Eric Wing: Welcome to today’s NTRA Communications National Media teleconference. As usual, we’ll have a transcript and a podcast of this call available in about 24 hours at ntra.com. A big week coming up, a much anticipated week, of course, with the openings on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, of Del Mar and Saratoga, and to help us get in the mood for Del Mar, a little later in the call we’ll talk to trainer Donald Warren who will saddle the prohibitive favorite, Acclamation, in the Grade 1 $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes on Saturday; Acclamation, of course, last year’s Eclipse award winner as champion older male. We’ll also talk to the one active Hall of Fame rider on the Southern California circuit, Mike Smith. Mike will not be at Del Mar on Saturday; instead, he’ll be at Delaware, where he’ll be riding Royal Delta in the Grade 2 $750,000 Delaware Handicap. First up though, we’re going to strike more of a Saratoga tone. Again, that meeting opens on Friday. And with us we have an eight-time champion trainer at Saratoga and he’s got plenty of action, not just at Saratoga but also at Delaware. On Saturday, he’s got the Black-Eyed Susan winner, In Lingerie, along with Disposablepleasure set to go in the Coaching Club American Oaks, and he’ll also do battle with Royal Delta by saddling Awesome Maria Saturday in the Delaware Handicap. We’re happy to be joined now by Todd Pletcher. Todd, it’s Eric Wing. How are you today?
Todd Pletcher: Good, Eric, thank you.
Eric Wing: Todd, first of all, before we get to the horses, obviously Saratoga has been good to you over the years. On the other hand, you run as professional an operation as anybody; the six weeks of Saratoga, is it business as usual for you, or does the Spa kind of put an extra spring in your step?
Todd Pletcher: Well, I think for everyone, Saratoga’s, you know, a favorite meet, a special meet and one that not only the trainers and jockeys emphasize but certainly the owners spend a lot more time here. And I think just everyone takes a little more enjoyment from winning a race at Saratoga than they do everywhere else, even though, you know, everyone wants to win wherever you are but Saratoga’s just a little extra special.
Eric Wing: Todd, I want to ask you about your two candidates for the Coaching Club American Oaks. First of all, In Lingerie, very impressive in the Black-Eyed Susan but I know she was a little banged up during that race. Is she fine heading into the Coaching Club American Oaks? I mean, I’m sure you wouldn’t have entered her otherwise but did she bounce back from that brief setback to your liking?
Todd Pletcher: Yes, she’s trained very well. She really—it was just unfortunate. She kind of stumbled at the start of the Black-Eyed Susan and I don’t know if she interfered with herself or another horse just sort of stepped on her and she just got a, kind of a cut on her hock that took a little while to get healed up, but it’s nothing that really cost us any significant training. We just felt like, be extra safe, extra cautious with her. We’d pass the Mother Goose and wait on the Coaching Club and with the idea that, hopefully if things get well, we could get two races into her at Saratoga with the Coaching Club and the Alabama being, you know, nicely spaced apart on the calendar here.
Eric Wing: And Disposablepleasure arguably was unlucky in each of her last two races, the Black-Eyed Susan and the Mother Goose. Any qualms whatsoever about running her against In Lingerie, or is it just a case where she deserves her shot?
Todd Pletcher: Well, you know, as a trainer, you would love to be able to split your horses up and take your chances in two races instead of one. I think in the particular case with these two fillies that this is the appropriate race for each one of them. And, you know, if the Delaware Oaks was maybe a week later, that might have been a way to split the two of them up, but it felt like spacing-wise that, you know, this was the right spot for both of them.
Eric Wing: I’ll throw it over to questions in just a second, but you’ve got Awesome Maria taking on Royal Delta. I recall you saying after the Ogden Phipps that you felt you had done a poor training job with Awesome Maria, bringing her up to that race. Are you more pleased with her preparations for the Del ‘Cap?
Todd Pletcher: We are. She’s had really good training periods since the Ogden Phipps and this time, everything’s kind of going according to plan and we haven’t had to juggle our work schedules around rain and such, and we’ve been able to do exactly what we’ve wanted to do. I thought her last two breezes were exceptional and she’s touting us like she’s ready to get over there and perform to her capabilities, which she certainly would need to do with a filly the quality of Royal Delta being in there.
Eric Wing: Very good. Okay, Todd, I want to give the others listening in their turn to ask you a question or two, so I’ll throw things back over to Michelle and she’ll see what questions the media have for you.
Tim Wilkin: Hey, Todd, the—with Johnny being out, how does that affect what you are going to do this summer, and who’s going to ride In Lingerie in the Coaching Club?
Todd Pletcher: We expect—you know, Johnny’s been breezing—breezed the horse for us yesterday morning and again this morning, and I think he’s easing back into it and, hopefully, he anticipates he’s going to start riding on the 25th. Javier Castellano’s going to ride In Lingerie and, you know, like I said, I think Johnny’ll be back on the 25th and plans are to kind of start back a little bit slowly, you know, with one or two mounts a day until he sort of gets his fitness level and comfort level back. So, you know, we would anticipate using those two guys primarily like we have been.
Tim Wilkin: Who’ll ride Disposablepleasure?
Todd Pletcher: We’re still actually ironing that out. I’m still waiting to firm up my rider on Awesome Maria as well. We should know all that in the morning.
Tim Wilkin: I mean, Eric touched on it a little bit but can you talk just a little bit about what Saratoga means to you and other horsemen. Why is it so special? Why is it—is it because there’s people there?
Todd Pletcher: I mean, I think that’s part of it. You know, the atmosphere is a big part of it, but you know, the history, the tradition of it and I think I might have said to you the other day that I think Angel Cordero is actually responsible for a lot of the competitiveness of the owners and trainers and jockey standings at Saratoga. I think this is the one place where people really care about leading the standings more so than anywhere else, and I think, you know, Angel was a big part of that because he was always so competitive and wanted to be leading rider here so badly that I think that kind of got spread out to the trainers and even the owners. I think this is certainly one of the few places where, you know, the—I think the owners are interested in leading the standings as well.
Tim Wilkin: When you said Angel wanted to win so badly, do you feel the same way, that winning so badly, here at Saratoga?
Todd Pletcher: I don’t know that it’s—you know, for a trainer, I think it’s a little bit different, you know, than as a jockey and you can kind of prepare what you have and you’re going to go with the stable that you have; where as a jockey, you can kind of move around a little more and find more opportunities. You sort of know what your opportunities are or the horses that you have in your barn going into the meet, so you know, if two or three weeks into it, the ones you have aren’t good enough, things are probably not going to work out for you.
Danny Brewer: Hey, Todd, how are we doing?
Todd Pletcher: Good, thank you.
Danny Brewer: Three out of four this year for In Lingerie… Obviously, she’s doing some things right. What do you like most about her?
Todd Pletcher: Well, she’s a filly that when she came to us, you know, was a big daughter of Empire Maker that we anticipated would appreciate a distance of ground, and what we’ve been really pleased with is her mental development has been great. She’s a filly that wanted to be a little bit unsettled around the starting gate when we first got her in, but as she’s matured really well and has taken everything in stride and has handled shipping to Turfway from Florida and did that very well and then shipping into Pimlico, handled that also very well. So I think, you know, she’s a filly that just continues to get better and better and certainly gives us the impression that she’s going to like Saratoga and her two breezes over the main track here have been very good. She seems to be taking to the surface, so we hope that she’s one that just continues to move forward.
Danny Brewer: In that forward movement, the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, is that your goal, and do you think you’ll have any trouble traveling West?
Todd Pletcher: We wouldn’t anticipate she’d have any trouble with the ship. You know, she’s still a young three-year-old filly and, you know, I’ll talk to Aron Wellman and Gary Barber about that as we go along, but you know, we think that she’s shown the quality of a type of filly that could lead us there. But, right now, we’re sort of focused on the Coaching Club and if that goes well, hopefully, the Alabama and, you know, maybe one and two steps closer to the Breeders’ Cup if that were to go well.
Brad Myers: Hi, Todd. You also have Love and Pride nominated for the Delaware Handicap. Will she run in that race?
Todd Pletcher: Right now, we plan to enter both Love and Pride and Awesome Maria.
Brad Myers: Okay. You’ve won this race, the Delaware Handicap, four times. How do you explain your success in this race, and does your success kind of encourage you to keep coming back to Delaware Park?
Todd Pletcher: There’s no doubt, when you have horses perform well in a certain race or over a certain surface that it makes you want to try it again. We’ve been blessed over the years with some really high quality fillies and mares that have been able to handle the mile-and-a-quarter distance and the Delaware surface and it’s been a very good race to us over the years.
Brad Myers: Knowing that you will face Royal Delta and maybe a couple of other top fillies, why would you—why did you pick this race with Awesome Maria?
Todd Pletcher: Well, Awesome Maria, as you recall, you know, was able to beat Royal Delta down at Gulfstream so we know when she’s on top of her game that we feel like she’s as good as any filly or mare in the country. If there were an opportunity, a quality race at Saratoga, we might have chosen to stay at Saratoga but, unfortunately, the stakes schedule has shifted around this year and there’s really not a meaningful graded stake race at the moment at Saratoga, so that’s why the Delaware Handicap became attractive for her.
Brad Myers: And when will she be shipped down to Delaware?
Todd Pletcher: She’ll be shipped in and out for the race.
Brad Myers: Okay. Can you talk a little bit about Love and Pride and her chances after coming off a nice win in the Obeah?
Todd Pletcher: Well, the Obeah’s been a prep that we’ve used successfully for the Delaware Handicap a number of times; I believe that, you know, Fleet Indian and then Unbridled Belle and Irving’s Baby all used, you know, the Obeah as a prep for the Del ‘Cap and were successful in all those. So, she’s a filly that had some success there last year, seems to like the surface. I think, you know, the real key is going to be if she can handle the added furlong, but the fact that she’s been good at Delaware, you know, before gives us a reason for optimism that maybe she can handle the added distance.
Brad Myers: And do you have a rider for each of those two horses?
Todd Pletcher: We’re still firming that up. We’ll know in the morning.
Jenny Kellner: Hi, Todd. Obviously you’re well represented in Saturday’s stakes, but you also have the opportunity to start things off on Friday with Caixa Eletronica in the James Marvin and Can’t Explain in the Schuylerville. Wonder if you could touch upon the bonus situation, the $100,000 bonus situation with Can’t Explain, and also maybe the popularity of a horse like Caixa Eletronica who’s kind of a throwback?
Todd Pletcher: Right. With the bonus schedule, I mean I think it’s great that, you know, NYRA’s attempting to spice up their two-year-old program, and I think it’s worked, you know, with races starting back at Aqueduct when we had Shanghai Bobby break his maiden in April. And it seems like the two-year-old race is—the two-year-old maiden race isn’t consistently filled and filled sooner than they have in years past, so I think it’s been a, you know, a great incentive hopefully to attract new horses to come to New York and run in the maiden races and possibly earn a bonus, you know, if they’re able to succeed in some grade stakes later. So we’re looking forward to it and hoping that maybe Can’t Explain or some of our others that were able to win maiden races at Belmont are able to go on and maybe get lucky and earn the bonus. And as far as Caixa Eletronica goes, he’s a real barn favorite and, you know, he’s just an ultra consistent performer that goes over and tries hard at any distance at any venue, and we’ve just been blessed to have him in the barn. He’s been a lot of fun to have around and, you know, he seems like he’s in great form at the moment so we’re hoping he can get our meet started off on a good note.
Will Springstead: Thank you. Todd, I was curious – Disposablepleasure’s late rally in the Black-Eyed Susan, it seemed like modest fractions and—I mean, was that a pretty encouraging sign and what else are you seeing from her coming into this race?
Todd Pletcher: Well, she’s—she too, like In Lingerie, has had two very good breezes over the main track. She seems like she’s getting over the surface really well. You could argue that she was a bit unlucky in the Black-Eyed Susan; she sort of got stuck down on the rail and really did her best running in the last 100 yards of the race, but she’s always been a quality filly that we felt like the mile-and-an-eighth distance would suit her well; and she just—she continues to physically develop and we think she’s got a big one in her and she’s been a little bit unlucky not to win one of these big ones, but she seems to be getting a little closer each time.
Ed McNamara: Hi, Todd. Besides Shanghai Bobby and Onetwentyeight, who are the two-year-olds you’re most optimistic about?
Todd Pletcher: Well, we have—like we talked about Can’t Explain running in the Schuylerville, we were pleased with the progression that she made from her first start to her second start so looking forward to that. We have Onetwentyeight, who you mentioned, running in the Sanford, as well as Rose Junction, who was able to break his maiden we thought in good fashion at Belmont, so we’ll have those two going in the Sanford. And then, right now, we’ve got, in addition to Shanghai Bobby going into the Saratoga Special, a Majestic Warrior colt named Drum Roll, who broke his maiden pretty impressively on July 5th at Monmouth, so we’ve got those two kind of pointed for the Saratoga Special. And we had one colt named Palace Malice, a son of Curlin, who was second going five furlongs in a pretty fast race at Belmont that we’re looking forward to kind of getting him stretched out a little bit; but all of those that have run already have shown pretty good form and we’re hoping that they continue to develop and move forward.
John White: Hi, Todd. Could you please give us an update on Gemologist?
Todd Pletcher: Yes, Gemologist breezed yesterday in five furlongs in a minute and four-fifths on the Oklahoma training track. That was a very good breeze. He seems to be rounding back into form and spoke to Elliott Walden this morning and we’re in the process of deciding between the Haskell and the Jim Dandy, and we’ll probably make a decision later this week and point for one of those two and hopefully back in the Travers after that.
John White: Also, if you could give us an update on Turbulent Descent.
Todd Pletcher: Well, she’s a filly that shipped in great. She’s got a wonderful disposition and Mike Puype and his staff did a great job with her. We’re just kind of getting to know her and gave her an easy breeze on Saturday, and we’re currently pointing her for the Ballerina and we’ll kind of start to pick up her training gradually as we go along.
Operator: Thank you. There are no further questions at this time. I’ll turn the conference back to Mr. Wing.
Eric Wing: Thanks, Michelle. Todd, want to thank you for taking the time out of your dark day Tuesday. What—can you just fill us in on what the process is like for you to ship all of your horses from your Belmont base to Saratoga, or is most of that work already done and you’re just shipping up horses on an as-needed basis?
Todd Pletcher: Well, you know, we come to Saratoga with quite a few horses back towards the end of April so, in a lot of ways, it’s sort of our main headquarters from May until the end of the Saratoga meet, so really for us it’s moving a few horses from Belmont to Saratoga and maybe a few of the later developers from Saratoga back to Belmont. But, yes, it’s really not the same kind of move that it might be for some people that pick up their whole stable and go from Belmont to Saratoga because it’s sort of our spring training headquarters.
Eric Wing: Very good. Well, Todd, thank you again for your time. Good luck Friday, Saturday and Sunday with all of your stakes horses and we wish you the best of luck in all of those races.
Todd Pletcher: Thanks very much.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s eight-time champion trainer at Saratoga, Todd Pletcher, who undoubtedly is the winter book, or I guess you would call it the summer book favorite to be the winner again this year. Not to jinx him but Todd Pletcher looking very strong as the Saratoga meet gets ready to kick off this coming Friday in Saratoga Springs, New York. It’s time now to shift our attention out West. As we just mentioned, Saratoga opens Friday, but tomorrow, Del Mar opens and with us now is the trainer of the horse who will undoubtedly be the favorite in Saturday’s Grade 1 $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes. The horse is Acclamation and the trainer is Donald Warren. Donald, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks very much for being with us today.
Donald Warren: Yes, well good morning, if you’re on the West Coast, probably afternoon there, right?
Eric Wing: It’s afternoon here, it is, Don.
Donald Warren: Yes, okay.
Eric Wing: First of all, Don, I know you had a health scare earlier in the year. Before we talk about the horses, how are you feeling as we are getting ready to approach Del Mar?
Donald Warren: Yes, as far as the health scare goes, I seem to be getting this blood infection every year; it seems like it comes around once a year in the spring. It’s all indirectly due from this major back surgery that I had three years ago, where I was on so many different antibiotics that it kind of messed up my digestive system. But anyway, I got through that fine and once I can get through it, then I’m through it and I’m done and, you know, I feel good other than my back constantly bothers me all the time. It’s been a problem. In fact, the surgery I considered was a failed surgery three years ago, so… Anyway, other than that, as long as I’m on some pain medication for my stiff back every morning, why I can get around pretty good and feel pretty good.
Eric Wing: And, Don, I imagine a horse like Acclamation helps you forget, at least temporarily, your back miseries. He turned in what was rated a very nice workout in 1:14 and 2 yesterday; all systems go for the Eddie Read?
Donald Warren: Yes, and the main thing is he pulled up good after the workout and he looks good and walks real good and legs looked good this morning, so that’s the main thing. I was very pleased with the workout. He cruised along down the backside and around the dogs on the turn and then finished the last quarter of a mile in 23, which—whenever the rider seemed to just kind of slap him on the shoulder here, he comes home in 23 in the morning. And so I’m very pleased with the workout and everything’s set on go. I’m more happy this morning. I already know he can run so I’m not worried about the workout; I’m worried about how—is he going to pull up, how is the next day going to be, and he looks wonderful this morning.
Eric Wing: Yes, because I remember he tied up on you or something in late April as you were getting him ready for a race. Is it kind of a day-by-day situation with Acclamation every time he works just to keep an extra sharp eye out for how he’s moving, or are those issues behind him?
Donald Warren: Well, I think those issues seem to be behind him. It was—that was the case in April there when he would come back once in a while acting like he had a sore foot or something was bothering him. We couldn’t figure out what it was and then we did some corrective shoeing on him after we scratched out of the Inglewood Handicap, and we did some pretty major corrective shoeing and boy, since then, he’s just done wonderful and I haven’t had to worry about him one bit. He just—every workout is good, no problems coming back and I hope that issue, whatever it was, is behind us.
Eric Wing: Acclamation was the champion older male last year and probably a big factor in winning that Eclipse Award was his Pacific Classic victory. Is that the plan if all goes well in the Eddie Read again, Don?
Donald Warren: I’ll take it one step at a time and see how the racetrack—the synthetic Polytrack is going to play this year. We were very happy with it last year. The mornings were cool and overcast every morning; I think that had something to do with keeping the racetrack in good shape. We were much more pleased with the Polytrack last year than we were the year before, so it can go—this Polytrack can go either way on you. We’ll just have to see how it goes as we get through the meet, not just Acclamation – he looks like he goes over the track well – but just in general how many problems are we going to have with the rest of the stable, how many injuries. We were almost injury free last year with our 15-horse stable and that’s a small stable but still, you know, you basically just count the new injuries that you have. So, it’ll be race by race and just play it by ear as to how the racetrack is playing. I have the option of running, you know, the Del Mar Handicap if I don’t—if we don’t like the Polytrack, so that’s an option as well.
Eric Wing: Okay. Don, I want to give the media listening in with us their turn to ask you a question, so once again, I’ll turn the proceedings back over to our announcer, Michelle, and she’ll check in with the writers and broadcasters to see if they have anything for you.
Donald Warren: Okay.
Marc Doche: Hey, Don, just wanted to see if you are fully committed to Patrick Valenzuela riding Acclamation, considering his latest comeback hasn’t resulted in much success for him?
Donald Warren: Yes, I’m fully committed to him right now. I think he’s—I’ve always thought he was a wonderful rider, especially on these speed-type horses, so unless he screws up on a personal level or looks like he can’t—you know, not going to show up or something, we know how many problems he’s had in the past. But I’ve always liked the guy and right now, I’m committed to using him as long as everything goes right.
Danny Brewer: Okay, Acclamation was oh-for his first eight and now he’s won eight out of 12. What flipped the light switch here?
Donald Warren: Yes, I don’t know how the light switch got flipped but it sure did. We kept thinking all along in his three-year-old year that he was going to be a nice colt and some of his races, frankly, were very disappointing. We kept thinking that at any time he would develop into a nice horse, and one day we got the idea in our head that we should take the stick away from him and not hit him any; and then we also tried him—putting him on the lead going a mile and a half on the turf, and we actually sent him in the race to the lead to make sure we would make the lead and he led by six, seven lengths all the way around there. You would have been cursing out the rider, any other rider if he hadn’t had instructions to do that—the first time he won that Jim Murray Handicap. That’s what we wanted him to do and, boy, the light has been on ever since.
Danny Brewer: Okay, he’s won obviously the Whittingham three times, the Murray twice, if he can repeat in the Eddie Read and if he goes to the Pacific Classic and wins that, is that just further going to stamp his greatness because not only has he won them once but he’s repeated?
Donald Warren: Yes, he’s repeated and because—even though we’ve had the occasional little foot problem and whatnot, kept us from the Breeders’ Cup, he’s basically one of the soundest horses we’ve ever had. And, you know, you keep a horse around for three, four years like that, you’re going to have a little bruised foot or something once in a while—but besides that, he is about a sound a horse as you can get your hands on and there’s—you know, he’s just developed and he’s developed and matured into such a racehorse last year and we think again this year that he’s just become a wonderful horse.
Danny Brewer: And is it important for him—I know it’s important for him to win the Eddie Read, but do you want to go to the Pacific Classic and repeat there too, because there’s only been a few horses who have been able to do that?
Donald Warren: Well, that would be nice to do, you know, but I’m the first one that’ll tell you, any horse can get beat on a given day, you know, so we take nothing for granted and if he gets beat, he gets beat. He’s made our lives wonderful, just having him.
Danny Brewer: Hey, I appreciate your time. I wish you the best of luck, okay?
Donald Warren: Okay, thank you.
Operator: Thank you. The next question comes from Carol Holden of Trackside Radio. Please go ahead.
Carol Holden: Hi, Mr. Warren. Thank you very much for joining us. You partially answered a question that, I noticed that you shipped the horse to Charles Town for the Charles Town Classic and it was from that point on that he never lost a race. I was wondering if there was something about that trip that spurred him on.
Donald Warren: Well, I don’t think so. We were very disappointed in that trip. He never ran a jump, although it rained all day long like I’ve never seen it rain in California. Being a native Californian, I’ve never seen it rain like it did that day in West Virginia, —and we probably shouldn’t have even run the horse on that muddy racetrack, but we did and we didn’t hurt him and so we brought him back and we ran him in the Jim Murray again and he won it again, and we got back on the turf and, you know, that’s his favorite footing. He just loves the firm turf courses out here in California.
Jon White: Acclamation ran in the Eddie Read back in 2010 and finished sixth that day, what can you tell us about that race?
Donald Warren: Jon, I think that was back when he was still—hadn’t thoroughly matured into the racehorse that he’s become now. All along though, in his three-year-old year, we kept thinking, boy, he needs to mature; next year’s really going to be good. And then even at four, we said, well he still needs to mature some more; next year he’s really going to be good, and—so I don’t know. He hadn’t quite matured totally yet and it was, you know, it was a disappointing race when he ran in the Eddie Read in 2010, but you know, the guy that asked the question, what turns the light on, and all of a sudden you get a horse like this that almost seems unbeatable on turf now. I don’t know the answer to the question, what turns the light on like that? I don’t know.
John White: And I was wondering if you could also just kind of tell us what it means to you in terms of winning these big races for Bud Johnston, who’s been, you know, so involved in California as an owner and breeder for so long and what he’s meant to your career?
Donald Warren: Yes, well it’s been a great association with the Old English Rancho and we’ve been together, Johnston and I, for at least 35, 37 years, something like that, and we’ve waited and waited and waited for a horse like this to come along and at least it came along later. You know, as I say, sooner or later, I’d rather have had it sooner but would take it later, so—but, you know, raising horses in Fresno, California up there where he has the ranch on the Kings River, you know, is a wonderful place to raise horses and we just—I know that he thought someday he was going to get an Eclipse award-winning horse and I’ve stuck right with him and he continues to be my number one client and, you know, just hoping to develop some pretty good horses, develop some stake horses; and here we’ve got one of the best ones we’ve ever had, so—but it’s been great with Buddy Johnston and we get along so good that, you know, it’s like brothers. We get along like brothers.
Operator: Thank you. There are no further questions at this time. I’ll turn the conference back to Mr. Wing.
Eric Wing: Okay. Donald, before we say good-bye, I was just flipping through the very fine Del Mar book with all the trainer information and I noticed that you got your start back in around 1968 walking hots for trainer, Bill Morris, at Del Mar, so Del Mar as a native Californian, is something you’re very familiar with. As we await opening day tomorrow, can you talk about the effect, or the rejuvenating effect perhaps that the opening of Del Mar has, not just on you but your fellow California horsemen?
Donald Warren: Yes, well we love it at Del Mar and just from a family standpoint, we always look forward to the summers at Del Mar, the beautiful weather down here, and it’s, you know, it’s a working trainer’s version of vacation down here. You know, you bring the stable and everything and trainers have to work, you know, 24/7, but it gives the family a break and you bring them down here and enjoy the fun in the sun and the beach and everything and that’s what we’ve always looked forward to every summer coming to Del Mar, not only with the horses and good racing but just to take the kids to the beach and, you know, bring the family and give the family a little break from the routine of, you know, the city—the big city up in Arcadia.
Eric Wing: Don, people always talk about the timeless quality of Saratoga. In your 40-plus years at Del Mar, would you say Del Mar has changed a lot or stayed pretty much the same?
Donald Warren: It’s changed dramatically, I mean with the times and everything. We came down here 35 years ago and, you know, you couldn’t find a restaurant within three miles and now they’re all over the place and some of the best restaurants that you can want to go eat at. But, you know, and we used to ride the horses to the beach down at Del Mar 35, 30 years ago; we can’t do that anymore. You know, the environmentalists, they don’t want the horses down there, getting the water, or getting the beach dirty, so—but just the buildup of all the businesses and everything and, of course, Del Mar putting in a brand new grandstand in a few years ago, or several years ago I guess it is, and—but it’s just as wonderful as ever though as far as that goes.
Eric Wing: Well, it certainly sounds it from your description and, Don, we thank you for taking the time to be with us today, and we wish you the best on Saturday with your Eclipse award-winner, Acclamation, in the Eddie Read.
Donald Warren: Okay. Thank you.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s trainer Donald Warren. As mentioned, he will saddle the heavy favorite, Acclamation, in Saturday’s Eddie Read Stakes going a mile and an eighth on the grass at Del Mar, and again, Del Mar opens up tomorrow and the co-feature is—or actually, it’s one feature but split divisions of the Oceanside Stakes that will headline Del Mar tomorrow. Our third and final guest has a mount in the first division of the Oceanside Stakes on Blingo for trainer John Shirreffs, and he’ll be busy on Saturday when he leaves Del Mar and heads out to Delaware to ride Royal Delta, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner in the Delaware Handicap. That race, by the way, is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and you’re in” event for the Ladies Classic. We’re happy to welcome in now Hall of Fame rider, Mike Smith. Mike, it’s Eric Wing in New York. How are you today?
Mike Smith: I’m great, Eric, really good, thank you.
Eric Wing: Mike, I want to ask you about all sorts of things, Del Mar and Royal Delta but curiosity compels me to ask you first, I’ve got here—I’m looking at page 72 of the latest ESPN, the Magazine, the body issue, and I’m looking at a picture of a horse licking your head. Tell me what the reaction has been, both from your friends and also from the horse community out in California about the striking photograph.
Mike Smith: Well, first of all, I mean it’s an honor to be included in a magazine like the ESPN body issue, but my friends are giving me a hard time about it. But all in all, I think it’s been received pretty well, so far.
Eric Wing: Tyson Chandler’s in there, José Bautista, kind of cool to see the other kind of big names in other sports who were game to do the exact same thing?
Mike Smith: Yes, exactly. You know, throughout the years, I mean you can argue that jockeys are pound-for-pound the best athletes, you know, but we’ve never really shown it. I thought it was a chance to, you know, show people that we are pretty fit, you know?
Eric Wing: Yes, well your photo certainly shows great fitness. Mike, you’re riding Royal Delta out at Delaware on Saturday. You rode her for the first time in the Fleur de Lis out at Churchill. You obviously knew before the race she was very talented, but what were your impressions after you rode her in the Fleur de Lis?
Mike Smith: Yes, even more talented than I already knew she was, to be honest with you. She ran extremely well that night. Matter of fact, she was running 30 minutes after the Foster and she ran a full second, just about a second and a half faster than the boys did that day, which was very impressive.
Eric Wing: And, Mike, we’ve been asking our earlier guests, both Don Warren, as you probably heard, and Todd Pletcher before that about the respective openings of Del Mar and Saratoga. Now you’ve won three Saratoga riding titles so you know what that track is all about, and you’ve been a stalwart there in California for the last number of years. Without saying which one you like better, just tell me what you like best about each racetrack, or each experience at those two racetracks.
Mike Smith: Well, you know, it’s apples and oranges; I mean, they’re both great, amazing, you know, if you get the opportunity to ride at racetracks like this, you know, upstate New York was a place you wanted to really shine, as well as here. You know, a lot of the owners come out, a lot of people were here and, you know, eyes are on racing here and you want to do well whenever you get the opportunity to ride these two great places. But they’re both wonderful. I mean, if you like the countryside, Saratoga’s absolutely gorgeous. If you love the ocean and the beach, well you got Del Mar, so they’re both incredible.
Eric Wing: Sounds like a can’t lose choice there. Mike, I don’t want to dominate the conversation any further, so at this point, I’ll step back and our announcer, Michelle, will step forward and we’ll see what questions the media might have for you.
Marc Doche: Hey, Mike. Last year at Del Mar’s opening day, that evening you had a rather unfortunate circumstance. Looking back on that a year later, can you describe what you’ve learned from that and if you have precautions in place to make sure that never happens again?
Mike Smith: Well, don’t have a couple of drinks and drive; that’s what you learn from it, and I certainly won’t be doing that this year. You know, it was a very unfortunate day and it kind of put a damper on my meet last year, and I’ve come in this year really, really focused. I want to do really well. I’m going to have to do some traveling during this meet and I’m ready. I’m really in great shape right now, and I’m mentally and physically ready for it all and certainly going to approach it a whole lot different than last year.
Danny Brewer: Hey, I want to touch for a second about the Fleur de Lis. You already mentioned a full second faster than the boys in the Foster. What about that ride? She wasn’t pushed and she ran that fast. What do you think?
Mike Smith: She did it, like I said, incredibly easy that night. She relaxed really well for me and, I mean, when I sort of had to pick it up, I mean she just jumped in the bridle and just drew away. Really, rather impressive.
Danny Brewer: Do you think that she could maybe handle the boys down the road somewhere?
Mike Smith: I wouldn’t see why not.
Danny Brewer: If it comes down to a choice of her versus some other horses, where does she rank with some of the other really good ones that you’ve ridden?
Mike Smith: Well, you know, I’ve only gotten to ride her the one time but, I mean, she’s already proven she’s one of the, you know, greatest fillies in the country actually and with that performance that night, the way she ran, I mean she was just very, very impressive, you know? I’m not going to sit here and compare her to Zenyatta or something like that, but yes, she’s in that quality, she’s that kind of horse.
Brad Myers: Hi, Mike. We did some research and found that you rode Ajina in the Delaware Handicap in 1998. Is that the only time you’ve been to Delaware Park?
Mike Smith: No, sir. I was there—a couple of years ago, I went to ride a horse a few years back for Bobby Frankel; I think she was second or third, I believe, but I was there not too, too long ago.
Brad Myers: In the Delaware Handicap?
Mike Smith: It wasn’t the Delaware Handicap so I don’t remember the name of the stake it was. It was for Bobby Frankel, I remember that.
Brad Myers: Okay, I’ll have to look that up. What do you remember about Delaware Park, the track and the atmosphere there?
Mike Smith: A beautiful place. I remember how pretty the paddock was. The racetrack, though, I mean it’s a bit deep, you know? I mean, it’s very demanding.
Brad Myers: Mm-hmm. If you hadn’t been to a track in a long time, do you like to ride a couple of the earlier races on the card and get a feel for it?
Mike Smith: Well it certainly helps. Yes, it doesn’t hurt. It certainly helps. You know, you get a—each time get a little, you know, just get a feel of the track, which I’m going to do—ride a couple before, before I ride her.
Brad Myers: Now, Awesome Maria is in this race as well and she beat Royal Delta by eight lengths at Gulfstream in February. Obviously, a lot of time has passed but is that a little bit of a concern for you?
Mike Smith: Well, yes, she’s a really nice mare in her own right and she—I mean, she’s already shown that. I don’t believe Royal Delta probably ran her best race at all that day, but she’s going to have to run this to outrun her. She’s going to have some competition.
Brad Myers: Is the mile and a quarter any concern for you? She did win the Alabama last year at that distance, so…
Mike Smith: I think it’s a plus for me, honestly. I think the mile and a quarter is right up her alley.
Brad Myers: Do you have a strategy? Where would you like to put her early in the race?
Mike Smith: Well, we’ll just have to, you know, wait and see. She’s going to be forwardly placed. She usually puts herself into the race. As long as I get her to relax and get her to get into a rhythm early on, the mile and a quarter shouldn’t be a problem.
Operator: There are no further questions at this time. I’ll pass the call back to Eric Wing.
Eric Wing: Thank you. Mike, I was just doing a quick look-up and it looks like you rode a horse named Sovereign Lady (ph) at Delaware in the Endine Stakes, but I don’t think that was the race you were talking about for Bobby Frankel, I’m not sure. Anyway, I wanted to ask you before we say good-bye about Lady of Shamrock, who put in a thrilling performance in the American Oaks and you gave her just a beautiful ride and snuck her through the rail there. What were your impressions riding her, and does she seem to you like a filly with a very bright future?
Mike Smith: She really does. She’s really coming around and coming into herself and that was another impressive race. And she ran—you know, the mile and a quarter is, again, right up her alley; boy, she loves it. She got some turn of foot, so yes, I’m looking for some really, really good things with her down the road.
Eric Wing: And probably the Del Mar Oaks, I would imagine, would be next for…
Mike Smith: Yes, I would think so.
Eric Wing: Yes. All right, well, Mike, enjoy Del Mar tomorrow. Good luck with Blingo for John Shirreffs. And then best of luck to you on Saturday out at Delaware with Royal Delta and really appreciate, as always, you taking the time to chat with us.
Mike Smith: Thank you, guys, appreciate it. Talk to you soon.
Eric Wing: All right, thanks, Mike. That’s Hall of Fame rider, Mike Smith, who will have the—be in the privileged position of being aboard Royal Delta in Saturday’s Grade 2 $750,000 Delaware Handicap. That race, again, is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and you’re in” event, with the winner receiving paid fees and a guaranteed starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic, which this year, of course, is out at the great race place, Santa Anita Park. Well that’ll bring an end to today’s call. I want to thank all three of our guests, Todd Pletcher, Donald Warren and Mike Smith. Also want to thank our announcer, Michelle, and also Shelly-Ann, our producer there behind the scenes. We will be with you again a week from today, Tuesday, July 24th, same time, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, same dial-in number, and at that time, we will take a look at races including the Haskell Invitational, the Jim Dandy Stakes, the Diana Stakes and also the Bing Crosby out at Del Mar. Glad you could be with us today. Don’t forget about the transcript and the podcast and hope you can join us again next Tuesday. Thank you.