July 25, 2017 – NTRA National Media Teleconference
Betfair.com Haskell Preview
Guest (probable entrant)
- Trainer Graham Motion (Irish War Cry)
- Trainer Ian Wilkes (McCraken)
- Trainer Joe Sharp (Girvin)
Click below to listen to the Teleconference and scroll down to view the transcript (available Wednesday afternoon).
Jim Mulvihill: Welcome everybody to our first Countdown to the Breeders’ Cup teleconference of the year. Today we’re happy to be running this call from the NTRA’s brand new offices in the heart of downtown Lexington.
If any of you participating would like to come by and visit soon or the next time you’re in Kentucky, please just let me know. I always love to give you a tour of our new space and tell you more about what the NTRA is up to these days. But that’s for another time.
Today we’re here to talk about the $1 million betfair.com Haskell Invitational this Sunday at Monmouth Park. The title sponsor of betfair.com by the way is offering all players a risk-free $50 win bet on the Haskell via the betfair.com New Jersey Exchange. You make a $50 play but all losing bets will be reimbursed, so not a bad offer especially for such a competitive renewal – this race.
And as expected with this crop of three-year-olds the Haskell is indeed looking like a wide-open contest. You’ll have Irish War Cry, the Wood Memorial winner and Belmont runner-up. And we’ll talk to the trainer, Graham Motion, in just a second. We’ll also be joined by Ian Wilkes, trainer of McCraken, who bounced back from the Derby with a strong effort in the Matt Winn and Joe Sharp, trainer of Girvin, the Louisiana Derby winner coming off an agonizing nose defeat in the Ohio Derby a few weeks ago.
Others probable for the Haskell Battle of Midway, Hence, the Chad Brown pair Timeline and Practical Joke. So really an outstanding race coming together up in New Jersey. Also this weekend I should mention it’s the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on Saturday. That race is going to feature a showdown between the Derby and Preakness winners, Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing. And just so everybody understands, on these calls we always do our best to bring you the most prominent players and the most important races.
But as a lot of you know, horsemen are under no obligation to participate in these forums so sometimes they have scheduling conflicts which is always understandable. And sometimes they just decline to participate. So today we’re focusing on the Haskell and with that we’re delighted to welcome in Graham Motion who’s been a regular on these calls for years and is the trainer of the Jersey-Bred Irish War Cry.
Irish War Cry didn’t really fire in the Derby but he came back to run a strong second in the Belmont. And now we get to hear more about what he’s been up to since. And also a little bit more about why this race means so much to his owner, Isabelle de Tomaso. So Graham it’s Jim Mulvihill here; thanks for joining us.
Graham Motion: Hi Jim. Thanks for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: Of course. We’re always happy to have you on these calls. Maybe to start you can just, if you wouldn’t mind, give us a summary of what you’ve done with Irish War Cry since the Belmont as far as giving him a little break but then also getting him ready for this race.
Graham Motion: Yes, so after the Belmont I mean I felt like he had a pretty hard race that day. I really went easy on him for the two weeks afterwards. Then gave him a pretty easy breeze the first time I breezed him he had an easy four furlongs. Then we stepped it up certainly the last two weeks. He won two strong six furlongs. So I feel very good about where he’s at.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. And can you explain for those on the call that maybe don’t know why the Haskell is perhaps even more important to your owner than maybe even the Triple Crown races were?
Graham Motion: Yes certainly with Isabelle’s connection to the Haskell family who – and really, you know, she’s – because of her connection she’s presented the trophy for as long as I can remember for this race. So I’m sure there’s people probably on the call that know more about her connection to the family even than I do. But it goes a long way back and this has certainly always been a race that we’ve had on our radar that, you know, has kind of been our goal, summer goal for Irish War Cry for those reasons.
Jim Mulvihill: And have you and her talked much about that? Or just given her history it was just understood that this would be like a summer target (now)?
Graham Motion: You know, honestly, Isabelle and I don’t talk a great deal. Isabelle, – it’s something she has had a little bit of a hard time dealing with is communicating with the press and what-have-you with phone calls. She does not really handle phone calls very well because of her connection with car racing back in her younger years; she was a race car driver. And I think because of that her hearing is not as good as it was.
And that’s – I’d like people to understand is that’s why she’s not that keen to participate in some of these press conferences and conversations. She finds it quite difficult to do that. So, you know, when we have conversations we usually – I like to do it in person; which was a lot easier over the winter in Florida. But certainly she made it clear to me that this was a race that she’d like to run in, although Isabelle has never pushed me to do anything with this horse.
She’s about as easy-going an owner as I’ve ever had. So there’s never been any expectations. But this was always a race that we’ve had a goal.
Lynne Snierson: Yes, hi. Thank you Graham. Can you talk a little bit about your rider, Rajiv, and how he fits this horse?
Graham Motion: Well I mean first how he ended up on the horse, you know, it certainly seemed to me a logical fit. When we were looking to run up at Aqueduct in the Wood Memorial, Joel decided to go to the Bluegrass that day in Keeneland, which left me looking for a rider. And I felt very strongly about having somebody who is currently riding in New York over the winter. And with that in mind Rajiv was just a very logical option for me.
We had great success with Main Sequence together. Not only is he a friend of mine but I have tremendous respect for what he came back from. And I think of him as a really good rider. And he certainly came through for us that day and gave him a beautiful ride.
Lynne Snierson: Thank you. And it seems like just he and this horse really get along together?
Graham Motion: I think they do yes. He’s come up to Fair Hill and worked him for me. He actually galloped him leading up to the Wood Memorial for me; which is something I’ve never done with a jockey before. I actually had the gallop a horse in the morning. But I thought it was really important for him to have some understanding of him. And yes I think they really do have a rapport.
Lynne Snierson: Thank you. Also on the card I believe you’re going to be running Irish Strait, the older half-brother of Irish War Cry, yes?
Graham Motion: Yes. I’m actually going to run all three siblings. I’m going to run Irish Strait in the grass race which I believe is called the – is that called the Monmouth Stakes?
Lynne Snierson: Yes.
Graham Motion: And Irish Defence – I’m considering running her against the boys in the New Jersey Bred race going six furlongs which is called the John J. Reilly Handicap. So we could run the whole family on Sunday.
Lynne Snierson: That would be just a wonderful testament for Mrs. de Tomaso and the New Jersey Bred breeding program.
Graham Motion: And it’s really not something that I’ve set as a goal to do. They’re just very logical races for these horses. And, you know, it’s just fit very well into their schedule. So it’s not like we’ve kind of pressed them to do that. It just happens to work out that way.
Lynne Snierson: Okay. Thank you. And Miss Temple City?
Graham Motion: Miss Temple City will also run in the Matchmaker, yes.
Lynne Snierson: And so very big day.
Graham Motion: It is. It’s exciting. I’m really excited to have Miss Temple City back in the entries, looking forward to it. You know, we’re kind of getting off to a little bit of a late start after we ended up going to Ascot. But she’s done well since she came back from England and I’m really excited to get her back on track on Sunday.
Art Wilson: Yes Graham, heading into the Derby it was kind of, you know, wide open with everybody beating, you know, everybody else in the Derby preps. And it’s kind of, you know, turned out the same way during the Triple Crown series. What does that make you think about this three-year-old crop so far this year?
Graham Motion: I mean I always think it is a little early to judge these three-year-olds around Triple Crown time because I think it’s really not till the fall that we really test their mettle; when we run them against older horses particularly in the Breeders’ Cup. So I always think it’s a bit of a mistake to rush to judgment. A lot of these guys have come back and run really well since the Derby, including Ian’s horse who I think you’re going to talk to today.
And Jerry Hollendorfer’s horse who won out in California. And, you know, I think my horse really showed what he’s made of in the Belmont, perhaps going a distance that wasn’t best for him. But I – look I think all these horses have showed that they’re of this caliber and we’ll have to find out in the fall how good they really are.
Art Wilson: And since the Belmont, any physical or mental changes in Irish War Cry?
Graham Motion: You know, honestly I’ve just been really happy with how he’s done. I like having him at Fair Hill. The more I look back at Churchill the more I think he probably got pretty unsettled in that week leading up to it, although he doesn’t show it outwardly. He’s not a particularly nervous horse to be around.
I just think he did get very wound up about the goings-on Derby week. And I think that probably came through in his race. I can’t offer another explanation for why he ran that day, that way that day. So I just really enjoyed having here at Fair Hill where he’s in a routine. He gallops; he gets turned out in his paddock. And I like the fact that going up to Monmouth we can just ship up there the day of the race and really not mess with his schedule too much.
So I’m hoping that will really play in his favor on the day.
Ron Flatter: Hi. Graham, looking back at the Belmont I mean he’s going to cut back now from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth. Is that a real benefit for a horse that likes to go forward like Irish War Cry?
Graham Motion: I think it is. And I mean I really think this is probably his optimum distance. You know, I think his Wood Memorial was possibly his best race. So yes I think the fact – the nature of the Monmouth track which is, you know, notoriously favorable to horses that tend to lay close to the pace and the distance – I think those should play into his favor.
Ron Flatter: And the fact that he’s by Curlin, I mean Curlin lost this race but then came back the same year in the mud to win the Classic. Do we gain anything from that just from the bloodlines to suggest what might happen with Irish War Cry in this race?
Graham Motion: You know, I don’t know honestly Ron. I haven’t had a lot of Curlin’s myself. You know, I don’t know the similarities that this horse shows with Curlin. But certainly the mile and eighth for me seems like a really good distance for him. And whether it relates to the end of the year, you know, I think at some point, you know, it’s a long season for these three-year-olds.
He’s now been running since November. So we’ll get him to the Haskell and then we’ll kind of see where things go from then on. And hopefully he puts up a good performance Sunday and it’s a, you know, we have to decide where to go from there. That will be a good problem to have.
Ron Flatter: Yes. And do you have a plan if he at this point penciled in?
Graham Motion: I really don’t. You know, I think everything’s on the table. And I think, you know, it’s all going to depend on how things go on Sunday. You know, I’ve never run a horse in the Haskell. I’ve never run a horse in the Travers. So, you know, this is a little bit unknown territory for me. And I’m just – feel really fortunate to have a horse of that caliber to participate in these races.
These are races that everyone wants to run in. But I obviously want to do the right thing by the horse.
Steven Falk: HI Graham. Do you think that you’re still right in the picture for a three-year-old championship considering how the Triple Crown went?
Graham Motion: I mean I certainly think it’s going to come down to what happens in the fall. You know, having a different winner of all three Triple Crown races, you know, I remembered the year we had Animal Kingdom. I think it always tends to favor the Derby winner. And Animal Kingdom was able to win the end of year honors that year. So – but I think everything’s on the table at the moment, I really do.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Well with that Graham we’ll let you go. Thanks so much for the time and the insights today as always.
Graham Motion: Oh, I was happy to do it. Thank you.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Graham Motion, trainer of Irish War Cry. We always appreciate Graham coming on these calls. And thanks also to Lynne for catching that little note about all three half-siblings possibly running on Sunday at Monmouth Park. Really interesting little note there.
Now we’ve got a chance to check in with the other ((inaudible)) up from the Triple Crown trail that we’d all remember, pointing to the Haskell on Sunday. McCraken was one of the (buzz) horses going into the Derby. But he finished eighth. He bounced back though, taking the Matt Winn at Churchill last month.
And trainer Ian Wilkes is going to join us now with more on McCraken’s progress since then. Ian, are you with us?
Ian Wilkes: Yes I am. Thanks for having me on.
Jim Mulvihill: Absolutely. We really appreciate you coming on today. First of all you – McCraken breezed this morning at Churchill Downs. So maybe you can just tell us a little bit about what you’re hoping to get out of that and how it went.
Ian Wilkes: Yes everything went good. Brian Hernandez worked him this morning in 49:01 just a nice maintenance half. The horse is ready. I didn’t want to do too much with him. Just let him bounce over the track. Let him piece down the lane. It’s good energy and he galloped out strong. And we’re ready. We’re ready to go.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. And given that does that mean that there are no regrets about skipping the Preakness and the Belmont to freshen up for these summer stakes?
Ian Wilkes: No, no regrets. I wouldn’t have been able to run in the Preakness anyway with the wound I had on his leg. I had to get that right. I missed a whole week of training after the Derby with that. So I wouldn’t have been able to make the Preakness in any circumstances because the horse comes first there.
And this – right now I’ve got no regrets. And then when I was forced to, you know, no choice to miss the Preakness I just wasn’t (generally) thinking about running the mile and a half off of that. And so this way I just thought well let’s plan on a fall campaign with him.
Lynne Snierson: Okay. Thank you. Hi Ian. You’ve changed – trained for Mrs. Whitham for a long time. You have a nice relationship with her going back to Fort Larned and some other. Can you just talk a little bit about what it’s like to train for Janis?
Ian Wilkes: Yes, well it’s a pleasure. Put it that way, it’s just a simple pleasure because she’s a horse lady. She understands a horse. The horses come first. So if you’ve got any issues there’s no question we got to do what’s right by the horse. And just a tremendous horse person and just a pleasure to train for.
Lynne Snierson: Thank you. Okay. Mile and an eighth for your horse, can you address the distance?
Ian Wilkes: I don’t think it’d be a problem. No issue for me. I’m okay with it. I really believe my horse can go the distance. I’m right where I want to be coming into this race. And I’ve got no excuses.
Tom Jicha: Hi Ian. Let me ask you – there’s so many three-year-old races; of course this weekend is two of the really big ones. What was it about the Haskell that you decided on this race for the horse’s next start? Was it the track, the distance, the competition or a combination of all of those?
Ian Wilkes: None of the above.
Tom Jicha: Oh, okay.
Ian Wilkes: Simple. Grade I. I haven’t won a Grade I yet and I think it’s very important to try and win a Grade I with this horse. As a stallion prospect down the road and, you know, in his future to win a Grade I, I think is very important. And when you have the opportunity it’s simple. The Jim Dandy’s a very prestigious race too. But it’s a Grade II. I just was more interested in the Grade I right now.
Tom Jicha: And do you have a goal down the road, I mean is there any chance he’d come back in the Travers?
Ian Wilkes: Yes, big chance, yes. We run good in the Haskell we’ll definitely be looking at the Travers.
Ron Flatter: Hi Ian. Could you discuss a little bit here just how bad the injury was that McCraken had that, you know, after he got, you know, got caught in all that traffic at the start of the Derby?
Ian Wilkes: Yes it – was fortunate – it’s like a puncture wound. It was a deep cut. But the problem was I couldn’t stitch because it had ripped the hide off it as well. So we had to be very careful about not getting it infected. Because it bled quite a bit and it bled for a while. But it was probably as big as a quarter.
But the thing was it was a puncture wound. It just wasn’t taking the hide off and being superficial. It was deep. And so we had to – that was the whole thing – we had to be very careful about it wouldn’t get infected to, you know, any dirt getting in or anything like that because it was so – just on the outside of the ankle. And we didn’t want the ankle to get infected.
Ron Flatter: When you look at this race and particularly this track, it does have a reputation for being steed favoring and McCraken’s obviously not that. Do you have any concerns about putting this horse with that track and that reputation?
Ian Wilkes: No. I’ve got to go to my strength. I’ve got to run to my strength. I cannot worry about how the track is playing or what it’s doing. Because once you take your horse out of his strength I think then you compromise yourself. So our strength – he likes to relax, sit, you know, with (anywhere some time) to six, seven lengths out of it, somewhere where he’s comfortable, where he wants to be.
And we just have to ride him and just ride him in confidence and trust him.
Ron Flatter: Okay. And if I can take a little side journey here – a few weeks down the line are you still looking at running a couple horses in the Secretariat on Arlington Million Day?
Ian Wilkes: Yes I’ve got one for the Secretariat, Sonic Boom. I’m going to run him back.
Ron Flatter: Okay.
Ian Wilkes: I’m going to run him in the Secretariat.
Ron Flatter: Is Giant Payday going elsewhere?
Ian Wilkes: Yes. He’s made too many mistakes. He’ll just go back into Allowance. I think he’s got some talent but I’ve got to get back to him running. He wants to relax. He got too close to the pace in some of these races and he showed he didn’t have the (class) to lay there. So I’ve got to get this horse back into his nice routine and I’ll just stick to Allowance with him.
Ron Flatter: And do you have any others that are going to go on the Arlington Million Day?
Ian Wilkes: No, only got the one to run that weekend.
Art Wilson: Yes, hi Ian. So far I thought this year this has been a really wide-open year for three-year-olds both in Derby and the road to the Derby during the Triple Crown races. You know, nobody’s really taken the bull by the horns and taken the lead in the division. What does that make you think about this year’s crop so far?
Ian Wilkes: You never know until the whole body of work gets done and how they stack up against older horses. We’ll find out exactly how good, you know, there’s two ways to look at it. Is it just a weak crop or is it a good crop where we’ve just beaten each other, you know. And it’s a very even.
So there’s a couple ways to look at it and like always we can predict and say but we will never know until we race against older horses how we stack up there. And yes, by all means, we’re all looking for that (bull) out there grab him, aren’t we?
Art Wilson: Now since the Triple Crown series has there been any marked changes in McCraken physically, mentally?
Ian Wilkes: You know, the one thing about this horse, he’s never lost confidence. He’s never lost his swagger. And I was very proud of him like that, you know, coming out of the Derby. You think he got banged around a little bit, he got beat, we got beat there. So you’d think wow, you know, he may be a little show-soft, he may lose a little confidence.
One thing about him, he didn’t lose any confidence. This horse has got a lot of swagger about him.
John Pricci: Good afternoon Ian. Art sort of touched on it but I was wondering if you would expand a little bit on it however. I remember seeing him at – we’re talking about McCraken. I remember seeing him at Tampa when he made his debut, is three-year-old debut this winter. And I was impressed with his athleticism. But he wasn’t particularly (scoping) (absolutely) large. Can you tell us about he has developed both physically since that time?
Ian Wilkes: Yes. I think really he’s never been, like you look at Irish War Cry – a big horse, a big (stretch) then no, that’s not my type of horse. Mine are a good size and I think he’s filled out, he’s strengthened some since then but he’s still not that big, rangy type of horse. But he runs big. When he strides up – when he runs his stride – you wouldn’t think he was a small horse when you watch him run.
And I think that’s the most important part about it. And when you stand up next to him he’s right – I think he’s about close to 15 hands. But, you know, when you step away – you think he’s smaller than that but when you walk up to him he is taller than you think.
John Pricci: Then you wouldn’t be necessarily from this ((inaudible)) that old school that a good, big horse will beat a good, smaller horse. You don’t think that’s necessarily the case?
Ian Wilkes: No, not really. If my horse ran small, you know, didn’t run big I would say that ((inaudible)) you know as I’ve said before there, you know, his stride doesn’t look like a small horse. And I think that’s very important. Yes, you know. I’ve got to put the saddle on him. I’ve got all the confidence in him.
Jim Mulvihill: All right Ian I’ve got a couple more for you. How much the injury in the Derby affected his performance. As a horse that hasn’t popped a giant figure does he have a break out race in him this weekend?
Ian Wilkes: Yes. You know, that’s a good question. You know, we will never know, you know, you just don’t want to make excuses, you know. I don’t want to take anything away from the horses that beat me, you know. It just happened. It’s part of racing. That’s the Derby. That’s why it’s special.
Ian Wilkes: And yes, I think he’s got it in him. I think he’s young but he’s just going to get better and better the rest of the year. I think this horse is really on the upswing now.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Glad to hear it. And then we did also want to touch on Bird Song a little bit, the Marylou Whitney home bred cutting back in distance for the Vanderbilt. Can you just give us a little update on Bird Song and how he’s doing going into this weekend?
Ian Wilkes: I really didn’t plan on running in the Vanderbilt. I really was just going to wait until the fall though. And I sort of questioned him a little bit. And then I started working him at Saratoga. And his works have been tremendous. So when you’ve got a horse doing so well you can only go wrong if you leave him in the barn and just sit on him and sit on him.
So I just couldn’t pass the opportunity to run him. Six maybe a fraction short for him but he’s a very talented horse that’s doing well. So that put this, you know, he could be very dangerous.
Jim Mulvihill: And I’m getting the impression that you’ve decided that he is a sprinter or at the very least a one-turn horse not, you know, the Whitney isn’t maybe under consideration like it was after you won the Alysheba?
Ian Wilkes: Yes exactly. I felt like always a mile was maybe his best, you know, a mile or shorter. But when you’ve got a tremendous lady like Marylou Whitney that owns him and a race named the Whitney – I had to give him every opportunity to make the Whitney.
And when he won the Alysheba he won – let’s face it that was a mile and sixteenth. Then in the Stephen Foster I didn’t get the trip I wanted. And maybe things happen for a reason. Maybe that was a blessing just to backup and let’s go a different route.
Jim Mulvihill: Understood. Well Ian thanks so much for all this info. And we wish you a lot of luck this weekend at Monmouth and Saratoga.
Ian Wilkes: Thanks. I appreciate it.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Thanks so much to Ian Wilkes, trainer of McCraken and Bird Song. And thanks to all the media on the line for a lot of good questions there.
That brings up to our final guest on this NTRA National Media Teleconference. Joe Sharp settled Girvin to wins in the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds earlier this year. After finishing 13th in the Derby, he came back game as can be in the Ohio Derby. But Irap got him by a nose right on the wire. If you haven’t seen the replay check that race out because he dug in and ran about as hard as a horse can run and just got nabbed.
So let’s get Joe’s impressions of that race. Joe it’s Jim Mulvihill here; thanks for coming on.
Joe Sharp: Yes Jim, thank you.
Jim Mulvihill: So happy to have you back. I was just talking about how Girvin fought every step of the way in the Ohio Derby. Can you just give us your impressions of that race? And also tell us how he came out of it considering how hard he ran.
Joe Sharp: Well obviously it was a tough beat. You know, Mike’s hand was forced a little early at the three- eighths pole. And, you know, he dug in the whole way down the lane, just lost the nod. You know, we thought we would – had a lot of people there that I think we thought we were going to but at first glance, we did get beat by a horse that came back and validated himself in Indiana Derby.
Ironically enough Irap was also (inaudible) and actually he had sold as a two-year-old in training. So he got beat by one of his own. But anyway, Girvin, he’s been off since the Derby. For us it was great. You know we were proud to see him back, getting a chance to perform at his best. And, he came out of that race just unbelievable – a lot tighter, a lot thinner.
And he’s come up to Saratoga and he’s just training like a horse that I’ve never seen at the Derby before. I mean he’s really just blossomed into even a better, stronger horse.
Jim Mulvihill: Wow, that wild dude. That’s really interesting to hear. So if you don’t mind maybe telling me a little bit more about that – just what kind of things do you see in the morning that tell you that, you know, this is a different horse from say Fair Grounds at the end of the meet. Or even it sounds like maybe even leading up to the Ohio Derby.
Joe Sharp: Yes. He’s basically he’s gotten stronger, he’s gotten bigger and he’s just more confident I think. We’ve been able to keep both shoes on both front feet. Our blacksmith, (Zack Richards), (Richards) done a good job with him. I think he’s just confident in himself both physically and mentally.
Obviously he doesn’t know he got beat in the Derby. He’s coming off the track on a time like and cooling out, popping up, cooling out and just feeling great and liking the fresh air up here in.
Jim Mulvihill: Well and that said, I mean you’re there. And it’s debatable which race came up tougher between the Haskell and the Jim Dandy so why’d you decide to go to the Haskell?
Joe Sharp: Well we went to the Haskell mainly because Saratoga’s surface is a surface that some horses, either they like it or they don’t. You know he’s been training out with the Oklahoma track and training very well over the Oklahoma track. And basically we wanted this, we know he’s ready to fire up a big race.
And we thought that the Haskell, obviously switching from a Grade I win is the ultimate goal. And based on the surface being more similar to what he’s use to at Monmouth and just, you know, like you said it was six of one half dozen of the other competition-wise. So we opted for what seems to be a little more familiar to him which would be a track like Monmouth’s.
And then, you know, if all goes well hope to come back in the Travers.
Lynne Snierson: Hey Joe. Thanks for doing this with us. Can you talk a little bit please about the field you’re going to meet at – in the Haskell? And kind of maybe address it and where your horse – where you see your horse fitting in with all of it.
Joe Sharp: You know, like I said it’s obviously, you know, a couple of them such as McCraken obviously the horse that concerns us other than a horse that we’ve faced before and then the Derby obviously wasn’t really a fair match-up – neither one of us.
Irish War Cry I believe is headed that way. And, he ran in a too tough a race to get beaten in and, Chad Brown’s entry, Timeline and Practical Joke also concerns us.
I haven’t seen in the three-year-old picture in general any one, you know, American Pharoah there’s no monster horse out there. I think there is a lot of us that are all really about the same, you know. A lot of quality horses that are right about – behind the eighth spot in the in their progress and their progression forward.
So we’re not ducking anybody and I don’t think anybody is ducking anybody for that matter at this point. So.
Ron Flatter: Joe, looking at Girvin’s form his first race back from a break each time he finished a very close second and then the very next race after that he won; looking back at the Risen Star. Do you look at this – is he the sort of horse that may after a break need a race in him to get back to the top of his game. And then have him really flourish in that second race back?
Joe Sharp: You know, obviously we’re still learning about the horse. But I think that that’s accurate in some respect, especially over a track like Thistledown which is a really good track, good surface but it’s a very deep, tiring surface. And I think that from what I’ve seen in Girvin I think in both scenarios I’ve seen a better horse going into the second race off a layoff than the first as far as fitness and confidence goes.
So I think there is some validity to that.
Ron Flatter: And just to double check, will Mike ride him or who’s going to ride him this weekend?
Joe Sharp: No actually, Robby Albarado is riding him.
Ron Flatter: Okay. And will you – do you want him because of the reputation of the track to be speed favoring – do you need him to go farther forward than you might normally want him?
Joe Sharp: You know I think that’s kind of an old reputation for Monmouth. I mean we won the Long Branch with Phat Man, someone’s who’s pretty well off the pace of a little less than about three weeks ago. You know, the track’s become a lot more fair. And I think with good horses I think it starts to level the playing field there as to, you know, with surface and variables and such things.
And obviously Girvin’s has a pretty versatile running style and I think, the Derby is the reason he was as far back as he was not loving the slop and two – in a large field. I think other than that he hasn’t, you know, I don’t think he will be too far out of it.
Ron Flatter: And going back to the Derby do you – if you had that weeks to do over again in terms of the media glare that you’ve gotten over the whole thing with the shoes and everything and taking them away from the training track – would you do anything differently?
Joe Sharp: No. I think maybe it was told about all they needed to know and all that we knew at the time. Nothing was left out that was anybody’s concern, so.
Art Wilson: Hi Joe. And you touched on the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any Pharoah’s or California Chrome’s in this year’s crop; which it seems so far. You kind of take the general view that it’s too early to crop or to judge how good this crop is this year?
Joe Sharp: From a personal standpoint I’d say a couple of three-year-olds that I consider my best three-year-olds being good. And ((inaudible)) both kind of continue to get better the further along they’ve gotten. So they’re getting better with age and as the year progresses. So I feel like ((inaudible)) trainers sitting in the same spot with their crop as well; which, you know, for racing it’s good for them to be developing (along) (so that’s helping).
I’m grateful for that and happy that our horse is getting ((inaudible)) better later in his three-year-old year.
Art Wilson: Right. And if Girvin runs well in the Haskell and comes out of it okay is the Travers in play?
Joe Sharp: Yes the Travers is the plan if he runs well (Haskell).
Danny Brewer: Good. Hey you’re a very young trainer and he’s a younger horse. Who’s taught who more? Have you taught him more or he has taught you more? What do you think about that?
Joe Sharp: Yes, well, I mean, you know, he’s talented and doesn’t need a lot of direction. He’s going to make his own path and as far as, you know, showing up at different tracks, different distances, different surfaces and different pilots he’s kind of managed it all. So, yes, I’m just kind of staying out of his way on this at this point.
And what they can withstand. He’s just been a horse that’s just continued to do everything we’ve asked of him. And, he’s just gotten better and better. And, he has repeatedly awarded us for our patience throughout the year, we’re starting him as a late three-year-old. So, yes, I’m very – in that respect, yes.
Danny Brewer: You know, I guess, is one of his strong points you think his ability to be pretty good no matter where he runs at as far as different tracks?
Joe Sharp: Yes. For me that’s huge and that just leaves your options wide open.
Jim Dunleavy: Hey Joe he’s – Girvin’s been such a consistent horse for you with the exception of the Derby. I mean he’s never beaten more than a half -length in his two loses. Looking back at the Derby do you think that the quarter crack affected him at all that day or the race track being as wet as it was? What do you kind of put your finger on for his performance that day? And since then is the quarter crack or the foot still something you have to deal with? Or is that in the past now?
Joe Sharp: As far as the Derby goes I think obviously, he almost went down at the three-eighth pole and Mike Smith came back and ((inaudible)) told me that, you know, he’s certainly not saying we would have won it but we wouldn’t have been worse than third if that didn’t happen.
I think that the reason he was so far back in the Derby was the racetrack, you know, there is the sloppy racetrack and I can’t imagine that that would be ideal on a quarter crack. So I think that just his heart and grit alone he was, you know, he would have earned, you know, run his race. But I think that he was a little further back early on probably because of the race track.
Coming out of the Derby he came out of it very well. So that to me, you know, indicated that he was up to par for the Derby. Having said that, you know, we kind of just freshened him a little bit while keeping him in (training) but freshened him a little bit moving forward to the Ohio Derby. And the quarter crack like I said a little (loss) goes to the Derby with it.
(Zack Richards) is my blacksmith that travels with us and has done a great job but then – gotten – even in a full shoe for about a month now on both fronts. So he’s shod like a regular horse. And the quarter crack’s grown out so, you know, an inch away from the cornet band and just basically is all gone now.
So, right now today his feet are as normal as a horse’s feet could be. And, you know, he’s sitting on all fours.
Jim Dunleavy: Great, great. He ran really good in Ohio. It’s a shame he got nailed. Do you think that he might have needed that just a little bit and he’s going to step forward here?
Joe Sharp: I don’t think he got tired that day as much as Mike kind of had to move a little. He was fit, was ready. Having said that since the race, I mean I’ve seen a different horse, been around a different horse on a daily basis. Just like I said he’s been inflated, he’s been more confident and just, you know, more chiseled, more just a better horse, more consistent on a daily basis. So feeling good and not having a bad day since that race. And like I said I don’t think he knows he lost the race. I think he got his confidence up a lot again.
Tom Jicha: HI Joe. You know earlier in the call we talked to Graham Motion, we talked to Ian Wilkes. They both gave the same answer to the question when they were asked about, you know, the three-year-old crop and how it measures up. And they said you have to wait till they face older horses. It seems though that we’re not seeing that very much anymore. Now that especially the Pennsylvania Derby’s repositioned and a lot of trainers like to go from the Travers right to the Classic if they’re good enough.
Do you have any thoughts on that about facing older horses or is it just if you don’t have to why do it?
Joe Sharp: Yes. I’m the guy in general with my barn keep it clinical. You know, and not to weigh every condition and the same with whether it is any other event, graded races; state bred events, your open allowance events, as many conditions as you can use and the same with the three-year-olds.
I want to stay in three-year-old company as much as we can. And, not make it any more difficult; get their confidence up, get them stoked up physically and get them as ready to face older horses as you can while competing against their own kinds.
So that’s my stance on it. I’d like to stay with three-year-olds (conditions).
Tom Jicha: And do you have a plan at all ideally if you could get to the Breeders’ Cup what it would be?
Tim Jicha: Would it be the Pennsylvania Derby next?
Joe Sharp: No the Travers would probably be our next after Haskell if he ran well. And from there not sure. Breeders’ Cup is a long way off.
Jim Mulvihill: All right Joe I’ve just got a couple more to follow up on with you. You mentioned Robby taking over for Mike and, you know, with so much great racing this weekend it’s, you know, no biggie to lose Mike but tell us more about why you landed on Robby:?
Joe Sharp: Robby’s obviously a rider that goes everywhere we go. And, you know, he hasn’t ridden a ton for me since I’ve been in my career he hasn’t. But that’s not been for any other reason than, you know, Brian’s ridden a lot. You know, we want somebody that can kind of – that can stick with the horse moving forward.
And that’s a huge thing for us. Obviously, you know, Brian is committed to ((inaudible)) McCraken and well from there, you know, Mike’s got a lot of big horses out there. And, we just discussed it and I think it’s just to be able to maintain consistency moving forward, up a rider, you know for Girvin’s sake.
And Robby came in (breezed) the other morning I was in company on the other horse with him. And seemed to get along well with him and he rode against him in New Orleans and had some confidence in him just from watching him.
Jim Mulvihill: No, that all make perfect sense. And lastly you mentioned Phat Man – I’m not sure what level Phat Man might ultimately rise to but what would be next for him?
Joe Sharp: We’re actually pointing him towards the West Virginia Derby at this point.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Good to know. Well Joe we really appreciate all this info today. Thanks so much. This is your third time on the call this year. And it’s much appreciated by all the media. So good luck this weekend and we’ll see you at Monmouth.
Joe Sharp: Thank you. As long as you’re calling me I’m having a good year.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, well that will do if for this NTRA National Media Teleconference. Just a quick reminder the Haskell will be on National TV Sunday. That’s part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series on NBC Sports. And that broadcast starts at 5:00 pm Eastern Time. Please do us a favor and mention that in your stories in time you get a chance.