NTRA Communications National Media Teleconference Road to the Triple Crown
Racing Manager Justin Zayat
Trainer Jeremiah Englehart
Trainer Ron Moquett
Trainer Arnaud Delacour
Jim Mulvihill: Welcome, everybody, to this week’s Road to the Triple Crown teleconference. We are finally down to the last weekend of Kentucky Derby prep races and by Saturday evening we’ll have a pretty complete picture of the Derby field. A lot can happen, of course, over the next few weeks between now and entry day on April 29, but more or less we’ll know what we’ve got after these final two Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series races on Saturday. Those, of course, are the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park with 170 points up for grabs, 100 of those to the winner; and the $250,000 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland worth 17 points with 10 to the winner.
Now, a Lexington win alone is unlikely to earn anybody a spot in the Derby starting gate, but you’ll have to keep an eye on the horses that already have Derby points, like Divining Rod and Tiznow R J, who could put themselves into the Derby picture with a big effort on Saturday. That Derby field, as most of you know, is limited to 20 starters. Right now, the 20th and 21st ranked horses on the leader board have 30 points. Those are Bolo and Prospect Park, who are two very good California-based colts. But even more intriguing than who will make the Derby field is who will vie for favoritism among this unusually talented crop of three-year-olds. Last weekend we saw Carpe Diem and Dortmund state their cases. This weekend we get to see if American Pharaoh can keep himself in the mix for that role as the public’s top choice.
Now we’ve got a lot to talk about in the next hour regarding the Arkansas Derby and the Lexington, but I have to brief you real quick on the status of the TV broadcasts. The Lexington is the next stop on the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX Sports 1”. They’ll be live at Keeneland on Saturday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Eastern, and that broadcast is also going to include the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley for older females on the turf, and I believe last year’s winner, Hard Not to Like, is expected to be in there. The Arkansas Derby is on HRTV, but you can also find live coverage via the Horse Racing Radio Network. They’ll be live at Keeneland and Oaklawn on Saturday from 6 to 7 p.m. Eastern Time.
Now later in this call we’ll be joined by Jeremiah Englehart. He’s the trainer of Arkansas Derby hopeful Bridget’s Big Luvy; and we’ve got Ron Moquett, trainer of Far Right, who could put himself into the Derby field if he hits the board in the Arkansas Derby; and Arnaud Delacour, who will saddle Divining Rod in the Lexington.
But first, we get to talk more about the big star on Saturday, and that’s 2014 Eclipse Award Winner as Champion Two-Year-Old, American Pharoah. He’s likely to be the odds on favorite in the Arkansas Derby after a smashing three-year-old debut four weeks ago. Last week we had trainer Bob Baffert on this call, and if you need any quotes from Bob you can find those on NTRA.com. There’s a transcript and an audio file of last week’s call. But this week we’re pleased to welcome Justin Zayat. He’s the racing and stallion manager for Zayat Stables, who, in addition to the favorite, will also be running Mr. Z in the Arkansas Derby.
Now a little background. Justin’s father, Ahmed Zayat, founded Zayat Stables in 2005. Since then, Zayat has ranked among the leading owners in North America seven times, including the top spot in 2008. They’ve campaigned 13 Grade 1 winners and they’ve been all around the Derby in recent history, including three runners-up in Pioneerof The Nile, Nehro, and Bodemeister.
Justin Zayat, thanks for joining us. You’re on with Jim Mulvihill.
Justin Zayat: Thanks for having me, Jim.
Jim Mulvihill: It’s our pleasure. We’re all very, very excited to see American Pharoah again this weekend. If you could, just tell us how he’s done since the Rebel and what you expect to see from him on Saturday?
Justin Zayat: He’s been doing extremely well. You know, we’ve been—I’m sure you guys have all seen his works on the videos. They’ve been as impressive as a work can possibly be. You know, he’s holding his flesh very well, his attitude is well. He’s coming into the race in as good of shape as we could hope.
Jim Mulvihill: That’s terrific to hear. Now let’s talk about the campaign. The colt is based in California with Bob, but he’s taking the Hot Springs route to Louisville. So when you and your dad and Bob were talking about this spring, can you just take us back to those conversations and tell us what the considerations were that led you to take the Arkansas route?
Justin Zayat: Well, when we first started bringing him back we kind of just said we’re going to let the horse kind of gradually tell us where he’s at, and we’re going to pick his races based on when he’s ready. He could’ve been ready for the San Felipe, but at that time we decided one more work would benefit him. You know, stretching a mile and sixteenth first off the layoff of six months we thought the extra week would be beneficial to him. You know, Bob’s had a lot of luck shipping into Oaklawn, so there was no fear for us going to Oaklawn. The track there we’ve had a lot of good luck in the years, so just a good rapport and that’s the reason why we chose the Oaklawn route. For us to come back again, because the horse shipped well, he traveled back and he’s getting seasoning shipping back and forth, and it really will freshen up the horse like that so that is the reason that we’re taking the Oaklawn route. In addition, Bodemeister, who won the Arkansas Derby and he led to a nice run in the Kentucky Derby, so we’re very fond of the Arkansas Derby route.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent, and so far everything’s worked out beautifully. Really, you couldn’t ask for more from him, not just this year but at the end of last summer as well. He’s won so easily in all three of his wins, which is great. That’s exactly what you would want. But as far as being prepared for the Derby, can you talk about any worries about being battletested and if there’s a part of you that is maybe hoping that he’ll be challenged by somebody seriously on Saturday?
Justin Zayat: For sure. I mean that’s a concern to anyone that your horse has never been battletested, but I think that’s more of a credit to the horse himself. You know, he’s a naturally brilliant, brilliant horse. If you watch his works, he just does everything so effortlessly. So I think that’s honestly the reason that he’s never been challenged. Maybe last race he was the champion and they were a little scared to go after him, but this is the reason, like that is not a concern to me. I think he’s got the talent to do it, and if I’m worried about seasoning with Bob Baffert then I’m in the wrong hands. You know, I’m in the hands of the guy who has won the Kentucky Derby three times. He knows how to do it, so there’s no concerns about him being seasoned up for me. I just think this horse honestly is just a spectacular, spectacular horse, and that’s the reason why he’s honestly been unchallenged in all his races. If you look as a two-year-old, he ran against a really nice horse, Calculator, and then Texas Red, who ended up winning the Breeders’ Cup was behind him, and they weren’t challenging him on the leader either in those races. So I just really think it’s just the natural brilliance of our horse. It’s the reason why people say he so-called untested.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, we are very glad to be joined by Justin Zayat, and, Michelle, I’m going to ask you to check with the media and see what questions they have for Justin.
Operator: The first question comes from Ron Flatter of Fox News Radio. Please go ahead.
Ron Flatter: Hi, Justin. First of all, on American Pharoah, to follow-up on one of Jim’s questions, in terms of whether he would actually have to chase the pace as opposed to setting it, is there anything in the mornings that you see that would tell you that there would be any problems there, or for that matter that he has—let’s go the other way on that, if he has got something that we have yet to see?
Justin Zayat: For sure. I mean honestly to me right now that’s not a concern. We’ve actually rated him in the mornings behind horses, and he’s not a headstrong horse on the lead who is trying to pull you the whole way. He’s shut off and he’s a relaxed horse. That’s the way he runs. You know, his demeanor has always been a very, very relaxed horse and I really don’t think that’s going to be a concern if he ever has to fend a horse. If there’s a horse who wants to go out there and try to dual him on the lead or go with him, he could easily sit off of that horse. He’s not a (inaudible) horse. He’s a very, very rideable and controlled horse.
Ron Flatter: Quick note on Mr. Z; five jocks in the last five. You’ve tried the blinkers; you’ve tried the no blinkers. Just what’s your thoughts about him going forward and do you think he’s definitely a Derby horse?
Justin Zayat: (Inaudible) he’s a Derby horse? I mean if I’m listening to Wayne Lukas who has won as many Derbies as he has, then he’s telling me yes. I mean the horse to me obviously still has more to prove that he belongs in the Derby, but if you look at his Los Alamitos Futurity he finished a nose behind Dortmund and Firing Line, who are extremely, extremely respected horses on the Derby Trail right now, so he was only a length—a nose behind them in the Los Al Futurity. I mean you can see his last races you could say he’s gone a little backward since then, but he’s been training forwardly. He’s a healthy, sound, sound horse. He’s doing everything right, and time will tell if he’s going to be a Derby horse. You know, we’re not 100% committed to running him today in the race. We’re entering the race and we’ll see. But he’s as battletested as any horse on the Derby Trail has come. He’s run since June last year because he’s an extremely talented horse. So right now, to me, it’s not a concern of him being a Derby horse, it’s, to me, if he’s actually going to, first of all, get in the Derby, how he’s performing, his demeanor, his coat. You know, we’re just not going to run a horse in the Derby just to run in the Derby. I’m blessed enough to have American Pharoah and El Kabeir in the Derby, so if we feel at the time that Mr. Z belongs in the Derby, if he qualifies in the Derby then we’ll run it. But there’s no commitment right now to running him in the Arkansas Derby, we’re just simply entering him in the Arkansas Derby.
Ron Flatter: Got it. Quick—last one from me. Quick note, El Kabeir, where do you stand as far as the jockey selection there?
Justin Zayat: We are still mulling on the decision day by day. There’s no decision based on the jockey right now. You know, we have opinions coming from all sources. John is telling us that he is leaning towards a change. Personally myself I am leaning towards a change. My dad is in the middle. He doesn’t know what he wants. You know, his heart is telling him we’ve got to—we should keep C.C., but my brain is telling me I’d have to change him. You know, he’s a 54-year-old jockey going to the Derby who has never ridden in it before. You either have an experienced rider who’s gone to the Derby before, who has been in a 20-horse field, who has handled the pressure, but there’s a lot that goes into it. You know, and C.C. has known that from day one that it was just a race to race commitment. You could also recall that he was the substitute rider for Calvin Borel, who was supposed to ride the horse in the Jerome; who was flying in that day but he had a death in his family so he couldn’t make it. So C.C. at the time was a replacement jockey on the horse.
Ron Flatter: Thank you, Justin.
Jim Mulvihill: Justin, did you want to add to that about C.C. or El Kabeir’s rider?
Justin Zayat: For sure. We were taking a risk by racing with him. You know we also lost on him at the Withers at one to five and people were telling us you must take C.C. off now; how could he deal with Classy Class on the lead going that fast for the whole entire race, and we stuck with C.C. because we believed he was an experienced rider at Aqueduct, and that was the key that led us to riding C.C. in the first (inaudible). Now we’re going out of Aqueduct, so he hasn’t really ridden at Churchill Downs a lot, so there’s a concern about this and being able to adapt to the track there, so that’s where we stand right now.
We have been one of C.C.’s biggest supporters through the years. If you look at his last graded stake winner before El Kabeir, then you have I think 2010 or 2009 with our own filly Heart Ashley. We believe in C.C. as a jockey, it’s just that I believe right now for the biggest race of our career it’s about the horse. It’s not about the jockey right now. It’s about what is best for El Kabeir and what’s best to win the Kentucky Derby.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Justin, can you talk about what you all want to get out of the Arkansas Derby with American Pharoah? I mean would you like to see him tested a little more and would there be concerns given that, you know, he’s only had two races and might’ve been off a little bit before that maybe he won’t get tested enough, or just what are you going to be looking for Saturday?
Justin Zayat: Honestly, Jennie, I just want him to win. That’s what I’m looking for. It’s the first time stretching out one-time a mile and an eighth; you know, I’d like to see him do it in a nice fashion. But right now we’re just looking for him to win. You know, I think he’s coming into the race in as good of shape as he could be. You guys know Bob doesn’t ship unless he thinks he’s going to win, so right now that’s just my concern is just about winning. I’m not looking to rate him or see what’s going to happen. If that develops, the horse is capable of doing it; you know, he’s extremely talented. But we’re just coming in the race to win right now. That’s all I’m looking for.
Jennie Rees: When you look at the other Derby preps, are you watching kind of like say Carpe Diem or somebody thinking, you know, I can’t wait to see them all in the same gate and see what happens, and, you know, see what happens when another brilliant horse is in there?
Justin Zayat: For sure. I mean I totally agree with you. This is as good of a crop I could ever remember since I’ve been in this game. I don’t remember where there’s been such dominant horses like Dortmund, Carpe Diem, American Pharoah. They’re just—it’s really unbelievable having all these horses line up. Dortmund’s undefeated. You can’t say anything bad about an undefeated horse. American Pharoah almost should be undefeated but his first race you guys all know what happened there. So this is an impressive of a crop as you’re going to get, and I can’t wait. I really, really am praying every single day that they’re all staying healthy because I just want to see the best horses—the best three-year-olds in the country square off in the Kentucky Derby. I think that’s what the whole race is about is getting the best horses, and usually in the years we’ve had a lot, a lot big defections leading up to the Derby, and I’m just praying that we could see all the best horses in the gate because I think that gives every single horse an opportunity to see who is the best of the best.
Jennie Rees: You mentioned that you’re not committed to running Mr. Z in the Arkansas Derby but you will enter. What would be the factors that you would be looking for in the next, you know, few days, and if you could just talk about the decision to go on and enter him?
Justin Zayat: For sure. The reason we’re going to enter him is there’s one reason; this is Wayne Lukas. If Wayne wishes to tell me, Justin, I believe in all my heart of all the years I’ve been training that this horse is a Derby horse, he deserves to be in the Arkansas Derby, I’m begging you please, please let me run him. We ourselves as the owners are on the fence, but how much could I possibly tell Wayne Lukas? I’m a 23-year-old guy. He’s the greatest trainer of all time. There’s only so much I could say to possibly—that I’m going to trump him. I will never be able to trump him in whatever I try to do or think, so I always have to listen to the greatest trainer of all time before I’m listening to myself who has been only in the game for 10 years. We’re going to enter the horse, and we’re going to—it’ll depend on the post positions. I’m not exactly sure where we’re honestly looking for him to draw. Who knows if American Pharoah draws the one hole and Mr. Z—crazy things can happen. You know, it depends on how he ships. Maybe he’ll get sick on the flight. I’m praying all these things don’t happen, but this is horse racing; crazy things happen. You know that.
Jennie Rees: Yes. Well, since you all own both horses, let me ask you this. Would it stun you if Mr. Z beat American Pharaoh?
Justin Zayat: Would it stun me if Mr. Z beats American Pharoah? I will be shocked personally. I would love—if I run Mr. Z in the race I’d be praying for him to finish second, because I honestly don’t think he can hold a candle to American Pharoah at this moment. I’ve had a lot of, lot of good horses through the years; Bodemeister, you guys all know, but I think American Pharoah is the horse of a lifetime. I’m blessed myself that I could possibly have another horse like American Pharoah, but I think it may be really, really hard to see one like that. That’s how high we are on this horse.
Danny Brewer: Let’s turn back the clock to the Breeders’ Cup when American Pharoah was injured; heart sank, I’m sure. Then you fast forward to the Rebel, and the way he ran, was it a great relief when you guys saw him and the way he performed in the Rebel Stakes?
Justin Zayat: For sure. I mean he was a 100% healthy horse. We were expecting him to do something like that. When he got hurt in the Breeders’ Cup it was the most gut wrenching thing of my life because I was literally getting on a plane, I was gearing up, I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep that night, my adrenaline was rushing, but then, you know, you get that kick in the stomach, which it really, really hurt for a long time and we didn’t get over it. Watching the Breeders’ Cup was not an easy race to watch even though we had Mr. Z in it, because I just know how good and talented American Pharaoh was. When he came back it wasn’t a sigh of relief, it was more of just happiness to see him back, proud of him; just all those emotions at once.
Danny Brewer: So experienced the lowest of the lows and then the Rebel was the highest of the highs. Was the Rebel Stakes, because obviously that’s his only start at three, were you expecting something like that out of him, because I mean it was just completely dominant?
Justin Zayat: Yes, we were definitely expecting something like that out of him. I mean if you actually look at the race, he works quicker than the race actually ran. So it was kind of an easy race for him, which is nice, because, you know, I really wasn’t looking for a very demanding, demanding effort off of such a long layoff, especially in the slop that day, who knows how safe the track was. So it seems like that was a nice sigh of relief to get him back, but I was also proud. When we saw how happy he was when he came out and he came out of it in unbelievable shape, so it was as good as it gets.
Danny Brewer: Talk—for—this last one for me—Bob Baffert, what he has meant for this horse and for you folks?
Justin Zayat: Bob Baffert what he’s meant for the horse and our folks? Us and Bob, the first trainer I’ve learned from (inaudible). You know, he’s been very special to me from the first horse that we’ve had with him, A Z Warrior, until now. You know, we’ve had a great relationship with him. I think we’ve won 11 Grade 1s with him, so just the combination just works. Our families blend together and I have an unbelievable respect for him. You know, as soon as I saw this horse work on the farm as a two-year-old I sent him a video and he said to me, Justin, remember the Breeders’ Cup’s in California this year. So he wanted our horse. He saw how good he was from day one and just that was what led me to give Bob that horse. But what we’ve had with him, our success we’ve had with him, and he’s the Derby coach. If you want to give a horse time to prepare for the Derby, you’re going to give him to Bob Baffert.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Justin, just a couple follow-ups. We mentioned earlier the three runners-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby, and the near misses that you guys have had. Just talk about being in this position and the chance to amend for that, especially with American Pharoah’s daddy, Pioneerof The Nile?
Justin Zayat: When we first had Pioneerof The Nile in the Derby it was such a surreal experience. It was second Derby but it was my first time I really, really felt I had a chance. We had a horse who had basically swept the whole West Coast. If that happened nowadays he’d be the biggest buzz horse out there. But when he first ran—when he ran second that year, I was so proud of him but at the same time it was devastating. I felt like, wow, this was my chance to win the Derby. This will never, ever, ever happen again. This was it. Then all of a sudden we come back and we have Nehro, and Nehro runs second, and I’m like, oh my God, I thought I had it this time. For the first time Animal Kingdom, first time first, and it’s just like how do you get (inaudible) like that I was really thinking. Then with Bodemeister, and I’m thinking—and finally coming down the stretch he opens up five or six, I’m like finally the time has come, it’s finally here, and then all of a sudden he’s getting beat right before the wire by I’ll Have Another. So all our Derby experiences have been surreal, you know, but I can say I’ve had the feeling of winning the Kentucky Derby for like half a second, and then it got taken away right away. So, you know, to be in this position and to be so blessed, I have a horse like American Pharaoh and El Kabeir and to be able to be in the position going into the Derby, you know, is a dream come true. I’m just dying to win those roses. I really, really hope this could be our year. We’re trying our best, trying to make the best decisions possible, and we’re really, really dying to win this race.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Justin, maybe this one is the year the way it’s looking so far. We appreciate your time today and good luck on Saturday as well as on the first Saturday in May hopefully.
Justin Zayat: Thank you very much for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: Absolutely. That’s Justin Zayat. They’ll have Mr. Z and American Pharaoh in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday.
Now we can talk about American Pharoah alone just for an hour, but we’ve got four great guests today so we’ve got to keep whipping on. That brings us to the next guest, Jeremiah Englehart. Jeremiah came to national prominence when he trained Ria Antonia to win the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. He took out his trainer’s license in 2003, and was considered mostly a Finger Lakes guy at that point until trying the NYRA circuit a few years ago. He’s won more than 100 races each of the last three years, and Saturday he takes a swing at the Arkansas Derby with Maryland-bred Bridget’s Big Luvy, who went gate to wire in the Private Terms at Laurel last out on March 21. Jeremiah, are you with us?
Jim Mulvihill: Are you in Hot Springs right now?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes. Yes, I arrived here late Saturday night; flew in from Florida Saturday night.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, that’s perfect, because I wanted to ask about Bridget’s work on Sunday. Let’s see, a half in 47 and 2. Did you get the impression from that that he likes the track there at Oaklawn, and just tell us about that move?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, so far everything seems well as far as that goes. You know, he had galloped over the track for a couple days and then he breezed on Sunday, and it was a nice move. He—it looked like to me watching it was 49, 50, and it was one of those where you looked down at your watch and it’s 47 and 2, and gallops out (inaudible) and you’re very happy with that.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, we were just talking to Justin Zayat and you might be facing the best three-year-old in the country on Saturday, and there are other serious contenders for the Derby in this race as well. Just tell us how your horse fits into this race and how you would hope to see it play out?
Jeremiah Englehart: Well, I’ve been a big fan of American Pharoah for a long time, so I understand how nice of a colt he is, and I’m kind of honored to be able to run against him this weekend. But, you know, with my horse, you know, we’re the newcomer in the race. I was expecting him to run well in the Private Terms. He did, and I’m expecting him to run his race this time. Is it going to be good enough to win? I’m not sure. I think he’s going to run his race, and I figure he’ll tell me kind of where he’s at. As far as his style, I mean like I said, I’m going to let him do his thing. Angel [Cruz] knows him and he’s going to take a nice long hold of him and wherever he puts him is going to be fine.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Then your owner, Tom O’Grady, he put up $6,000 to nominate to the Triple Crown after the Private Terms, so just it’s safe to assume I guess that you guys are hoping to have a Derby, or if not able to make it into the Derby, a Preakness horse then?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, I knew at about the eighth pole of the Private Terms that we were going to be going for the Derby or looking for points somewhere. So when I talked to him after the race, it wasn’t a surprise. Tom’s a Louisville guy. He lives there with his family, and he’s a big Kentucky Derby fan. I mean he’s a big Louisville anything fan, and in fact, he took me to the Syracuse game when they played Michigan State last weekend, so he follows them wherever they go. He has a big party the Thursday evening before the Derby that a lot of people know about. So I knew all along when he was coming down the stretch what our plans were going to be.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Jeremiah, hang on the line. I’m going to ask Michelle to check with the media on this call and see what questions they have.
Danny Brewer: Okay, so with Bridget’s Big Luvy here, do you view the Arkansas Derby as a measuring stick for this horse to see if he is Grade—if he is a Triple Crown type horse or do you already know that?
Jeremiah Englehart: No, I think that’s a pretty fair statement. I think this will be a measuring stick for him. I think he’s a nice horse and I think there’s improvement where hopefully I’ll see him kind of jump forward off of that last race and become a nice graded stake three-year-old; maybe a Kentucky Derby horse. So I think that’s a pretty good way to put it. This is probably his measuring stick as far as a race on what we’ll see from him in the future.
Danny Brewer: Given the fact of some of the other runners in the race like American Pharoah, do you change what he does at all to try to get in the money, or do you just got to let him be him?
Jeremiah Englehart: I’m going to let him be him. That’s one thing he does not like is he does not like to be grabbed a hold of. A couple races, you know, not to anyone’s fault except for just getting to know him better, but one thing I told Angel going into the Private Terms, just take the nice long hold and let him do his thing, whether you’re sitting second, third on the outside or you’re on the lead, don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter if he’s behind horses, it doesn’t matter if he’s on the lead, he’ll run, just let him do his thing.
Danny Brewer: Something that Jim alluded to, if the Arkansas Derby doesn’t work out, could he be a Preakness horse or maybe Belmont down the road?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, this race is going to tell us a lot. You know, if he runs a real good race and we earn enough points to get into the Derby then I think for sure we’ll give the Derby a chance. If he runs an okay race and we don’t earn the points, or I think it’ll tell us kind of what direction we want to take it. Obviously the Triple Crown races they take on a real nice meaning; it’s prestigious to even have a horse considered in the race. Our connections —we’re realists at the same time, too. We understand if he doesn’t run well then, okay, we need to go to a different spot and look for a different avenue.
Danny Brewer: Last one from me. Ria Antonia, did she help you as a trainer as far as understanding, because I know she was in the Preakness and all that stuff? Did she help you when it comes to Triple Crown races?
Jeremiah Englehart: She helped me in every bit of the business possible. I mean it was obviously my first Breeders’ Cup win. Hopefully I’ll have more. But I mean she really helped me; people kind of knew who I was a little bit with her and her situation. As far as training those and races like this I kind of treat every horse different and the first thing I try to do is try to find out what they like to do and go from there. So I hope that answers the question.
Jennie Rees: Yes, who is Bridget and who is Big Luvy?
Jeremiah Englehart: Okay, Bridget is one of the owner’s daughters. He has two daughters, Bridget and Molly and a son Dan, and Big Luvy was Bridget’s—I believe it was either her blanket or teddy bear. Tom told me and I forgot, but it was either her blanket or teddy bear when she was younger, so he’s actually named after her teddy growing up or blanket growing up, and she used to call him Big Luvy.
Jennie Rees: You said you try to find out what horses want to do. Did you think all along he was a horse who wanted extra distance, or, you know, the two turns?
Jeremiah Englehart: I wasn’t—I knew he was a horse that was very athletic and he had a nice long stride. If you look at his breeding, you wouldn’t necessarily think a mile and a quarter or a mile and an eighth, but it just it seems easy for him. Both wins came on a sloppy track so maybe that moves him up a little bit, but if you watch his gallop out of the Private Terms, it just seemed like he could’ve just kept going and going and going, so I don’t think there’s any real distance limitations with him.
Jennie Rees: Is there a key to him, because if you look at his form, and admittedly it’s a small sample in five races, but he either wins or he’s beaten double digit blanks. Do you think it’s just circumstances in those races?
Jeremiah Englehart: Well, in the Hutcheson, I did find down in Florida that he was a non-sweater, so we took his temperature right after when he got back to the barn from the Hutcheson and it was 104.9, so we knew that we had a problem there and running in heat might be detrimental to him. So I asked a lot of people; Todd Pletcher, gave me the name of a product to try, and I remember I had a guy that worked for me a long time ago that he says any time he had a horse that didn’t sweat he gives them a Budweiser in his feed at night, so that’s another thing. We give him a can of Bud every night and so far it’s helping. He’s one for one with the Budweiser.
Jennie Rees: But, you know, what’s the bigger equipment change, the blinkers on or Budweiser on do you suppose?
Jeremiah Englehart: I don’t know. I guess I’d like to know what the abbreviation would be for the first time Bud.
Jennie Rees: Finally, will Angel ride him back in the Arkansas Derby or are you going to…?
Jeremiah Englehart: Yes, Angel’s going to come out for the Arkansas Derby.
Jennie Rees: You were at Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup. Just the thoughts of maybe coming back for the big show and having a horse?
Jeremiah Englehart: Everyone that I think is in the business and grew up in the business; I mean that would be something. First of all you never think that it’s going to happen to you, and then when it does, I know one thing, I will soak it all up, and it would be a dream come true for sure to be able to make that walk over in the first Saturday in May.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Jeremiah, just a couple follow-ups from me just to make sure we have the important details. Does Bridget’s Big Luvy, does he prefer the 12 ounce can or the pounder?
Jeremiah Englehart: . I think he’s a bottle guy. We haven’t tried the cans yet, he likes the bottles.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, I don’t know if they let the bottles into the Triple Crown races, so you might want to look into that.
Jeremiah Englehart: We might have to call Budweiser and see if we can get special cans.
Jim Mulvihill: Yes, there might be a sponsorship on the horizon. Just to clarify what Danny was saying earlier, Ria Antonia changed barns before the Preakness, but for something more applicable to this situation, maybe did the experience with Ria Antonia in the Breeders’ Cup help give you confidence that sometimes you just have to take a shot? I mean you’re in against American Pharoah, but in these big races sometimes a horse steps up. What did you learn from that as far as taking a shot with a horse that maybe on paper is the outsider?
Jeremiah Englehart: Well, I told myself as much as you want to be a realist and everything, I’ve never been afraid, and that’s one thing I remember when I won my first graded stakes with Tamarind Hall and the Bed o’ Roses at Belmont, I knew my filly was doing well, and all it took was Todd’s filly to have an off day, and, I won my first graded stake. You know, it’s the same thing with Ria. She was a filly that was training super going into that race, loved the racetrack, and, she ran her race. Maybe there was a couple of other horses that didn’t run their race on that day. Every time I hear American Pharoah’s going to breeze and want to look at his videos. You always look and, oh my God, maybe there’s something here that’ll say he’s not doing well or something like that, but he looks great and I have a lot of respect for him and his connections. You know, but at the same time I know my horse is doing very well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him jump up and surprise a lot of people.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Glad to hear it. Well, Jeremiah, thank you for your time today and we wish you luck on Saturday in the Arkansas Derby.
Jeremiah Englehart: Thank you very much.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, that’s Jeremiah Englehart with Bridget’s Big Luvy in Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Our next guest also is shooting for the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, and that’s Ron Moquett. Ron’s a 43-year-old native of Arkansas, born and raised in Fort Smith near the Oklahoma border. He attended the University of Arkansas where he would cut class to go to the races at Oaklawn. He got his start working for Bernie Flint and moved up from hot walker to foreman before going out on his own in ’96. In 2006, he won his only Grade 1 when Seek Gold upset the Stephen Foster at 91 to 1. On Saturday, a fourth place finish or better would likely put his Smarty Jones and Southwest Stakes winner Far Right into the Kentucky Derby.
Ron Moquett, it’s Jim Mulvihill in Lexington. How are you doing today?
Ron Moquett: I’m fine. Thanks for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: Absolutely. We appreciate you joining us. Maybe before we get specifically to Far Right, we can just talk about the marquis race at Oaklawn Park. This is the track that you grew up attending. Just tell us, if you would, your fondest memories of the Arkansas Derby, and what this race Saturday means to you?
Ron Moquett: I have several great memories of the Arkansas Derby. One was a person that I was a really big fan of and a close personal friend who was Mr. Bob Holthus that whenever he had battled back from being ill and had got Lawyer Ron and Lawyer Ron was running in the Arkansas Derby and it was the first Derby that I didn’t watch the race. I turned around and watched Mr. Holthus, and that was pretty neat watching his expressions all the way around there for a mile and an eighth as Lawyer Ron won and he looked like he was going to win. It was very moving and humbling for me to watch this lifelong race tracker, you know, live out one of his dreams. So that was one.
Then, of course, as a fan I loved when Concern won the Arkansas Derby; that was a big one for me, and Smarty Jones and there’s been a bunch of great Arkansas Derbys out there with the Afleet Alex Arkansas Derby, and, you know, even the ones where they run second and come back and run well in the Kentucky Derby, like second or third like Super Saver or Lil E. Tee or those guys, I just—it’s been a big race to me. It’s on my bucket list, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good, and I don’t think there has been a more productive prep race for the Kentucky Derby in the last say 15 years or so, would you say?
Ron Moquett: Well, I’m a little biased because I get familiar with a lot of these horses that go on and run in it and stuff, but I’d say we’d have to be right up there with the Santa Anita Derby. For sure in the top two. These horses go on and they run well all over the country, but they seem to really shine in Kentucky, so we hope that trend continues.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Well, let’s talk about Far Right now and his development since he came to your barn last summer. Tell us about your early impressions of him and the steady improvement that he’s made since coming to you?
Ron Moquett: Well, horses are all different and some of them tell you in ways of whispers and body language, and some of them scream at you. This one, whenever he’s communicating to me about what he wanted to do, he was screaming he wanted to go further. So, you train them and he could go out there a standard gallop and come back and it’s like he hadn’t done anything. I know he’s got speed, but I really wanted to see him utilize that talent and the energy at the end of the race when everybody else would be a little bit tired. I was very pleased to see that when we stretched him out that he wasn’t lying to me; he really did want more ground. So that was my first impressions and now he’s become more and more of a professional.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, we’ve got a lot more to talk about, Ron. We’ve got several members of the media on this phone call, so I’m going to give it to the Operator, Michelle, and she’ll check and see what they have for you.
Ron Flatter: Ron, there’s—this is a horse that’s had some trouble in his races but has been able to overcome them at times with the starts and the wide trips. Is there anything that he’s showing you say since the Southwest that he’s going to overcome any of this, or is it a case of circumstances of the race? Just what are your thoughts on those situations?
Ron Moquett: Well, I actually think his ability to maneuver in and out and around traffic and start and then stop again and all that is going to be in our favor in the big race should we be lucky enough to get there. You know, in a seven or eight horse field it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I think that’s going to become a really neat thing to have, is his maneuverability and the fact that he doesn’t have to have everything go his direction to run his race. I think with him the thing that early on which was causing him a lot of trouble is that he’s got a very big cruising speed and then whenever you smash on the gas that sucker accelerates, and if there’s somebody four strides in front of you, I think the riders are underestimating how quick you get there. It could be we just chose a bad path or, you know, how racing goes, other than the fact I think that everybody, especially, Mike and Cory are very confident with him and they’re not in a big hurry. They know that whenever they ask he can do it, so hopefully they can choose the best path without the obstacles.
Ron Flatter: What’s your rider commitment this weekend for him, and then if he gets to the Derby?
Ron Moquett: Well, Mike Smith is riding this weekend, and after that I’m sure Mr. Smith and his agent will weigh his options and take our performance into account and whoever or whatever else is out there, and then hopefully he stays with us. I believe that he has confidence in our horse and I think he knows that he’s a lot better than what he’s shown. So I would say we’ve definitely got him this weekend, and hopefully he does enough in that race to make him not even look elsewhere.
Ron Flatter: Finally, do you have the coin toss yet to figure out which silks go for the Derby—or for the Kentucky Derby?
Ron Moquett: No, I’m going to leave that to them after the Arkansas Derby. That’s kind of funny. I’m out of that completely, as long as the horse shows up, they could put any kind of t-shirt they wanted to on him, I don’t care. I just want him in the Derby.
Danny Brewer: You mentioned this already about his navigation skills and how he can weave through traffic and what a plus that is. Is that just something that came naturally to him?
Ron Moquett: Yes, being a horse trainer I’d love to take credit for that, but that’s just a God-given ability and his knack for being brave and willing to go where he’s asked to go. Mike and Cory both had mentioned that he notices a hole at the same time they do and he pushes toward it before they’ve ever even asked him. I’d like to say that I taught him that and—but I think people that know would know better.
Danny Brewer: Well, given some of the other horses in the Arkansas Derby, does that change how you approach that with him strategy-wise?
Ron Moquett: You know, I keep going back and forth as far as strategy. You never know. This is going to be a very weird run race. I can say that last time American Pharoah [ran] we weren’t in there and a couple of other [horses] weren’t in there, but a lot of the people afterwards were shaking their head because nobody went with him. The fractions were terribly slow, and you can’t do that with a good classy horse like that and expect to make up any ground. But, even the fact that the track was slow and the pace was slow, he showed that’s why he was the two-year-old champion. The thing that I think a lot of people do is over adjust and, we’re just stating out loud our job is to break and go past him when they’re tired if we can. You know, it doesn’t mean we’re going to be eight lengths, it doesn’t mean we’re going to be 12 lengths, that means we’re going to let Mr. Smith decide where he wants to go and whatever the pace upfront dictates we’ll have enough time to catch him down the stretch.
Danny Brewer: So at this point it’s just saddle him up and hang on, right?
Ron Moquett: Yes, yes, that’s, you know, the old saying that good riders don’t need instructions and bad ones won’t listen anyway.
Jennie Rees: Do you believe that Far Right can beat American Pharoah straight up, or do you think American Pharoah is going to have to maybe not have his A race?
Ron Moquett: You know, I’ll say this, with all due respect to American Pharoah, I have the utmost confidence in my horse. I don’t believe we’ve seen the best of my horse, and I don’t know enough about theirs to give an educated opinion about it. But I can say that we’ve got some room to improve if we’re going to catch him, but I think there’s improvement there. So I would say that if everything goes cool —if I’m within two or three lengths of him at the sixteenth pole I’d feel comfortable. I’m hearing words like Seattle Slew and the next great and all this, and if that’s the case then we’ll all be reading about the horse that was second to the next Seattle Slew. So, you know, that’s what’s great about this. We’re all optimistic and we’re excited about the opportunity to run against a very good classy horse.
Jennie Rees: Yes, do you find yourself like looking really at all the prep races and thinking, okay, how many days are left, and we’re all going to be in the gate together, and…?
Ron Moquett: Oh, yes. I’m excited about it. I mean first off, anyone knows me knows I’m a fan. I work hard and we take nothing for granted. I want to beat my idols. I don’t back down from them. But I very much appreciate the journey and understand and respect everything that goes on with the sport and certainly the Derby. The media and the press, I’ve been into this since I was seven or eight years old, I’ve been following Twitter and Facebook and Googling Kentucky Derby about 20 times a day for awhile. So I’m very excited. But, yes, I have seen the preps. I’ve watched them all and watched all their replays.
Jennie Rees: What will you be looking for in the Arkansas Derby win or lose?
Ron Moquett: A good finish, a nice gallop out, a healthy horse, and on to the next one. Trust me; I want everybody that goes in the race to come out of it sound. I want the best horse to win at this particular distance on that day, and from that point I hope it’s ours. If it’s not, I want everybody to come back good and let’s try it again next week or next time we hook up.
Jennie Rees: When would you ship to Churchill? Would you fly him or would you van him?
Ron Moquett: We’d probably fly probably the day or two after the race. My house is at the four and a half pole here, so I’m very comfortable here, but I would want for the horse to get to the next spot as quick as he could.
Jay Privman: I was just curious, last weekend when there were three big preps run how much scoreboard watching you were doing vis-à-vis where you stand on the point standings at this point in time?
Ron Moquett: Well, the honest version is quite a bit. I’d like to say I was cool enough to say I was just going to let the chips fall where they may and whatever, but I did start watching towards the end, and thank goodness Churchill does a good job with updating that really quick. I knew that this was going to be close for us because I wanted to do right by my horse and not put too many races [in him]back to back and not run in the Rebel, so I knew that it was going to be close, but I was monitoring it quite a bit throughout the day.
Jay Privman: At the end of the day were you satisfied with where you stood, a little bit more concerned, a little bit more emboldened, or what were your thoughts when all the chips shook out?
Ron Moquett: To be honest, I was thinking that that was about it, and I thought you know what; it’s up to the horse to get a good trip and to do his job and prove he needs to be there. For the owners and for the barn and everybody involved I want us to come out and perform well and earn our spot in the gate. I always said that I want to belong when we go there. I don’t want to just be there. This horse with his running style and his ability to keep going, you know, he’s the little engine that could. I think he’s a grinding in and out tactical kind of horse that could make some noise if he gets there. So I hope everything works in his favor so he gets that opportunity.
Jim Mulvihill: Ron, I’ll ask you one more just looking back at his efforts last year. He ran well at Churchill Downs every time he’s run over that surface. Does that get you any extra excited about what might be to come this spring?
Ron Moquett: Well, you always put familiarity on the side of positive, so the fact that he has run well over that track I think would give us a little more confidence that we think he can handle the surface.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Ron, we wish you luck on Saturday and hopefully we’ll see you at Churchill Downs in a few weeks.
Ron Moquett: Hey, thank you so much.
Jim Mulvihill: It’s our pleasure. Ron Moquett trains Far Right who will be in the Arkansas Derby Saturday, and a very interesting prospect not only for that race but for the Kentucky Derby. Ron talking about how he appreciates the racing media and likes to read what you all write, so I think he just gained some new fans here on this call hoping that he makes the Kentucky Derby field.
Now let’s turn our attention to the last guest of this national media teleconference, and that is Arnaud Delacour. He’s the trainer of Divining Rod, who is going to go in the Coolmore Lexington on Saturday at Keeneland. Let’s find out a little bit about Arnaud. He’s a native of France, and more specifically Normandy. He’s 39 years old and he was introduced to racing as a youngster at his family farm with layups and mares. He went on to work as an assistant at Chantilly and by the late ’90s he was an exercise rider for his fellow Frenchman, Christophe Clement. Arnaud later traveled to Argentina to work as an assistant for a year before returning to work for Clement mainly at tracks in Southern California. He’s been out on his own since 2013 and has won 74 races, and Saturday his Tapit colt, Divining Rod, who finished second in the Sam Davis and third in the Tampa Bay Derby, is going to try the Lexington.
Arnaud, it’s Jim Mulvihill. Thanks for joining us.
Arnaud Delacour: Yes, thanks. Good afternoon.
Jim Mulvihill: We’re very happy to have you on with us. The Lexington is the last stop for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. This spot is a logical one for you regardless, but is it safe to say you’re hoping to have a Kentucky Derby starter?
Arnaud Delacour: At the moment I don’t. I think it’s just a nice race on his own, you know, (inaudible) to go. The timing was to me was perfect, you know, five weeks after the Tampa Bay Derby, and, I just thought that it made sense to come here. You know, at the moment, one race at a time. I’m not really thinking of the ride after that, you know.
Jim Mulvihill: Sure, but we’ll take it one race at a time then.
Arnaud Delacour: Exactly.
Jim Mulvihill: You know, he surprised a lot of people in the Sam Davis, but tell us if he surprised you? You know, what had been your impressions of him as he grew up over the winter and then came into the stakes races at Tampa?
Arnaud Delacour: Well, I was not surprised of this on the Sam Davis. You know, he’s always showed some abilities. I was hoping he could take a step forward in the Tampa Derby. It didn’t really set up the way we thought it would. He didn’t break very well. He had an inside post so we had to use him a little bit early and there was pressure, you know, and he kind of faded a little bit at the end. Meanwhile, I think he learned a lot, you know, during that race, and he came back in good shape. He seems to have bounced back very well from the race, so, you know, he’s doing good at the moment and I’m excited to run him on Saturday.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent, and just tell us a little bit about the work he had at Keeneland on Sunday and what you thought of that?
Arnaud Delacour: Yes, that was good. So he had a good half mile and he actually galloped out very well. The galloping out was even better than the breeze itself, and he seems to handle the track very well. We got lucky, you know, to be able to breeze in between the rain, because the track was muddy the day before, and Sunday was a perfect day, so I was really pleased with that and he came back great.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Arnaud, hang on the line and we’re going to see if any of the media on our call have questions for you.
Arnaud Delacour: Sure.
Ron Flatter: Arnaud, how has Divining Rod taken to Lasix? I mean he had one race and then faded the last time out. How do you think he’s responded to it?
Arnaud Delacour: I think he responded well. I’m not sure it made a huge difference to be honest with you. But after we ran him on the grass, we tried him on the turf and he came back, he bled a little bit that day, so we thought we might as well try to help him a little bit this way. But he’s been good ever since.
Ron Flatter: How do you feel about him going a longer distance? I mean are there questions in your mind about whether he can get past a mile?
Arnaud Delacour: Well, that’s one of the reasons why we thought the Lexington was a good start because we’re going a mile and a sixteenth again. After his last race, it didn’t really set up very well for him, but it’s hard to stretch him after what happened in the post Tampa Derby. So I think it’s logical to come back to the mile and a sixteenth, hope for a better trip and take it from there.
Ron Flatter: Finally, I have the privilege of going to New York every year and I’ve been to Chantilly and I just think that place is horse heaven. Do we have any place like that in the States? I mean Fair Hill comes to mind, but is there any place like Chantilly that is comparable to that here in the States in your mind?
Arnaud Delacour: Not to my knowledge. I mean Chantilly is a special place. All the best horses in France train over there and the facilities are exceptional, so in my mind it’s probably one of the best places to train. But I think that American racetracks are a little bit different; more functional and probably more cost efficient as well.
Jim Mulvihill: Arnaud, you faced Carpe Diem last time out and ran third, and I’m sure you saw what Carpe Diem did last Saturday. Just talk about if that gives you any extra confidence knowing that—I mean even though Carpe Diem beat you well, but he’s sort of—but then he steps up and runs a big race, does that give you any extra confidence or positive feelings about where your horse stands?
Arnaud Delacour: Yes, I think it’s always nice to see horses that beat us come back and run well. Ami’s Flatter, who ran second in the Tampa Derby came back and ran very well in the Florida Derby. I’m happy. Oviously we need to take a couple of steps forward to be able to (inaudible) them ever again, but I think that if Divining Rod improves a little bit, and keeps learning we’ll have a useful horse for the summer.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Last question for you, can you just talk about the owners and breeders of this horse, Roy and Gretchen Jackson. They are best known to racing fans as the owners of Barbaro. I understand that they never put any pressure on you to try and get this horse to the Kentucky Derby. How involved have they been in helping to lay out this horse’s campaign and maybe I don’t want to say backing off from the Kentucky Derby but your current status is just taking it one race at a time.
Arnaud Delacour: Yes, no, they’ve been great. You know, we would consider the Derby if the horse would take us there, but they never put any kind of pressure for me. If he runs very well in the Lexington, well, we’ll consider it, but first of all we need to be eligible for the Derby and so far of course we are not in there. So that’s not a question that we really need to address right now, but the Jackson’s just want to do right by the horses usually, and the Derby doesn’t change anything.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Well, Arnaud, we appreciate you taking time with us today and we wish you luck in Lexington.
Arnaud Delacour: Thank you very much.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Arnaud Delacour. He’ll have Divining Rod in the Lexington on Saturday. That’ll be the feature race on the “Jockey Club Tour on Fox Sports 1” I believe is the actual network. Now I just wanted to say thanks again to all of our guests today: Justin Zayat, Jeremiah Englehart, Ron Moquett, and Arnaud Delacour.