National Media Teleconference Transcript and Audio (O’Neill, Desormeaux, Casse)

May 12, 2016 – NTRA National Media Teleconference

Guests (with Preakness probables)

  • Doug O’Neill, Trainer (Nyquist)
  • Kent Desormeaux, Jockey (Exaggerator)
  • Mark Casse, Trainer (Fellowship)

Click below to listen to the Teleconference

 

 

 

 P R E S E N T A T I O N

 

Operator:

 

Good day, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the NTRA Communications Road to the Triple Crown previewing the Preakness Stakes.  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 Gluckson.  Please go ahead, sir.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Thank you very much, Michelle, and good day, everyone, and welcome to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Triple Crown Conference Call previewing the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on Saturday May 21.  We’ll be joined today by Kentucky Derby winning trainer, Doug O’Neill of Nyquist; Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, rider of the Derby runner-up Exaggerator; and trainer Mark Casse, who has Preakness starter Fellowship for this year’s race.

 

I’m sitting in today for Jim Mulvihill, who regularly has this slot every week for you over the past few years, and Jim is currently on maternity leave.  I’m happy to say his wife, Miranda, delivered a beautiful baby boy, Francis Mulvihill just a couple of days before the Kentucky Derby, so we extend our best wishes to Jim and his family.

 

Now, in addition to your Preakness coverage that many of you this call will be providing, NBC Sports Group will also be televising the Preakness on NBC, a live telecast at 5 p.m. on that Saturday the 21st, and they’ll also be providing coverage on Friday, Black-Eyed Susan Day, and, of course, on Saturday for the undercard races on NBC SN.  The Horse Racing Radio Network will also be providing live coverage of the Preakness from Pimlico, coverage on Friday and on Saturday, and, of course, the race itself.  During the week you can also catch the latest racing news and guests on Sirius XM Radio “At the Races” with Steve Byk.

 

So, I’d like now to bring in our first guest.  Our first guest, of course, is Doug O’Neill, the two-time now Kentucky Derby winning trainer.  Doug has won three Triple Crown races; two with I’ll Have Another in 2012.  He has guided Nyquist to an undefeated campaign with the two-year old championship and now the Kentucky Derby, which was previously done by the great Seattle Slew in 1977.

 

So with that, please let’s bring in Doug O’Neill.  Doug, good afternoon to you.  How are you doing today?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

I’m doing great, Jim.  Thanks for having me.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Great.  Thanks for being here with us today.  Let’s get right to it.  You’re in Baltimore.  How is Nyquist doing today?

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

He’s doing great.  Actually, I flew in on a red eye, got in this morning with Johnny.  Johnny Garcia and I both went home for a few days and spent some quality time with family and I got to check in on our horses back in LA as well.  Got to Pimlico this morning, went over to Nyquist; he looked great.  His appetite’s great, his coat and weight looks well.  Elias, his main guy, was all smiles.  We tacked him up and Johnny got on him and jogged him 2 miles and he was full of energy and loose and looked fantastic.  So, very happy with the way the morning went.

 

Jim Gluckson:
Great.  This is one of the few times in a horse’s career where he’ll be running in a major race of great magnitude on just two week’s rest.  What kind of schedule have you mapped out for Nyquist over the next eight, nine days or so?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

You know, a lot of just maintenance stuff; nothing major.  No ‘speed’ workouts.  He’ll gallop—starting tomorrow he’ll go every other day starting tomorrow and then he’ll visit the gate crew on Wednesday of Preakness Week, and, you know, just maintenance mode.  Right now we’re just trying to keep him healthy, happy, keep him in the feed tub, keep his appetite strong, and really, like you say, coming back on short rest, you know, that Kentucky Derby was equivalent to about three or four workouts, so he should be ready.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Just touching back on the Derby for a second, I know you have to move on and you’re focused on the Preakness, but just in the days that you went home to reflect, I mean it’s tough enough to win one Derby but to win two is pretty extraordinary.  What does it mean to you personally to now have done it twice?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

God, I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world.  It’s such a privilege and it’s such an honor, and it’s hard to put it into words of being able to work alongside of a horse like Nyquist who is undefeated and has done what he’s done, and to have done strategizing with Paul and Zillah Reddam and the rest of the Team Reddam, you know, back after the Breeders’ Cup and just have everything kind of fall into line is just such a credit to Elias and Johnny and Jack and Leandro and the whole crew.  You know, we kind of had a plan and stuck to it, and with Nyquist being injury free it’s just been an incredible journey.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Excellent.  Well, Doug, we have a number of media on the line that are interested in talking to you.  So without further ado, Michelle, let’s turn it back over to you and set up the call for the media that’s on the line.

 

Operator:

 

 

Our first question comes from Dana O’Neil of ESPN.com.  Please go ahead.

 

Dana O’Neil:

 

Thank you.  Doug, you’ve been down this road before obviously.  I just wondered if you could kind of compare and contrast the pressure of kind of going into the Derby—well, obviously I’ll Have Another was not a favorite—but with the favorite?  Then now going forward into the Preakness with the Derby winner and with all the expectations on the horse now, how do you kind of compare those two situations?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Yes, it’s definitely a lot different, Dana, and it’s one that I take great pride in, and you know, I really—on a daily basis, the whole team just tries to represent Nyquist in a first class way because he deserves that, and it’s a real honor.  It’s hard to explain.  As much as it seems like it should be more nerve-wracking, it’s actually more calming and enjoyable being around a special horse like Nyquist because he just does things so professionally, and he handles all the pressure and all the cameras and the fans that want to just see him, he handles that so well that it rubs off on all of us, and that relationship that everyone in the barn that all of us are so blessed to have with Nyquist makes us all more calm and it makes it enjoyable to enjoy the journey.

 

Dana O’Neil:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Louisa Barton of Florida Sports Talk NBC Affiliate.  Please go ahead.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Yes, first of all I wanted to say congratulations to Doug O’Neill on a wonderful win this weekend.  I wanted to actually mention something that you had said that I thought was very interesting, which is comparing Nyquist to a human.  You compared him to a very well dressed, to bed early, in the gym every day, sleeping and resting when he needed to, and having great energy on the track of course.  When you compare him to I’ll Have Another, more of a bulldog personality; a little bit of a tougher horse although still a fantastic horse, when you compare those two, do you feel that Nyquist’s demeanor, gentlemanly type of demeanor being more laid back is going to play much more into his success as far as going forward with the Triple Crown challenge there for you this time, and do you feel that’s a big advantage for him?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

I think it is.  It’s a great question.  I think it is.  I think him, you know, having five Grade 1 wins on five different tracks, him shipping to Florida and to Kentucky, and, of course, being based out of California, he’s displayed just unbelievable calmness with getting on planes, getting off planes, getting on a van, getting off a van, and, you know, that really can take its toll on the average horse.  So, yes, I think his demeanor and his love of competition and his being perfectly okay with traveling and not having to stay in one stall or on one track is a huge advantage, and I, you know, him being (inaudible) it really—he shows in the afternoon that it doesn’t matter what state, what track, you know, if he gets a semi-clean trip and he gets any chance whatsoever to get to the wire first he’s going to give everything he has to get it done.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Fantastic.  Thank you and all the best to you, Doug.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Ron Flatter of RSN Australia.  Please go ahead.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Hi, Doug.  We missed you Sunday morning.  Have you—what happened that got you to go back to California so quickly?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Ron, it’s called a wife and kids, which—no we had, my wife Linette and my two children, we had already scheduled a flight to leave Louisville early Sunday morning.  We looked in to trying to change it and it just it was impossible with the alternative plan.  So, we just stuck to it.  I got there bright—I got there super early and I had a hard time sleeping.  I just couldn’t wait to check in on him and see how Nyquist was doing, and you know I just could’ve have been more proud and more excited to see the bright-eyed champion look as good as he did after winning this year’s Kentucky Derby, so that was really what happened.  But we had a—the rest of the crew was able to—some of them were able to move their flights later in the day, and I apologized that I wasn’t there to firsthand praise Nyquist, but hopefully the crew did a good job of representing him.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Awesome speed; Uncle Lino and maybe Loaban coming into the race.  It certainly looks like a lot more speed in the Preakness than we had in the Derby.  Certainly the number—or the ratio of closers won’t be as strong.  How does that impact the race as you see it?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Well, yes, I guess it makes it more challenging as far as staying out of trouble early.  But Nyquist has displayed, as he did in the Derby where Danzig Candy was committed to make the lead, and I know for a split second there Mario thought he was going to get the lead by himself, and Mike Smith wasn’t going to have any of that, and Mario was able to take Nyquist off the pace and settle.  So and then you saw in the Breeders’ Cup where he actually got bumped pretty hard at the start and was forced to take back.  So I think the extra speed, though it’s not in our favor, it shouldn’t affect us as long as we get a nice clean break.  Mario and Nyquist, the relationship they have, Mario can pilot him and position him where he wants him, and Nyquist respects Mario enough to wait until Mario asks him, you know, when to go.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Among the new shooters as you’ve seen them, do you see any—I mean Stradivari seems to be getting the Vegas action, but do you see anything out there that you would say, “Okay, we’ve got to—that could be a threat but otherwise we’re okay?”

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Well, I think you nailed it, I think Stradivari just, God, he’s won his last two races by 26 lengths whatever and comes from the Pletcher camp and he’s super well bred, so he’s obviously a horse you have to fear.  But I just think as good as Stradivari ran at Keeneland, it’s hard to compare a first initial allowance at Keeneland to the battle-tested, you know, the horses that have won a Grade 1 five times.  So, I think the experience edge goes to us and hopefully that helps us out.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Thank you, Doug.  See you next week.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

You got it, Ron.  Thanks, bud.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Art Wilson, Southern California News Group.  Please go ahead.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Hey, Doug.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Hello, Art.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Hey, you’ve had some good ones; of course Lava Man, I’ll Have Another, Goldencents.  Have you ever had more—felt more confidence leading a horse up to the gate than you do with Nyquist?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Never.  Never, Art.  I never—and I—it hurts me to—I feel like I’m doing something wrong but I never thought I’d ever say it and I ever would’ve been blessed to be around a horse as good as Lava Man, but this—Nyquist is just he’s so unique and he just gives off a vibe like no other, and then he follows up that confident vibe with just amazing performances in the afternoons consistently.  So he’s the best horse I’ve ever been blessed to be around, and, yes, I just—what he is—what Nyquist has given the whole family at the barn and Team Reddam and Team O’Neill, all of us, is just a gift that’s hard to explain.  He’s just a special gift.

 

Art Wilson:

 

As you were standing there Saturday as the horses were loading into the gate, can you tell us was there a difference in your feelings as opposed to when you were waiting for I’ll Have Another to load and your other Derby starters with having the favorite this time?  Was your thought process any different as they were loading?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Yes, that’s a good question, Art.  No, they definitely were.  It was one of just clean break.  I just felt so much optimism—I was so optimistic that we were going to see a good result and just wanted a clean break, clean trip, and just give us the best chance we can, give everyone else in the race the best chance we can, and that’s much different than the previous times we’ve been blessed to run horses in the Derby; a) you’re just pumped to be in the Derby and b) you’re hoping your horse fires his best race and hopefully it’s good enough to get a piece of it.  You know, this time with Nyquist, we really were all quietly very confident that we had the best horse in the race.  But, again, 20 horse field, the best horse doesn’t always win.  So, I think seeing him break good and watching him come down the stretch the first time going into the first turn seeing where he was positioned, God, I felt really, really good.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Okay, great.  Good luck in nine days, Doug.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

All right, thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Tim Wilkin, the Albany Times-Union.  Please go ahead.

 

Tim Wilkin:

 

Hey, Doug.  People say that every horse gets beat.  But saying that, if Nyquist runs his race and it’s a fairly run race at Pimlico, do you see him getting beat?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

I never—it’s funny because I never like to—it’s so funny, with Paul Reddam I’ve learned, you know, we don’t have many superstitions, but the one thing Paul has taught me is never say, you know, ‘See you in the winner’s circle” or We can’t get beat.”  That always seems like the kiss of death.  So, I (inaudible) the words—kind of our word that we like to use when we’re talking amongst each other is when they’re doing really good we’re really optimistic, and I’m going to stick to that.  We’re just very optimistic that a good clean trip, if he continues to train the way he is and stays injury free, just very optimistic he’s going to be tough to beat on Preakness day.

 

Tim Wilkin:

 

Strategy change at all in this race?  They talk about tighter turns at Pimlico.  They talk, you know, it’s a little bit shorter than the Derby.  Is there anything you’d change?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

I don’t think so.  You know, we met up, Mario and Mario’s agent, and Paul Reddam, and Dennis my brother and I met up yesterday briefly in the afternoon before I came out to Baltimore, and that kind of came up.  I think the biggest thing really is for Nyquist to break clean, kind of get into his stride and if two, three new Danzig Candy kind of speed horses go, we have the luxury of settling in third or fourth, wherever.  If they don’t go, you know, we can take it to them.  So, kind of like in every sport speed kills, and I think we’ve got the gate speed to put ourselves in a position where we can get the result we want.  So I wouldn’t say that strategizing changes—is going to change much.  It’s still to break, run, and get a position.

 

Tim Wilkin:

 

Great.  Thanks, Doug.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Thank you, bud.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Bob Ehalt of Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.  Please go ahead.

 

Bob Ehalt:

 

Thank you.  Thank you, Doug.  Congratulations on the second Derby.  I just want to—in this era when a lot of horses with say a running style like Exaggerator kind of skips the Preakness and place in the Belmont, are you surprised that he is coming back to run with you in the Preakness, and when you look at the field with the new people coming in, in fact, will you really still consider him as the horse you’ve got to beat in this race?

 

Doug O’Neill:
Well, Exaggerator’s such a good horse and he’s so consistent and he hasn’t missed many dances (phon), so he’s been, you know, every time he runs he brings it.  Maybe their thinking is there’s more speed in this race, which could help his style.  But I mean the fact that they’re talking about coming back in the Preakness tells you how good he came out of the race as well, and I would definitely fear him and the rest of these new shooters like the Pletcher horse.  You know, there’s just no telling how good that son of Medaglia d’Oro could be with what he’s done his last couple starts.  So, but if Exaggerator does run, he’d be a serious horse to fear again for sure.

 

Bob Ehalt:

 

Well, let me—as a fellow trainer, how do you kind of look at the emotions something like Keith Desormeaux goes through running second to one horse so many times, and then the kind of pressure maybe does that put on a trainer to maybe change things and try to maybe even just shake things up?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Well, I know Keith really well and he’s a super competitive guy whether he’s on the basketball court.  If you’ve ever played basketball with Keith, he ain’t going to give you an easy layup I can tell you that.  He’ll tackle you before you get an easy layup.  So he’s a very competitive guy, he’s a great horseman, and I think—what they have done with Exaggerator has been brilliant.  He won the Santa Anita Derby.  He won the Delta Downs Jackpot.  He won the Saratoga Special.  So I mean he is—he has run second a few times but he’s also won some big races, and he ran a winning race in the Kentucky Derby he just had a lot to do; you know, we kind of got a head start on him.  But I surely—knowing Keith, I wouldn’t think he would change anything up because the horse is running (inaudible)) and goes with him most of the races.  So, he just need things to kind of fall his way a little bit, and, you know, the Santa Anita Derby he was only two back and he won like Secretariat in there, so I don’t think he’ll change anything.

 

Bob Ehalt:

 

Okay thanks, Doug.  Good luck.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

You too.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Pat Forde, Yahoo Sports.  Please go ahead.

 

Pat Forde:

 

Hey, Doug.  I was just wondering looking back when you went to Keeneland with Nyquist what you think you got out of that to get him ready for the Derby and why you opted for Keeneland to begin with?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

That’s a good question, Todd (phon).  I think what we got out of Keeneland was it’s a real tranquil setting.  You know, Keeneland, if you’ve never been there, the barn area is just surrounded by amazing farms; thoroughbred farms, so just the whole ambiance is a real calm setting.  Then you’ve got the training track, which is synthetic, so whenever it rained and we went to the training track we never missed a beat.  The main track, when we did go up there, which was a lot, had a really good cushion on it.  The horses get a lot of air training over Keeneland, and I really think our final workout at Keeneland I was just wowed by the way Nyquist finished up on a track that, again, tends to have a really good safe tiring cushion on it, and he took to that and he cooled out so quickly it gave me so much confidence that heading to Churchill with him at that point we were in good shape.

 

Pat Forde:

 

Okay.  When was the last time you played basketball with Keith Desormeaux and where?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Oh, God, you know, it’s probably been 15 years ago so it’s been a long time ago but down at Del Mar.  We used to all get together at a little YMCA down at Del Mar on Tuesdays and play his brother.  Both Keith and his—and Kent are really good basketball players.  So, yes, I would kind of do the Bill Laimbeer and just camp down low and try to use my height as an advantage.  But both Keith and Kent are about as competitive of guys on the basketball court as you’re going to see.

 

Pat Forde:

 

How would you praise your competitiveness?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

I’m pretty competitive; I’m just not that talented.  But I’m competitive, but, you know, when you get guys who are dribbling around you like they’re Kobe Bryant, you know, you’re going to fall off quick if you get too aggressive.

 

Pat Forde:

 

All right, thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Rob Longley of Toronto Sun.  please go ahead.

 

Rob Longley:

 

Hey, Doug.  You’ve talked a little bit about how much Paul Reddam’s been involved in the planning of this—of the three-year-old campaign with your colt.  How would you describe his role and does the perspective that he brings does it maybe have you thinking a little bit differently about how you might approach it?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Yes, Paul is—he’s an amazing man, and he’s got a PhD in Philosophy, so—and he uses that a lot.  I mean if you say black he’ll say, “Well, why can’t it be white”, and so he’s always making you think of the other side of whatever you’re pulled to, which is great.  He is the most loyal guy I’ve ever met in my life.  Both Mario and I have had our slumps and bad decisions and he’s stuck with us every time.  So he’s a huge part of it, and as we have these meetings, you know, he treats horse racing as a business, which it is.  He loves the horses but it’s a business.  He’s a huge part of strategizing, and really it’s to his credit with the two race preps, he was really, you know, thought it would be really beneficial to come into the Kentucky Derby with some fresh legs.  Nyquist had already had five races—hard races under his belt as a two-year-old, and thought two preps was the right move.  He loved the five week, so did I really, the five weeks from the Florida Derby to the Kentucky Derby in case we had any hiccups we had a few days to play with, which turned out to be a godsend when he had a little bit of a shipping deal when he first got into Keeneland.  So, I would say Paul’s the major part of Team Nyquist, and because of him it enables Mario to ride better, it makes me able to train better, and it’s just a real solid team.

 

Rob Longley:

 

Great.  Thanks, Doug.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Thank you, bud.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Jennie Rees, Horse Racing Radio Network.  Please go ahead.

 

Jennie Rees:

 

Yes, Doug, this is sort of a two-part question following up Rob’s question.  What kind of strategizing might there be as far as the Preakness then?  Is it like when you ship and things like that?  The other thing is, and maybe they’re related, when you watched American Pharoah last year, I mean you’ve always been very media-friendly, but that horse did things—that horse was media-friendly.  Did you all see things that you thought, you know, if we were in that situation maybe we could do this to try to help share the horse with the public?  I realize there constraints, but just curious.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

No, that’s a great question, Jennie.  I think we’re all in the same fraternity.  You know, whether it’s—whatever the trainer is, we’re all in it together.  I mean we’re all here to serve the animal and we’re all here to share the animal with friends and fans, and I thought the American Pharoah camp did a wonderful job.  Now, having a horse like American Pharoah who thrived on it helped, and I think Nyquist, you know, they’re big shoes to fill, but I think Nyquist has the ability to fill them if we were to get so fortunate and do what American Pharoah did last year.  But, yes, I think it’s really important.  It’s—we’re all in it together.  It’s not just once they go in the gate.  All the connections want to beat each other up and want to win, that’s normal, but once the race is over we’re all in it together, and before the race starts we’re all in it together, so I applaud Team American Pharoah and what they did.

 

As far as the—go ahead.

 

Jennie Rees:

 

No, no, go on.  You might’ve been getting ready to answer my question.

 

Doug O’Neill:
Well, I was just—okay, now I was going to say the shipping into Baltimore the thinking was similar to shipping into Kentucky was just in case if he did get any kind of, you know, sometimes when you fly a horse, every now and then they’ll get a little sick on you.  So, we wanted to get here as soon as we could, and if we had any hiccups we had a couple days to play with.  Fortunately, he shipped on (inaudible) and everything went perfect and he hasn’t missed the grain and he’s settled in and looks fantastic.

 

Jennie Rees:

 

I was just following up on again with American Pharoah how like the human—I mean the equine petting zoo with the media all around him and fans coming up.  Could you explain to like the lay person why that was maybe really unusual and not necessarily expected, and is there anything with, you know, you’ve got the most famous horse running right now that if it’s feasible with the horse that people could maybe do that?  I mean I guess American Pharoah maybe opened up some possibilities for how you can share horses, or is it just he was that unique; don’t expect that from another horse?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

No, I 100% agree with you.  It’s—horses are so amazing and they’re all individuals and they’re all (inaudible) in their own way, and it’s just so—nowadays with technology and texting and e-mail and then, oh God, do they mean that when they text me that, and, you know, the old school just the relationship of human and horse is just priceless.  I think having people be able to get to see and share and feel what we get to feel on a daily basis with Nyquist, I think it’s truly unbelievable, and I would love to do it and we’ll do it as much as we can.  You know, as we move forward, you know, I think like today we had some people that wanted to take pictures with him and we had already put him back in the stall and I didn’t want to bring him back out, and you know, with this kind of short turnaround I don’t want to stimulate him too much.  But believe me, Jennie, you know me well enough, any which way I can share all the horses with people I think it’s the best ever because it is the most rawest best relationship ever is human and horse.

 

Jennie Rees:

 

Yes, I get you.  Just bottom line, American Pharoah just had a temperament very few race horses have that allowed them maybe coming in and out of that stall, and, you know, everybody just swarm around him and…

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Yes, I love it, and I think Nyquist will get there.  He’s got a lot of that in him that we haven’t really thrown him into the deep end of that kind of love, but he’ll—if we move forward and he stays injury free, he’ll—I’m hopeful he can fill those shoes and carry the torch forward, you know, with just getting people to realize and appreciate these amazing animals.

 

Jennie Rees:

 

Okay, great.  Thanks so much, Doug.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Thank you, Jennie.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for one more question.  That question comes from Donna Brothers of NBC Sports.  Please go ahead.

 

Donna Brothers:

 

Hi, Doug.  Thanks for taking the call.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Of course.

 

Donna Brothers:

 

So you’ve trained Nyquist a lot differently than I’ll Have Another in the lead-up to the Derby and now presumably in the lead-up to the Preakness.  Is that because Nyquist is just a different horse than I’ll Have Another or is there something you learned from the Triple Crown trail with I’ll Have Another that has led you to train Nyquist a little differently?

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

That’s a great question, Donna.  You know, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because I’ve been asked a few times that, and, you know, I think a) I’ve matured as a trainer and I’ve always felt like a good horse could be trained multiple ways and they’re still a good horse, but deep down a few years ago, a good horse I only train them one way.  I always let them gallop strong and work slow, gallop strong and work slow.  I think with I’ll Have Another he kind of struggled through his two-year-old season so I was kind of forced to really get good gallops and let him put his feet where he wanted them on a daily basis, and I think it worked but it may have also cut his career a little bit short.  With Nyquist having such a strong two-year-old campaign, just unintentionally this was the way we got him there be he just—he’d win and, you know, he’d be a little tired like a normal baby would be and you kind of had to nurse him through that.  So, I really learned a lot and I learned that once they hit that fitness plateau, it’s really a matter of maintaining, letting them rest, letting them recover, give them a good piece of exercise.  So it’s been a—I have never felt more comfortable in my role as a trainer than I am right now.  That could all change in a couple weeks (inaudible) do something different, but I do feel like I’ve got a very good grasp of the horses more as individuals than kind of my one.  You know, and I had some success with the good open gallops for a workout routine, but I’m feeling really good right now with what we’re doing with Nyquist, and his empty feed tub in the morning tells me he’s feeling good about it too, and him being undefeated tells me he’s a happy horse.

 

Donna Brothers:

 

Yes, at eight for eight I would say you’re doing a great job.  Thank you, Doug.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Thank you, Donna.  Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  I’ll turn the call back to Mr. Gluckson.  Please go ahead.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Thank you, Michelle.  Doug, thanks so much for taking the time today to speak with the media.  I loved your analogy with Bill Laimbeer on the basketball court.  That sounds like a winner right there.  Again, best of luck to you with Nyquist and your horses coming up in the next several days.

 

Doug O’Neill:

 

Sounds good.  Thanks a lot, Jim.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Thank you, Doug.  All right, we’re going to shift gears right away here to our next guest, who is Kent Desormeaux, the rider of the Derby runner-up, Exaggerator, for his brother Keith Desormeaux and the team from Forth Worth representing Big Chief Racing.  Kent is a three-time Eclipse Award winner.  First as an apprentice in 1987 and then as a journeyman in 1989 and 1992.  He’s won five Triple Crown races, including two Preaknesses on Real Quiet and Big Brown.  Kent was inducted into the Hall of Fame of racing in 2004.  Rider of Exaggerator here and the runner-up in the Derby and a terrific chance to beat Nyquist here in the Preakness.  Kent welcome.  This is Jim Gluckson here in New York.  How are you today?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Very good.  Good afternoon, everyone.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Kent, we wanted to just follow-up here and talk to you just a second before we get to the media about your run in the Derby from the point where you were able to navigate through traffic to get to second place in the race.  But talk about the trip, if you would, and the trouble that you did incur.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Well, he broke exceptionally well and I quickly grabbed him and asked him to slow down.  He responded very well to my cues.  He went around the racetrack in excellent order and maybe around the half mile pole I was splitting horses, and by the time we got to the three and a half the door closed sharply.  I had to slow him down, redirect him to the rail, and asked him for his life which he gave.  He took off as fast as he could all the way to the wire.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Do you think that stoppage cost you the race?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

It denied me the opportunity to challenge Nyquist.  I could never catch up to him.  So , I know I would’ve caught up to him around the eight pole, but I was—daresay I’m not sure Nyquist would’ve let me by.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Okay.  Well, obviously—go ahead.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

I’m done, go ahead.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Okay.  We just—now that we’re moving on to the Preakness, I think there’s been discussions over the year about the differences between the run in the Derby and the Preakness.  Do you find that there is a difference in the way that you run this particular race, and based on more speed perhaps in the Preakness does that change things for you coming up?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Yes, absolutely.  It’s a much shorter field, and the reality is I think it’s usually a more—even more of a speed bias racetrack due to the sharp turns and shorter stretch maybe even.  But you seldom see horses making up tons of ground at Old Hilltop there in Maryland for—in the Preakness at Pimlico.  So, I will probably, for several reasons, adjust my situation in an attempt to win with Exaggerator.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

All right.  Just before we turn to the media I just had a funny exchange with Doug O’Neill previously about the prowess of you and Keith on the basketball court.  Do you recall playing against Doug on the basketball court down at Del Mar?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Yes, of course.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Is he a tough player onto the boards?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Well, he’s a lot longer than me that’s for sure.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

All right.  Well, let’s—all right, Kent, thank you.  We have some media on the line for you to speak to, so just hang in here right now, and Michelle, let’s get to the questions from the media assembled on the line.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question, please press star, one at this time.

 

Our first quarter comes from Louisa Barton of Florida Sports Talk NBC Affiliate.  Please go ahead.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Yes, hi.  I have a question for you.  Exaggerator appears to be improving in every race.  Certainly in the last two races he’s never looked any better with his romping win in the Santa Anita Derby.  Do you feel that he is indeed the top competition in the Preakness to Nyquist?  Do you feel that he could be the thorn in his side to prevent the Triple Crown?  And do you feel as his rider that he’s just getting better and better as it appears to us?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Well, those are very good questions and very easy to just say yes and yes.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

So you’ve felt a really, really big improvement in him over the time of his races?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

He’s getting bigger, faster, longer, stronger, and maturing.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Wonderful.  Thank you very much.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Yes, ma’am.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Ron Flatter of RSN Australia.  Please go ahead.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Kent, with some of the new shooters coming in bringing a little more speed, do you welcome that?  Since there were so many closers in the Derby, would you welcome having more speed in the Preakness?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Absolutely.  I think that—I would daresay, and I’ve said before the Kentucky Derby that I think we all—each and all of us competing against Nyquist hope that he is entertained more, which would increase our chances, and hopefully that’ll be the case.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Since you last won the Preakness with Big Brown, how have you changed as a rider in those eight years?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Well, I think I’ve come to take the highs and lows a lot better.  As my astute teacher Bill Shoemaker said, “Don’t let the highs get you too high because the lows will really slap you around.  Try to stay in the middle of the road with your emotions.”  I think I’m better at that.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Any secret to that?  Any—I mean did anything bring you to that moment?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

I think one is maturity and two is definitely content; a feeling of inner content.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

And nothing—I mean no further secrets to that?  Nothing brought you to that inner contentment?

 

Kent Desormeaux:
Well, I mean I think it’s the truth–I hate to bring it up but I was born with a—I raised a handicap child, so finishing second or fifth in the Kentucky Derby is a far less concern of mine than the health of my children.  So I think my 17-year-old son has certainly added some—a quietness to me.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

He’s doing okay now?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

He’s healthy but he’ll be blind in a couple years.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Oh, dear.  Okay.  Thank you, Kent.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

You’re welcome.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Art Wilson, Southern California News Group.  Please go ahead.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Yes, Kent, you’ve obviously ridden some great horses during your career and raced against a lot of great horses.  On the West Coast here you’ve been one of the main people who have tried to let people know how good you think Nyquist is.  In your opinion, what are some of the intangibles that make Nyquist such a great horse?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Well, though it looks like he’s pulling his jockey he seems to be carrying himself easy enough to have an amazing turn of foot when the rider does still ask him for more, so I just think he’s an incredibly talented horse.  I always had my doubts until the San Vicente, or I was—I wouldn’t call it doubt, I would way I always had my hope that he wasn’t that good and always trying to find a reason to have hope, and then when I tackled him in the San Vicente coming to him twice the speed that he was going and he just jumped into the forward speed with me I was like, whoa, who is this guy?  So, he’s just very talented.

 

Art Wilson:

 

He’s gone against Nyquist—Exaggerator’s gone against Nyquist four times now.  You were on Exaggerator three of the times when he raced against Nyquist.  What’s it going to take to beat him?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Two of the times I—that I’ve competed against Nyquist I had terrible trips, so a good trip and—actually three of the times.  You say I’ve run against him three times?

 

Art Wilson:

 

Yes.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Is that correct?

 

Art Wilson:

 

Right.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Yes, all three times that I’ve competed against him were—they were hazardous trips.  One was a severe body blow at the quarter pole in the San Filipe.  I got stopped in the Kentucky Derby, and Exaggerator was very, very fresh in the Breeders’ Cup.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Okay.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

He’s—I still have a chance.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Okay, great.  Best of luck to you, Kent.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, if there are any further questions, please press star, one at this time.

 

The next question comes from Bob Ehalt of Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.  Please go ahead.

 

Bob Ehalt:

 

Hi, Kent.  How are you doing?  You just spoke at the beginning about how you might have to change things in the Preakness.  How do you feel that might translate into—what that might translate into during the race?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Just allowing Exaggerator to show more of his natural speed.  I—it would be very simple just to leave the reins alone and he’d probably be wherever I wanted him to be.  So it’s something that my brother and I discussed.  We both have the same mind when it comes to how horses should be ridden and we’ll probably apply those same things in the Preakness, which will allow him to be closer, because I asked him to steady and wait in the Kentucky Derby.

 

Bob Ehalt:

 

How do you handle is it maybe the inherent frustration when you keep running second to one horse like that you have with Nyquist?

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Well, I haven’t been once frustrated except for in my—in the opportunity that I was given on the racetrack, because I always left the race against Nyquist thinking—hoping that with a better trip I might be able to beat him, so it’s quite exciting.  The Kentucky Derby will probably be one—to live with or without frustration depending on where we end up in the Preakness.  Because if I get by him and blow his doors off in the Preakness, the Kentucky Derby is going to absolutely haunt me.

 

Bob Ehalt:

 

Very good.  All right.  All right, Kent, thank you very much and good luck in the race.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Thank you.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  There are no further questions at this time.  I’ll turn the call back to Mr. Gluckson.  Please go ahead.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Kent, thank you very much for joining us today.  I just have one more question for you in that you made a great start to your career in Maryland, and I meant to ask you what it’s like to return to Maryland to race there when you do come in?

 

Kent Desormeaux:
Well, I absolutely cut my teeth to the business in Maryland and it’s a home away from home.  I’m very, very comfortable everywhere on the racetrack, and, in fact, all of Maryland.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Excellent.  Well, Kent, thank you very much for taking the time today, and best of luck to you in the Preakness.

 

Kent Desormeaux:

 

Thank you.  Good day to everyone.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Thanks, everyone.  Thank you.  Kent Desormeaux joining us today.  Now we’ll switch gears and invite in our next guest.  He is Mark Casse, the trainer of Fellowship, homebred son of Awesome Of Course for Jacks or Better Farms.  Fellowship was recently fourth in the Pat Day Mile, and preceded that with a third place finish behind Nyquist in the Florida Derby.  Mark joins us today.  He was just mentioned—he was inducted earlier this year into the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame.

 

Mark, this is Jim Gluckson here in New York.  Welcome to the call.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Thanks for having me, Jim.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Great.  Well, let’s get into your decision to bring Fellowship in for the Preakness and coming off the fourth place finish in the Pat Day Mile, and discuss your decision to come here to come to Baltimore.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Well, you know, obviously we would’ve liked to have ran in the Derby.  That didn’t happen and we looked at the, you know, the Pat Day Mile as to just try to get a start into him.  I thought he ran well.  He’s—I think he’s a better two turn horse and we probably—trying to win the Pat Day probably moved him a little early, and I think he’ll come out of that race and move forward and should give us a good showing at Pimlico.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

All right.  What are your shipping plans for Fellowship?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Well, we have—I think we have 10 or 12 going to run at Pimlico on the weekend on Friday and Saturday, and currently the plan is for them to van up I think on Monday.  He’ll be with the rest of the gang.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

All right.  I did want to just shift gears for a second just to ask you about Tepin, who is, of course, the reigning female—Eclipse Award winning turf horse and was so dominating in the Distaff Turf Mile, and your plans regarding Royal Ascot for her?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Well, we’re still, you know, that’s the plan.  We’re looking at going over probably—we’re going to try to come out—come as late as we can, which I think we’re looking at possibly going on the 6th of June.  But we’re excited about going over.  Unfortunately, they lost their star and one of the—that’s a bit disappointing.  I would’ve liked to have gone over and tried to run against what they feel was the best.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Solo?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Yes, Solow, yes.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Right, okay.  The Queen Anne Stakes, okay.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Yes.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Okay, very good.  I—at this point, Mark, we have some media on the line that would like to speak with you and discuss Fellowship with you and your other horses, so let’s just hang on here for a second, and, Michelle, why don’t you alert the media for this next session.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question, please press star, one on your touch-tone phone at this time.

 

Our first question comes from Louisa Barton, Florida Sports Talk NBC Affiliate.  Please go ahead.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Hi, Mark.  How are you today?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Oh hey, Louisa, good.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Very pleased to have you running Fellowship in the Preakness; very excited.  A couple of questions for you.  The first one is can you talk a little bit about a fast pace in the Preakness, and if that does happen, how that will affect Fellowship?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Well, I think, you know, it’s—that would be our one hope.  You know, I think we’ll let our horse kind of sit back a little more this time and come with a run, and, you know, that’s his—really his only chance is for there to be a big speed and (inaudible) to come back and then I think, you know, he’ll come running, and that’s what we’re hoping for.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Fantastic.  Then as far as post position goes, is there a position that you’d really like to see him in that you think would favor him the best?

 

Mark Casse:

 

I don’t think so.  For him and the style—the way the race—the way he’s going to run it, it’s not really that important.  As long as it’s not 21.  For the Derby, it was hard to believe that three weeks out we were number 21 and we—I’d had never seen a field go for three weeks and not at least have one withdraw.  So I think the magic number is maybe 14 at Pimlico, but just as long as we’re somewhere in there that would be good with us.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Wonderful.  Yes, I know it’s the first time I’ve ever seen that either so I was surprised.  I kept thinking, oh, Fellowship’s going to run for sure.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Right.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Last question—well mention really, is, you know, if you need anybody to do to Ascot that knows how to speak the language just let me know.

 

Mark Casse:

 

You know what, I may call you that one.

 

Louisa Barton:

 

Best of luck.  You know that we’re always rooting for you here, Mark, so wish you all the best.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Thank you so much.  Appreciate it.  Appreciate it.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  The next question comes from Ron Flatter of RSM Australia.  Please go ahead.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Mark, on Fellowship, could you talk about the—or tell us what the circumstances were that led you to getting the horse from Stanley Gold?

 

Mark Casse:

 

You know, I can and I can’t.  I only can tell you what I know and that was I got a call from Mr. Brei I guess three or four weeks out from Derby, and he felt like that he thought it would be good for Fellowship to be in Kentucky, and I think that may have been—he wanted to get him there early and I think that would’ve been maybe a little bit of an issue for Stanley.  I really don’t—I’ve never even—I don’t know that I’ve ever really met Stanley to be honest with you, but—and so he asked if we’d be interested in doing that and taking him, and, of course, we said yes, sure.  We have a stable at Churchill so that wasn’t going to be a problem, and really that’s how it started and that’s how we got him.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Did you have any priorities right away that you wanted to bring to Fellowship just because you were taking him over?

 

Mark Casse:

Oh no.  No, you know, he—Fellowship came to us in great order.  The only thing that we were wanting to do was to get him—you know, Churchill Downs can be a little different.  We wanted to see whether he handled Churchill Downs.  I thought, you know, I think he does and he did, and it was really just a last minute decision to run in the Pat Day, and if I had to do over again maybe we’d have passed, but he came out of it in good order so we’re going onward.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

So does that mean—I mean are you a little concerned just about the short break then?

 

Mark Casse:

 

No, not at all.  Not at all.  I’m more concerned about the competition.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Got it.  Jose’s still going to ride him?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Yes.  Yes, he is.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Okay.  Finally, on Tepin, the Queen Anne, if I’m not mistaken, a straight shot no turn one mile.  Any thoughts about just that dynamic as opposed to racing on a turn?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Well, I think it’s one of the things that has drawn us to there.  I would have some concerns if we were running the opposite direction around turns.  I don’t know that I’d want to do that.  But with the Queen Anne being straight—one straight shot I think, you know, that she won’t have any problem with that.

 

Ron Flatter:

 

Thank you, Mark.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Okay, you have a good day.

Art Wilson:

 

Yes, Mark, we’ve seen Nyquist go gate to wire in the Florida Derby.  He sat third in the Kentucky Derby.  Then, of course, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile he had a lot of trouble and came from pretty far back.  As a trainer, how comforting and how confident does that make a trainer training a horse that versatile?

 

Mark Casse:

 

Very confident.  I mean as confident as a trainer can get.  I always—I often say, you know, people say, well, Tepin has had some wonderful trips.  A lot of times it’s the horse that causes the wonderful trip.  The ability to make adjustments is very important and you’ve seen that with Nyquist.  I’ve been a believer in him for a long time.  I thought his race in the Breeders’ Cup was very good, and I think Doug’s done just a great job with him.  But it definitely helps when you have a horse that can adjust to the scenario given to him.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Do you think that his versatility is that the one intangible that makes him so good?

 

Mark Casse:

 

It definitely helps.  It’s what—I think it’s what makes good horses great, and as for a rider, being able to position him wherever you want to be is definitely very important.  We saw that, you know, with American Pharoah as well.  American Pharoah for the most part would just go and run everybody off their feet, but he did have the ability to rate if necessarily.

 

Art Wilson:

 

Right, okay.  Thanks, Mark.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Okay.

 

Operator:

 

Thank you.  There are no further questions at this time.  I’ll turn the conference back to Mr. Gluckson.  Please go ahead.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Thank you, Michelle.  Mark, thanks very much for taking the time today to speak with us and best of luck to you, Fellowship, and your horses coming to the Preakness and in the weeks to come.

 

Mark Casse:

 

Thank you for having me.

 

Jim Gluckson:

 

Thanks.  Have a great day.  That concludes our call today, everyone.  Thanks so much for joining us.  There’s a transcript available of this call in 24 hours on NTRA.com, and there’ll be—the next call previewing the Belmont Stakes will be held on National Thoroughbred—NTRA teleconference will be on June 2.  Finally, I’d like to thank our producer Joan Lawrence for helping put all the guests together today.  So, have a good week everyone and best of luck.

 

2016-12-14T16:09:28+00:00 May 13th, 2016|Categories: News & Media, Teleconferences|Tags: |
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