NTRA National Media Teleconference, July 28, 2015
Trainer Bob Baffert – Haskell Invitational
Trainer Dallas Stewart – West Virginia Derby & Governor’s Stakes
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin – Jim Dandy
Operator: Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the NTRA 2015 Countdown to the Breeders’ Cup World Championship Conference Call.
It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Mr. Jim Mulvihill. Please go ahead, Mr. Mulvihill.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Thank you, John, and welcome, everyone, to this week’s NTRA National Media Teleconference. We’ll be here more Tuesdays than not over the next three months leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. This week we’re focused on three key three-year-old stakes: the million dollar William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park featuring the Triple Crown winning rock star American Pharoah; the $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer; and the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga.
Now we’ve got a new rule on these calls that trainers of Triple Crown winners earn a lifetime exemption from having to sit through introductions and announcements. So without further ado, I’d like to welcome in Bob Baffert. Bob, Jim Mulvihill in Lexington here. Thanks for joining us.
Bob Baffert: That’s a nice introduction. It’s quick. I like that.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, we do what we can. We know you’re a busy man, so we want to get right to the questions, and I’m going to turn things over to the media in just a moment, but first I just wanted to get your impressions of American Pharoah’s work this morning. It was just a couple of hours ago. I believe the official time was 48 and 4 for a half, so just tell us what you thought.
Bob Baffert: Yes, he went really nice. He just basically looked more like an open gallop for him, and he went out in 1:01; just looked like the Pharoah that he is. I didn’t want to do anything too much with him this week because his last couple works were pretty stiff. So he looked great and he’s moving beautiful, and he’s holding his form really well. It’s amazing what he’s been through is still right there just holding his form. So it makes my job a lot easier, and plus I’ve got a great staff that we work with here. So he’s ready to ship out tomorrow and hopefully get some racing luck and the Pharoah will show up.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Well, we’re happy to hear the work this morning went well, and now I’ll just turn it back to John and we’ll let the media fire away.
.com. Please go ahead.
Danny Brewer: If you could look into the soul of American Pharoah, what would you see?
Bob Baffert: That’s a pretty heavy question. I don’t know about that. That’s too heavy for me. I can give you some trainer answers, but that’s way too heavy.
Danny Brewer: It’s a little too far reaching? Well, everybody asks you about his work and all that stuff that you’ve answered 10 million times, so I was just trying to go, you know, with…
Bob Baffert: I would like to know…
Danny Brewer: You’re closer to him than anybody else, so what do you think?
Bob Baffert: He is a horse that—he poses a lot of—there’s just something about him and he’s got a certain aura about him; his confidence, that—and plus he’s a very kind, very smart animal, and to most people he’s become like a pet around the barn. He likes interaction with people. So he’s just a different type of horse I’ve ever had of this caliber. You know, Game On Dude was a very sweet horse and kind like that, but this guy the way he moves, there’s just something genetically that—something just hit just perfectly when he was made, and that’s what makes it so much fun and he makes my job so much easier, and to have him around it’s pretty exciting. I know we’re not going to have him around until the end of this year, but it’s going to be sad, you know, because we’ve all gotten pretty close to him, and I think he has so many fans and people. Every morning it’s like a crowd in front of the barn, and then there’s people watching him gallop and they cheer for him every time he—and so it’s a pretty different kind of feeling. Now with social media, people know what he’s doing every step so they can, you know, before—I remember having Silver Charm and all those good horses, social media wasn’t around really but people knew what was going on every minute of the day. So now everybody knows where he is, so I might as well put a GPS on him. But he enjoys it and so it’s fun to really share him with the fans.
Danny Brewer: Last from me, the Del Mar dirt, what’s your impression of it? I know it’s just a couple weeks in the meet, but what do you think about the Del Mar dirt?
Bob Baffert: It’s soft; it’s deep. I think he’ll get a lot out of it. I mean it’s a good track if you want to get your horses really fit. It’s pretty demanding. It’s a little dead and loose, but it’s new so it’ll probably settle down, but right now it’s pretty demanding.
Don Jensen: It’s been almost two months since you won the Triple Crown. How has it changed horse racing for 2015, and especially interest level?
Bob Baffert: I think the interest level probably came up there’s a lot of people that come up to me and they say, hey, congratulations or I saw it, and, you know, I never really watch horse racing and now I seem to be watching it. So, you know, everybody thought what’s it going to do? Is it going to help racing or whatever? I think, we have the same gamblers we had before, but picked up—it think it’s brought a lot of interest because I think this horse really inspired a lot of people when he won that day, and he made them feel–you know, it was a big lift just in their lives, no matter what they did. I hear that a lot. I think it’s like that’s why everybody that I knew, and I had people tell me that I was watching and then we started crying, and a lot of emotion. I think when anything like especially animals and horses are so beautiful and something like that, he just mixes—he made everybody feel really good that day when he won. If you watched it, it was, it was pretty—the story—people come up to me, strangers, and tell me where they were or what they did. I’ll never forget we were here and then we were watching on this little television, and they were doing this; the place was going nuts. You know, my wife where she gets her hair done in Beverly Hills, she was telling me the whole place stopped and everybody was watching on a little TV. It was like going crazy. You would never think that would even tune into something like that. So there was a lot more people tuned in than you can imagine.
Debbie Arrington: Hi, Bob, and, you know, congratulations again on just an amazing accomplishment. Well, we talked a little bit about, you know, how racing may have changed, but how has the Triple Crown impacted you? How has it changed your life?
Bob Baffert: Well, I don’t know if it’s changed my life, but I’ve had a lot of people that want to take pictures, and they come up and congratulate me and they want to have pictures taken with me, and people are excited about the horse. I still go to work every day, the same thing, but I’ve noticed there’s a lot of—I can just imagine what John Shirreffs was going through with Zenyatta. Whenever he was stabled next to me and he always had a crew and people wanted to— the horse can’t talk so I have to be his voice piece. So everywhere I go people they just want to make sure that they let me know that we saw the race, and thank you so much for—that horse made us, mainly thanks for the horse; for having a horse like that, which I didn’t, the Zayats are the ones that bred him and raised him he’s the one that made it happen. So that’s the thing, he bred that horse and raised him, he just did it the old fashioned way, it’s a pretty incredible story.
Debbie Arrington: Do you think we’ll see him race again here in California?
Bob Baffert: I don’t know. It’s one race and then when he runs we’ll assess; see what he—how he does, and so I’m not going to give beyond the Haskell.
Larry Stumes: In the weeks after the Belmont, did you have a feeling just of really self-satisfaction of doing a really good training job, or was there something special and extra in your step for those weeks after the Belmont?
Bob Baffert: Well, I mean I think, you know, being that I’d gone through it I was fortunate to go through it three times before, I really knew what to expect, and always had a game plan, and, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But, you know, I really didn’t do anything differently than I did with my other ones, —this horse —he got it done.
I’m proud of my team, my staff, and we just treated it like we treated any—lucky enough and fortunate enough of—we’ve run in these big races and everything went really smooth. But, I never like felt like I was second guessing myself or am I doing the right thing. I just felt confident going in every race that I felt like I was doing the right thing and everything was working —the plan was going well. It’s difficult to win the Triple Crown, but I didn’t sit there at night thinking what I should do, you know. I just had it in my mind I knew what we had to do and how I was going to train him, and once in a while I’d change up a lot, and I would change maybe work days; what I was going to do galloping him. So basically just watched the horse and see. He would let me know what he was going to do that day, and a lot of it was just by feel. That’s what training is. You’ve just got to go by feel.
Tim Wilkin: Hey, Bob. Now that the Haskell’s on top of us, is there more pressure now when he runs because he’s the Triple Crown winner and so many people expect that he should win?
Bob Baffert: I think there was more pressure for the Kentucky Derby. To me, I felt a lot of pressure for the Kentucky Derby, because we couldn’t let that race get away. So I don’t feel that pressure now. I think he’s doing well, and we know how good he is, and now he just needs racing to get around there. But the way he’s prepared, he’s ready for this race. So the pressure was the Kentucky Derby. You’re dealing with a field of 20 horses. It’s crazy. There were so many little factors, and now we’re just enjoying it. This is the icing on the cake, and it’s going to be fun to watch him run, and to me, if he’s on that plane he’s doing exceptionally well. If he wasn’t doing exceptionally well then he wouldn’t be on that plane. If he’s on that plane, then that means he’s doing exceptionally. So I feel confident that he’s going to run a big race, and that’s all—as a trainer, that’s all we can do is just have them ready and whatever happen, happens.
Tim Wilkin: Yesterday, Justin Zayat came out and said, and I know you don’t look ahead, but he said if he comes out in the Haskell and he’s just Pharoah, he goes I see no reason why he shouldn’t run in the Travers. When you hear something like that do you cringe?
Bob Baffert: No, I didn’t hear it, I don’t keep up with that. I think that we just assess it one race at a time. Hey, I’d like to run him every week. I’d love to watch him run every week. I’d like to hit them all. Pharoah will let us know what he’s ready and, the main thing is that, we’re going to do right by Pharoah, and he lets me know if he can handle it. It just depends how hard the race is, you never know—I have him prepared for a hard, tough race. So that’s one thing I’ve always done. When I took him to Arkansas, he was ready for a tough race. He didn’t get it, but he was ready. So we have him ready for a battle just in case.
Paul Daley: I’ve covered the Triple Crown since the Belmonts that haven’t gone your way, and a couple of them could have, and, you know, you’ve always done a great job, and I know you don’t want to look past the Haskell. I guess my question is, because I know you just want to take it one race at a time, but my question is just supposing that, you know, you want to keep other options open, just like Todd Pletcher has a lot of really good horses, and Chad Brown, and a lot of other trainers, are there any other horses that you would consider for the Travers, you know, in addition to American Pharoah that—so you would have a horse in the Travers?
Bob Baffert: Well, I mean not today. I don’t know if things change. I don’t think so. I mean we have Dortmund, but he’s just getting back going right now.
Paul Daley: Okay.
Bob Baffert: So it would probably be a little tough on him. I think the Travers, you need a prep. Ideally the Travers is to run in the Jim Dandy and then get a race over the track, because at Saratoga, it seems like that’s what they do. They run in the Jim Dandy and then run in the Travers; you know, give them a race. I think it’s probably a big plus for some horses.
Paul Daley: Yes, if Mr. Zayat decides that he wants to go to the Travers, would you ship him back to…
Bob Baffert: We’re thinking Haskell. This call is all about Haskell.
Paul Daley: Yes. No, I understand that. I’m–yes, good point. .
Bob Baffert: I’m talking Haskell. That’s it. I’m like I want to get him to Haskell first.
Tom Pedulla: You had made a comment that he seems to be getting I think it was almost faster. May I ask you to just expand on that a little bit?
Bob Baffert: I was just excited. This track is pretty heavy, but just the way he’s just holding his form. Mainly I meant by that he’s holding his form, which is pretty incredible that a horse what he’s been through is holding his form like that. He just does everything effortlessly, and I think he’s getting stronger, he’s maturing, and, most older horses like to get better as they get older, and I see that he’s getting better, as he’s just maturing. He’s always been fast, but he’s just maturing.
Tom Pedulla: Okay. If I may just with a second question. I know clearly you can’t say what’s after the Haskell. Could you say at least is there a plan to ship him back to California?
Bob Baffert: The plan is to ship him back to California.
Tom Pedulla: Okay, just because you want him under your eye every day I guess?
Bob Baffert: Yes, and it’s cooler here. It’s nice and cool, and it’s relaxing. It’s good to have him here in Del Mar.
Bobby Klatt: I wanted to ask you about Monmouth Park itself. You’ve won the race seven times. What does Monmouth Park and the Haskell itself mean to you personally?
Bob Baffert: Well, the Haskell to me, when I first got in the business, I mean we were—it was part of the history, and it has a lot of history to it; a lot of good horses. I remember the first time I went there and I remember being by the paddock—outside the paddock there was a little bar there and it had all the trophies; I mean the Jockey Statue and the names of the Haskell winners, and you saw these names and there was just something about that. I think winning the Haskell has always been big for the summer (phon) if you have a good three-year-old.
Every year, I’m always thinking, who is going to be my Haskell horse, because I want to make sure that I go there and have a nice horse for it. So if I have a Haskell horse, that means I have a really good horse for the Classics. For some reason we’ve done well. I’ve been at Monmouth Park, when we had the Breeders’ Cup there and I did well. Unfortunately, the weather was horrible but we still were lucky to win a couple. We’ve had a lot of luck there. But, you know, the reason I’ve had a lot of luck there, I’ve taken my best horses there, so that’s why we’ve had luck there.
Will Springstead: Bob, considering Pharaoh’s whole campaign and the timing of the Haskell, would you prefer to see a small field or a larger field?
Bob Baffert: For the—for what race is that?
Will Springstead: For the Haskell. For the first race after the Triple Crown.
Bob Baffert: Oh no, I don’t even know how many horses are going in there. I have no idea. Todd Pletcher—I read another there’s about—I know like four or five are going in there, but I just worry about Pharaoh. As long as I can keep him at the top of his game then, the rest is, you know, that’s Victor’s (inaudible). You know, he still needs to break well and he’s going to be forwardly placed, I don’t really worry about how many or whatever. I want to be able to ship there and everything goes smooth in the shipping, because he’s going from a nice, cooler atmosphere. I know it’s probably going to be 90 degrees there so whatever, so that you just don’t know—I remember watching the Haskell one year and it was Curlin and Rachel or was it—and you could tell the heat was getting to them, you know, you could tell. So you just don’t know how it’s going to affect them, so hopefully it won’t affect them.
Dana O’Neil: I just—I’m sure you don’t think necessarily in these terms, but is it fair to define Pharaoh as a super horse, whatever that might be? And as you plan out the end of his racing career, are you conscious of, you know, burnishing his reputation or preserving it or worried about hurting it?
Bob Baffert: No, I think that what he’s done, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, I remember getting out at the airport and Cheech and Chong were on our flight, and Cheech asked me, why are you running him again; you know, like why would you want to run him again? He’s done enough, you know. A lot of people don’t understand that because as long as he’s healthy and the horse loves to run, he loves to train, he enjoys it, that’s why we run him. We’re not doing it for, his reputation. He’s done a lot. But I think as long as he’s trained and he shows me that he’s at that level, the minute I don’t see that, if he’s not training like he usually does, then he won’t run. So that’s why every race it’s one race at a time. There’s no guarantee where he’s going to run next because he has to tell me, hey, I’m ready; I’m sitting on gold. As long as he’s sitting on gold he’ll run. If I see him backing up a little bit or he just doesn’t look as—you know, these horses will tip you off. If I see something in the morning —he doesn’t want to train, then, you won’t see him in the races. As long as he’s doing well, you’re going to see Pharaoh. That’s why it’s very important that every time he runs that you make sure you get to watch him run.
Dana O’Neil: Just along that concept of, you know, where he sits in the landscape of the great horses, you know, winning a Triple Crown obviously it took a long time because horses are different. Does that put him at that level then?
Bob Baffert: I’ve been fortunate—I’ve had a lot of nice horses; good horses, and I think the definition of great is when—it’s not when you say it, it’s when everybody in the world tells you that you have a great horse. So I think Pharaoh is probably sort of a different horse that I’ve ever trained. He just does it. I’ve had some really good horses, what makes him a great horse is he can sustain his form. There’s a lot of horses I’ve had that are really good horses, but they just cannot sustain that form for a long period of time. He seems to hold it, and that’s what makes him great is that; he’s getting stronger. He’s a really special horse. You know, I don’t like to use the word super horse (inaudible). I remember Cigar and I remember, you know, we’ve seen a lot of good ones. They all get beat. But as long as he’s on my watch, I’m not going to lead him up there unless; he’s got to be 100%.
Jennie Rees: Following up on Dana’s question and what you said, I take it he’s sitting on the (inaudible). Is it important to you that he’s one of 12 now, but given the chance—these few remaining chances to see how far up of that 12 he could climb I mean to where people talk about him with say, Secretariat and Citation?
Bob Baffert: Well, I think with Secretariat I don’t think we’ll ever be able to—like the Belmont, he ran with the same horses in all the races, and they were like—I remember, you know, that race, I mean what Secretariat did that day,I don’t know if we’ll ever see something like that. That was pretty incredible. But I think, the times have changed now, and I don’t see horses winning by 30 lengths or whatever. I’m just going to be—you know, the tracks might’ve been a little bit faster then or whatever, but I would never try to compare him to Secretariat or Seattle Slew. He’s just American Pharoah. He’s his own—I think you can only compare him in with his own group. You know, he’s like the best three-year-old. , Secretariat was the best three-year-old. I mean running him with the older, I wouldn’t have a probably running with older horses, but—I think he could handle that. But he’s just Pharaoh.
I’m in a situation where I’ve never had a horse like this, you know, so he’s pretty special to me, and like I’ve been around some good ones and he’s pretty good. I think Point Given was probably the closest to him. Point Given just missed run in the—and then he never got beat after that. But this horse the way he moves, Jennie, I’ve never had a horse that just moves as effortlessly and jumps as far as he does, and yet he has so much speed and yet he enjoys it so much. He really enjoys his job, and that’s what makes it a lot easier for me.
Jennie Rees: Well, one real quick follow-up I’ll try and sneak in here. You were talking about how it’s amazing how he’s able to hold his form considering what he’s done. Obviously Silver Charm had been real quiet; go the next—pretty much the year off. He’s had six works including three in 10 days. I mean have you ever been able to do that with a horse; gone through what he’s gone through?
Bob Baffert: We’ve backed off him a little bit but not totally. But he probably lost more weight—he lost weight during the time when we were bringing him out and showing everybody, he was eating a lot of carrots and bringing him out. That got him tired. He was starting to get a little bit tired. That’s why when we go to Monmouth Park, he’ll be shut off for that. Nobody will be able to come to him, he just needs rest and to get there. But he enjoys people but you can tell it was getting to him a little bit; he was getting a little bit tired. So now he’s back to work, but I wanted to make sure that when I take him up there it’s a mile and a eighth and there’s always some good horses in there running. There’s always a fresh horse or two. I owe it to the horse to have him at his peak performance for that race, because I don’t want him getting tired or anything. I wanted to make sure he’s ready—if he gets asked a question, I want him to be able to answer it.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Bob. Thank you so much for your time today, although I do have to ask one last question. Is there anything more you can tell us about Cheech Marin’s thoughts on how to handle American Pharoah?
Bob Baffert: He just couldn’t believe we were running him again.
Jim Mulvihill: Good, and I’m sure you took his thoughts under serious consideration.
Bob Baffert: Hey, they saw the race. They were excited about it.
Jim Mulvihill: That’s great to hear. Well, Bob, thanks once again for joining us here. We really appreciate the time and we wish you luck on Sunday in the Haskell.
Bob Baffert: All right, thank you.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Bob Baffert making his fourth appearance on an NTRA National Media Teleconference so far this year, and we suspect and hope that there will be more of those to come throughout the fall.
But there are several other top three-year-olds running this weekend and we’ve got to talk about those ones, too. Understandably most of them don’t want to face American Pharoah. Three of the ones that we’ve—that are going to be running this weekend in major stakes have already run second to Pharaoh at some point this year. There’s a lot of money out there to be had in the three-year-old division, so you can’t really blame folks for going in these easier spots. We’re going to talk about the Jim Dandy at Saratoga in a little bit, but first let’s take a look at Mountaineer Casino’s signature event, the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby. That’s on Saturday. They’ve got an all-stakes Card; an afternoon card starting at 2 p.m.
We’re going to bring in now Dallas Stewart. Dallas, are you with us?
Dallas Stewart: Yes, sir.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Thanks for joining us, Dallas. We’re always happy to hear from you. Well, let’s first start talking with the West Virginia Derby specifically as far as choosing the spot. Based on his Preakness finish, Tale of Verve belongs in pretty much any top three-year-old race. There’s the Grade 1 at Monmouth and you’re a regular at Saratoga, so tell us why the West Virginia Derby is the spot for him?
Dallas Stewart: Well, I mean this is just a lot of money, and, first of all, and he, you know, at Monmouth Park it’s kind of a speed track. I thought that that would be against him a little bit; you know, of course American Pharoah being in there right away off the layoff. So, you know, Saratoga was a big consideration, but just the money and then probably who you’re going to face at Mountaineer was probably where it was at for us.
Jim Mulvihill: It makes perfect sense. Now, he’s been training at Churchill, most recently in company with Commanding Curve, last year’s Derby runner-up. Just tell us how Tale of Verve has bounced back from the Belmont; how he’s been doing in recent weeks.
Dallas Stewart: Well, he’s doing pretty well. We sent him over to WinStar for about a couple weeks two or three weeks after the Belmont. He was—he had a lot of congestion from dirt, and, you know, just didn’t have a good race, so we sent him over there and rehabbed him a little bit. They did a great job with him, put him in a hyperbaric chamber and brought him back and trained him a little bit over there. So we got him over to Churchill, and, again, training him and giving him some good works, and hooked him up with Commanding Curve his last three works or so, and, you know, they’ve been fighting it out every week. So it’s just like they’ve been scrimmaging every week getting ready for a big game, so, you know, I think they’re both ready to run a big race.
Jim Mulvihill: Very cool. So going back to the Belmont then, it was basically—the kickback and all the dirt that he took in his face you think he ingested some of that and just wasn’t feeling it that day?
Dallas Stewart: Yes, he just come back, he had some—a lot of stuff coming out of his head and a lot of dirt down in his lungs, and, you know, he just couldn’t breathe. Just those come from behind horses at Belmont have a tough time. I think a lot of it has to do with the stuff that they—with the dirt that they take in, and, you know, I’ve run a few of them in there, four of them actually, and they all kind of had the same running style and it seemed like they all four had the same thing when they came back to the barn. So, you know, so we just rehabbed him and he came through it really good and he’s a good sound horse. You know, we hope to get a good start on—with his career again in (inaudible).
Jennie Rees: Hey, Dallas. Given that this horse was supposed to be your Derby horse from the time he first ran that you thought so much of him, how frustrating was it that his first few races, you know, just trying to where you could get into the preps, and then the flip side of that is then, you know, as just a maiden winner he’s in these—the Triple Crown races and second in the Preakness and he’s in the $750,000 (inaudible) the horse has shown everybody else what you saw?
Dallas Stewart: I loved him all winter. You know, he’s a big strong horse, a sound horse, and he worked good. I thought he ran good his first time going long at Churchill; I think he was third. Then we got him down to the Fairgrounds and he just trained well, but as you know, it was just one thing after the other; just had bad trips, bad—both had bad racing luck, and I thought the stretch was too short for him—not the stretch, just the races were a little too short for him; couldn’t get him past the mile and seventy, and, you know, he just he staged down. And he got to Keeneland and I mean he ran big, and then we just, you know, we got aggressive with him so that’s the way it went.
Jennie Rees: Have you run many horses at Mountaineer over the years?
Dallas Stewart: No, I can’t think of many. Hot Storm won a stake over there years ago, but I might’ve run two or three maximum. I’ve never been there myself. I’m going to go Friday.
Jennie Rees: I know they’ve entered, and I should’ve looked at the PPs, but is Gary riding him back? Who’s riding him?
Dallas Stewart: Albarado’s riding him.
Jennie Rees: Oh, sorry. I knew that.
Dallas Stewart: He’s riding him, Commanding Curve, and Knight’s Nation; those three. He’s riding all three for us.
Jennie Rees: But now that you have entered, have you got the (inaudible) and can you sort of talk about the question of the West Virginia Derby and what might be in store for Tale of Verve the rest of the year?
Dallas Stewart: Well, I mean if he runs big, we’ll probably go march right up to Saratoga with him if he wins or runs a good second, and I mean we’ll probably go right at him and try the Travers. We’ll see. But, he’s got to run big to get that for sure.
Jennie Rees: Would you look forward to another crack at American Pharoah?
Dallas Stewart: Yes, I would. You know, I would like to try him on a dry track and a different track other than Belmont. So, yes, I would.
Jennie Rees: And final thing, there’s a lot of nice three-year-olds this year, and they have, you know, they’ve run the big races and then they have some excuse. Just excuse American Pharoah, a horse that (audio interference), isn’t it the ultimate compliment (audio interference) or maybe just every time, how unusual is that? I mean put it in perspective when good horses are on fire?
Dallas Stewart: Yes, I mean he won the Triple Crown. You know, I mean he took every test; he danced every dance. He just trained like it. I mean I never seen a horse train any better than he did for a race, I can tell you that. Just over and over every day, he never missed a beat.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Dallas, I’ll ask you a couple quick ones about your others in the stakes at Mountaineer. You mentioned Commanding Curve. He’s been training with Tale of Verve, and, you know, he earned a half million dollars before he ever even beat winners. Tell us how he’s come back as a four-year-old and what kind of older horse do you expect him to be?
Dallas Stewart: Well, I mean he’s a very nice horse. I mean his race in the Derby was great. He ran into California Chrome, who was Horse of the Year, and, you know, he tried a lot of dances after that and got beat up a little bit. So we gave him some time off, came back, he won his first race back, but he’s trained very consistently. That’s one thing I like about him. He’s—the last four weeks you just look at his work tale, I mean he’s been 59, 48, 59, 48 and doing it easy, you know. We’ve challenged him and Tale of Verve together for the last I guess three weeks in a row, and it’s been a, you know, a good challenge; a good dog fight. So, you know, I’m very proud of the horse. I think the horse is going to be a nice horse for us later on in the handicap division.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. And also Knight’s Nation in the Speaker Cup. That’s one’s on the turf, and he’s a horse that’s faced some very good older horses this year. What—how’s he doing and how do you like him in that race?
Dallas Stewart: Well, we started training about a year ago; picked him up from Brad Ray, a man that lives here in Louisville. He—we just took our time with him. I mean he ran in some claiming races and he ran on the dirt, ran on the turf; won one on the turf. But just the last three months I mean he’s trained great. He ran a big race in the Firecracker. I think he could’ve been right there if he would’ve got loose a little bit early. Maybe it was a little bit short for him. He’s a very healthy horse and he likes to run so we hope we get the chance to run him on the turf at (inaudible).
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Well, Dallas, we appreciate your time today and we wish you luck in your first visit to Mountaineer on Saturday.
Dallas Stewart: Thank you, sir.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, that’s Dallas Stewart talking about his three entrants on Saturday’s West Virginia Derby card. Once again, don’t forget that’s at 2 o’clock Eastern Time first post at Mountaineer; a rare afternoon card up there for their big day.
That brings us now to our final guest on this NTRA National Media Teleconference, Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Belmont runner-up, Frosted. Let’s not forget that before the Derby, pretty much all of said that this was one of the best three-year-old crops in memory, and in a year without American Pharoah, maybe Frosted’s the Classic winner. He won the Wood Memorial quite easily, closed for fourth in the Derby, made a big run at American Pharoah in the Belmont before the winner just easily opened up. But Frosted’s been up at Saratoga for more than a month now preparing for his comeback Saturday in the Jim Dandy, and now we’re going to talk to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Kiaran, it’s Jim Mulvihill in Lexington. Are you with us?
Kiaran McLaughlin: Yes, I am. All right. Well, thanks for being here. We really appreciate the time today. This is not a soft field in the Jim Dandy even without American Pharoah, but you must at least be a little bit pleased not to have to face the Triple Crown winner this time.
Kiaran McLaughlin: Yes, we are. We—Frosted’s doing great and he’s faced him his last two races, and we’ve seen enough for now. We’d like not to run against him any time soon. But we’re training great and looking forward to Saturday.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Tell us a little bit more about his training up there. He was there well before the start of the meet. You’ve had him up there for more than a month, so tell us how he’s acclimated and is doing pointing to this race.
Kiaran McLaughlin: Well, we had him at Greentree, which is owned by Sheikh Mohammed; very nice training facility. So it’s a beautiful place to train a horse, and graze them in the morning and afternoon, and it’s just wonderful. So he’s been up here training pretty much since right after the Belmont, and he’s been working weekly on the main track and doing very well.
Paul Daley: Frosted’s a nice, tough horse, and, you know, American Pharoah’s going in the Haskell, but, you know, as you just mentioned, you’re going to be facing some nice horses yourself. Can you mention any of the other horses that you’re going to be facing and some of what their attributes are?
Kiaran McLaughlin: Well, I watched Japan train at Palm Meadows all winter, and he’s a beautiful son of Medaglia d’Oro, who won stake on Belmont Day and looked very good; Easy Goer. He’s just a really nice horse with a lot of ability. Obviously Materiality will probably be in front, and with Todd Pletcher, he does a great job. He had a tough trip in the Kentucky Derby and then the Belmont was maybe further than he wants to go, and he’s been training well, so I have respect for him. Then I’m not sure if—you know, Texas Red looks great training. He ran very well last time; obviously a top horse. I’m not sure all of the other ones who are running. But Upstart if he runs, we’ve had a tough time beating him in Florida, but hopefully that’s behind us in the change of tracks.
Paul Daley: Yes, I was going to mention Upstart because, you know, being a New Englander myself and Rick Violette having grown up in Western Lowell, you know, can a horse win the Jim Dandy off a layoff like that?
Kiaran McLaughlin: Well, he’s a very talented horse and I’m certain he could. He’s been training well; very well, and he had a mile work in the middle of the month. He’s a very talented horse and just had a—throw the race out in the Kentucky Derby and I’m sure he could win off a layoff, yes.
Paul Daley: Okay. I guess my other question is how important to you is it going forward for—is to have a horse have a race over the track?
Kiaran McLaughlin: Well, I think it’s important to have a race over the track and the Jim Dandy’s just an important race on its own. We’ve won a Grade 1, the Wood Memorial, but the Jim Dandy, stands alone as a top race and an important race, and we look forward to trying to win it. Even though it’s a Grade 2, it’s a serious race and nice purse and a good prep for the Travers. So, yes, it’s nice to have a race over the track going forward.
Paul Daley: Does that help for rating purposes, too?
Kiaran McLaughlin: It doesn’t hurt that’s for sure, yes. It’s a top race.
Danny Brewer: Talk about the maturity level of Frosted. Is he continuing to grow mentally as well as his physical growth that he’s advanced?
Kiaran McLaughlin: Well, ever since , all the changes before the Wood Memorial, we haven’t been looking for any changes, we’ve (audio interference) doing very well and he seems to be maturing, yes, and just doing everything right, and continues to be healthy and sound and happy, so we’re happy.
Danny Brewer: When you think about the other horses in the race, does that play any factor in how you prepare, or are you just primarily concerned with getting Frosted on his A game?
Kiaran McLaughlin: Yes, that’s all we can do as trainers is prepare our horse, and once we enter, then we can see—talk about strategy once we see who is in (audio interference) strategy and where we want to be early in the race and how it works out. So as far as (audio interference) and then be ready to run, and we can’t worry about anybody else’s horse.
Nicole Newless: Hi. Thank you so much for getting on this call, Kiaran, and taking our questions. The one question I have is just about how Frosted is doing with his breathing. I know he kind of backed up a bit in the Fountain of Youth, had a throat procedure done, and has been, we’ve seen, very well since. I’m just wondering have you had any—have you had any inklings that his breathing is off or is that still right?
Kiaran McLaughlin: No, he never really had a breathing issue. We did a Llewellyn, which is a procedure to prevent displacing, because we weren’t sure if he displaced in the race. It was just to cover all bases. So he has no breathing issue and he’s training great since we did that. We were just trying to cover all bases and that was part of it. But it’s not a throat surgery; it’s just a procedure to hopefully prevent a horse from displacing if they did. So he’s training great and never has made any noise, so he’s doing very well.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Kiaran, just a follow-up on one minor but, to me, interesting point going into this race on Saturday. Did you say that Frosted did work a mile sometime in the last month?
Kiaran McLaughlin: No, I said Upstart did.
Jim Mulvihill: Oh, Upstart did. Okay. . I misunderstood that there. All right, and then, you know, I was talking earlier about how, you know, in a different year without an American Pharoah, maybe Frosted is a Classic winner. Do you think a little bit about what could’ve been in a year without a horse like this, and is that something you think about?
Kiaran McLaughlin: Yes, we do think about it. But, I don’t look back much, always looking forward, so, you know, if we could by chance get the Jim Dandy and/or the Travers, it would be a huge year for us. But, yes, we had a very nice three-year-old for the Triple Crown, but we ran into a Triple Crown winner. So that’s unfortunate, but we’re proud of Frosted and we hope we have a chance to win some big races going forward.
Jim Mulvihill: Got you. Very good. Well, Kiaran, thanks so much for the time today and good luck with that trying to win the Jim Dandy and hopefully the Travers moving forward. Thanks for your time.
Kiaran McLaughlin: Thank you for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Kiaran McLaughlin, another frequent guest this year. I want to thank all of our guests for coming on today; Kiaran, Bob, Dallas. Three of our favorites and three that have been very generous with their time over the past several years.
A few reminders before we go that we didn’t get to at the top. Just everyone note that the Haskell will be live on NBC Sports this Sunday; that’s 5 to 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Whenever possible, please try to mention that in your stories. We really appreciate it and it’s good for the fans to know where to find these races. Also, our friends at the Horse Racing Radio Network, they’ll be live at Saratoga Saturday and then at Monmouth on Sunday; that’s 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern Time on both days.
With that, that’s our call for today. We’ll be back sometime in the next few weeks for more of these great Breeders’ Cup prep races.