National Media Teleconference Transcript and Audio (Amoss, Sherman, Fiske)

March 22, 2016 – NTRA National Media Teleconference

  • Tom Amoss, Trainer (Mo Tom, Louisiana Derby)
  • Art Sherman, Trainer (California Chrome, Dubai World Cup)
  • David Fiske, Racing Manager, Winchell Thoroughbreds (Gun Runner, Louisiana Derby; Adore, Fair Grounds Oaks

Click below to listen to the Teleconference.

P A R T I C I P A N T S

 

Tom Amoss

 

Art Sherman

 

David Fiske

 

P R E S E N T A T I O N

 

Operator:

 

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the NTRA Road to the Triple Crown 2016 Conference Call.  At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode.  Following the presentation, we will conduct a question-and-answer session.  At that time participants are asked to press star, one to register for a question.  As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

 

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. Jim Mulvihill.  Please go ahead, Mr. Mulvihill.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, thank you, Nick, and welcome everybody to our first official Road to the Triple Crown teleconference of the spring.  We’re now 46 days away from the first Saturday in May and the stakes on the road to the Kentucky Derby continue to rise.  Over the next four Saturdays, we’ve got nine more stakes that offer points towards a berth in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, including seven final preps that are worth 170 points each.  The first two of those are this weekend:  the UAE Derby at Meydan and the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby at the Fairgrounds.  Of course, Saturday is also the world’s richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup, and even though this call here is technically a road to the derby call, we thought we could offer everyone a chance to talk to Art Sherman if he was willing to join us, and fortunately he was.  California Chrome has been in Dubai for a couple months now preparing for that race, and we’ll hear more about his preparations from Art in just a bit.

 

But first to kick off this call, we’re delighted to be joined by Tom Amoss, trainer of the Louisiana Derby morning line favorite, Mo Tom.  Amoss has won 11 training titles at the Fairgrounds—that’s his home town track, and he’s won more than 1,000 races there, second only to Jan Van Berg.  Now, Mo Tom has 22 Road to the Derby points so far, including ten from winning January’s Lecomte and another ten from his hard luck third in last month’s Risen Star, which we’re going to talk more about in just a moment.

 

But now, let’s welcome in Tom Amoss.  Tom, it’s Jim Mulvihill in Lexington.  Thanks for joining us.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Always good to hear your voice, Jim.  Listen, I’m having lunch with down in the French Quarter, so it’s a little loud.  Can you hear me clearly?

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

We can hear you clearly, and we’re all very jealous to hear of your lunch.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

There’s a lot to talk about with this horse, a lot of storylines coming together here for the Louisiana Derby.  But before we get to some of those that are in the background, maybe we can just talk about the last race, the Risen Star.  You had kind of a tough trip, so maybe you can just describe that trip for us and also maybe tell us what you think might have happened with the clean trip and the Risen Star.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Sure.  Well first we’ll talk about what happened factually, and then I guess we can speculate after that.  But it was a race that set up well for Mo Tom.  There was good speed in the race, and as the race started to develop and Tom kept his typical kind of laid back run, so he was well back in the race, the most important thing to me was seeing how quickly the race was running up front; in other words, would it set up for someone to close.  I liked what I saw after the opening half mile.

 

The advantage of that was the pace setter that day and the horse that’s going to run again in the Louisiana Derby was breaking from the extreme outside, so to set the pace on this particular race, he was going to have to get in front of the entire field and to do that meant using a lot of horse, and we got that in our favor.  Tom started to make his run at about the three-eighths pole, with three-eighths of a mile left in the race, and we had a decision to make turning for home:  we could go inside, or we could go outside, and Corey Lanerie, our rider, decided to make the decision to go inside.  As we did so, one of the horses that was near the front at the beginning of the race that was stopping in the race unexpectedly decided to drift down towards the rail and impeded us, and we actually made contact with that horse.  We suffered a little minor cut on the leg from that, but nothing other than a superficial cut.  It broke our momentum.  At that point, I knew the race was probably lost, but we got him restarted again and he made a very furious finish.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Then if you would, maybe, what do you suppose happens if he gets a clean trip and isn’t stopped like that?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well you know, I’m biased—I’m Tom’s trainer and I think the world of him, but even to the unbiased observer, I think most people would agree it would have been a race that Tom would have won.  Tom (inaudible).

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

The morning line odds makers seem–right, of course.  The morning line odds maker seems to agree; you are favored in this race, despite the fact that the winner, Gun Runner, is also in this field.  Tom, I’m going to take a break for a second and turn it over to Nick, the Operator, to see what the media might have for you.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Sure.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to ask a question, please press star, one on your touchtone phone.  Again if you would like to ask a question, please press star, one on your touchtone phone.

 

Our first question comes from the line of Danny Brewer at HorseRacingScoop.com.  Please go ahead.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Tom, how are we doing today?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

I’m doing good, Danny.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

So Risen Star, did you find out a little bit of something about Mo Tom in this race as far as what he’s got inside as far as determination and stuff, because he did face a lot of challenges?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Yes, it’s a good question.  The answer to that is yes.  I think the most important thing to recognize about not only the Risen Star but something I’ve seen with other races which may not be evident to the naked eye but certainly was the Risen Star, is this is a very determined horse.  So he’s not just a horse that’s going to pick up the pieces at the end of the race.  This is a horse that has a devastating quarter of a mile kick, and unfortunately it wasn’t on full display that day but I’m certainly hoping that we’ll get the opportunity to show it on Saturday, and the rest of the world can see what I already know.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Corey Lanerie, what’s your thoughts on him?  Doggone good at Churchill Downs.  What do you think about Corey?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well, I think we’re lucky to have him.  He is one of the top riders in the country, and he is the top rider at Churchill Downs meet after meet.  Corey’s got some choices to make.  He rides some other very potential horses, but he is our first choice, so literally it’s truly up to Corey to decide whether he wants to stay with Mo Tom.  We want to have him all the way through the summer, whatever our races might be.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Last one from me.  You’re a Louisiana boy, it’s the Louisiana Derby.  Where is that on the rankings for you as far as trying to get this race?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well, it’s at the top.  You know, my parents are still alive, in their 90s but they’re still alive.  All my brothers live down here—and I have five brothers.  So look, the horse is owned by the Saints’ owner, Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle.  Just so many things that would make this special, and he and I–and I know that based on these other two races here that we’ve had at the Fairgrounds, I know that I’m going to be–that Tom is going to be the crowd favorite.  They’re coming out to support the Bensons; they’re coming out to support their horse, so I really don’t want to let anybody down.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Well, keep him rolling and I’m sure everything will be just great.  I appreciate your time, and I certainly wish you the best of luck.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Ron Flatter at RSN Australia.  Please go ahead.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Hi.  Tom, first question would be the fact that the speed in the race from the last race is starting right next to you in this race.  What kind of advantage do you think that holds?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well, it may be a disadvantage because first of all, when you review the race, I’m not sure how much speed is in this race, but the speed breaking inside of me means that that horse is not going to have to be used as much to make the front end, and by that I mean he’s not going to have to get in front of everybody and cross over as he did last time from that extreme outside post.  So I guess to take that question a little deeper, I certainly have a concern as to how fast I’m going to run early in this race.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Greenpointcrusader comes in, hasn’t raced in a couple months.  How do you look at him having an impact on the way the race is run?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well, you mentioned post positions, and he’s down towards the rail as well.  I think that Johnny Velazquez, his rider, senses that there’s probably not going to be a lot of pace in there.  I think he is going to be a horse that is going to prompt the pace to some extent, so I’m counting on that.  We’ll see what happens.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

You mentioned the Bensons too.  Do you hear a lot from Mrs. Benson?  Is she a hands-on owner to the extent that maybe you could somehow relate to the Saints and the Pelicans in some way?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

She’s absolutely a hands-on owner.  I speak to her once a week, either through e-mail or directly every Monday, update on the horse, what his plans are for the week in terms of training.  If I have any thoughts on how the race is coming up, strategies for the race, all those things are discussed, and she comes and visits him too.  So Tom is a huge peppermint fan, and Gayle has been known to smuggle peppermints into the barn on all occasions.  Not that we don’t have plenty on hand, but she likes to bring her own.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

I trust you have something other than peppermint that you’re eating now, and I’ll let you get back to that.  Thanks, Tom.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

I haven’t started eating yet.  I didn’t mean to make this brief, but I’m willing to take any questions.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Fair enough.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Debbie Arrington at the Sacramento Bee.  Please go ahead.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Hi, Tom, thanks a lot for coming on today.  How did Mo Tom get his name, other than by—I’m assuming the Mo is from Uncle Mo, but are you the Tom?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

No, I’m not, Debbie.  Actually the Tom is Tom Benson, his owner, or his co-owner.  I think they were naming horses when they got the Uncle Mo (inaudible).  They were going through names, and Gayle said, who wouldn’t want more Tom?  They decided to make it a little bit of a slang and call it Mo Tom.  So it’s named after Mr. Benson.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Very good.  This Derby crop comes after a Triple Crown year, after such a long wait.  How do you rate this crop?  Back in the 70s we had a bunch of Triple Crowns strung together.  Do you see a horse coming out of this group that might fit that bill, including yours?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well, here it is, it’s still March and the Derby, as Jim alluded to, is 40-something days away.  It’s way too early to determine what this crop is or isn’t.  Certainly the horse down in Florida, Mohaymen, is a brilliant horse.  But we’re going through that process of where the races get longer in distance, so take the Louisiana Derby, for example.  This will the furthest Mo Tom has ever run, a mile and an eighth, and the Derby is another 220 yards, a mile and a quarter.  So I think that what these horses do at these longer races is going to say a lot about what the crop is in terms of the classic distances.  I’m not ready to anoint anybody as the next Triple Crown winner.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Very good.  Great, best of luck.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Katherine Terrell at the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  Please go ahead.

 

Katherine Terrell:

 

Hi, Tom.  You’ve mentioned more than once, including today, just how much this race would mean to you to win.  Has that desire increased the last few years since you’ve had so many live shots to win and you’ve gotten so close?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

So what are you saying, is my time running out?  I don’t know.

 

Katherine Terrell:

 

Well, I meant in your first years you didn’t have as many, and now it’s kind of—like, the last three years, you’ve—I guess it’s become more of a regular occurrence, and has your perspective on it changed at all?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Yes.  You know, I think I have a much more mature perspective than I did, say, 15 years ago when I—or maybe even more than that.  I think 20 is when I ran Fly Cry, who was favored at this race.  He’d won all the preps leading into the Louisiana Derby, and I just assumed, wrongly, that one of these races would have my name on it.  As time has gone on since then and I’ve had a training career rather than just starting out, I recognize how difficult it is to win these kind of races.  So I have a greater appreciation and respect for these kind of races, like the Louisiana Derby, and I’m still hopeful it’s got my name on it.

 

Katherine Terrell:

 

Thanks.  Enjoy your meal today.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Brian Zipse at Horse Racing Nation.  Please go ahead.

 

Brian Zipse:

 

Tom, I have two quick questions for you.  First off, Uncle Mo, a hot young sire, we don’t know possibly the distance capabilities of his sons and daughters.  From what you’ve seen so far, do you have any worries or any great feelings about Uncle Mo stretching forward to distances like ten furlongs?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well you know, that’s a really fair question, right?  I mean, as a sire, Uncle Mo wasn’t able to do it on the racetrack, and I’m just going to tell you a funny story.  Back then, we were doing the work show for TVG, and I was one of the analysts and we were grading works.  We were grading Uncle Mo, either for the Breeders Cup or the Derby—I can’t remember what time of year it was.  But it was one of the first works we did, and I gave him a grade F and Todd Schrupp was hosting the show and he turned to me and he goes, well, that didn’t take long.  It turned out Michael Polley (inaudible) came on the show about three segments later, and he gave my performance as an analyst, he gave me an F.  So anyhow, that was Uncle Mo.

 

Mo Tom gets an A, and Uncle Mo gets an A as far as whether he can get a distance or not.  I think Uncle Mo is going to be one of those sires that we’re going to talk about like we talk about Storm Cat, like we talk about Tapit.  I really think he’s brilliant, and this is his first season, his first season of three-year-olds, and I think they’re going to excel and that’s a question we’re going to put to bed after the first Saturday of May.

 

Brian Zipse:

 

Great, I’d like to see it happen.  Tom, lastly, Mo Tom runs his race on Saturday in the Louisiana Derby.  Who is the horse running second to him?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Geez, I hope you’re right, I hope we win.  Who is the horse running second to him?  I actually think the locals are legitimate horses.  I think Gun Runner is very legitimate, and I think Forevermore is very legitimate as well.  So if I was going to make an exacta spots, I think I’d stick with the locals.

 

Brian Zipse:

 

Fair enough.  Good luck on Saturday, Tom.  Thanks.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Thank you very much.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Art Wilson at the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.  Please go ahead.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Yes Tom, kind of a follow-up on a question asked a little bit ago.  How many of the Derby preps from around the country have you seen?  I’m kind of curious to get your opinion on—you mentioned Mohaymen, but who are some of the other top three-year-olds that have kind of caught your eye and maybe impressed you?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Yes, so I’ve watched a number of them, and I thought the most brilliant performance outside of the horse you just mentioned has to be most recently in Arkansas, and that’s Bob Baffert’s Cupid.  You know, people have talked about him in some way or form making an easy lead in that race.  I didn’t see that race at all like that.  I mean, anybody that was close to him early, as he was the pace setter, they all backed up and the race played closers except for him, and he was able to fight them all off.  I thought his race was very, very good.

 

Art Wilson:

 

What is—even though a lot of people think highly of him, Nyquist, even though he’s undefeated, Breeders Cup juvenile champion, has a lot of detractors.  What is your opinion of Nyquist?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

He’s a great horse.  Really, going to the Breeders’ Cup juvenile, I didn’t think he was going to get the distance based on his style of running, but he not only got it, he (inaudible) through.  Look, he’s been pretty quiet in his three-year-old year, so he’s not being talked about.  The only race he’s run in, I believe, is the one-turn race out at Santa Anita, and I’m going off memory there.  So you know, he hasn’t made a lot of noise, but he made noise in that race and I think he’s going to make some noise when he runs in the Florida Derby too.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Okay, thanks.  Best of luck this weekend.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Tom Jicha at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  Please go ahead.

 

Tom Jicha:

 

Yes, Tom, I was going to ask the question about Uncle Mo passing on any stamina, so that’s been answered, so I’ll take another question.  What do you think of the decision for Nyquist to come here and take on Mohaymen in the next—both horses’ final preps?  Is that something that you would do?  I mean, generally the rule is you try and get the easiest possible final race before the Derby into your horse.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Right.  Well, when I first saw that he was going to Florida to run that race, I thought—I didn’t understand it.  But now that I understand there’s a million dollar bonus on the line for him should he win it, it makes a lot more sense.  I’m not a believer that your last prep for the Derby should be the easiest race.  I’m a believer that competition toughens your horse and makes him better for the next start, so the decision to go there, my only worry would be the travel that you’re going to do between now and the Kentucky Derby with a horse like that, who’s based in California.  But Doug O’Neill is a proven trainer both on a day-to-day basis and in the Triple Crown, so he knows what he’s doing.  I wouldn’t have any fear based on that.

 

Tom Jicha:

 

Is it something you would do?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

I’ve never trained in California, and you’re shipping across the country.  I don’t know how all that works, so it’s an unfair question.  I’m not trying to avoid the question, I just don’t have any experience with it, so I don’t know the answer to that.

 

Tom Jicha:

 

Okay, well I mean, as much as the ship and everything else, you’re coming now to take on the horse most people think is the toughest horse, outside your horse for sure.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Fair enough.

 

Tom Jicha:

 

You don’t think it could be a gut-wrenching race for both of them?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Well, again—I mean, you asked me pertaining to that, did I think that the last race should be the easiest for the Kentucky Derby?  I don’t agree with that, so based on that aspect of the question, I wouldn’t be concerned with that.

 

Tom Jicha:

 

Okay, one final thing.  Why did you give Uncle Mo an F for his workout?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

I didn’t see he travelled all that great leading into the race, you know?  It had nothing to do with distance capabilities or not.  But look, my job back then was to talk to the bettors.  My job was to see them in a work and let them know whether I thought that’s a horse they should keep on their ticket and use in their races.  I don’t know if you’re familiar with that show or not, but that was my role.  That was my role, so that’s why—look, I thought he was a throw-out, you know?

 

Tom Jicha:

 

Okay, very good.  Thank you very much.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Sure.

 

Operator:

 

There are no further questions at this time.  Please continue.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, Tom, just one quick follow-up before we let you get back to your lunch.  I’m remembering a couple years ago when the Bensons decided to get back into buying horses, and I believe the story was that they spread some money around between you and a few of the other New Orleans trainers.  Can you just talk about how Mo Tom was acquired and Mr. Benson getting back into the game?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Sure.  So your memory serves correctly; they wanted to use New Orleans kind of born and raised guys, and the three they chose were Dallas Stewart, Al Stall, and myself.  The wonderful thing about going to the sale, the yearling sale (inaudible) the three of us did and picking out horses for them was there were no constraints.  Buy whatever you want, here’s the limit on what we’re going to spend, and you guys handle the horses from the moment the hammer drops and we get them until we can see them run.  So I didn’t have to answer to anyone, I wasn’t calling and saying, what about this one, I like him because of this reason or that reason.  I had no constraints, and that was a pleasure to go in there and just do what I thought was best, and literally once the hammer dropped on my Uncle Mo (inaudible), having him at the farm I wanted him to get broken at within a day and a half, and then to be able to follow him into his training until he came into the barn.

 

You don’t get to do that very often.  Typically with owners, they’re involved in some shape or form.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but I certainly enjoyed getting to do it strictly my way and not having to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

You all did pretty well.  I mean, Dallas’ horse in the Louisiana Derby is also one of those that came out of that arrangement, correct?

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Oh yes, that’s exactly right.  You know, when you look at it—I mean, you’re buying yearlings, there are going to be some successes and failures.  But I mean, if it were all to end today and they were going to sell these horses tomorrow with what they have in the barn, they would sell them for more than what they bought them for, and that’s quite an achievement when you’re going to yearling sales.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Terrific.  Well, Tom, thank you so much for your time today, and good luck in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Thanks, Jim, pleasure really.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, Tom, enjoy the lunch.  Always good talking to you.

 

Tom Amoss:

 

Bye-bye.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, that’s Tom Amoss, trainer of Louisiana Derby favorite, Mo Tom.  But now, we’re going to turn our attention away from the Derby preps for a few minutes and we’re going to go to the United Arab Emirates where 2014 Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome has been preparing for the Dubai World Cup.  We have trainer Art Sherman on the line, and let’s get right to him.  Art, are you there?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Yes, I am.  It’s probably afternoon in your part of town, isn’t it?

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

It is indeed.  It’s about 1:30 here in Lexington.  Thank you so much for joining us.  We’re all so excited to see California Chrome taking another shot at the Dubai World Cup.  You only got in town yesterday, correct?

 

Art Sherman:

 

True, yes.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, so could you just share with us your impressions of California Chrome after you’ve gotten to watch and train with your own eyes over there?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Oh, sure.  I got up about 2 o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t sleep.  The time change is about 12 hours difference, so I showered and shaved and went over to the barn, and I got to see him before anybody was actually, except for the groom who was just getting there when I was there.  They all live close by to the barn.  It’s quite a set up here in Dubai.  They’ve got great, great facilities for the grooms and everybody that is involved.  It was kind of a real—I got up to the barn and I yelled at him.  I said, hey Chrome, what are you doing?  He kind of looked at me and started making that little noise that he does, and I—because he knew that I always fed him cookies, so I gave him his two cookies and I sat next to him, and I said, either I’m getting smaller or he’s getting bigger.  So you know, I haven’t seen him in a little over a month, so they seem like they change all the time, you know?

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

I read that you…

 

Art Sherman:

 

But he looked fantastic.  He looked fantastic.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Yes, and I even read a quote where you thought he might be five lengths better than he was this time last year.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Oh, I might be getting a little bit—showing a little pride in my horse, you know?  But I’ll say I watched him grow into the individual he is, since he’s been a two-year-old, and now he’s five and I said, wow, what a big change.  He looks just absolutely terrific and training great.  I can’t really tell—my son did a terrific job of being here for a couple of months prior to that, and his groom, the whole—and the exercise boy, they’ve done a terrific job with him.  I couldn’t have done it without them.  They deserve a lot of credit.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Well, and you mentioned Alan and going there two months ago with Chrome, so can you just talk about the decision to send him so far in advance this year for this race, and whether what you’re describing are the benefits of that decision?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well you know, after being there running second, I thought it would really have been beneficial for him to have a race over the course.  It’s the first time that they had a new dirt track there, and it was a little different, a little bit cuppy and a little bit loose, and now the track is really well maintained.  It looks really good.  It rained in fact all this morning, so this is my first time I’ve ever seen it rain in Dubai.  I didn’t realize they had that much rain, but it rained until about 11 o’clock in the morning and then it cleared up.  But the track’s in great shape, I can tell you that.  He galloped this morning and looked absolutely great.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Very good.  Well, Art, I’m going to check back with the Operator, Nick, and he’s going to see if any of the other media on this call have questions for you.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Sure.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, please press star, one on your touchtone phone.  Again if you’d like to ask a question, please press star, one.

 

Our first question comes from the line of Ron Flatter at RSN Australia.  Please go ahead.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Hi, Art.  I want to go a little further into the decision to go over there.  Last year, there was so much criticism of the whole program sending him over there.  You had some yourself.  Why is this year different?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well you know, we’ve got a whole new ownership plan, and everybody seems to be on the right plan of doing things like it should be done.  I really think we did the right thing by coming over here since—I needed to get another prep into him, you know?  I only had one other race this year after having nine months off, you know, and of course he won that race at Santa Anita but he sure needed to be tighter than he was going into that race.  The mile and a quarter I got underneath him a month ago was the real tightener.  He looked absolutely beautiful when under wraps.  You know, Victor told me, he said he had plenty of horse left, and carrying 132 pounds, I understand it wasn’t your stellar field that he ran against but I was so impressed the way he did it.  I think now with that race under his belt coming into this Dubai World Cup, he’s going to show you something (inaudible).

 

Ron Flatter:

 

A little further on the new ownership with Taylor Made being involved.  What are they bringing to the table that you didn’t get from the Coburn-Martin partnership?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, so you’ve got to realize that—it was a new endeavor for them too, you know what I mean?  First horse you ever own turns out to be California Chrome, first horse you ever bred, and it was kind of overwhelming.  Sometimes you might get a little bit carried away, but I’ll tell you now they’re on the right track and they’ve got people around them that are real horsemen and looking out for everybody.  The atmosphere is so much easier for me, being a trainer, and knowing we got horsemen behind us that have been lifelong horsemen, you know?  It’s a little bit different atmosphere for me.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Lastly, have you ever seen a horse grow to a five-year-old as much as this one has?  How do you look at his growth compared to other horses you’ve had at age five?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, it’s just a pleasure to see him.  I never thought—I thought after last year, he’d go to the breed farm and I wouldn’t see him again, you know what I mean?  But after bringing him back in training and looking at him, Taylor Made did such a wonderful job putting on weight.  You know, he lost so much weight, and he put on, like, 160 pounds at the farm, so you know then he was just kind of undernourished a little bit when he came from England.  It was just hard on him, you know?  He wasn’t up to himself and just needed to have a little R&R.  The horse never really had much opportunity to be turned out.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

English cooking.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Yes, what a difference it made.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

All right, thanks, Art.  Good luck to you Saturday.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Thank you.  I appreciate it.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Danny Brewer at HorseRacingScoop.com.  Please go ahead.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Artie, my boy.  How you doing?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Oh, great.  Great.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Talk for just a second about the perseverance and the faith, and some of those things that have went into this California Chrome story.  You know, pinnacle at three, injury at four, and now according to you, he looks great and he’s maybe going back to that pinnacle again.  What about all that stuff?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, I’ll tell you, unless you’ve been around the horse and you’ve seen—he’s such a keeper horse to train.  He does everything just right.  He’s a pleasure to be around.  I look at him and watch him on the track, and he stands there and just watches everybody train for about ten minutes and he stares at them, and goes along and does his job.  He comes back, he rolls in the big sand pit we have by the barn, and he just looks so terrific.  I just look at him and I say, wow.  I watch him work.  In work prior to this race he’s 59 and change, and galloped out at 12 and 2, and the way he does it, he looks like he’s going in 14.  If you were (inaudible) watching, I had you watch and say wow, he went 12 and 2.  You know, he just stride now and looking good.  He’s a picture of health, and like I said, I’ve never seen him in this perfect condition right now for him.  He looks just absolutely wonderful.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Do you think that his happiness just exudes and bleeds off into the rest of the whole team, because obviously you guys seem like you’re really hitting on all cylinders right now.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, I just think it’s a team effort, everybody involved now.  My son’s done a terrific job of—he’s been here now going over two months, and the groom and—Raul’s had him ever since he’s been a baby.  You know, the horse just loves everybody that’s attached to him.  He just seems to blossom when they’re around.  You have to be there to see it.  You’d think, wow, he looks part human.  He knows everybody that comes around and nickers at them.  You mention his name and he’ll look at you.  It’s awesome.  It’s an awesome experience for me too.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Artie, I certainly wish you folks the best of luck, all right?  Thanks a lot, man.

 

Art Sherman:

 

You bet.  Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Art Wilson at the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.  Please go ahead.

 

 

Art Wilson:

 

Can you kind of pinpoint, other than the fact that the prep race this year over the track might be a big benefit for him, what’s kind of the difference between this year and last year in the horse?  What makes you more confident this year that he can get the job done?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, if you’d seen the individual and you see all the campaigns and the Triple Crown and running some tough races, he was just tired.  He was a tired horse last year.  I just think the R&R and the three to four months off on the farm and letting him have that good old Kentucky bluegrass, you know what I mean?  He just turned into an individual that you cannot believe.  He just grew up.  It makes you think, wow.  If you guys saw him as a three-year-old, you wouldn’t recognize him now.  He just—he’s a lot of horse.

 

Art Wilson:

 

If you say he was a tired horse last year, it kind of makes then his second place effort last year in the World Cup even more impressive.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, I think so.  I just think—I’m not making any excuses (inaudible).  There’s a lot of good horses in this race.  I just wouldn’t want to trade places with anybody else, I can tell you that.

 

Art Wilson:

 

My last question, can you just kind of summarize what this horse has meant to you personally and how he’s changed your life?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, he’s once in a lifetime for me.  I’ve never been around—I came up in an era with Swaps and them kind of horses that were great horses and good runners, but to have one to train like him is once in a lifetime.  You know, at my age now, I look back to all the years that you train horses, and I’ll tell you, it’s quite an accomplishment for the horse and it’s quite an accomplishment for me and my family.  It’s meant so much to us.  We’ve had a lot of great experiences.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Okay, good luck on Saturday, Art.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Debbie Arrington at the Sacramento Bee.  Please go ahead.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Hi, Art.  I wish I was there.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Hi Debbie, how you been?

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Oh fine.

 

Art Sherman:

 

I know.  I miss all my favorites.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

I know.  Well, you know we’re there in spirit, and we’re on the phone with you, so that’s the second best thing.  You know, two things really struck me about this whole thing with Chrome running at age five.  He carried 132 pounds in his prep race.  How would trainers here in California or anywhere else in the US react to having a prep race with 132 pounds?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, I remember the days that Kelso and all of the big horses used to carry 32 and 36.  But you know, I look back now and at all his training—you look at your exercise rider weighs probably 35, the saddle probably 15 to 20 pounds, so he’s carrying every day about 150-something pounds when he trains and breezes.  You know, I really think it’s a benefit for him, but in our era now that you hardly ever see 32, I had a last one I put—we helped put the saddle on when he ran in the prep race here a month ago, and I haven’t put a lead pad on a horse in I can’t tell you when.  It was kind of—I had to laugh.  I said, you guys, I’m going to tell you, this saddle’s heavy, because Victor does about 112 pounds, so even he’s 20-something pounds away, you know?  But it was great.  It was fun.  I forgot almost how to put a lead band on.  I’m glad my son was there to adjust everything.  I’d have never been able to do it.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Well, and the other thing is that here is the Kentucky Derby winner running at age five and competing at the top of the game at age five.  What do you think that means to the sport?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well you know, I’ll just tell you about the send-off.  I was leaving the day before.  All them ladies, the Chromies they call themselves, came over with boxes of donuts, flowers, a big party at the barn, and I said, wow, what a fanfare this horse has.  Los Alamitos is going to have a big breakfast that morning and have everybody over to watch the race, and they expect a pretty good crowd.  He’s kind of California’s favorite, you know what I mean?  He’s got fanfare like I’ve never seen a horse.  I’ve been around for a long time and I know American Pharaoh had a great following, but I think the Chromies are different.  It’s a different group of people, you know what I mean, and he’s probably their hero.  I’m just so satisfied with the way everything is going.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

You’re right, the Chromies are—Pharoah had a lot of fans, but he peaked then he’s gone.  The Chromies, they’ve been around pretty much since the beginning of his three-year-old season.

 

Art Sherman:

 

True, and he had quite a fanfare.  When I run at Santa Anita this winter and I say, well, I just wonder if the people would be there.  Well, they were just mobbed down there at the rail having signs all over and yelling and chanting his name, Chrome!  Chrome!  I said, wow.  It really made me feel good, saying he’s back.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Yes.  One last question, how many cookies did you guys bring over for Chrome?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Oh God!  We had 75 pounds.  He’s set for this, I can tell you that.  He’s got—his pasture cookies are doing really good, you know, so everybody is on the right track there, I can tell you that.  He’s a cookie monger, I can tell you that.

 

Debbie Arrington:

 

Very good.  Well, best of luck, and hope to see you in the winner’s circle.

 

Art Sherman:

 

Oh, I appreciate that.  Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder, if you’d like to ask a question, please press star, one on your touchtone phone.  Please press star, one, if you’d like to ask a question.

 

There are no further questions at this time.  Please continue.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, Art, I’m just going to ask you one follow-up and then we’ll let you go.  I just wanted to talk more about California Chrome coming back to race this season.  You said that when he went to the farm, you thought you might not see him again.  With all that he’s accomplished, why do you figure he is still racing?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, I think they did the right thing.  The bunch of new people with the breeding end of it, they could get in and buy shares and still have a horse running that could make them some money, it was really a great idea.  Whoever thought about it, it made a lot of sense.  He kind of went out to the farm almost 100% sound.  He had a few issues with his feet and just needed some time off, you know, to regenerate all his little wars of running, and it made such a big difference.  It made a lot of sense for the future, and you’ve got to realize if he wins this race, he’d be the all-time winningest thoroughbred ever, you know, pass Curlin’s record.  (Inaudible) got it.  You know, come into the breeding shed and he’s still got the Pacific Classic to look forward to, and then the Breeders Cup.  I just think it was really great for the sport to keep—we don’t have the older horses.  The minute they start doing good, they’re gone.  It gives everybody a chance, and people—even here in Dubai when he won the other day, when he came back to the winner’s circle, he got a standing ovation.  I haven’t seen that for a long time, and don’t forget they don’t bet here.  (Inaudible) betting.  It’s no monetary investment, but they just love the horse and it made me feel really good.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Oh man.  So—but among the owners then, do you get the sense that there is maybe still something left to prove, despite everything that he’s already done, and I don’t know if that might be because of his modest pedigree and speculation about his stud value and such, but do you get the sense that they still think that they have to prove California Chrome’s ability to some of the skeptics?

 

Art Sherman:

 

Well, I would do that.  He still has a lot to prove as far as being the real McCoy, you know?  He’s got a great following and he’s won a lot of great ones, but to win a race like the World Cup when all the horses from all over the world, all the best horses—Frosted, (inaudible), and I watch him train (inaudible), and all the Japanese and Australians.  It’s quite an accomplishment when you’re going to have 12 horses in the field and the season’s the best.  That proves something.  It’s hey, you’re not all mouth, you’ve got run, you know what I mean?  Let’s do it.  Let’s get it on.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Well, it is great for the fans, and we cannot wait to see him compete on Saturday.  Art, I know it’s late.  We’re going to let you try to get some sleep, but I thank you for joining us this morning, or this evening over there, and best of luck to you on Saturday.

 

Art Sherman:

 

I appreciate that, thank you.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, thanks so much.  That’s Art Sherman, trainer of California Chrome, talking about Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, and hopefully we’ll have other chances to talk to Art about California Chrome as the year goes on.

 

But now we’re going to turn our attention back to Fairgrounds.  They’ve got that incredible Louisiana Derby Day card, and our final guest today is David Fiske.  He’s the long-time racing manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds.  They own the Risen Star winner, Gun Runner, who is the second choice on the Louisiana Derby morning line.  They own him in partnership with Three Chimneys Farm, and they’ve also got Adore, a promising filly making her stakes debut in the Fairgrounds Oaks.  Both of those three-year-olds are under the care of Steve Asmussen, whose family has a long history of success with the Winchell family, and together they’ve campaigned several grade one winners and a champion in Untapable, who’s at Oak Lawn preparing for another try at the Apple Blossom, the race she won last year.  That’s coming up in a few weeks.  We should also mention that David the man responsible for purchasing Tapit, although the two three-year-olds we’re talking about today are not by North America’s leading stallion, who sired so many talented horses for Ron Winchell and the Winchell family, but that is definitely worth noting considering Tapit’s influence on thoroughbred racing today.

 

David Fiske, it’s Jim Mulvihill of the NTRA.  Thanks for joining us.

 

David Fiske:

 

Well, thank you.  After that introduction, I don’t know that there’s really that much I can add.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Oh, I don’t believe that.  We’ve got a lot to uncover about these three-year-olds.  Let’s talk Gun Runner first.  Based on his two-year-old campaign, it looks like you knew you had a good horse.  We know that because you started his campaign in a grade two Derby prep, so can you just talk about the expectations for Gun Runner coming into his three-year-old season, and how you and Steve decided to get him going this year?

 

David Fiske:

 

Well, we thought after his races as a two-year-old that he had a lot of promise, and he trained very well over the winter.  We had some other options of places to start in, but Steve thought he could get him up to a good effort in the Risen Star, and that’s what we got, so we were pretty pleased with that.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Yes, I would have to say so.  I mean, with that being his three-year-old debut, were you actually expecting a win, or–Steve sounds like his aim was for a good effort, but to get the win, how did that change your opinion of his prospects?

 

David Fiske:

 

He’d been patting himself a little bit in his training, and Steve was very excited about running him, but as everybody knows, coming off a long layoff like he was coming off of, anything could happen and we were just looking for a good effort that he could build on and move forward.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Well, and one would assume that off of the debut, there’s still a lot of room for improvement there.  Is that your sense?  I’m sure that’s your hope, but is that your perception based on what you’ve seen?

 

David Fiske:

 

That is what we’re hoping, and the way he has trained in between the Risen Star and the Derby on this coming Saturday, we think he’s giving as well as he can do.  He’s been doing great.  He fired off a bullet last week and had a little maintenance work yesterday and came out of that in great shape, so I think he’s slightly disadvantaged by his post position draw but in the Risen Star, he worked his way over to the fence.  He was kind of down on the inside going down the backside, kind of mid-pack, so hopefully he can get us some more trip on Saturday.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Very good.  Well David, I want to turn it over to the media, see what questions they have for you.  Nick the Operator can take it away for us.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder, if you’d like to ask a question, please press star, one on your touchtone phone at this time.  Again if you’d like to ask a question, please press star, one.  Thank you.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, please press star, one.  Star, one on your touchtone phone.

 

Our first question comes from the line of Jonathan Lintner at the Courier Journal.  Please go ahead.

 

Jonathan Lintner:

 

Hi, thank you for taking the time to do this today.  You kind of hinted that bringing Gun Runner back in a spot like the Risen Star, that he—do you get the sense that maybe he wasn’t fully cranked in that race, and what kind of scenarios do you see him kind of folding into in this Louisiana Derby?

 

David Fiske:

 

Well, I hope he wasn’t fully cranked.  Most of the time, horses will make a forward move off of a start like that.  He should be fitter for the Louisiana Derby.  Like I said, he’s been training well in between races, so—he’s going to have to move forward if he’s going to continue down the Triple Crown trail.  He’s going to have to move forward and get faster, so we’re—I think we’re in as good a spot as we can be on Saturday and we just hope it all works out.

 

Jonathan Lintner:

 

A lot of conversation about Mo Tom and the late run he had in the Risen Star.  Does that worry you looking forward to Saturday?

 

David Fiske:

 

Well I mean, they all kind of worry me.  It’s always a concern, is who’s in against you.  I think Mo Tom–well, he’s the morning line favorite, so he’s certainly a factor to contend with.  I think we were probably getting a little bit tired in the Risen Star close to the wire.  Florent said he might have moved a little early with him, but he’s such a tractable  horse that Florent was able to put him wherever he wanted to.  I mean, I think if he wanted to move up a couple spots, he could, and then the horse would idle there for him and then move again.  So he’s very tactical, and hopefully he’s more fit and the extra sixteenth of a mile isn’t going to be a factor for him.  It is a long stretch at Fairgrounds, though, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

 

Jonathan Lintner:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Our next question comes from the line of Danny Brewer at HorseRacingScoop.com.  Please go ahead.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

How we doing today?

 

David Fiske:

 

Oh, doing pretty good.  I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give you any scoops, but…

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Oh yes, you can.  I’m sure you can.  Dig deeper.  Who’s got the mount?  Is Florent Geroux in the iron on him?

 

David Fiske:

 

Yes, Geroux will ride him again.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

What’s your thoughts on him?  He’s been pretty hot here lately.  What do you think about that boy?

 

David Fiske:

 

Yes, he’s one of the hottest riders in the country.  I think he’s been hovering around, you know, probably in the top five money winners, top five by races won nationally of jockeys, so it looks like he’ll win the riding title at Fairgrounds.  Yes, I think he’s a great up and coming rider.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

Do you—what’s your thoughts on having a victory already at Churchill Downs?  Does that give you kind of an advantage?  I know Steve is pretty good at Churchill Downs too.  Do you think this gives you guys any kind of advantage?

 

David Fiske:

 

Yes, maybe a slight advantage.  It’s always nice to know that your horse gets over that surface well.  I mean, he’s going to probably be stabled there for a significant part of the late spring and early summer, so yes, I’m glad that he’s got a way over that surface.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

What do you like most about Gun Runner?  What do you think is his most attractive quality right now?

 

David Fiske:

 

Well, I think his most attractive quality is that he seems to be getting better and maturing, and as I mentioned before, he’s very tractable.  He doesn’t really get excited about anything.  You can put him in between horses or on the fence, or you can make a move with him and then slow him down a little bit.  I mean, I won’t tell you he’s push button because I’ve never ridden him, but he does seem to have a lot of tactical advantages that some horses don’t have.

 

Danny Brewer:

 

That’s the scoop I was looking for.  See?  I knew you would have one.  I appreciate that.  Best of luck, okay?

 

David Fiske:

 

All right, thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, please press star, one on your touchtone phone.  Please press star, one if you’d like to ask a question.

 

There are no further questions at this time.  Please continue.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right.  Thanks.  David, I’ve got a couple more for you here.  Maybe you can give us the scoop on Adore.  This is a Big Brown filly who actually very impressively beat winners at Oaklawn last time.  What can you tell us about her coming into the Fairgrounds Oaks?

 

David Fiske:

 

Again, she’s maturing at the right time, she seems to be good.  She goes around two turns.  As I recall, she’s not going to be three until the middle of May, so we thought that she’d earned a chance to go earn herself some black type.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Very good, very good.  Interestingly, she also had a bullet work two works back, and we’ve talked about this before with regards to Steve, but he’s not the type of trainer to push his horses for a bullet.  If you see that, what does that tell you about the horse, about that particular work?

 

David Fiske:

 

That they’re very fast.  Like you say, he never really asks them to go fast.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of his exercise riders draw stick.  Ordinarily his horses, whatever they do, they kind of do it on their own, so I think those two bullet works were pretty significant, especially coming off—especially Gun Runner coming off of a win at the Risen Star and Adore coming off the allowance win at Oaklawn.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Excellent.  Well before we let you go, we should also get an update on Untapable and how she came out of the Azeri and now going forward to the Apple Blossom.

 

David Fiske:

 

Came out of the Azeri perfect, not a hair out of place.  I wish we could have won that race.  On paper, it looked like she probably should have; however, it had been a long time since she’d run, and she’s—good horses like her are—they’re just kind of tough to get fit.  They’re so biomechanically efficient that to give them enough work in the morning is really difficult, so you almost have to give them a race or two to get them completely fit.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Can you talk about how it’s basically a mirror image of last year?  I mean, you would have said that she probably on paper would have looked like the winner in the Azeri last year, and look what happened in the Apple Blossom.

 

David Fiske:

 

Yes, yes.  Well, after the race on Saturday, I was talking to Steve and I told him, I’ve seen that race before.  It’s one that she has in her repertoire where she kind of goes out and she is a little hard to handle and can get a little rank, and it tends to cost her a little something late.  But you know, it’s a new year and it’s a long to the Breeders Cup, which is the ultimate goal, so we’re moving in the right direction.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Very good.  Well, David, thank you for all the great information, and best of luck at Fairgrounds on Saturday.

 

David Fiske:

 

Well thanks, Jim.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

All right, that’s David Fiske, the racing manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds.  I want to thank all of our guests today, not just David but also Tom Amoss and Art Sherman.  Really enjoyed talked to all three of these gentlemen.

 

Thanks again to everybody for joining us on the call.  As always throughout the Triple Crown season, you can contact myself or Joan Lawrence if there is anything we can do to help you with your stories.

 

 

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