Jim Mulvihill: Welcome, everyone, to the first NTRA National Media Teleconference of 2015. Normally this time of year we’d be kicking off our Road to the Triple Crown series, but we’re fortunate this month to already be talking about the top older horses in America. Not only are they already kicking off their four-year-old campaigns, but they’re doing it against one another and on national television this weekend. We’re speaking, of course, about California Chrome and Shared Belief meeting Saturday in the $500,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita. It’s the featured event on the season premiere of the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX Sports 1”, which will also include the Donn Handicap and the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap at Gulfstream, as well as the San Marcos Stakes on the turf back at Santa Anita. That’ll be a two hour broadcast with live coverage from both tracks, and it’s 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Eastern on FOX Sports 1.
I’m also happy to pass along that there’s going to be a high profile X-Country Pick 4. That’s a $500,000 guaranteed Pick 4. The host tracks actually write it as the X-Country Pick 4; that’s a capital X and a dash and Country, so just make note of that. I believe that’s probably to evoke Xpressbet. But in any case, it’s the X-Country Pick 4, and that’s a terrific all-graded stakes Pick 4 this Saturday from the Stronach Group on the same four races that are part of the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX” show.
Now on this call we’re going to focus primarily on the main event; that’s the San Antonio. But just so you know, all of these races that make up the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX Sports 1” and the X-Country Pick 4 are worthy of your attention. Defending Champion, Lea, is the high weight for the Donn, which is also going to include some top East Coast four-year-olds like last year’s Florida Derby winner, Constitution, and the Belmont runner-up, Commissioner, plus Sloane Avenue, who is a very interesting one shipping in from overseas. Then the Gulfstream Park is going to have its defending champion, Lochte, and Saturday’s racing is just amazing from coast to coast. Santa Anita has five stakes overall, Gulfstream has six, and there are two Road to the Kentucky Derby point races that afternoon. Those are the Bob Lewis at Santa Anita and the Withers at Aqueduct, so just a tremendous afternoon for our sport.
All of it is topped by what some are calling the rematch, and that features last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, and the Pacific Classic winner, Shared Belief. Those two have met once before in the Breeders’ Cup Classic when Shared Belief was impeded at the start and finished fourth, and Chrome was a close third. Later in this call we’re going to talk to Art Sherman, he’s the trainer of California Chrome, as well as retired jockey, Richard Migliore, who is going to be returning for his second season as an analyst for the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX”.
But first, it’s my privilege to welcome in our first guest, and that is Hall of Fame trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer. Jerry has won more than 6,800 races. That’s third all-time. He’s been the leading trainer at Golden Gate Fields 46 times. That’s goes with dozens of other training titles in Northern California and beyond. Last year he won 247 races and earned more than 12.8 million. Nineteen of those wins came in graded stakes, including four with Shared Belief.
Jerry, you’re on with Jim Mulvihill in Lexington. Thanks for being here.
Jerry Hollendorfer: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, let’s start with this morning. I understand Shared Belief had a half mile work in 50 and 2. Can you just tell us how that went and maybe describe it a little bit for us?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Yes, I just told Russell Baze worked him for me like he always does, and I just told him to either go :49 or :50, and he went a nice half just to set him up for his race on Saturday.
Jim Mulvihill: Could you talk a little bit more about his condition overall coming into this one; the last few works and just how you feel with his fitness entering the San Antonio?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, last week he had a really great workout in 1:11 and 4, which that’s a huge workout at Golden Gate Field; horses don’t work that fast. So that was our main workout in preparing him for the San Antonio. He came out of that very well, and looks well, acting well, and Russell told me after he worked him he was playing going home. So we’re coming down there we feel like in 100% condition.
Jim Mulvihill: When you say that horses don’t work that fast at Golden Gate, can you just explain to everyone why that is? I assume you’re talking about the artificial surface there.
Jerry Hollendorfer: Yes, the artificial surface, especially on Tuesdays, is usually pretty slow, so the 1:11 and 4 was just a very excellent workout.
Jim Mulvihill: Okay, now talking about this race on Saturday, this is typically a prep for the Big ‘Cap, but with California Chrome in here, obviously the stakes are a little bit higher than just the purse money. Can you just tell how you all are approaching this race, and what’s the significance of it to you beyond, you know, beyond $300,000 for first?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, you know, this was the race that we were pointing to as our next race, so, you know, no matter who is running in it, you know, we want to try to beat everybody, and, you know, this is just the next race that we pointed to for this year. Then when that one’s done, we’ll find another one that we want to run him in. You know, of course we’d like to beat California Chrome, but we’d also like to beat all the other horses that enter in there. So we’ll see what happens when entries come out and post positions and try to make a plan. You know, I think that the significance of the race is that this is what the fans wanted to see, and they would’ve been even happier if Bob’s horse would’ve been in there. So the fans want to see it and we want to put it on, and I’m sure Art’s looking forward to it as well as I am.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, and that’s a really beautiful thing. So we’ve known for a few weeks now that at least California Chrome if not California Chrome and Bayern would be in this spot. Was there never any thought to looking around? I mean you guys found—you guys picked this race based on the conditions and the spacing, and is that how you’re going to do the rest of the year as well?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, yes, you know, you can ask Art, but I mean I think he feels the same way. You know, this was the race that was coming up that was timely and so this is the one that you have to run in. You know, there’s no point in trying to duck anybody.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, we can’t wait for it. Jerry, I’m going to turn it over to Nick, the Operator, and he’s going to check and see if any of the media on the call have questions.
Jon White: Jerry, Art has talked about how California Chrome seems to be even better now as a four-year-old, and maybe bigger and stronger. I was wondering if you see a difference in Shared Belief or maybe as he’s turned four now physically and/or mentally?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, you know, Shared Belief has been remarkably consistent. You know, I would say that he’s carrying a little more weight than he used to. So are we improved? A little bit. I think so. You know, and then as far as California Chrome goes, the Derby Trail is a difficult trail to follow, and the fact that he’s still around and running makes him to be a tough competitor.
Art Wilson: I’ve been talking to some historians who are pretty in tune with what’s gone on in the Southland the last 30, 35 years, and this appears to be the first time in quite awhile, over 30, 40 years, where two three-year-olds that had such accomplished three-year-old campaigns have returned as four-year-olds and faced off against each other. Can you feel how special this is?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, yes, you know, but I mean that’s the way racing is supposed to be. You know, the races are supposed to be very competitive. Of course, California Chrome and Shared Belief are going to get the top billing, but there are other horses that are going to run in there and you have to plan on beating them as—from our camp, we have to plan on beating them as well as California Chrome. So it’ll be interesting to see. You know, post position will be important. I think it is special, and if it’s special for the fans then everybody’s all for it.
Art Wilson: Now there are a lot of obviously big races throughout the year in California, and I know you’re going to take each race one by one and see how he comes out of each race and whatnot, but are there any plans right now as far as sticking in California, or are you thinking of going and venturing outside California? Is—or has stuff like that not even been decided yet?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, no, but I—you know—a lot of where a trainer places his horses is the races that are available. You know, here we have a race, the San Antonio, with a big purse, 500,000, and a nice distance, mile and an eighth, so we’re training here in California so we might as well run in this race as well as the Donn or some other race. Now if this race wasn’t available, then both maybe California Chrome and Shared Belief would’ve been looking at the Donn in Florida. So, you know, as long as you don’t have to travel and you can run for the same money at home, then I think that that’s what you do. Later on in the year when you run into those big purses in New York that they’re putting out, then you have to look at those races and give a little bit more stronger consideration for getting on the plane and going there.
Mike Tierney: Do you believe Shared Belief would be retired working not a gelding, and do you consider it an extra blessing to have such a high quality horse that is gelded?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, I consider it a blessing to have this kind of a quality of horse. I’m very grateful to have him. Would he be retired? I have no idea. You know, Art’s not retiring his horse and he’s accomplished as much as most horses ever accomplish. So I think as long as my partnership wants to run this horse, and I think as long as Art’s owners want to run their horse, you know, I’ll keep running, and hopefully both will run well all year long.
Mike Tierney: There seems to be a high percentage of horses that are continuing to campaign this year as opposed to previous years. Do you think there’s a reason for that?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, you know, if there—there could be a reason. The stallion business is very tough nowadays. You know, there are a lot of stallions and it’s hard to get them placed, and so on and so forth. So I think maybe that’s—maybe I’m wrong on that, but I mean that would be one of the thoughts that came to me first off.
Tom Pedulla: You know, Jerry, because of the way the Classic was run, I think a lot of fans may be having trouble getting their hands around how good or great Shared Belief is. Could you address that for us?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, everybody that watched the race, you know, saw what happened. I’m not going to go through and analyze the whole thing again. We didn’t have good luck in that race and that’s just the way that it is. We quit talking about it two or three days after it happened, and we just decided to look forward and go forward. Now, we have a situation where we’re going to run a big race against good horses and we’re happy to be there.
Tom Pedulla: I mean do you feel that you do have a great horse and we’re going to see that?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, I certainly think that if he runs like he has in the past I think that you should have a good horse race on your hands. The same goes for California Chrome. He ran really good last time, and I don’t think Art expects him to run any different this time.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Jerry, I just wondered, Shared Belief is nominated to the Dubai World Cup, and you mentioned if there’s races, you know, usually it seems like the Big ‘Cap’s the one that maybe pays a price if horses go to Dubai. But I mean what would be the considerations on—I know you have to get past this race, but, you know, $10 million (cross talking).
Jim Mulvihill: We talked briefly about this among our partners, and I think we haven’t totally ruled it out, but I think the interest level there is not very high for our particular partnership. We’re enjoying running the horse here in the United States, and I think that’s where our preferences will lie. I mean if some situation came up where we just couldn’t stand it I guess we’d go, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Jennie Rees: Is part of the tradeoff I mean it’s a lot of money and he is a gelding, but on the other hand you want to have him around a long time, and certainly there’s a lot of examples of horses that went over there and maybe weren’t quite the same when they came back?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, yes, a lot of horses went over there and weren’t quite the same, and I think if the makeup of your horse is such that they could make that trip and come back and run well, so be it, but a lot of them don’t. You know, I would never criticize anybody for wanting to go over there and run for the big purse and run in the World Cup race, but I think for us, I think we’re not thinking in that direction.
Jennie Rees: Yes. To take advantage of you on the phone, you did nominate a lot of horses for the Triple Crown. Could you just kind of give us an update on some of your better three-year-olds and where they might show up next?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, we have horses in Northern and Southern California. We have a nice colt that hasn’t broken his maiden yet, Cyrus Alexander; very well bred. We like him. You know, I have Cross the Line and Stand and Salute up here in Northern California that are going to run in the El Camino Real Derby. I have a horse that’s out right now that is very promising; Bronze Star. We have another horse that we worked today, Kentuckian; a very well bred horse that could come along. You know, we nominated horses that we think could possibly have a chance to get on the Derby Trail. As you well know, it’s very difficult to get on the Trail, and then once you get there it’s difficult to get to the Derby and then run in it and be successful. So we’re just doing what a lot of different trainers are doing now; making nominations and hoping that horses are going to come along in time enough to run in the Triple Crown races.
Jennie Rees: Okay. One final thing getting back to the Dubai thing, is it safe to say because you were talking about if, you know, looking at purses and if, you know, there’s comparable purses now that maybe New York down the road, but is it safe to say that if he gets past this race fine, a million dollars in the Big ‘Cap is a nice enough purse to think about, you know, like you said, not going overseas?
Jerry Hollendorfer: Well, yes, it’s just the logistics problem with the World Cup, and going there and coming back and then, you know, a lot of horses would need time off. I think we would enjoy more just running our horse here in the United States. I’m not saying we would never get on the plane and go elsewhere, but I mean we enjoy running in California and that’s where all of us live, and so we want to enjoy that as much as we can.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Jerry, just one follow-up from me. You know, thinking back to last year when you all had one chance against the best horses in the country and got wiped out. It was really the only chance to show that Shared Belief might’ve been the best horse in the country last year, which a lot of people I think would still believe. So when you think about this campaign in 2015, do you and the partners think about taking it to the other best horses and leaving no chance for doubt should anything go wrong towards the end of the year or leaving it up to one race?
Jerry Hollendorfer: No, I don’t think we’re thinking that way. I mean at least I’m not. I don’t want to talk for Jim Rome and all my other great partners that are in on this horse, but I think we’re just taking—we’re trying to do as good as we can in the races that we pick out. We’re going to do the best that we can in the San Antonio and go in with positive feelings and thinking that we’re going to be successful and go from there. There are a lot of nice races coming up; Santa Anita Handicap, you know, there’s always the Pacific Classic to look forward to, so a lot of nice races and a lot of nice races to look at in New York. So, you know, we’ll just try to take them one at a time and not worry too much about what everybody thinks but do the best that we can.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Jerry, thank you so much for joining us today, and best of luck on Saturday and beyond.
Jerry Hollendorfer: All right, thank you. I appreciate it.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, thank you very much. That was Jerry Hollendorfer. He’s got Shared Belief in Saturday’s San Antonio Stakes where he’s going to face California Chrome. Before we get to California Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman, we’ve also invited Richard Migliore to join us on this call. Richie’s is coming back for a second season as the racing analyst on the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX Sports 1”, and we just wanted him to kind of help set the stage for this big race this weekend and help to put it in context of its significance. So before I welcome in Richie, let me tell you a little bit about him. Richie retired from riding in 2010 with nearly 4,500 career wins. He was born and raised on Long Island where he went to work on a horse farm at age 12. He began riding in 1980 and won an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top apprentice of 1981. He earned eight New York Racing Association riding titles, and tied for two others. In addition to his FOX Sports duties, he’s also an on-air analyst for NYRA and HRTV.
Richie, thanks for joining us.
Richard Migliore: Thanks for having me. How are you guys?
Jim Mulvihill: Doing well. So we’ve got this awesome day of racing on Saturday, and I’d just like you to help us set the stage for the big event. Maybe I’ll ask you how unusual is it to have two horses of this caliber meeting this early in the year; their first races of the year? This is pretty exceptional for February, right?
Richard Migliore: It’s outstanding. I haven’t done all of my research yet for Saturday’s show, but I started looking last night trying to remember when was the last time you had two colts out of the same crop, one that was a Two-Year-Old Champion, and then one that was a Three-Year-Old Champion and Horse of the Year meet up as four-year-olds, and I hadn’t come up with anybody yet. So just the fact that you have two champions out of the same fall crop hooking up this early in the year is remarkable.
Jim Mulvihill: Now with these two horses specifically, I mean we’ll talk about the rest of the field a little bit, but, you know, they’ve both been off since the end of last year, but tell us what kind of condition you would expect them to be in for this race? I mean they’re both sharp and they weren’t off for very long, but they also have larger goals down the road, and presumably the Big ‘Cap or the Dubai World Cup. Are both these horses going to be on top of their game for this?
Richard Migliore: You know, I think so. I was looking at, first, Shared Belief’s work camp since the Malibu, and it looks to me that he’s trained with much more purpose towards the San Antonio. His works have picked up in speed; he’s thrown those consistent 6 furlong works. It almost appears to me that the Malibu was used as the springboard to get him ready for this, and I expect him to be at 100% as well. California Chrome, he just ran the end of November so it’s not like he’s coming off a long layoff, and he’s gotten those old school works in there with Art Sherman; you know, 7 furlongs, one mile.
Jim Mulvihill: Right.
Richard Migliore: I think both horses are sitting on their A races.
Jim Mulvihill: Now let’s go back to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That race obviously didn’t unfold the way that any of us would’ve expected, and that is, of course, the only time these two horses have met. What did that race actually tell us about how they stack up against one another, or did it at all, especially with Shared Belief and the trouble that he had?
Richard Migliore: Yes, I think it’s hard to assess, you know, what that race means because of the trouble that Shared Belief encountered at the gate, and then certainly a sixteenth of a mile later. But if you think about how badly he was bothered at the start, and then he’s only beaten three and three quarter lengths, and actually about three and a half lengths to California Chrome who is your Horse of the Year, most horses wouldn’t have even gotten back in the race let alone put themselves in a position to get a check and be within calling distance. I think we learned more about Shared Belief in defeat than we did in victory. A lot of horses can throw a punch but not that many horses can take a punch. Well, he certainly took a punch and he still kept trying.
Jim Mulvihill: Very interesting. Well, I’m always interested in the way you seem to pick up on the tendencies and habits of the horses that you watch, and it’s great getting to hear you offer that sort of in depth analysis on the air. So when it comes to these two horses, is there anything you’ve seen that handicappers and fans should know about, you know, things that might pertain to the draw or where they like to be in the race or the way that the pace will unfold and so on; just little things about these horses that might impact how things go on Saturday?
Richard Migliore: Well just looking at the horses, Shared Belief to me is a horse that it’s always very hard to determine how much horse that—well, Mike Smith obviously has been riding him—has underneath him, because he’s not a horse that really travels in the bridle. He’s kind of constantly having to niggle at him a little bit; keep him going forward. He doesn’t seem to run the turns as well to me as he does the straight-aways, so there’s been a few races where I’ve said, well, he’s empty today, and then he keeps finding. So, you know, I think that’s interesting.
California Chrome’s never won a race that he wasn’t in front turning for home. He seems to have that kind of turn of foot coming off the quarter pole and he basically stamps the race right there. Tactically I think he needs to be in a position to make use of that turn of foot at that point and put as much separation as he can between him and the rest of the field, and in particular, Shared Belief. So maybe tactically California Chrome’s going to have a bit of an edge.
Jim Mulvihill: At the finish, what do we think? I mean are you ready to make a call on this race yet?
Richard Migliore: Well, I’m a big fan of both horses. I probably am leaning towards Shared Belief because there is some other speed in the race, and I think you’re going to have—you know, California Chrome might get his right trip stalking and being able to pounce, but the pace might be strong enough to set it up for Shared Belief’s late run. You know, you have a horse like Alphabird if he runs. Tyler Baze is expected to ride him, and Tyler’s a pretty aggressive rider, so I think you’ll get a legitimate pace in there, and, again, California Chrome has to make use of that turn of foot, and hopefully doesn’t use too much of himself doing that, because you know that Shared Belief is a horse that just keeps coming.
Art Wilson: I was wondering what your thoughts are—a lot of times—I can think of three or four times in particular last year where Baffert kind of came into a big race under the radar where his horse wasn’t the focus of attention, and that’s kind of the way it looks for Hoppertunity going into the San Antonio on Saturday. What do you think of that colt and what do you think of his chances in the race?
Richard Migliore: Well, he’s obviously a very nice colt. I think last time in the San Pasqual he was very Hoppertunistic I think would be a good way to put it. He, you know, just got a dream trip up the rail; fairly strong pace for the distance, and I think he fell into the right trip. But he is ultra consistent, and you can never count Bob Baffert out, particularly in big races and at Santa Anita. So I think he has to improve to handle the likes of California Chrome and Shared Belief, but it’s a distinct possibility; he very well could.
Art Wilson: So in your way of thinking, do you think it is primarily a two-horse race?
Richard Migliore: Yes, I mean I’ve been going back and forth about this, and you’re always trying to find the fly in the ointment so to speak, and I just haven’t seen it. I really think that we’re talking about two superior colts; you know, two a gelding and a colt—that are just a bit better than what they’re running against Saturday. You know, if Bayern was in there, obviously you’d have to add him into that trilogy, but it’s a pretty impressive thing to have three of the best three-year-olds I’ve seen in a long time; Bayern, Shared Belief, and California Chrome returning at four, and hopefully we’ll get to see the three of them match up at some stage.
Art Wilson: You’ve been around the game for the last 35 years or so, and, you know, other than the three you just mentioned, Bayern included, you’ve got three or four other really top three-year-olds from last year coming back. Hopefully Wise Dan will make it back; you’ve got Untapable. Can you remember a time when there was so many good horses coming back?
Richard Migliore: You know, I really can’t. I mean when we’ve got a really impressive sprinkling of different kinds of horses. Obviously, you know, Wise Dan being an older horse and you’ve got this horse named Liam’s Map that’s going to try the Donn, and, you know, he’s obviously extremely talented. He’s going to get the acid test. But horses like Commissioner and Constitution, and, you know, I’m sure I’m leaving names out, but I think it’s great to see that trend where horses aren’t getting rushed off to the breeding shed. You know, Palace Malice is now returning, and I thought at one stage last year he was the best older horse in the country after his Met Mile victory. So right now the prospects are exciting. We need to hold our fingers—you know, cross our fingers and hope that everybody holds together and we get to see them set the (inaudible) on the racetrack.
Tom Pedulla: Did you come away from the Classic thinking that Shared Belief was the best horse in that race with everything that happened?
Richard Migliore: Yes, I did, and I didn’t come to that conclusion until, you know, I’d watched it over probably 20 or 30 times. I knew I had a gut reaction to what took place within the race and voiced my opinion about that, but I always find it prudent to go back and watch a race several times and key on every horse in the race individually at one time or another; watch them from start to finish. When I went back and watched him several times from start to finish, I really believe he never had a true opportunity to show his best. He was always at a distinct disadvantage; basically taken out of the game at the break and then a little bit further on into the run through the stretch the first time. He had every right to quit. I mean, you know, basically he was the horse that was undefeated at that point, and now he really had to face adversity. The fact that he did and kept running on and only beaten three and three quarter lengths for (inaudible) the money, I believe he was the best horse on the day.
Art Wilson: Okay, thank you. Would you go so far as to say he’s a great horse at this point or does his greatness still need to be demonstrated?
Richard Migliore: I think he’s a very, very good horse and I’m hoping that by the end of the year we’re putting his name in with the greats. I actually had a debate over his Malibu with somebody, and they were saying, well, you know, I thought he did something that was out of his comfort zone with the turn back and still got it done, and then, you know, the horse coming back and winning the (inaudible) the other day I think showed that it was a good race. But the person brought up some great horses that had turned back and won; Forego and Kelso and names like that, and I said, well, I think you just made my argument, because the names that you’re throwing out there are horses that I consider great. So I do think Shared Belief has an opportunity to be great. I know right now he’s very, very good.
Jim Mulvihill: Richie, just a couple questions about a few of the other races on Saturday. You were at Gulfstream last year when the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX Sports 1” kicked off with the Donn, and Lea won it last year and is back in again this year. Can you just give us your thoughts on the Donn?
Richard Migliore: Yes, Lea is an exceptional horse, too. I thought his prep race in the Hal’s Hope, the same race he used to springboard to the Donn last year, was exceptional. The half length margin of victory I don’t think tells the whole tale. He was pretty bottled up. You know, he did get to save ground so it wasn’t a bad trip, but a horse coming off a layoff to show the turn of foot he showed in the last eighth of a mile, basically more of an acceleration like a turf horse as opposed to a horse in the dirt, I thought was pretty impressive. Obviously we know he loves Gulfstream; he’s three for three, so I think he’s very much the horse to beat. I think Todd Pletcher’s got a few in there that are interesting. Obviously, Liam’s Map has got sensational talent. Now he’s going to have to show that, you know, he can take some adversity himself. These horses aren’t going to hand it to him, and I think he’s been dominating his opposition so far.
It’s kind of interesting if you look at it. Constitution’s three for three at Gulfstream as well, so you know that he really likes the track, and from what I understand he’s been training sensational there. So I really think that those three are the three that you really have to look hard at in the race obviously.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Then beyond these shows on the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX Sports 1” on Saturday, the Withers is a Kentucky Derby points race, and that, of course, is at one of your home tracks of Aqueduct. So being a NYRA racing analyst, I’m just wondering if you’ve got any early opinions on the Withers?
Richard Migliore: Well, El Kabeir was very impressive in the Jerome. He was caught wide in the first turn, and it was the first time he ever showed the ability to rate off of horses, you know, albeit in the clear stalking, but it was nice to see that he could pass horses, and I thought he finished the deal well. Speaking with John Terranova and his exercise rider, Simon Harris, they feel like he’s really matured out of that race even more where he’s become even more tractable, relaxing better in the mornings, finishes his works with a lot of energy. So I think the Jerome was a really good schooling race for him, and I think he’s going to take another step forward.
Then Classy Class is a horse that I saw breeze Sunday morning at Belmont on the training track and looks tremendous. Speaking with Artie Magnuson, Kiaran McLaughlin’s assistant, he said this horse has grown up so much not just from August but through from the time he ran in the Remsen until now, and he really feels like he’s changed so much in the last few months that he’s going to run a really big race. From what I could see from him visually, I would think he’s going to run an A race as well.
Jim Mulvihill: That is terrific info, Mig. I thank you so much for joining us today, and we’ll look forward to hearing more from you on the “Jockey Club Tour on FOX Sports 1”.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, thanks so much. That was Richard Migliore, and it’s fair to say that there are very few broadcasters out there who know what they’re looking at on the track as much as Richie does, so it’s always great to see him on national TV.
But now we’re going to move on to our final guest, and that is, of course, Art Sherman, the trainer of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome. Now, Art became the oldest trainer ever to win the Kentucky Derby last year at 77. He was a jockey for more than 21 years before switching to training. He’s won more than 2,100 races as a trainer, including 20 graded stakes, and California Chrome has been responsible for the last five of those graded stakes wins for Art, including the Derby and Preakness, and last time out the Hollywood Derby on the turf.
Art Sherman, thank you for joining us once again.
Art Sherman: All right. I know it’s in the afternoon now, but it’s still morning here in San Diego. I happen to be over at San Diego right now. The weather has been beautiful. I see where you’re having a little rough weather back east.
Jim Mulvihill: Yes, we are, but that’s why it’s great that this race is happening in Southern California. You can always count on fast and firm there.
Art Sherman: Yes, it’s kind of nice when it’s, you know, my horse has really relished the track at Santa Anita. He’s run (inaudible) some big races there.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, Art, let’s talk about the San Antonio on Saturday, and this is about as big as a Grade 2 race in February can be. Can you tell us in your mind what’s at stake in this race beyond the purse money?
Art Sherman: Well, me and Jerry Hollendorfer go back a long time. You know, we trained horses in Northern California; have been friends for years and years. It’s really nice, he sent me Shared Belief to run out of my barn when he won the big race there in Los Alamitos so I got a good chance to watch him train. He’s really a nice horse, and, you know, I felt bad for him in the Breeders’ Cup, because, you know, he did have to steady and didn’t really have a good shot at it. But I’ve been wanting to meet his horse head’s up for a long time.It’s going to be interesting, and just hope that everybody has a fair shake at it this time. We know that racing luck plays a big part of it.
Jim Mulvihill: Absolutely. But, you know, we live in an era where there are so many rich races and so many options for a good horse that it’s easy to duck the best competition, but you and Jerry really are relishing this opportunity to meet again and perhaps more times down the road this year. Just talk more about your desire to actually face off against the best other horse that’s training out in California.
Art Sherman: Well, my horse is doing great. As a four-year-old he got bigger and stronger, and I’m not sure how many more races we’ll have with him in California, so I know that Chromies will be a little bit disappointed if I have to go, you know, back to Dubai, and, he won’t be able to run in the Santa Anita Handicap of course. The $10 million purse has a lot to do with that, you know what I mean, for the owners’ sake. You know, they’ve always said they would like to see him run with the best in the world, so I guess that’s where we’re going to have to be after this race. I just hope he comes out of the race in good shape. You might get a chance to see him in New York. They were talking about the Manhattan later on in the year, so I’ll be anxious to get back to New York, too. I enjoy it there very much.
Jim Mulvihill: Art, you sound almost disappointed about the chance to go run in a $10 million race.
Art Sherman: Well, to me it’s a long way, and when I talk to other trainers—I’ve never been there before, so I’m looking forward to being there. They say it’s gorgeous and everything is (inaudible), you know. But when your horse goes over there and they say that it takes them about three months to recover from that trip and everything, so, you know, you always have these back of your mind I hope he comes out of it all right. There are a lot of different things going; the races are at night. You know, he’s an adaptable type of horse. I’m not worried about that so much, it’s just, you know, the whole plan of running him all next year in different races, you know what I mean, I just like to go one race at a time and hope he comes back and is in good shape, you know. He’s been a sound horse and hasn’t had problems. When you see all these horses go by the wayside every day, you look up and you see this horse come up with his high suspensory, this one next, you know, you’ve always got that funny feeling about, oh God, I hope that don’t happen to my horse, you know.
Jim Mulvihill: Right.
Art Sherman: But hey listen, I know the racing game, and while he’s doing great, he looks super, he’s put on weight, he looks—I’m just so delighted to be able to run him as a four-year-old.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, we’re looking forward to it. Looking at your comments after the last work at Los Al, it seemed that like even though you loved the way that he went, you maybe had hoped that he’d get a little more out of it or maybe would’ve done a little more. Does that concern you at all coming into Saturday or was that just not…?
Art Sherman: You know, I told Victor to go in and tick, you know what I mean? Victor, he’s worked his horse so many times that he’s actually had him out in the middle of the racetrack, which is fine, so he wouldn’t go down on the rail and work too fast. He’s been doing really great. You know, we’ve galloped him two miles in between the days he just gallops, and sometimes you wonder, geez, I’d have liked to see him go—and he—all he had to do was just move his hands and he goes in a minute, you know what I mean, but 1:01 and change, that was—I was just trying to let some air go. You know, he acts like he didn’t even work when he comes back, you know, and the gallop out, well, he was going out and galloping out he went 11 and 3 galloping out, and I said, well that’s faster than he was working. So I get a little bit concerned, because I like to see him get a little bit more out of his work sometimes, but maybe I’m a little over-cautious, you know what I mean; you know that he’s had a little break right now and he’s coming into these races. But I want to tell you, this horse really runs good (inaudible) too. So, he’s going over there right now and he’s loading on the van and heading over to Santa Anita to school all week.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. You know, the other side of him going a tick or two slow is he’s obviously doing so well that he’s kind of fooling Victor a little bit. He doesn’t even know how fast he’s going.
Art Sherman: He’s fooling him a lot. I used to say, you know, in my era when you missed it—I said go in about a minute and he went 1:01. I said, man, my boss would’ve kicked me right in the pants in them days. You know, you missing five lengths is a lot of lengths, you know what I mean. But it’s a different ball game now, you know what I mean.
Jim Mulvihill: Right.
Art Sherman: You want to keep your horses fresh and feeling good, and he gets a lot out more out of his gallops than he does anything. You know, he just puts so much into it after he gallops, and he comes back, and he’s such a cool horse to train. It’s been a pleasure being around him, and we’re going for some more awards so getting California Bred of the Year, and I’m getting Trainer of the Year for California Chrome. You know, it’s been quite a ride for me, and I hope it can continue. You know, I’m enjoying every moment of it to tell you the truth.
Art Wilson: Richie Migliore, who was on before you pointed out that this is a pretty special deal where you have two accomplished horses from the same crop. Shared Belief, of course, was the Champion Two-Year-Old, and Chrome was the Champion Three-Year-Old and Horse of the Year, and they’ve both come back and raced against each other at four, and this is something that’s like it’s unchartered waters. Can you feel how special this is?
Art Sherman: Oh, yes. I get goose bumps a little bit when I think about it, you know what I mean. It is a lot at stake. You know, it’s just like, all right, who’s the champion on the block? You know, it reminds me of when we were kids and you had the hot rods and were going for pink slips, you know what I mean, who’s the best horse? It’s going to be fun. Whatever happens, whoever outruns each other, I just want them to have a fair shake at it; both of us be at the end of the stretch with no excuses, and who goes to the wire the first that’s how I’d like to see it.
Art Wilson: Right. Just to clarify now, if—I know you’ve got to wait to see how he comes out of this race, but if all goes well in the San Antonio and he comes out sound and everything, the current plans are to skip the Big ‘Cap and go to Dubai?
Art Sherman: Yes, that’s what the owners want to do, so we’re (cross talking).
Art Wilson: It sounds like if it were your decision that’s something you wouldn’t want to do.
Art Sherman: Well, I always wanted to stay in the United States. There are so many good races, and you don’t have to travel that far. I just think that he’s the people’s horse in North America, you know what I mean. I don’t have anything to prove around the world that he’s a good horse. You know, you could see by his record. I don’t know, I just think that I wish I could just keep him in the United States, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Louisa Barton: Yes, Art, I’ve interviewed you before and I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, and I’ll tell you I appreciate that. I’d just like to ask you how you feel that Chrome is compared to how he was when he was training on the Triple Crown trail just to compare his maturity and improvement?
Art Sherman: Well, I really think he’s a different horse right now. I look at him in the stall and I look at him walking around the shred row. He grew up, you know. I look back and look at him as a two-year-old to the three-year-old, now a three-year-old to a four-year-old; he became a super nice looking horse. You know, I’m just so lucky to have him, and keeping him sound and working on him every day and making sure everything is all right. It’s a little bit more pressure on me now training, you know, because he was strictly training for three-year-olds and now challenges the world almost, you know. Four year olds and up, you’re going to hit the best horses all over, and I just hope he’s up to it. But I’ve got a good feeling about it, and I just think he’s going to be a super four-year-old. I really do.
Mike Tierney: Art, at the end of last season, how much discussion was there with the owners and perhaps you on retiring the horse?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, they were talking about it and retiring, and I said, you know, I think he—I thought they would make a mistake retiring him as a three-year-old. I said, you know, there’s—what happens to our game is we don’t have any of the older horses running anymore; we lost our stars. You know, you get through with Palace Malice not there, Wise Dan anymore, and Baffert’s horses, you know, you lose a lot of fans by not having stars. When you see this—what this horse is going to draw on this Saturday, you know, it’s going to be unbelievable. You know, he drew $25,000—I mean 25,000 people at Del Mar when it was just the first meet that they ever had, and it was a tremendous buildup for the race tracks and the fan base. So I just think it’s wonderful that they decided to let him run as a four-year-old, you know, and I have big expectations of him coming up this year.
Mike Tierney: Did you have to sort of persuade them to your point of view? Could you share anything that you told them?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, I just gave my opinion whether—it probably sunk in a little bit, you know what I mean. I’m not 100% sure. Perry Martin makes all the decisions on that. So I hope it did, but as it turned out, it looks like we’re on the right plan for him as a four-year-old.
Mike Tierney: Lastly, how would you have felt had they gone in the other direction and retired him?
Art Sherman: Well, I would’ve had a big loss in my barn, you know what I mean. You get used to and attached to horses, and he’s been so much for my career and a personal thing. You know, winning Horse of the Year to me was the best thing that could ever happen to me. It was just an awesome experience. You know, Three-Year-Old of the Year and then watching them handing me that gold-plated Horse of the Year was unbelievable. I felt so honored to be there among all of the big guns I call them, you know.
John Pricci: Richie Migliore was on a little earlier and talking about your training style; a little bit old school. Now, you were not that pleased with the workout. You wanted to get another five lengths into him in terms of speed out of his last workout. So speaking of old school, I mean is there any chance you could like blow him out an eighth of a mile the morning of the race or is that unsuitable for this particular horse?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, knowing this horse I would have to say it’s a little bit unsuitable. You know, I hate changing everything. You know, sometimes you get a little overcautious, you know, thinking, well, I’d like to blow them out a little bit faster and I’d like to do this and that, but then I look at him physically, you know, and everything looks in the right spot. He’s muscular, he shines in his coat, he’s healthy, and I’m saying maybe I’m just getting a little paranoid, you know what I mean. He looks better than he’s ever looked physically, so I’m just going to let it go and just hope for the best. I know he’s going to be fresh coming into this race. He’s probably going to show a lot more speed than he usually does.
Jeffrey Riddle: I’m calling here from London. I’m very interested in—I’m just trying to get a gauge. You—obviously you’re quite clear that you’re going to go to Dubai.
Art Sherman: True.
Jeffrey Riddle: In what sense is this race a stepping stone to Dubai, and how ready is Chrome for this race?
Art Sherman: Well, I think Chrome probably is coming into this race fine. After this race he’ll be a—he’ll be really strong for Dubai, you know what I mean. I know that he’ll have to be at his best to run with the best horses in Europe, you know, so this is kind of almost like a stepping stone for me for the next race, which will be in the latter part of March, the Dubai World Cup, and we should be coming into it in really good shape. I, you know, we’ve had a little time off between them, and what happens is a lot of times you get to where you say, oh, maybe my horse is not tight enough to where you had them, but you look at the long-term with all the races that are on for the rest of the year, you don’t want to get too hyped up and take one race as being a stepping stone. He’s got a lot of races to go for this year. I’m looking forward to even maybe sometime making it out to England. I would love to run on their courses. I watch the races and I think it’s spectacular.
Jeffrey Riddle: I think we would welcome you with open arms in London. I’m wondering, have you been watching the races in Dubai? Are you buoyed by California Chrome’s style of running prominently?
Art Sherman: You know, I did watch some races from there and I know they have a new dirt track and it seems like with his style of running, you know, I could place him any place, you know. He’s got enough natural speed, and I just think if the track does get a little tighter over there by that time, I’m not sure what the—after we train him on it I’ll know more, but he can about run on any kind of track. God, I’ve been all over the country and every track was different. So I’m just hoping that when it plays it plays; you know, it gives me a chance to watch some races while I’m there and have an idea of what post positions are the best and everything. You know, I’ll make that kind of commitment when I get over there and just to see what everything is. It’s going to be all new for me, so I’m kind of anxious to see what it’s like.
Jeffrey Riddle: Now, Art, you’d been saying earlier that you’ve got nothing to prove abroad and you just used the word anxious. I’m just sort of trying to get—are you not excited by such a big trip?
Art Sherman: Oh, I am excited, you know what I mean. I’ve just got to go to this race. I try to get focused on the race coming up, you know what I mean, and when you get to where you’re training your horse and you just want them to come out of the race good and have a good trip, and then go into the next. You know, I’m really looking after this race of going to Dubai, you know what I mean. I think it would be great. I had a chance to go one time with a horse called Siren Lure and they invited me, and I thought he’d run a big straightaway, three quarters at that time, and the owners didn’t care to do it. So I was kind of disappointed. I would’ve loved to have gone then.
Jeffrey Riddle: Lastly, seeing—can you just tell me a bit about California Chrome’s constitution. He seems a very hearty individual.
Art Sherman: He is. I’ll tell you, he’s the best shipper in the world. You know, you can’t make excuses there. He’s flown a lot. He gets off, you know. He’s one of them kind of horses that once you’re around him you say, wow, he’s a sweetheart, you know what I mean. You know for being a stud horse he’s got the right attitude, and he’s kind. You know, he likes to nip a little bit like all studs do, but he’s always focused and he loves to train, so, you know, he’s been an unbelievable horse to get to these races.
Danny Brewer: Chrome’s demeanor, does that make your job as trainer even that much easier the way he carries himself?
Art Sherman: Oh, absolutely. You know, I’ve seen a lot of good horses run their races before they get there, and (inaudible) and wanting to flip in the gate, and even though I’ve watched horses all my life and rode a lot of good horses, but the ones that really do the running, like when I was a kid on Swaps and got to see the way he travels, it gives me great pleasure just to be around them kind of horses before, and finally to get to train one like I am now. And they know they’re something special. I know he thinks he’s a rock star because, he loves all the people. He loves when they come over. I had ESPN there the other morning and photograph him. I had to run them out of the barn almost because they would’ve stayed there all afternoon, you know what I mean. He just looks at them and kind of likes the cameras. I should’ve let him eat and let him relax for awhile. He’s one of those horses that once you’re around him you really say, wow, he’s got a lot of class, yes.
Danny Brewer: With all that in mind, when you’re going in the San Antonio, do you think about Shared Belief or Hoppertunity or Majestic Harbor, you know, any of the other horses, or is it just simply about Chrome being Chrome?
Art Sherman: Well, I like to see Chrome show up like I know he can, you know what I mean. Now they opened up the race it’s going to be I heard quite a few horses in there, and I always worry about that when it’s a huge field. You’re going to have to let him run away from there and get a good post position. You know, there are so many variables now. I thought maybe a fixed horse field would’ve been great, but I heard there might be as much as 10 in there.
Danny Brewer: Okay, so Shared Belief and Chrome, if Chrome goes to Dubai and Shared Belief stays here, maybe they’ll meet up later in the year because obviously they’re both West Coast horses. If this were like Ali Frazier, where we were having like a trilogy, which one would Chrome be? Would he be Ali or would he be Frazier?
Art Sherman: That’s a good question. You know, I’m glad you brought that up. I’m saying to myself it is like it’s the old grudge match.
Danny Brewer: Yes, exactly.
Art Sherman: You know, no, that’s what’s going to bring out the people on Saturday, too. You’ve got the Shared Believers that think their horse might’ve been the best horse, and, you know, he was Two-Year-Old Champion, and here we are Three-Year-Old Champion. It’s very rare that they get to run against each other. Usually they’re ducking each other or going some other direction. So I’m kind of looking forward to it, even though we’re good friends, me and Jerry, you know what I mean, we’re pretty competitive type of guy, so Ali to Frazier, I have to laugh, you know what I mean.
Danny Brewer: Yes, yes. So is he Ali or is he Frazier? Which one is he, Artie?
Art Sherman: Well, one—I don’t know how that’s going to turn out. You know, they’ve both got similar styles of running. It’s going to be very interesting. I’m kind of like, wow, what’s this race—I don’t even know how do you plan out a race like that other than seeing the PPs on the other horses where you’re going to be, how you—the strategy you’re going to use. It’s going to mean a lot. Is there going to be quite a bit of other speed; some other horses in there? Are you going to be off the pace, on the pace? You know, you’ve got to put all that together when you look at the form, you know.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Art, I just have one final question for you. I wanted to follow-up on what you were saying earlier in the call. You know, it’s so refreshing and wonderful to hear you talk about when it comes to considerations for coming back as a four-year-old as well as facing Shared Belief, you mentioned things like the fans and what’s good for the game. Can you talk about what makes you feel a responsibility to the sport? You know, after all these decades in it, why do you feel that need to consider them over perhaps money and the other things that often dictate these decisions?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, when I was a kid I remember the crowds. I remember when Swaps won the Hollywood Gold Cup and maybe it was 65, 70,000 people. I miss that screaming and the hollering and the closeness of the races. You don’t see that now. It’s satellite wagering and everybody don’t want to go and get on the freeway; you can bet off your iPad, you can go here and you go there. But there’s nothing like being there. It was the biggest joy for me when I won the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar. I just—actually I went to the paddock and they were screaming his name: Chrome, Chrome, and it was like, wow, look at these people that just love this horse, you know what I mean. I miss that in racing. The money part, you can only use so much money you know, it’s not important to me. I just love to see people enjoy the sport, and hope it can continue for my kids when I’m not around. I look for the betterment of racing. I really do.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, you’ve already given a lot to the betterment of racing, and we look forward to more this year. Thank you so much for your time today. As always, it’s been a great pleasure and we wish you luck Saturday.
Art Sherman: I appreciate everything. Thank you.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, that was Art Sherman; very kind with his time. He’s been on probably more of our calls the last couple years than anyone else and we’re very grateful for that. That’ll do it for today’s special NTRA National Media Teleconference. Our thanks not just to Art but also to Jerry Hollendorfer and Richie Migliore.