Eric Wing: Welcome to today’s NTRA Communications national media teleconference. A very big weekend ahead; as most of you know, Super Saturday at Belmont Park and a pretty super Saturday, in its own right, at Santa Anita Park as well. Between the two tracks, 11 Breeders Cup Challenge win-and-you’re in events, and we’ll be talking about several of them here with some of the key participants. Those races, by the way, will be well covered on radio. Mike Penna and the Horse Racing Radio Network team will have live coverage from Belmont from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sirius XM satellite radio, as will the “Down the Stretch” team with Dave Johnson and Bill Finley. Sirius XM radio also 3 to 6 p.m. for that crew, so if you can’t be out to the track, you can at least listen to all the great action.
A little later we’ll check in with trainer, Ron Ellis. He’s got three different horses pointing to big races this weekend. He’s got Include Me out in the Grade I quarter million dollars Zenyatta Stakes; Rail Trip, who’s already qualified for the—or pre-qualified for the Breeders Cup; Dirt Mile, who might try to do likewise for the Classic; he’s got Rail Trip going in the Awesome Again Grade 1 mile and an eighth $250,000. And then on Sunday he’ll send out Casino Host, already a Breeders Cup Challenge winner from the Del Mar Handicap. Sunday Casino Host will race in the Grade II $150,000 John Henry Turf Championship.
And speaking of John Henry, we’ll also chat later in the call with Hall of Fame trainer, Ron McAnally. He will send out the Argentinean star, Suggestive Boy, in the Grade 1 quarter million dollar Awesome Again Stakes in a race that will be Suggestive Boy’s first on a natural dirt surface.
First up, though, we’re delighted to have with us another Hall of Fame trainer, and that’s Bill Mott, who will have a pleasantly busy Saturday, it looks like. He’s got the duo of Ron the Greek and Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup; Royal Delta, the defending Breeders Cup Ladies Classic winner in the Beldame Invitational; and we’ll check with Bill to see—get a status update on To Honor and Serve, who I know had been tentatively pointing for the Grade 2 Kelso at a mile.
Bill, it’s Eric Wing in New York. How are you today?
Bill Mott: Hey, good Eric, thank you for having me on.
Eric Wing: Well, thanks so much for being on, Bill. And I guess just to get a little bit of housekeeping out of the way, any update on To Honor and Serve? I know you were strongly considering the Kelso but hadn’t 100% fully committed to it.
Bill Mott: Yes, right now we’re—tomorrow’s entry day, and we plan on entering. He’s doing very well. He’s had a couple breezes. He breezed yesterday and I couldn’t, you know, ask him to have gone any better. I mean, as far as the breeze goes, he obviously is coming off of a very good, hard race in the Woodward and, I was wondering if coming back in four weeks would be too much for him. And at the end of the day, I guess we’ll find that out. But he seems as though he’s doing very well and I just have taken the option to go ahead and enter and plan to run and then it’s five weeks back to the Breeders Cup Classic. So, you know, I think we’re probably leaning in the direction of the Classic and I think the connections would like to give that a chance for the year end honors. So, right now that’s what we plan to do.
Eric Wing: Bill, you raised an interesting general point about race spacing, and I know it’s always a challenge to keep any horse at the top of his or her game throughout a long campaign. With Royal Delta, she’s had two pretty tough races back-to-back with the Delaware Handicap and the Personal Ensign. How has she bounced out of those two efforts? Is she training to your satisfaction?
Bill Mott: She looks great. She’s doing well, yes. And, you know, I think it gives us five weeks and she seems to be doing well. We got beat last time and we’ve got to try to come back. We’ve got a couple more to go. So, we’ll run in the Beldame and hopefully that puts us in good position for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Bill, this is a To Honor and Serve question. Could you comment about how he seems to be doing now and his performance in the Woodward versus maybe earlier in the year with the Met Mile and the Suburban?
Bill Mott: Well, I thought he was doing very well going, you know his first race of the year was a flat mile and he won easily. And we went into the Met Mile, and I didn’t think he could be doing any better than he was that day. I give him a little excuse, we had (audio interference) and I don’t think he had the ideal trip. With that being said it wasn’t a bad race. He finished third and, you know, he was in the game, and I think it was evident that around the turn he was unable to run when he needed to run in order to be competitive in the race. Shackleford beat him on that day.
And when we came back in the Suburban, I think he was really a victim of the heat. It was 97 degrees that day and just really, I think, the heat really affected him and he really ran a lackluster race. He was fourth, beaten seven lengths or so. But that’s the reason we skipped the Whitney and we gave him a little extra time and waited until the end of August—early September, I guess it was, to—in hopes that the weather was cooling off a little bit. And we did—the weather did cool off through the course of the last two weeks of August and we had a reasonably good day on Woodward day. I guess it was 80 degrees or so, but it wasn’t—you know, a far cry from 97-100 degrees that we had to run in on Suburban.
And he seems to be doing well. I mean, he’s bounced back since then, since the Woodward, and I think part of it is because he does well in the cool weather. He feels good and eats better, and he actually seems as though he’s put on a little weight to me. In the last 10 days he looks like he’s kind of filled back out a little bit.
Jennie Rees: Are you concerned then about the Breeders Cup being in Santa Anita, where it’s been known to be, like, 100 degrees on Breeders Cup day?
Bill Mott: Right. I’ve thought about that but I can’t control the weather and the only thing I can hope for is we get out there and we have—if it’s 85 I feel fine, but if it’s 100 we probably have a problem.
Jennie Rees: (Inaudible) problem on the versatility. I mean, obviously, To Honor and Serve and Shackleford will be the focal point of the Kelso as they go at it again. So, the versatility of these two horses, it seems like one turn doesn’t matter, two turns doesn’t matter with them, you know, sprint, long.
Bill Mott: Well, I’ve always felt my horse is very affective at a one-turn mile. Shackleford beat him in the Met Mile but I felt on that particular day we didn’t have the golden trip. And to beat a horse like that, you’ve got to have the golden trip; it’s got to work out well. It didn’t—it wasn’t perfect and we got beat. Hopefully we can turn the tables on him.
Jennie Rees: And while I’m asking you about your competition, could you, with Royal Delta, talk about the rivalry she has with It’s Tricky?
Bill Mott: It’s been a good one. We beat her—as I remember, we beat her in the Alabama and Breeders Cup, and I guess we beat her the last time, although, I have to be quite impressed with It’s Tricky with the remarkable race that she ran last time after stumbling at the start. It was one of those stumbles where it could have kept her from being in the race at all, and she came on and finished well and was obviously a good competitor. So, she deserves a lot of credit. She’s a very good filly. On her day she’s the one to be reckoned with.
Danny Brewer: This is obviously a big day for you. As an old pro in the game, is it anything special to you, or just another day at the track? I mean, four horses and three big races.
Bill Mott: No, I get excited. You try to do everything, not make any mistakes, have everything lined up and ready to go with the horses, the people, and have their program in order and know what you’re going to do and try to be ready for any last minute detail that you have to attend to. And yes, I get excited and I get a little anxious. You know, sometimes you want to just get to it. And I hope all the races are back-to-back-to-back. I hope they fall one, two, three. It’s nice to stay busy on a day like that because the part that really kills you is just the sitting around and waiting. So, you know, at some point you just like to get to it. And it’s a very important day for us because you want to see the horses run well and come out of the race good and be able to go to the big day in Santa Anita.
Danny Brewer: Now, as far as the big day at Santa Anita, you’re defending champ as trainer in the Classic and the Ladies Classic. Do you think about that as Breeders Cup gets closer, or it’s just we’re focused on day-to-day and let’s take care of what we’ve got to take care of today?
Bill Mott: It’s day-to-day and take care of each individual horse, and I’m not worried about what we did last year, last year is in the past and it’s always a new challenge when you go on to a new group of horses and a new situation and a new racetrack. What you did last year is last year and you’re going for something new and different and it’s—we’ll try to do the best we can with each individual. And it’s tough enough to win one of those races, much less duplicate a pair of them, like we did last year.
Jay Privman: Hey, Bill, I was wonder, in light of the fact that last year you shipped in fairly early to Churchill Downs to train for the Breeders Cup, if you’ve given any thought to how you might approach this year’s Breeders Cup out here.
Bill Mott: Well, probably the way we have in the past, the last time we were there we shipped in five days before. We did our final works at our home track. Most of them were at Belmont and then shipped in there late. And we had a fairly good Breeders Cup and I guess we were second with Courageous Cat in the Mile, and I was very happy with the way all the horses went to the paddock. I thought everything went good. We didn’t win any of those races, but I thought my horses performed well and I was happy enough with the way they were doing going into it. It’s either go then, I think, or go the day after they run in New York on Saturday, and I’m not prepared to do that.
Geoffrey Riddle: Good morning. I was fortunate enough to see Royal Delta in Dubai. She’s not a very big horse, but she—I mean, she did on the race track a lot this year (inaudible). Can you tell me a bit about her constitution?
Bill Mott: Well, I think she’s a very tough mare. She’s probably one of the horses in the barn that has the best appetite. I mean, she eats as much as any horse in the barn and seems to always be aggressive and ready to train. So, she’s very willing and she has a pretty tough constitution. She can get a little excited, which I think is sometimes a little typical of the Empire Makers. She can get a little wound up and a little racy and a little excited at times, but with that being said she’s also got a lot of—she’s been a very tough horse, up until this point.
Geoffrey Riddle: Yes, I mean, not—you had quite a lot—I can’t tell (inaudible) one, two, three, four, five—seven times or something, but you gave her a break this year after Dubai. Was that intentional, or was that…
Bill Mott: After Dubai? Well, I think it was only probably not much more than 60 days. When she came back from Dubai, she seemed to be doing well. But we typically like to give them a little time after that trip. I think that they can come back from Dubai, but I don’t think you’d want to rush them back into it—into a race three or four weeks after they get back. I think you’ve got to give them a little more chance than that.
Actually, when she came back and ran in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill, I mean, it was visually one of her better races. She ran very well. So, she came off the shelf and ran a huge race.
Geoffrey Riddle: What did you make of (inaudible) second to Loving Pride (ph)? What did you make of the ride (inaudible)?
Bill Mott: I wasn’t overly critical of the ride. I mean, maybe some were, but I thought he was in position to win the race and maybe he would’ve—you know, knowing the filly a little better now, maybe he’d make a little adjustment in the future. But I don’t think by any means it was what we refer as a horrible ride. I don’t—I sure wouldn’t say that. I think you’ve got to remember we gave the winner 10 pounds in there, so I think that that has to be a factor.
Geoffrey Riddle: And lastly, do you feel there’s much more improvement in her, or is this the finished (inaudible) now?
Bill Mott: Well, I don’t have my crystal ball in front of me right now, but I think she’s been good and I just hope she stays as good as she’s shown us in the past. If she gets better, that would be great, but I don’t expect her to. I’m trying to keep her as—in the same form that she’s been in for the last three or four races.
John Scheinman: Last year Royal Delta finished second to Havre de Grace in a muddy Beldame and it was a setup race for an excellent win in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. Is this race—the Beldame is a pretty old prestigious race. Is this a race you would like very much to get on her resume with a victory here, or is this primarily a stepping stone to the next race?
Bill Mott: Well frankly, it’s a race that I’d like to get on my resume, as well as hers. It’s a race that I’ve never won, although I can tell you that we’ve run in it with three of my Breeders Cup Distaff winners and each of them has been beaten. I think Royal Delta was second in it and she won the Filly and Mare Classic. Unrivaled Belle was second. She won the Breeders Cup. And also, a filly named Ajina was second in the race and she won the Breeders Cup. So, I’ve been, you know, three seconds in the Beldame and they all went on to win the Breeders Cup in their next start. So, you know, do I hope I win it? Yes, I’d love to win it. But if I’m second, maybe it’s something to be said for what’s to come.
John Scheinman: Excellent. Well, does this race, being what it is, this big, long run as opposed to the two turn, does this hinder or favor her in any way? And as a second part to this question, my sense is we’re coming up with a pretty light field. And from a tactical perspective, how do you race It’s Tricky? Or, it’s two parts.
Bill Mott: Well, I mean, I think you’re going to see It’s Tricky with a lot more speed without a stumble from the gate. I think they probably have intentions of laying up close and they’re going to make us try to catch her. And I’m sure her job’s going to be up close and we’re going to have to try to run her down. Tactically it’s probably a little bit different race than a two-turn race. The speed has been carrying very well at Belmont and I would be as satisfied if it was a two-turn race, but it’s not. And our filly has run well enough there before, but it certainly could play into the speed bias of the track. If it comes up the way it was this past weekend, why it may favor a speed horse.
David Grening: Hey, Bill, I was just wondering if you could talk a little about Flat Out and where you think he is off the two races that he’s had this year, A. B) how much stock do you put into the fact that he’s two for two at Belmont? And C) have you finalized a rider for him?
Bill Mott: A) he’s doing very well. You know, he’s—I’m happy with the works that he’s put in, happy with the way he’s going, what he’s doing. He seems like he feels good and is ready to run. I think we’ve had a fair amount of time to get over the Whitney. We’ve had a nice training schedule since then and obviously, he’s run well on the track before. That’s got to be a bonus anytime you’ve got one running on any particular track, if they’ve already been a dual winner there. And third part of your question is Rosario is going to be named to ride.
David Grening: You had mentioned the speed (inaudible) nature of the main track at Belmont. Does that hinder Flat Out at all, do you think? Or—and I guess would it hinder Ron the Greek the way with his style?
Bill Mott: Flat Out is able to lay in the stalking position. I think Ron the Greek is one that, you know, has always been a deep—generally been a deep closer, unless he happens to be in a race with—that’s void of early speed. But with any sort of an honest pace in the race Ron the Greek is a deep closer. And the only thing is we’ve got a mile-and-a-quarter, you know, opposed to a mile-and-an-eighth race. Given that extra eighth of a mile that should help Ron the Greek, I would think sustain his run and Flat Out. The normal pace scenario that he would get going a mile-and-a-quarter, it should put him up a little closer in the race.
Tom Pedulla: Bill, your resume speaks to your ability to (inaudible) the horses and keep them good and have them peak, you know, later in the year. Is there any key or any bit of your philosophy that you could share that would help to explain that?
Bill Mott: Well, I don’t—I think the only thing you could say about it is try to take care of them when they’re immature and a little younger, and we’ve either had the benefit of receiving some horses that got good at a little older age. And maybe if it’s ones we started out with we’ve given them enough time to mature. So, you know, a lot of times it’s just the way things work out, but I guess you always try to keep enough run in the tank for the big day, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. And sometimes it’s touchy.
It’s just like with a horse like with To Honor and Serve. Okay, do you give him one race in between Woodward and the Breeders Cup, or do you train him into the race? If you have to train him into the race and you’re going to go a mile-and-a-quarter, you’ve got to train him for nine weeks, which when you do that you’ve got to put him on the racetrack and put some pretty serious works in him. It can be done. It’s not certainly not impossible, but sometimes if you have a race in there and you’ve only got five weeks to go, it makes your job a little bit easier. It’s always a little bit of a balancing act to know whether you’re doing too much or not enough. So, we do the best we can and make the best educated guess we can and hope it works out.
Gary West: Wondering about Royal Delta, where she is relative to where she was exactly a year ago. And Ron the Greek, he’s improved steadily almost—well, for the last year, anyway, and where he is now relative to say, the Stephen Foster (ph).
Bill Mott: Ron continues to do well. I mean, he’s just one of those horses that maintains his condition. He looks good. He’s moving well and his works are consistent with what we saw earlier in the year. He’s not a real flashy workhorse, he’s more or less workman-like, I suppose, and—but he’s really doing well. He’s a beautiful horse with a great constitution. He loves to train and he always seems to give you plenty in the afternoon and he’s done remarkably well for a horse who started out—was actually—probably ran in, I guess, maybe December in New York and then went down to Florida and he’s been just a real dream to have, in that regard.
As far as Royal Delta, she’s a year older, she’s much more mature, and she’s doing well. She’s—as I said earlier, she eats well and loves to train, and she seems to still love to run. So, you know, hoping that we continue on that path with her. She’s doing great.
Eric Wing: Okay. Bill, just before we say goodbye, I was just curious with Flat Out and signing up Joel Rosario to ride him on Saturday as the defending Jockey Club Gold Cup Champion. Is part of the appeal with Rosario the fact that he’s got outstanding success on his resume at Santa Anita, or am I over-thinking it, or have you not thought it out that far down the road yet?
Bill Mott: Well, we thought about that, but actually,right now the Gold Cup is a one-race contract and I suppose we’ll see how he rides. And I’m sure he’ll see how the horse runs, and we haven’t gone any further than that. He seems like a very capable rider and I hope he has a good day as well as Flat Out. So, I hope they make a good team and I guess we’ll see after the Gold Cup whether or not we go on and continue with him or not.
Eric Wing: Very good. Well, Bill, thanks, as always, for your time and answering all these questions. Obviously, a big day ahead for you and your team and we wish you the best of luck with all your runners on Saturday at Belmont.
Bill Mott: Okay, thank you very much.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s trainer Hall of Fame—Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He will be busy with Royal Delta in the Beldame, the duo of Ron the Greek and defending Jockey Club Gold Cup Champion, Flat Out, in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and looks like well, To Honor and Serve will at least be entered in the Kelso and certainly, therefore, a decent chance that we see him in action in the one-turn Kelso Handicap. That, like all the aforementioned, win-and-you’re-in race to the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile; the others, of course, the Gold Cup win-and-you’re-in for the Classic, and the Beldame, a win-and-you’re-in for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic.
Okay, our second guest today knows a thing or two about Breeders Cup Challenge win-and-you’re-in events. He’s already exploited that system quite nicely. He’s qualified already Include Me Out for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic by virtue of a win in the Clement L. Hirsch. He’s qualified Rail Trip in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile by virtue of a win in the San Diego Handicap, and he can give himself a nice option should Rail Trip win the Awesome Again Stakes because that would be a real win-and-you’re-in for the Breeders Cup Classic. And in Casino Host he qualified that Dynaformer colt for the Breeders Cup Turf by virtue of the win in the Delmar Handicap, and Casino Host will run Sunday in the Grade 2 $150,000 John Henry Turf Championship. And we’re delighted now to bring in trainer Ron Ellis.
Ron, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being on the call with us today.
Ron Ellis: Hi, Eric, my pleasure.
Eric Wing: Okay, I was just—I don’t know if you just popped in, but we were just—I was just kind of speaking in impressed tones about how you’ve got all these horses qualified already for the Breeders Cup with still the final round of preps to go, but I want to ask you about Rail Trip. Now, he’s already in like Flynn for the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. If he does real well in the Awesome Again, does that give you kind of a pleasant problem to figure out?
Ron Ellis: Yes, no question about it. You know, we’re coming off a mile-and-a-quarter race that I thought he was one race short for, even though he has won a mile-and-a-quarter when he won the Hollywood Gold Cup. So, you know, we’re not really sure if he’s better at a mile or better at a mile-and-a-quarter. Most of the big purses that we’ve gone after have been at a mile-and-a-quarter, so we’ve never really focused on him being a miler. He used to have a lot of speed when he broke his maiden and ran 1:07 and change and, you know, it always seemed like he’d be a good miler. In fact, people told me that’s what he was and he wasn’t a mile-and-a-quarter horse until he won the Gold Cup.
So yes, we’re going to run in the Awesome Again and kind of decide what our next move is off of that.
Eric Wing: Okay. And with all your horses, Bill—or Ron—you have the luxury of, unlike Bill, just being able to essentially walk the horse over from his barn. I know Rail Trip is stabled at Betfair Hollywood. But how big of an advantage is that for you not necessarily this weekend when most trainers are in that boat, but down the line in the Breeders Cup, this being a year in which you don’t have to ship?
Ron Ellis: Well, we just have to ship across town, you know, we’re based at Hollywood all year long. And so the horses do really well over here. And we had a great Santa Anita winter meet training here and then shipping over. The horses handled the switch very, very well. A little bit deeper racetrack at Betfair Hollywood Park than Santa Anita, so it kind of helps, you know, fitness—from a fitness standpoint. But—so we ship them over there about three, four days ahead of time so they’re not really—don’t have that home field advantage, so to speak. But like I said, we had a great winter meet there and did it that way, so I don’t see any reason to change. And all my horses have done real well here all year, so we’re not going to change.
Eric Wing: No need.
Ron Ellis: But I think it is a big benefit, even just being we only have to ship across town, you know?
Danny Brewer: Does the success you had at Del Mar, does that help you any as you go to Santa Anita for their meet and for Breeders Cup?
Ron Ellis: Well, I mean, other than we’ve got horses doing well at kind of the right time, is about the only thing that it helps us with. I mean, unfortunately, in our business, it’s pretty much the meet that ends is the meet that ends and a new meet starts everything all over again, you know? It seems like people mostly remember what have you done for me lately, so we always look at it as a new meet and what we’ve done in the past kind of goes on the resume. But you’ve got to start all over going into a new meet, and that’s basically what we’re looking at for the Santa Anita fall meet.
But Del Mar was a very nice surprise that the horses fired so well. As I mentioned, I base at Betfair Hollywood Park all year round, and I really thought I was going to be giving up some sort of a home field advantage by staying at Hollywood Park during the Del Mar meet. Usually when I train the horses here, Del Mar, due to their atmosphere conditions being so close to the ocean and with their track being so radically different than the racetrack up here, usually the horses—you do give up something. But I was very fortunate this year that the horses really performed at a peak level, and that was with shipping. So, I felt very fortunate.
Danny Brewer: Rail Trip, is he somebody that has gotten better with age, and do you think he’s still getting better? Has he hit his head on the ceiling yet?
Ron Ellis: No. To tell you the truth, I mean, in my opinion, he was a better horse when he was four and five years old, you know? But that doesn’t mean that he can’t still get it done. A lot of people would obviously argue with me, but I thought he was the best horse in the country as a five-year-old when he lost that Gold Cup race. You know, that was just a ridiculous ride that day; he should’ve been in front by five. Other than that, he looked like a monster, if you go back and look at his two prep races for that. So, I thought he was the best horse in the country as a five-year-old. I don’t know that I could say that now. We’re hoping that he’ll get back to that, but so far it’s been kind of a little bit slower journey getting him in peak form.
Carol Holden: Hi, Ron, thanks a lot for joining us today. I’m not familiar with all of the Breeders Cup rules or whatever. You’ve already qualified these horses. I’m wondering, if you end up double qualifying, do you get double pay from them?
Ron Ellis: Yes, I don’t think so, unless we run in both races, which would be a little hard to do. But no, I think you just qualify. But I’ll tell you, really I didn’t realize how much it ends up costing to run—for an owner to run in the Breeders Cup. I know Casino Host, he actually earned an extra $90,000 when he won the race at Del Mar, because $90,000 was the entry fee that—you’re not only qualified to get in, but it also covers all your fees for running the race. So, it’s $90,000 that my owner won’t have to put up to run in the race.
And it gives you a (inaudible) because, you know, we won a Grade 2 down there, and this horse is a double Grade 2 winner. He hasn’t proven that he’s a Grade 1 horse yet, and—because, you know, running against Europeans at a mile-and-a-half and put up $90,000, that’s pretty nice when you don’t have to do that.
Carol Holden: Also I wonder if you could talk a little bit about Rail Trip. You said he wasn’t quite the same horse that you thought he was as a five-year-old, but what’s he like to train? What’s his personality and that type of thing?
Ron Ellis: Well, he was always a very tough horse as a younger horse. He wanted to do too much all the time. He was always extremely willing, tried to work too fast. Jose Valdivia did a really good job working with him as a younger horse, not only in the mornings, but in the races. And by the time he was five, he was settled down pretty well. He’s—now, as a seven-year-old, he is really a professional. He just goes out, does whatever he’s supposed to do, and he’s as nice a horse to train as a seven-year-old as I’ve ever had. But I couldn’t say that about him when he was three and four.
Eric Wing: Ron, Casino Host, like you say, he was certainly very solid when he was back east with Chad Brown, and Brown clearly knows a thing or two about training grass horses, yet he seems to have stepped up his game a little bit since coming to you out west, particularly last time out in the Del Mar Handicap. Any particular reasons why?
Ron Ellis: Well, you know, I mean, he was in good form. I’m of the opinion that when he got to me he was a little bit tired but, you know, he had been shipped around, pretty much, back there. But I think that being based in New York and then he was shipped down to Maryland and then shipped back and then he was shipped down to West Virginia and then, you know, flew out to California. So I think he’s appreciated, you know—and even though he did have to ship down to Del Mar, it’s a close trip so, you know, I think he’s mostly appreciated that. But he came to me in great shape. Chad did a great job with him. And one thing that I think helped him too, the mile-and-three-eighths last time I believe was the farthest that he had ever gotten to run and I think he’s truly a mile-and-a-half turf horse. So I think that’s probably what helped him the most was sitting there with the added distance.
Mark Doche: Hey, Ron, just wanted to confirm if Valdivia still has the mount on Rail Trip this weekend.
Ron Ellis: Yes, he does. He worked him for me yesterday. He worked phenomenal, :59 and 3 seconds over a racetrack that’s very deep, and that’s by far the best work that he’s turned in. But Jose was on him then and will be on him Saturday.
Mark Doche: Has there ever been any consideration of making the switch with Jose?
Ron Ellis: No, we made that mistake once and it didn’t work out so well. So no, there has been no consideration of that at all.
Mark Doche: And then as far as Include Me, she’s obviously ran her best races at Santa Anita. How do you think those races stack up with the competition coming from the East Coast for the Breeders Cup? Ladies Classic looks like it’s going to be a great race, with Quest being Miss Aurelia, Royal Delta, and a lot of others.
Ron Ellis: Well, you know, I mean, to tell you the truth, I’ve been a little insulted by the lack of respect my filly’s gotten. I mean, she’s proven she’s the best filly on the West Coast. But, you know, we kind of—(inaudible) and I understand the East Coast bias and the press building up those other fillies, but, you know, my filly loves that racetrack. She’s done everything that we’ve asked of her this year. She should be unbeaten, if you throw out the Hollywood ride that I thought our rider kind of opened up by six and the filly just pulled herself up and went to sleep. She should be unbeaten around two turns. But, you know, I mostly chalk it up to the press kind of building those horses up. Usually when they hook our California horses reality sets in and—so it’s been a little disturbing that we’re not getting much credit.
Eric Wing: Ron, just one last one, actually another money question. Now, you mentioned the money, kind of the $90,000 bonus, if you will, that Casino Host got by getting his Breeders Cup entry paid. For all three of your Breeders Cup Classic qualifiers thus far, do you and your owners get to keep the $10,000 travel allowance even though you’ll be shipping from Betfair Hollywood to Santa Anita? Now, we know gas is expensive, but it’s not quite that expensive.
Ron Ellis: Yes, well I can tell you for sure I don’t get to keep it. But I think they do send the owner $10,000 and, you know, that’s whether you’re shipping across town or across country. So, I think that’s probably the fairest way to do it because some day the Breeders Cup will be back East and it’ll be kind of reverse situation. But yes, I do believe they send the owners a $10,000 check.
Eric Wing: Very nice. Well, you can afford high test, I guess, in that end. All right. Ron, hey, great having you with us and wish you luck with all three of your runners this weekend out at Santa Anita and, knock on wood, to seeing them four or five weeks thereafter at the Breeders Cup. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Ron Ellis: Yes, I appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s trainer Ron Ellis. He’s had just a terrific year and most notably with these three, who’ll all be very prominent in their respective races: Include Me Out in the Grade 1 quarter million dollars Zenyatta Stakes, going a mile-and-a-sixteenth; Rail Trip, Grade 1 quarter million dollar Awesome Again Stakes, going a mile-and-an-eighth; and Casino Host on Sunday in the Grade 2 $150,000 John Henry Turf Championship. The Zenyatta and the Awesome Again, incidentally, are both, in their own right, Breeders Cup Challenge win-and-you’re-in races, the Zenyatta, of course, leading to the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic and Awesome Again—the Awesome Again Stakes to the Breeders Cup Classic.
Eric Wing: Oh yes, we are joined by trainer Ron McAnally. Ron will be saddling Suggestive Boy, the Argentinean-bred of much note, in Saturday’s Grade 1 $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes.
Ron, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being on the conference call with us today.
Ron McAnally: Okay, Eric. Yes, good to be here.
Eric Wing: Okay, now in focusing on Suggestive Boy, you had a lot of options, I suppose, to consider for this start. He was a star in Argentina, but Saturday will be his first start on natural dirt. How do you think he’ll handle it?
Ron McAnally: Well, so far he’s handled it pretty good in his training and he handled the—unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to train him the way I wanted to at Del Mar. He had two mile races prior to the mile-and-a-quarter. Unlike Candy Ride, he had a mile at Santa Anita, a mile-and-an-eighth at Hollywood, and then a mile-and-a-quarter in the Pacific Classic. So anyway, he seems to handle the dirt all right, even though we worked him on the grass a couple of days ago, only because the new dirt track at Santa Anita seemed to be a little cuppy. But I think it’s getting better now, so he should handle it okay. Of course, he has Baffert’s horse (inaudible). Baffert seems to hold all the aces here lately, but—he just got three of Juddmonte horses, which is even more impressive.
Eric Wing: Ron, you mentioned Candy Ride just a moment ago. He’s just one of three real Grade 1 stars in the U.S. that you got from South America, the other two most notably being Bayakoa and Paseana. Can you review for us how you acquired Suggestive Boy? Was it through the very same channels as those other three great horses?
Ron McAnally: No, entirely different. This one came through a good friend of mine for a long time, Fernando Fantini, a very instrumental—he’s a racing manager for the owner of this horse, along with a couple of other horses. And has a big stable in South America. He’s originally from Mexico. He has his own plane where he can fly over and see them run in a couple of hours. And—but he’s very instrumental down there. He has his own farm, his own racing stable, a private trainer, and everything. So, it was Fantini that got me.
The other horses, Candy Ride and Paseana and Bayakoa and a few of the others we can’t mention right now, that was through Dr. Fenlowski (ph). He was the man that helped me get those horses.
Danny Brewer: Is there any real difference between these horses from South America and the one that you’d buy in Kentucky? Is there any real difference, or is a horse a horse, of course?
Ron McAnally: Well, you know, the Argentine horses seem to handle most anything. They would handle the mud, the grass, the dirt, the poly track—that’s the way I find them. Of course, they’re very durable. They seem to stay sounder a lot longer than our horses here. But on the other hand, you know, they’re—they’ve been raised good.
Danny Brewer: Now, does that give you a little bit of an advantage out there in California because of the different surfaces, with Del Mar being synthetic and Santa Anita being dirt and the Hollywood Park being a little different? Does that give you any advantage with those horses?
Ron McAnally: I believe it does, you know, especially if you’ve got a good one that comes up from down there. The other horses that we received, as you just heard there in the background, but I think it gives a good advantage because, you know, they can handle any kind of surface.
Danny Brewer: And what are you looking at from Suggestive Boy here? I mean, obviously, I know you want to win the Awesome Again Stakes, but does he have to win to move on to the Breeders Cup?
Ron McAnally: No, not necessarily. No, he can—as long as he runs a good race. And if he likes the surface and everything, then we can continue on with the Breeders Cup.
Eric Wing: Ron, a couple more from me before we say farewell. If for some reason Suggestive Boy doesn’t seem to appreciate the dirt surface at Santa Anita, might you consider going back to the grass with him, given how well he ran in the Shoemaker Mile in his first start for you?
Ron McAnally: Yes, most definitely, you know, it would make a lot of sense to do that. And that was our plan to do it, and hopefully he runs well in the dirt. If he does, we’ll continue on. If he doesn’t, then we’ll switch back to the grass.
Eric Wing: And I can’t let you go without asking you about Sunday’s race. Now, I don’t believe you’re represented in it. And a lot of people have various opinions on all the renaming of races at Santa Anita, but there’s one I imagine you kind of like, and that is the former Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, renamed the John Henry Turf Championship. Did that bring a smile to your face to see your great star recognized in that way?
Ron McAnally: Yes, it does and, you know, they have a few others. I think there’s one in Chicago. There’s another one—I can’t recall where it is. But it does, especially at Santa Anita. They have a big statue of him there and—like they’re going to have at Zenyatta, I think, prior to the Breeders Cup, a life-sized statue. And the girl that did them did a marvelous job. What an artist she is.
Eric Wing: And, I mean, this is just a trip down Memory Lane, I suppose, but can you think of another horse, Ron, like John Henry, who means so much to the racetracks and racing fans on so many different fronts? I mean, here’s a race with him being named for him at Santa Anita. Obviously, he’s a big part of the Arlington Park history, a big part of New York racing history, and even a big part of the Meadowland. Can you think of another horse that made such an impact at so many different places?
Ron McAnally: Yes, Zenyatta. She was something else. You know, I give the Mosses credit for spending an extra year which they didn’t have to, to go ahead and race her, just because she was as good as she was. And that, to me, the Mosses and the John Sheriffs and Dottie Ingordo, they deserve an awful lot of credit, because, you know, most people would want to retire them because you’re taking a chance of hurting a good horse like that, if they race them an extra year. And whereas, you know, a horse like John Henry was voted the Horse of the Year at the age of nine. Well, of course, it’s understandable why he was, because he had no other place to go except, you know, where he wound up, at the horse park. But Zenyatta, there was always an opening there for the breeding. And luckily they got her in foal, got a nice baby now, and—but that was—showed a lot of class with the Mosses and the Sheriffs and Dottie.
Carol Holden: You mentioned the durability of the South American horses. I wonder if you can make any comparisons as far as how they’re raised and handled in their younger years compared to this country.
Ron McAnally: Well, you know, we get some well-bred horses over here. I just came from the Keeneland sale a couple of days ago. And if you have a horse that you spend a lot of money breeding to a very good stallion, well naturally—and you’re in the sales market—you don’t want that horse to get hurt. And unfortunately, you know, they’re more confined so that they don’t get hurt before the sale. And they’re more protected. It’s just like you’re protecting a child. You’re going to protect that child and then expect when it grows up to be a sports figure. Well, it doesn’t happen that way. Whereas in Argentina, they didn’t have the best of breedings, they are getting better stallions now. But they’ve got 2,000 to 3,000 acres down there to raise them, and they raise a good horse.
Carol Holden: You mentioned looking back over the years. I wonder if you could compare racing now to say, 30 years ago or beyond, when you first began, what you see as some of the main differences.
Ron McAnally: Well, you know, Allen Jerkens, in the last issue of the Thoroughbred Times, I was reading about it this morning, and Allen, you know, he’s not only a good friend, we were raised together, he and Lefty Nickerson and I, a very, very good horseman. He’s very thorough. And he did remark in his article he didn’t see too much difference in (audio interference) now as opposed to years ago. But I’m sorry; I’ve got to disagree with you, Allen. That’s—the game has changed an awful lot. Of course, with your economy the way it is and raising horses, you’ve got to, you know, protect them so much for the sales, as I mentioned. But horses don’t seem to last as long now these days. They—and all of the owners, you know, it’s just tough now to get an owner—to get one owner with 10 horses, let alone with 10 owners with one horse.
So in that respect, you know, the game has changed an awful lot. And I do blame the politicians on a lot of it, too. They want more racing, more racing, more revenue, and yet they don’t give the people that buy them any tax breaks. Like, in the old days, you know, they had the private stables, the Hancocks, and the Phipps Stable and the Chenery Stable, the Cosmetic Woman
Jennie Rees: Yes, Ron, speaking of changes, can you reflect how it has changed with the Breeders Cup to run these South American horses? I mean, when you had Bayakoa and Paseana, I mean, those owners were putting up $200,000 each year to supplement them. And now, not only can you make them eligible for $150,000, I think it is, for lifetime, but if you win this race, you get your entry fees paid, plus a travel stipend.
Ron McAnally: And who do you think is responsible for that?
Jennie Rees: Did you twist that many arms?
Ron McAnally: You’re talking to him now. I went to Ted Basset and I said Ted, not only Bayakoa last year, the supplemental—I forget what it was in those days; it was a lot of money—now the following year comes up and I called Ted. I said “Ted, we more than paid for her nomination, and more so than the people who originally nominated her.” And therefore, I think it should be changed, that particular rule, like they have changed a few others, Jennie. So, I screamed at him loud enough and I think it made a lot of sense to Ted. He’s not the easiest guy to convince these days, but anyway. But he did change it and I let him know where I was coming from.
Jennie Rees: But could you just talk about the—I don’t know what the adjective you would use, the courage, the guts, the class, whatever, for the Whithams -two years in a row for Bayakoa to put up, I think, $200,000 to maybe try to make $450,000 or something? It was, like, really percentagewise not a great gamble. But, of course, if you can’t do it with a horse like that, who could you ever do it with?
Ron McAnally: Yes well, you know, Jennie, that’s the type of people the Whithams were, especially when Frank was alive. When I called him and I said “Frank, we’ve got to supplement her again,” he said “That’s okay, go ahead” you know? But I started—the more I thought about it, and that’s why I called Ted and I said, “Ted, this can’t be this way.” So, they finally made the change. But, you know, those people were really down to earth people, the Whithams. Even though I don’t train for them now, they—and the horses are back East. They had a lucky horse this year, won the Whitney I think, but they wanted to see the horses run back there more because they have a better chance, rather than out here. And that’s the only reason they moved them back there.
Jennie Rees: Suggestive Boy, was he made eligible to the Breeders Cup? Has he been made a—like, for the $150,000 or whatever it is that you have to put up to—at this point is he eligible for the Breeders Cup?
Ron McAnally: Well, we—the man that owns the two horses we nominated, I think it was about three months ago, had to put up $25,000 a piece. Well, that’s a lot cheaper than it was to run, and they’re both from Argentina. So, you know, it’s a lot less now than it used to be in those days, so they’re making it a little more easier, I think, than it used to be, Jennie.
Mark Doche: Hi, Ron, just wanted to get a couple updates on your other horses. How did All Star Heart ship back from Woodbine, and what’s next for her?
Ron McAnally: Well, she didn’t ship. She’s still up there for the E.P. Taylor. And—so, that was the plan, if she ran good in the last race, which she did. She had a few little issues, you know, like a bruised foot leading in her last race. We couldn’t really train her the way we wanted to. And I don’t know if it made any difference to her finishing second or maybe winning, but she really is a nice filly. I love her to death. She’s just one of those kind that you—she gives her all every time we run her. And the owner is from Canada, so, you know, he suggested maybe trying the E.P. Taylor. I said well, we’re going to get a lot of Europeans this time from Europe, you know, they come in there and they steal that race. So, he said well—you know, we discussed it and finally got it (inaudible).
Mark Doche: And then Sugar in the Morning since you got back (inaudible) that she’s got to work on the dirt and work on the turf. What’s next for her?
Ron McAnally: Yes, six-and-a-half on the turf, but there’s a couple of other options that we have on the dirt. But at present we’re going to probably run on six-and-a-half on the turf.
Mark Doche: Is that in the Unzip Me Stakes?
Ron McAnally: What’s that?
Mark Doche: What race is that on the turf? Is that the Unzip Me?
Ron McAnally: You know, they changed all the names. I can’t think of it right now. But it’s the first one coming up on the turf.
Mark Doche: On Saturday, right?
Ron McAnally: Yes. They’ve changed them all.
Mark Doche: Right. (Inaudible) thanks a lot.
Ron McAnally: Okay.
Eric Wing: Hi, Ron. That E.P. Taylor Stakes, now, it would be a quick turnaround, but it is a Breeders Cup Challenge win-and-you’re-in race for the Filly & Mare Turf. Would you consider that Breeders Cup race for All Star Heart if she does okay in the E.P. Taylor?
Ron McAnally: Well yes, that depends, of course, on the owner. He owns it and pays the bills. And I’ve been conferring with him. Sometimes I get a chance to—I call the shots, you know, on some of the people, but Gerry Gibbs, who’s the owner, he’s from Canada and he knows an awful lot about racing and where to place horses. And so I confer with him a lot over the phone.
Eric Wing: Very good. Well, Ron, terrific having you on the call with us. We wish you the best of luck a couple of weeks down the road with All Star Heart in the E.P. Taylor, but most pressingly on Saturday with Suggestive Boy in the Awesome Again. And thanks very much for your contribution to the call.
Ron McAnally: Yes, you’re welcome. Okay.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s Hall of Fame trainer, Ron McAnally, a man who is expert with South American imports. And he hopes to have another one become a Grade 1 winner in the United States when he sends out Suggestive Boy in the Grade 1 $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes, the race formerly known as the Goodwood, and that race will be at a mile-and-an-eighth. And as mentioned numerous times on the call, it is a Breeders Cup Challenge win-and-you’re-in event leading to the Breeders Cup Classic.