todd thinks, and he knows the horse better than I do.  So, you know, his last race he seemed to gallop out very well and realize the distance there, and we’ll go a sixteenth of a mile further on Saturday so we’ll see there.  But you would think from his pedigree and the way he’s handled the two turns so far that he would like the further distances.

Jim Mulvihill:     The Risen Star was only his second win amazingly.  What can you say about the job that Todd’s done bringing him along in a way that’s allowed him to, you know, take a noticeable step forward almost every time out?

Jack Wolf:             Well, you know, it was interesting, after we broke our maiden, you know, there’s just not that many spots to go to, and the Champagne Stakes came up and Todd wanted to give that a chance, and I think he ran a pretty credible race there.  And then the Nashua and the Remsen we caught some trouble trips, and the Holy Bull we had the outside post, and I think Joel gave him a very good ride from out there.  I’m not going to make excuses for all this, it sounds like what I’m doing, but I mean you could say he had some excuses in those races, and then Mike Smith gave him a fantastic ride in the Risen Star, and got fortunate enough to get up in the last jump.  So good for Todd to keep the confidence in the horse and keep putting him in these spots where I think he’s experienced a very good foundation and should be ready for this Saturday and hopefully the Saturday five weeks after that.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     After the Risen Star instead of sticking around New Orleans he goes back to Todd’s base at Palm Meadows.  You know, what have you been hearing from Todd about how he came out of the Risen Star and has worked since, and specifically I’m really interested in the work two Saturday’s back where it looks like he was really set down.

 

Jack Wolf:             Yes, that was surprising to me, but a pleasant surprise.  I think you’re talking about the March 15th breeze (cross talking) company had the bullet in: 48 and then came back with just a sort of a maintenance breeze.  Actually, Laurie and I were down there this Saturday and saw him breeze there.  But he’s carrying great flesh, he’s all baffled up, and he looks very good.  So I couldn’t have asked for more from the way he’s training and the way he appears.

Jim Mulvihill:     This race on Saturday is shaping up as pretty deep and possibly with a full field of 14 even.  Have you been looking at the other probables or had any chance to size it up?

Jack Wolf:             You know, Jim, you’re a step ahead of me as usual.  The probables that I’ve been seeing are only seven in number, so—but of the seven that I’ve looked at I think the new horse that they’re talking about, In Trouble, that looks like a very nice horse, and he got beat by a neck or a couple of necks with his last race, and he looks like a very nice horse.  Of course, Albano is going to come back and we’re just very fortunate to beat him.  Then really the horse that’s I think had a sneaky good race, and, you know, this is home to him is this Vicar’s in Trouble.  So those horses are what jump out to me, and I, quite frankly, have not seen the other six or seven horses you’re talking about, so.

Jennie Rees:       Yes, Jack.  Will you be more relaxed this go round than say a year ago when you had the champion who was coming off a second place finish, and, you know, in the Fountain of Youth—or in the Holy Bull rather going into this last prep, because there wasn’t the same early expectations for the horse, or because you’re a horse owner there’s always something to be nervous about?

 

Jack Wolf:             Well, you sort of came out on a couple of things there, but I think I got the gist of your question, Jennie.  I think Shanghai Bobby and this particular horse, Intense Holiday, are two entirely different horses, being one of the favorites in the future derbies wagering pools.   We had all the press and undefeated two year old with Shanghai Bobby, and Intense Holiday has been just sort of the opposite; he didn’t have much luck when he made these graded stakes as a two year old.  But I think he’s coming along at the time that you’d want a horse to come along for getting ready for the Louisiana Derby, and, of course, the Kentucky Derby.  So the two paths that the horses have taken, I’d much rather be in the shoes of this one, and I think this one probably has more of a propensity to do the longer distance than Shanghai Bobby.

 

Jennie Rees:       Now that you’ve been down there and found out Fair Grounds doesn’t have an infield video board for you to watch the race.

 

Jack Wolf:             I guess I’m just going to have to turn my iPad on out there or go somewhere else to watch the race, because the view from the grandstand which is where we usually like to watch the races you’re not going to see much from there that’s for sure.

 

Jennie Rees:       Yes, and final question, are you going to stay and watch the UK UFL basketball game Friday night?

 

Jack Wolf:             Absolutely.  I can’t believe I’m seeing in the paper today they’ve got Louisville favored by five points, so it’ll be an interesting game.

Jennie Rees:       Yes.  Are you betting?

Jack Wolf:             I never bet.  You know that, Jennie.

Gary Long:            You sort of came late to this game, but you’ve been in it long enough.  Could you just address the peaks and valleys and pitfalls of trying to get a two year old to the first Saturday in May, and just how many ups and downs and indefinite situations there are?

Jack Wolf:             You know, that’s a good question.  Our program is such that we buy yearlings at the three sales each year; the Fasig –Tipton July and August sale and then the Keeneland September sale, and with the idea of getting the horses hopefully that gets them a start as two year olds and then  they prosper as three year olds.  Originally I think as most new owners thought that they’d want to win the Kentucky Derby, and I think our emphasis is more on getting these horses to a stage where we can compete at all the graded stake races and not necessarily the Kentucky Derby, but I think to pinpoint a race like the Derby and put all your marbles in that bag doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  We let the horses progress as they see fit and have Todd for it and how his father breaks the horses down in Ocala, and trite as it may sound, just take it one day, one week, one race at a time.  So, you know, the good and the bad breaks sort of outweigh each other and just sort of have to have blinkers on and just keep looking forward.

 

Gary Long:            If you will, what’s been the greatest experience you’ve had by a horse; maybe one that you didn’t expect to rise to the level of a Kentucky Derby entrant, and maybe the biggest disappointment you’ve had in this Road to the Triple Crown?

 

Jack Wolf:             I would say Harlans Holiday was probably the most exciting horse that we had and was the favorite and actually was in the crop of the first horses that we bought, so that would probably be the most exciting situation we had.  It was all new and the horse was great, and he went on to become a very good stallion.  I guess to parallel the disappointment probably a couple; Algorithms a couple years ago was a very nice horse and we had to stop on him, and then Shanghai Bobby looked like he was going to have a very good three year old campaign and we had to stop on him and brought him back, and had to stop again midway through the year.  So I would say those were the two horses with the most disappointing experiences.

Jay Privman:       Hey, Jack.  I was hoping I could get an honest answer to my questions as opposed to your last answer to Jenny.  Regarding this horse, was the fact that he was by Harlans Holiday something that maybe initially piqued your interest in him even before you saw him as an individual?

Jack Wolf:             Not really.  Frankie Brothers does all our short lists and selection process, and he’s been liking the Harlans Holidays the last few years that we’ve been shopping and it just so happened that we bought this horse.  And actually, he was the most expensive horse that we bought in the crop, and it was the last horse that we bought in the crop.  We already had spent what we had anticipated and had the number of horses we wanted, and this particular horse came through on a Thursday and we finished up on Wednesday, and Frankie and I just decided to stick around and see how the horse sold.  And contrary to my conservative nature, we kept raising our hand and ended up paying $380,000 for the horse.  Like I said, he was the most expensive horse we bought and was the most expensive Harlans Holiday as a yearling that year.

But to answer your question, to me anyway, much to do with Harlans Holiday as much as how good the horse looked.  Actually, I learned after we got finished bidding that Chad Brown was the under-bidder on the other side, he’s got a great eye and he’s reminded me of it a couple times since. I’m glad we overspent on this one.

Jay Privman:       Then I had two other questions both unrelated to this horse.  Regarding the Hall of Fame, I just wanted to get maybe your reaction to Ashado being a finalist again this year for the Hall of Fame ballot?

Jack Wolf:             Well, I’m excited.  I think this is—is this her second or third year, Jay?  I think—is this her second or third, do you know?

Jay Privman:       Two for sure.  I’m not sure if it’s the third.

Jack Wolf:             Right.  So in any case, this is her second or third time around and I thought she’d get in the other time or times and she didn’t get enough votes.  From looking at the list of participants, and your partner out there, Chris, I thought wrote a good article about who he thought would be the top four vote getters, and at the time that he wrote the article he had Ashado as what he thought would be the third one to get in there, and hopefully he’s right.  You guys at DRF are great forecasters of things like this, so hopefully he’s right.

Jay Privman:       Then lastly, I would like to get some comments from you about the work that you’ve done with the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, and more specifically, like how you got initially involved and what you feel your role is at this point?

 

Jack Wolf:             Initially I got involved and I was on the TAA Board, and it was their idea to try and get a mandatory funding from the industry.  We appealed to the industry and it’ll be three years this June Belmont weekend, and everybody—most everybody that we appealed to had an interest and I think the timing of it was such that a lot of the industry leaders wanted to pitch in and try to do a better job than what we’ve done in the past. We’ve had a tremendous amount of cooperation with the Jockey Club, the Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland, the sales companies, the stallion owners, the trainers, on and on, and a lot of support from the people that are in the horse aftercare business that are on our Board.  Where we stand at this point is we made our first grants in the fall of last year and we granted a million dollars to 23 outfits, and we have a considerable more applications this year, and hopefully we’ll have more funds to do the same or more this coming fall.  But I think it’s going fairly well and hopefully we’ll continue to get more support from the industry behind it.

Jim Mulvihill:     Jack, I just had one more question for you.  I wanted to ask about Intense Holiday as a foal almost not making it.  I know that was long before you came to own him, but just to help get the story out there, I would like to hear in your words what you know of that story, and also if the knowledge that this horse almost died makes his success more special for you?

Jack Wolf:             I did not know about it until I read Steve Haskin’s article.  You know, it’s amazing that the horse is alive from what the breeders went through to get the horse up and breathing.  I’ve seen horses like that that don’t make it and some that have made it and aren’t well, so hats off to the breeders.  Actually they’re having a heck of a year I was reading in Blood-Horse where they’ve had about six horses where they’ve bred themselves or in partnership have already won graded stake races this year, hats off to them for doing a great job with this horse and the other ones that they’ve bred and have sold.  I don’t think they’ve raced any of them themselves, but bred and sold.  So, yes, it’s a heck of a story.

 

Our final guest on this call is Larry Jones.  Jones is a Kentucky native.  Started out as a commercial farmer, which is how he learned all about horses, of course.  He became an owner in 1980, a trainer in 1982, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that he really emerged on the national scene with Grade 1 winners like Island Sand and Wildcat Betty B.  In 2007 he finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic with Hard Spun.  The next year he ran second in the Derby again, although tragically so with Eight Belles.  He trained 2011 Horse of the Year, Havre de Grace, and in 2012 won the Kentucky Oaks with Believe You Can.  Today we’re going to talk to Jones from Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where Saturday he saddles Albano in the 101st running of the Louisiana Derby.

 

Larry, thanks for being with us.  You’re on with Jim Mulvihill in New York.

 

Larry Jones:        Well, it’s good to be with you.  Good afternoon.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     You’ve got a pretty good idea by now what kind of horse it takes to win the Louisiana Derby; you won it with Friesan Fire, ran second with Mark Valeski.  How does Albano stack up to those and the other horses you’ve seen in New Orleans this winter?

Larry Jones:        Well, we’re real happy the way he’s coming along, Jim.  He, you know, he is a half-brother, or actually a three quarter brother to Mark Valeski, so hopefully, you know, we’ve got the genetics to be at this level.  But he’s training very well.  He—this colt, he seems like the distance of ground should not be an issue for him at all.  He’s got a good turn of foot, so where we should be able to avoid a whole lot of traffic problems, so we’ll just see, but it all is well right now.

Jim Mulvihill:     All right.  In the Risen Star he almost went gate to wire.  You’re somebody who is on the track every morning galloping horses, so I trust your insight into the track and how it’s playing.  What can you tell us about that and how it could impact Albano if at all?

Larry Jones:        Well, I mean as of right now, to be honest with you, the track is very fair.  There was a couple of times this winter —we’d been going through so much rain it seemed like maybe the rail was a little golden.  But I don’t feel like that is what the case was the day we ran Albano, which is the fact we drew the one hole and didn’t want to get squeezed back so we had to use some speed, and thankfully he has a natural turn of foot so we was able to take advantage of that with him and avoid a real wide or a boxed in trip.  Depending on what post position we drawas to how we have to ride, but like I said, I think we’re pretty fortunate he will adapt to whatever.  I mean he’s run from off the pace, he’s been on the pace, and the track right now doesn’t appear to be having an inside, outside bias, but it’s just pretty fair, so it looks like it could be a good day of racing.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     Excellent.  And then the last thing I’ve got for you is, you know, Kerwin Clark’s been on him all winter.  Are you sticking with Boo Boo on Saturday?

 

Larry Jones:        Oh, absolutely.  Yes, he’s part of the team here now, and when a jockey hasn’t done anything wrong, you sure don’t start looking around trying to do things different.  It’s not like he’s some bug boy.  I mean he’s been around for a little while, and he knows where the finish wire is and that when we get to the end of a straightaway we’ve got to make a left-hand turn, I can’t expect whole lot more out of him.  He’s good at what he does.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     Excellent.  Well, I’m very glad to hear that.  Now, I’m going to throw it back to Michelle and we’ll see what other questions there are.

 

Danny Brewer:  Okay, talk about what kind of competitor Albano is?  He’s I think been in the money every time out.

 

Larry Jones:        Well, he really is a nice, nice horse.  As I say, we’ve had this family before.  We know they’re competitive.  They don’t lay down just in case something doesn’t go their way.  Tthey try to find ways to overcome.  His big brother Mark Velaski’s been that way, and this colt is letting on they’re going to be the same thing.  We’re just pretty lucky to have these kinds of horses

Danny Brewer:  Talk about the long stretch there at Fair Grounds.  Does that help him considering he’s versatile like you said, or hurt him, or does it play any factor at all?

Larry Jones:        Well, I’m not saying it doesn’t play any factor.  I wished in the Risen Star it had been about 10 yards shorter.  I do think it helped Mr. Wolf’s horse to make up some ground coming there.  But we know how far it is whenever we turn for home.  It is a long stretch.  I do think it makes it a lot more fair for everybody.  I’m not saying it just favors the closers, but like I said, they sure have a good shot to make the run at you.  But as far as Albano goes, I think we’ll be just fine.

Danny Brewer:  Friesan Fire was a really nice horse that went in as the Derby favorite.  How do you compare Albano to him, or is there any comparison at all?

Larry Jones:        Well comparing one horse to another is kind of hard and in different years.  You know, physically, they’re not a lot different.  They’re both made to get a lot of ground.  This colt here actually appears to be built and just looking at him a little better to get the rider ground than Mark Valeski was.  But he and Friesan Fire are pretty much alike there, and Friesan Fire had enough speed to kind of put you in a forward place in the race like this colt can do.  So,, like I said, just hopefully these are the kind of horses that you can avoid a lot of issues with.  Hopefully you don’t get trapped in behind anybody like you would with a learning colt.  So, we’re just looking forward to Saturday getting here.  He breezed really well yesterday, and it looks like we’re sitting on a good one.

Jennie Rees:       You have all these notable seconds in these graded Derby preps at the Fair Grounds.  Is it frustrating or is it frustrating when your horses are finishing fifth and sixth and sevenths in these prep races as opposed to being second?

Larry Jones:        Well, Jennie, you know, it does.  When everything has gotten just that close and you miss by a nose, you just wonder what in the world—what have you done wrong to make the karma (inaudible).  I would rather be   second than I have, as you said, be like fifth or sixth, because at least we know that we belonged in the races whenever we’re that close.  And we’ve been fortunate; we have won a lot of the races that we’re in.  But I’m like you; I kind of remember the ones I just barely get beat in.  I go back with Mark Valeski, it was Todd Pletcher that beat me a nose in the Risen Star, and once again he does it through the little brother of his.  Sooner or later you always think, well, maybe we’ll start winning those (inaudible), and you’ve got to keep at it, yes.

Jennie Rees:       Could there be a hundred to one shot in there this time that could beat you like (inaudible)?

Larry Jones:        They probably could but we’re hoping we’re going to keep the shoes on him this time.  You know, last year we had shod Mark Valeski the morning of the race and he lost his shoe before he even got to the gate.  But this time we shod this one on Sunday and we’ve already tested the shoes.  As of yesterday, they all stayed on, so we’re ready to go.  We’re going to hope these shoes stay put and we just hope we get a good run in, and we’ll see what happens.

 

Jennie Rees:       Speaking of Mark Valeski, you see it looks like he’s had his first published work, which was a very encouraging.   How’s he doing?

 

Larry Jones:        He’s doing really well and looking forward to his comeback.  But, yes, he kind of surprised us the other day.  That’s not what we expected him to do, but once he broke loose from the pony, it’s like here I go.  But he did really well.  I think he was :35 flat, galloped out a half in 48.1, and still had to be caught with the pony when he come around, so it looks like he could be sitting on a good year again this year.

 

Jennie Rees:       And final question, Kerwin Clark, like you said, he’s been around forever, but have you really used him that much over the years?  Is this—you know—what is it about this winter that you all hooked up?

 

Larry Jones:        I learned of Kerwin back in the early ’90s when I did a little stint at Hawthorne, and he was a name rider that I couldn’t get to ride my horses because I didn’t have horses the caliber of his quality riding.  So as it turned out this year, we’ve gotten a little jam early in the meet getting the riders that we wanted, and his agent has been a good friend of mine down here, so Kerwin started riding and came up he was winning on everything we put him on.  And as I get to know him better, our philosophy about racing is very similar, , the strategies that we like to have in racing, so I guess maybe it just goes back to us both being old timers and been around a long time.  It’s just really been working, so there was no reason to try to find anybody else.  We paired up well and we’re having some success and we’re both enjoying it, and we’ll ride as long we can ride.

Art Wilson:          Yes, Larry, I was just curious wondering the other three year olds either down there in Louisiana or around the country have caught your eye and impressed you?

Larry Jones:        Well, you know, I’m a huge fan of horse racing, and it seems like every weekend I can find a major player.  This last weekend was very good.  The Sunland horses ran really well; the top two horses there.  California’s sitting on a horse or two that turns your eye, and, of course, you’re always looking at Florida and watching General A Rod and Wildcat Red as they were front-running good horses.  Then when you start thinking about how do you beat them, you’ve got to start thinking, well, maybe Gulfstream Park favors those speedsters, and maybe they won’t look the same on a different track.  You’ve just got to start trying to think of ways, maybe they won’t run that same way at Churchill or maybe they won’t even like Churchill’s track.

So, you know, but we feel like right now we’re stacking up pretty good.  If you go by numbers, and which everybody in the country has got a number for something, but our numbers are matching especially off our Risen Star race.  We’re darn close in the ball game, and if he makes another improvement, and the thing we like about our horse is every race there seems to be an improvement on his previous race.  So, yes, we’re happy with where we’re sitting right now, and whether we can make up six weeks now between now and the Derby, whether we can close the gap on all the very top frontrunners we’ll just see.  This Saturday will be a big question and we’ll see what happens here.

Marcus Hersh:  I got an e-mail from someone named Georgette Albano wanting to know how your horse got his name.

Larry Jones:        Well, there is a gentleman in Florida that works at the Sea View Hotel where the Governor and his wife have stayed on vacation for like 25 years, and they run into this dear fellow there and they named a horse after him.  They had done the same thing with Mark Valeski.  He was named after an employee of the Sea View.  Well, actually we have a horse named Sea View Chico.  We’ve got a lot of horses in our barn named after people there, but they all had to become stake horses.  So anybody that’s staying at the Sea View they’re liable to have a horse named after them, because it’s been working good.

 

Marcus Hersh:  You’ll have to keep the pipeline open.  All right, I will inform Ms. Albano of the name (inaudible).  Thank you.

 

Danny Brewer:  Hey, Larry.  I just got a follow-up on some—you’re a Kentucky boy, and you’re owner , former Governor Jones Kentucky boy.  How nice would it be to bring home a Kentucky Derby title to a couple Kentucky boys?

 

Larry Jones:        Well, you know, that would be the top echelon of anything that we could hope to have.  You know, do I have to win the Kentucky Derby to fulfill a training dream?  My career has been better than I ever dreamed it could be, so I don’t feel like I have to win a Kentucky Derby, but if it’s in the cards, I guarantee you’ll see one wholehearted Kentucky boy pretty happy come dark at night.  And I think the Governor would be please, too, yes.

Jim Mulvihill:     All right, Larry, just a couple follow-ups and then we’ll let you go.  I was very interested in what you were telling Jennie about you and Kerwin being on the same page; being old timers with similar philosophies.  Can you give us one or two examples of, you know, some of these old timer beliefs that you have that you feel like you guys see eye-to-eye on?

Larry Jones:        Well, I think one of the things that we agree on is we have a game plan when we go out, and that’s plan A, but we also know plan B may start as soon as the gates open and we’ve stumbled or something has happened from there.  But we both feel very comfortable in going to the second plan or even plan C if so be it.  We’ve been in situations a lot, you know, maybe we’ve got a horse that we want on the front but he gets away a little bit.  But we don’t try to just automatically say, oh, we’re getting to the front no matter what.  Okay, we’ll just sit here and then see what happens.  We’ve been around it long enough to know that you just don’t panic when something happens, and it may not even open up for the entire race.  I mean hopefully not every race is the Kentucky Derby, not every race is even the Louisiana Derby, and whenever that happens you think, well, this is what’s going to be best for this horse right now.  We’re in a compromised position, but let’s make the best of it.  And we just do.  He knows I’m not going to get upset over it.  It’s not like that I know that every race is the last race we’ll ever be in, and it’s not like he feels like he’s got to win at all cost.  Let’s just do this smart, use some intelligence of things that we’ve learned over the year that we know works 90% of the time, and let’s just go out there and do it.  If it’s not our day, it’s not, and we’ll regroup and do it again.

But like I say, we’re both pretty comfortable with each other.  He pretty well knows that if I have a horse that I think is doing well and I may have him entered in a race that maybe doesn’t look like the logical spot on paper, but I tell him and I say, hey, we’re live here, let’s just get it done, he goes out there with the confidence, okay, we’re in here but we think we can get the job done and we it works.  He just doesn’t make bug boy mistakes.  Like I said, you know you’re going out there and you just feel pretty confident.  When I throw him up on a horse I feel like he’ll get the job done.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     Then another thing I was thinking about when you were talking before, you mentioned Albano and Mark Valeski come from a competitive family, and, you know, you’ve had some prominent horses that are extremely game or were extremely game; Hard Spun and Eight Belles, of course,  that fought to the wire all the way even when it looked like they were beat.  Is that something a trainer can take any credit for or is that something that a horse has to be born with?

Larry Jones:        We try to set up their training situations where we can teach them that just because things aren’t exactly going their way not to give up.  But, no, it’s mostly bred in them.  I would love to be able to take all the credit for it.  You can maybe change a little bit of percentage of it with training, but then whenever I have these Airdrie horses I feel pretty confident there’s a lot of fight in them.  You know, I’ve not ever had a fighter any more so than Proud Spell, which hasn’t, you know, really—ha been brought up in this category, but that’s a filly that had to fight tooth and nail a lot of times and long stretch duels and in her whole career she never got passed down the straightaway; she just would fight to the bitter end.  I think a lot of the way may be that they raise them at Airdrie.  They don’t teach them to be intimidated by other horses.  They let them grow up being horses, and they learn to compete and they’re not hot house raised actually.  They get out there and they know what it’s like to compete, and some days you win and some days you don’t, but most of it’s the horse,t there are some little things you can do that make a big difference, and I think our team from top to bottom does it.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     Excellent.  Well, that’s some good info, Larry, and we really appreciate your time today.  It’ll be great to see you on Saturday, and we wish you luck in the Louisiana Derby.

 

Larry Jones:        All right, thank you all so very much, and you all have a great day.

 

Jim Mulvihill:     , Larry Jones.  He’s got Albano on Saturday in the Louisiana Derby.  Thanks once again to Kiaran McLaughlin and Jack Wolf for joining us earlier.

2016-12-14T16:10:03+00:00 March 25th, 2014|Categories: Teleconferences|
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