NTRA Road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Sept. 17
NTRA Road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Sept. 17
Guests: Ron Winchell, Phil Schoenthal, Art Sherman
Jim Mulvihill: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s NTRA national media teleconference. With six weeks to go before the World Championships, we’re now at the point where nearly all of the top horses in North America have but one more prep before the 13-race and nearly $25 million extravaganza known as the Breeders’ Cup, October 31st and November 1st at Santa Anita. Interesting, though, even now approaching the end of September, the most talked about horses in racing remain the three-year-olds, and they’ll be the focus of our call today. This weekend we’ll get to see two of the best of those three-year-olds at Parx Racing; that’s Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, returning in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby against Bayern and Tapiture; and Untapable, winner of the Kentucky Oaks, facing multiple Grade 1 winners Stopchargingmaria and Sweet Reason in the weekend’s only Grade 1 event, the Cotillion. Now the big races at Parx will be part of a regional television broadcast on The Comcast Network from 4:30 to 6 p.m.; however, if you’re writing a story, you might mention that the broadcast will be streamed live for free on the America’s Best Racing website; that’s Americasbestracing.net. Those races will also be on Satellite Radio. “Down the Stretch” with Dave Johnson and Bill Finley will broadcast live from Parx, 5 to 6 p.m., on Sirius XM Channel 92.
As always, the important racing this weekend isn’t limited to one racetrack. The Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks for three-year-old filly sprinters on Saturday is worth a half million dollars, and that could produce a starter or two for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. This is the first year that race has been graded, and it’s tied with the Test as the richest event in that division.
So later in this call we’ll talk to trainer Phil Schoenthal. He has the likely favorite, Miss Behavior, in that Charles Town Oaks. Then we’ll end with Art Sherman, the trainer of California Chrome.
But first, let’s get right into a man who has both of his stable stars running Saturday at Parx, and that is owner Ron Winchell. A little background. Ron, along with his mother Joan, races under the name of Winchell Thoroughbreds, the stable founded 60 years ago by his father, Verne, who passed away in 2002. Ron owns and operates the Winchell’s Pub & Grill restaurant chain, and is also a gaming entrepreneur and commercial real estate developer, mostly in and around his home base of Las Vegas. He’s campaigned several very good stakes winners, including Cuvee, Pyro, and, of course, the 2005 Kentucky Oaks winner, Summerly. Throughout this year he’s had the leading three-year-old filly in Untapable, who we said before won the Kentucky Oaks and will be favored in the Cotillion on Saturday. He also has a very good three-year-old colt in Tapiture, who was much the best in the West Virginia Derby last time out, and is set for Saturday’s million dollar Penn Derby.
Ron Winchell, you’re on with Jim Mulvihill in Lexington. Thanks for being here.
Ron Winchell: How are you doing? Good to be here.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, congratulations on what’s already been an amazing year to this point. Before we get to these two horses running Saturday, let’s talk about their sire, Tapit. I want to ask you, when Tapit went off to stud, what were your expectations for him, and are you at all surprised by the way he’s turned out to be the leading sire in the country?
Ron Winchell: Well, actually we had very high expectations because he was a phenomenal race horse. He had some—a lung infection that kind of chased him throughout his three-year-old campaign, and he was still able to win the Wood Memorial and so from that standpoint, from his breeding, he was extremely well bred, so we had high expectations. His campaign was cut a little short obviously from those ailments, and, you know, the rest is only parts that you dream about in becoming the number one sire.
Jim Mulvihill: Certainly.
Ron Winchell: So, you know, that’s like catching lightning in a bottle, so to speak.
Jim Mulvihill: What do you consider to be the characteristics of a Tapit, and what do you see in these two running Saturday that relate back to their daddy?
Ron Winchell: I think one thing about Tapits is they don’t like to be told what to do, and so I think you get the best performance out of them when you kind of let them run and kind of be where they want to be. The minute you try to push them into a position they don’t want to be, I mean you’ve seen it with, you know, various other Tapits, they kind of fight the jockey and then the jockey never seems to win that battle. I also like to see them a little bit on the outside, not stuck on the rail, just because they seem to do better on the outside. In the Wood Memorial when you saw Tapit kind of get to the outside and he was kind of gawking at the grandstands and then all of a sudden he put his head down and started running, and I’ve seen that in a number of them, and I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s a Tapit characteristic or what, but that’s one thing I’ve noticed.
Jim Mulvihill: Very interesting. Well, I want to ask you a couple quick questions about each of these and then we’ll let the media jump in. We’ll start with the filly. She didn’t run the race you had hoped for in the Haskell. Just tell us how she’s bounced back from that and how has she been training up at Saratoga?
Ron Winchell: I mean, she’s done phenomenal since then. That race, you know, turned out to be a little tough. She got away from the gate a little slow and had to go wide and it was—became, you know, apparent there was a speed bias of some sort. You know, we gave her a little time between that race and this race and she’s done fantastic. Both of them have been training up in Saratoga. The weather for training up there has been phenomenal and they’ve just done very well up there.
Jim Mulvihill: Tell us about Tapiture’s trip in the West Virginia Derby. I mean, the winning margin was small, but he was much the best.
Ron Winchell: I think it’s, you know, one thing to note about Tapiture is he turned three on Derby day, so he’s kind of a late birth, and, you know, from a maturity standpoint it’s taken him a little longer. So one thing I noticed in the West Virginia Derby was I hadn’t seen him since the Kentucky Derby and he just looked like a different horse physically. He just looked more mature, stronger, and he seemed to finish off his race, which, earlier, when he was a—late in his two-year-old campaign he seemed to have a little trouble finishing off, but he had a big punch there. Obviously that stretch run was eye-popping. I didn’t think he was going to get there and somehow he got there and pulled off the victory.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Well, Ron, hang on a minute and we’re going to turn it over to the media. Before we do that, Michelle, I just want to remind everybody, Ron squeezed us in this morning. We don’t have a ton of time, so if everyone could just limit themselves to one follow-up if necessary. We want to give everybody a chance to ask their question. So with that, Michelle, go ahead.
Operator: The first question comes from Jennie Rees of Louisville Courier-Journal.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Ron, as I recall, both Tapiture and the filly, the idea of not running them right back in two weeks was to give them time to mature or to maybe fill out a little bit. In that regard with Tapiture, since he did win his next two races, how much are you looking forward to getting a rematch with California Chrome?
Ron Winchell: Oh, I don’t know if I’m looking forward to a rematch, because obviously California Chrome is an exceptional horse. But one thing we did discover with Tapiture was the time between races seemed to be key. So we learned that with the time between the Matt Winn and the West Virginia Derby, and this one has a similar amount of time. So really looking forward to just seeing how he runs. I think he’s sitting on a very big effort, so I’m pretty excited to see what happens on Saturday.
Danny Brewer: Hey, Ron. How’s it going?
Ron Winchell: Good. How are you doing?
Danny Brewer: Great. Talk about the Matt Winn for a second. Did that kind of reaffirm what you thought about this horse, because he was very competitive right there every time until the Derby, and then you gave him some time off and in the Matt Winn he looked great?
Ron Winchell: I mean the Derby’s always a tough race. He did lose a shoe in the first turn of the Derby, not that that is the item that compromised him, but, you know, any time you come back from the Derby you’re looking for a rebound. We wanted to put him in a place we thought he could win, and the Matt Winn served itself well. We knew it was a prep for the West Virginia, and he kind of ran as we expected, bouncing back off of the poor Derby performance.
Danny Brewer: Okay, man, I appreciate your time. Wish you the best of luck.
Ron Winchell: Thank you.
Tom Pedulla: Yes, Ron, do you have the sense that if California Chrome is going to be vulnerable that this race would be it; that you’re getting him at the ideal time?
Ron Winchell: Absolutely. I mean, we’re kind of sitting in a prime position with the Matt Winn and the win in West Virginia coming back with his third start since the Derby. California Chrome is coming back trying to go a mile and an eighth against horses in top form; I think that does leave him a little vulnerable in my book. I mean, it probably wouldn’t have been my choice if I was the owner of that horse, but it’s definitely a good time to face him. I’d rather face him now than after he had two, three starts.
Tom Pedulla: Thank you.
Art Wilson: Yes, Ron, I was curious to get your thoughts on this year’s three-year-old crop. After the Derby with the slow time a lot of people were kind of knocking saying, well, it doesn’t look like it’s a very good crop of three-year-olds this year. And now between the Derby and now, you know, some others have kind of jumped out and it’s looking like a pretty good year for three-year-olds. What are your thoughts on that?
Ron Winchell: For some reason you seem to hear that every year, you know, right around Derby time is this crop isn’t as good, and they’re, you know, a weaker crop. You know, obviously with a little time you can kind of look back and reason whether that’s a good assessment or not. I think this crop is actually a phenomenal crop. You know, from Untapable being a great filly and all the colts that seem to have emerged, and it seems like all the talk these days are the three-year-olds and not the older horses, so I think that’s a good assumption that the quality of the crop is a good one.
Art Wilson: Okay, thanks. Good luck this weekend.
Ron Winchell: Thank you.
Tim Wilkin: Hey, Ron. Some people might think that the popularity of California Chrome took a hit after what Steve Coburn did after the Belmont Stakes. As an owner, do you have a comment on the behavior he had after that race?
Ron Winchell: That’s like a tough question. You know, it’s—I disagree with his, you know, I guess the answer he had for—at the Belmont. The Belmont is a race that’s always been for, you know, an open race for any three-year-old. Obviously that was a little dramatic the comments he made afterwards. So, you know, it wasn’t something that I would’ve done. I kind of prefer when we get beat to congratulate the owner, but that’s just my approach.
Tim Wilkin: Just real quick, do you think the horse’s popularity has suffered because of it?
Ron Winchell: I believe so. I mean obviously he’s a fantastic horse but, you know, it doesn’t help when the owner gets too involved. Myself, I try to stay out of it—that perspective of it.
Tim Wilkin: Great, thank you.
Mike Jensen: Ron, can you just look back in retrospect running Untapable in the Haskell. You talked about the trip, but do you still think it was the right place to put her?
Ron Winchell: I mean obviously hindsight’s 20/20. I mean, if we can go back in time I’d probably take a different route just because of how it turned out. But at the time it seemed to be the right decision to step her up against boys and she was defeating the fillies so easily she seemed to be in a prime position coming off her win at Belmont. Yes, if could go back at this point knowing the result we would definitely go a different route. But, you know, it turned out to be she got away from the gate a little slow, she had to go wide, you know, speed bias. It was supposed to be speed, go on the front. That didn’t materialize. A lot of things happened in that race that were unforeseeable. So I guess the answer is, yes, if we could go back we would probably change that, but we can’t go back in time.
Mike Jensen: Yes, and then even separate from that and then separate from the trip, anything else you’ve learned about her from going up against the guys?
Ron Winchell: I don’t think we learned a lot. I think the one comment that sticks out in my mind is Rosie said she kind of was looking at Social Inclusion acting up in the gate, and the gate opened and she was a little slow, and by the time she got centered back on top of her she was three lengths behind and then it was playing catch-up. It’s just a bad position to put yourself in especially in a race where she has to run the best race of her life, and I think that essentially cost her.
Tom Pedulla: Yes, Ron, another tough one, if I may. To some of us it seems that the move to race Chrome at Parx could be financially motivated; there’s some incentive for the trainer and the owners. Have you ever had a situation where there was a financial incentive that motivated you to manage a horse that way or would you not let that play into your thinking?
Ron Winchell: I personally wouldn’t let that play into my thinking just because shipping all the way across the country seems to be not the ideal position you want to put yourself if you’re trying to win the Breeders’ Cup. You know, I’ve never been in the position where they’ll pay a lot of bonus money, and I like to joke when it comes to the Pennsylvania Derby that we have to go win it because we have to earn our money the old fashioned way. But, you know, that’s just the position I’m in and I wouldn’t let it affect me.
Tom Pedulla: Thank you.
Operator: Thank you. There are no further questions at this time. We’ll turn the conference back to Mr. Mulvihill.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Ron, I’ll just ask you a couple more and then we’ll let you go. It’s really cool to see both of your top horses working in company at Saratoga, and I’m just wondering when they get to do that and just being in the same barn together, what kind of advantage do you think that is for Steve to be able to size up two top-class three-year-olds against one another, and what do you hear from him about how they’re progressing versus one another?
Ron Winchell: Well, what I hear from Steve is they are just doing awesome. Everything’s positive; everything’s good. They seem to be sitting on potentially big races. They’re exactly in the position you want to be in going into two races like this, and that’s basically what I hear from Steve. You know, they work together probably from more of a standpoint of, you know, they needed a good work, and those are the two fastest horses I think he probably had at that point in the barn. You know, that’s probably more of the reason why they work together.
Jim Mulvihill: Terrific. Before we let you go, I’m just wondering if you can give us a little background on Corinthia Farm and your operation right now. How many mares do you have and what’s your operation like, what are your long-term goals, all of that?
Ron Winchell: Well, I generally keep about 25 mares. I don’t like to exceed that. You know, the problem we’re having right now is the popularity of Tapit and him being the number one sire. It used to be we bred most of the mares to him, but now he’s such a fantastic sire, he’s kind of outclassing some of the mares. So having that kind of quality, you have to have the top quality mare, and there’s only so many of those we have. So I’m probably going to go out and look for a few more mares to breed to Tapit to purchase, and long-term kind of maintain that, and hope that Tapit has many more years to come.
Jim Mulvihill: You own half of the shares of Tapit, is that right?
Ron Winchell: Yes.
Jim Mulvihill: Okay, great. All right, well, Ron, I wish you the best of luck on Saturday. It could be a huge day for you, and I want to thank you for taking some time with us today. It was really great to talk to you.
Ron Winchell: All right, thank you. Looking forward to it. Bye.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, thanks so much. That was Ron Winchell. He’s got Tapiture in the Pennsylvania Derby and the Kentucky Oaks winner, Untapable, in the Cotillion. Those are both Saturday at Parx Racing.
Now we’re going to move on to our next guest and that is Phil Schoenthal. He’s got Miss Behaviour in the Charles Town Oaks.
Schoenthal grew up outside Chicago wanting to be a jockey. As a teenager he worked on horse farms and continued to do so through four years in the Air Force. At 19 he went to work for Todd Pletcher, which is how he met Mark Shuman. Eventually he spent time working for Shuman and Michael Gill, who was then among the nation’s most dominant owners. Still based on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, Phil went out on his own in 2003. He got his first graded stakes win last year in the Matron at Belmont with the filly we’re talking about today, Miss Behaviour. Saturday night she’s the likely favorite in the newly designated Grade 3, $500,000 Charles Town Oaks. That race is seven-eighths but at Charles Town seven-eighths is a two-turn event, so we’ll talk a little bit to Phil about that.
Let’s see if we’ve got him on. Phil Schoenthal, are you with us?
Phil Schoenthal: Yes, sir.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, it’s Jim Mulvihill in Lexington. Thanks so much for being here. Let’s talk about Miss Behaviour’s summer. She had three runner-up finishes since winning the Miss Preakness in May, including the two at Saratoga, the Test and the Prioress. Tell us why this race? Why is the Charles Town Oaks a good fit for her?
Phil Schoenthal: Well, it’s a good fit because it’s local. It’s part of the Mid-Atlantic circuit, you know, and Charles Town is just a fun place to race. You know, you get out there on a Friday, Saturday night and there’s a big crowd. It’s fun. You know, it’s one of the few racinos that actually, I think, draws a good crossover from the casino onto the race track. It’s just a fun place to race, a fun place to go. You know, I’m still kind of a younger trainer. I hear all the stories from the old days about how much fun it used to be with the full race tracks and big crowds, and you only really see that now at Derby Days and Breeders’ Cup Days and Belmont Days and whatnot, but at Charles Town it’s like that every Friday night, Saturday night. So it’s fun to go to and Charles Town’s always been good to me and I’ve had a lot of success there, and if they’re going to put up $500,000, you know, I believe I belong there.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, you definitely belong there with this filly. It’s an interesting race. I mean there could be as many as 11 in there, and it’s—I hate to use the word bullring—let’s say it’s a three-quarter-mile track. How important is the draw going to be when you’ve got 11 fillies going two turns on a smaller track like this?
Phil Schoenthal: Well, I believe that they limit it to 10, so there might be a horse in the AE. I’m not sure.
Jim Mulvihill: Yes, 11 thinking of entering but only 10 will start.
Phil Schoenthal: Right. So, this filly has always been a complete professional in the starting gate. She stands there for half an hour if you ask her to, and always breaks like a shot, and so I’m not too concerned about post position. I think that she’ll be forwardly placed if not on the lead depending on who is in there, and, you know, seven-eighths down there is a full run of the stretch before you get to the first turn, so if you do have some speed there’s plenty of time to get over and save some ground, so I’m not too worried about the post draw.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. She actually has experience going two turns on a three quarter mile track, correct?
Phil Schoenthal: Yes, we went down to Delta last year, and it’s funny, I sent an e-mail to the owners of the filly and I was reminiscing about at Delta, you know, about two or three minutes to post I was talking to one of the owners and his wife, and I was just telling them, I said, you need to kind of savor this moment right now because the chances are that we’ll never be one of the favorites again in a half a million dollar horse race. And here we are a year later and we’re going to be one of the favorites in a half a million dollar horse race. So I e-mailed them last night and I told them I said I’d better eat those words. Here we go again.
Jim Mulvihill: Fantastic. You know, that’s the only race where she finished off the board, but I would assume that that had more to do with pushing her distance limitations.
Phil Schoenthal: Yes, you know, it’s funny, that would certainly be my answer, that the mile wasn’t really in her scope that day. She certainly trained very forwardly. I think that it was also at the end of a very long campaign for her and she maybe was not at her absolute best that day. It’s funny because if you look at the Ragozin Sheets, the numbers she got for that Delta race to the mile was the same number she’d gotten in her previous two efforts in the Sharp Cat and the Matron. So according to the Ragozin figures, she ran her same race that she always runs, she just wasn’t good enough that day. So depending on if you’re a numbers guy or not, it’s what you’ve got to believe, but I think that she proved in the Test that she can get seven-eighths of a mile with the best horses in the country, so I’m not too worried about the distance.
Jim Mulvihill: Then as far as being ready for Saturday night, she had a pretty easy work this past weekend. Is it safe to say that she’s already fit after these last few races? What did you want out of that work this past weekend?
Phil Schoenthal: Yes, you know, I was on the fence about actually even going to work her or not, but she’s the kind of horse that when she gets to feeling good it’s kind of hard to even hold her on the ground. So we went ahead and breezed her and the rider, Jevian Toledo, he had breezed her a couple of times over the summer for me and always had done an excellent, excellent job. She’s kind of a difficult horse to breeze. You know, I’ve had several jockeys basically get run off with, and she’ll breeze in 45 and 4, or 57 and change, or whatever, which is always too fast than what you’re looking for. But Toledo has done a fantastic job breezing her; always has her rated well in hand and she responds to him, and consequently he’s earned the mount for Saturday night. I told him that he could ride her Saturday night and he’s excited about it, so.
Jim Mulvihill: Wow, terrific. Well, Phil, hang on for a second and I’m going to kick it back to our Operator, Michelle, and she’s going to see if the media have questions for you.
Phil Schoenthal: Okay.
Danny Brewer: Hey, Phil. How’s it going today, man?
Phil Schoenthal: Good, Danny.
Danny Brewer: How do you think the recent campaign—I mean because you’ve been in tough Grade 3, Grade 1, Grade 2—how do you think that that will prepare her for Saturday night in the Charles Town Oaks?
Phil Schoenthal: Well, she’s a race horse in the race horse mold that God made. I mean, she’s just an honest, hard-knocking filly that’s going to—you know—you put a bridle on her head and she’s going to give you everything she has when you lead her over into that starting gate. They don’t make many like her so I think she’s proven that she shows up every time and gives you whatever she has, and frankly, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to run her in the Pennsylvania Derby, she’s going to give you all she has. So hopefully the competition Saturday night will be a little softer than what she’s been facing here at Saratoga, but I think that she’s the kind of horse that is just going to absolutely give it all no matter where; if you run her on broken glass, you could run her in the ocean, you could run here, you know, in China, she’s going to give you what she has.
Danny Brewer: With that in mind and considering that division of female sprinters doesn’t really have a super, super standout, where does she go from here? I mean is Breeders’ Cup a potential for her or what are you thinking?
Phil Schoenthal: Well, the Breeders’ Cup has not been in our plans. We’ve actually had the very first beginnings of a conversation this past Saturday. I had asked the owner—he comes to the barn every Friday and Saturday and actually cools her out and walks her for me, he’s a pretty hands-on owner—I asked him, look, if she wins Saturday night and makes $300,000, would you consider taking $30 to $40,000 and paying for the trip and just going for the experience of it just to say you went? He says, well, it’s something to think about. Our plan all along has been to hit the Charles Town Oaks and then give her the month and then run her in the Raven Run at Keeneland, and then probably at that point put her away for the year, and then point toward the Breeders’ Cup next year at Keeneland would be our goal. I just kind of feel like going all the way to California to run against the best horses in the country and the older fillies and mares is probably not the formula for a winning race and it’s asking a lot of the horse. But that being said, if she bounces out of the race tearing the barn down and acts like she doesn’t need a break, we’ll certainly consider it. The bigger factor in that discussion is not so much the Breeders’ Cup but we really want to put a Grade 1 win on the filly for obvious reasons, and I know Santa Anita’s got that Grade 1 La Brea at the end of the year there after the Breeders’ Cup. So I think that if we went out there, we’d probably stay out there and then try her in the La Brea.
I would say that we’re only at this point a 10 to 20% chance to go to the Breeders’ Cup. I have tremendous respect for Midnight Lucky on her home race track, and I’ve got tremendous respect for what Artemis Agrotera did in the Ballerina. I think Stonetastic obviously, you know, put me to shame at Saratoga a month ago, so I’m not in any great hurry to go hunting for those fillies again.
Danny Brewer: It sounds like you’ve got a plan and I wish you the best of luck.
Phil Schoenthal: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Phil, just to clarify on one interesting nugget you gave us there. You’ve got two owners here for Miss Behavior. Is it Cal MacWilliam that comes to the barn every Friday and Saturday and even walks the horse?
Phil Schoenthal: Yes. Cal lives here in Bethesda and works at the World Bank, and he comes out regularly. Neil would come out regularly, except he lives in Ottawa, Canada. He plays polo and rides and is a horseman as well.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. I’m just wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about your own start in racing. I had read that you wanted to be a jockey but I couldn’t find anywhere where that came from. How were you first exposed to racing and how did this all happen for you?
Phil Schoenthal: I was knee-high to a grasshopper and my family was on a family vacation to the Kentucky Dam Village, and as the story goes, they put me on a pony named Pork Chop on a pony ride, and I was in love with this pony and a week or two later sitting in front of a TV on a Saturday I watched the Derby, and from there on I wanted to be a jockey. My family is not involved with horses at all. There’s no connection there whatsoever, but it was just my mind was made up, that’s what I wanted to do, and that was the focus and passion of my life ever since I was a very little child. So I didn’t screw up; you know, I wanted to be a cowboy and a jockey and I was very fortunate to have some very close family friends that were in the horse business that kind of took me under their wing and really gave me the opportunity to be around their race horses and from there I just kind of made my own way.
Jim Mulvihill: Very cool. Well, Phil, we’re going to let you go. I wish you luck on Saturday night, and we really appreciate your time being with us today.
Phil Schoenthal: No problem.
Jim Mulvihill: That was Phil Schoenthal. The first horse he ever got on was Pork Chop. Saturday night he starts Miss Behaviour in a half-million dollar stakes race, the Charles Town Oaks.
Now we’re going to move on to the last guest of this NTRA national media teleconference, and that is, of course, Art Sherman. Art’s star three-year-old, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, hasn’t raced since finishing fourth in the Belmont back in June, but this Saturday, of course, he’ll be favored in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby. This is the very first time that a reigning Kentucky Derby winner has shown up in the Pennsylvania Derby. As we speak, California Chrome is on his way to Parx Racing aboard a charter flight, and he will be on the backside by mid-afternoon. Hey, Art, are you there?
Art Sherman: Yes, I am there.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, it’s Jim Mulvihill talking to you from Lexington, Kentucky. How are you doing today?
Art Sherman: Oh, I’m in Lexington, Kentucky.
Jim Mulvihill: Oh, really? Well, maybe we should just have this conversation in person? I hope you weren’t in the middle of bidding or anything.
Art Sherman: I just bid on a horse. You’ve got me at the right time because I wouldn’t have answered the phone if it had been a minute ago.
Jim Mulvihill: Did you get the horse?
Art Sherman: Yes, I did. It cost me a 160,000, too. He’s a nice colt.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, that’s worth holding on for.
Art Sherman: Yes, that’s right.
Jim Mulvihill: Thanks for jumping on with us again. I know it’s busy not only with the sale but you’re eventually going to have to make your way to Parx. Tell us how everything’s going this week and especially today with the shipping of California Chrome. Everything on schedule and all good?
Art Sherman: Yes, we’re all ready for him. We’ve got the stall bedded down. He’s supposed to arrive at 4 o’clock this afternoon.
Jim Mulvihill: Terrific. Why don’t you just summarize for us the last few months for California Chrome since the Belmont Stakes? Tell us how long he was at Harris Farm, when he came back to you, and just summarize that if you would.
Art Sherman: Well, he spent five months out at Harris Farm, got a lot of R&R, and we were happy about that, you know. It was cool, you know what I mean? He just was having a great time and unwinding and got his foot healed up. That was my main concern to make sure he would be 100%.
Jim Mulvihill: And was he when you got him back?
Art Sherman: Yes, he was. His foot was all healed. They did a great job of watching him and doctoring him. He didn’t go back far on me. You know, five weeks isn’t a lot for a horse. He put on probably about 75 pounds, and he looked good.
Jim Mulvihill: Terrific. How would you describe his condition coming into this race then?
Art Sherman: Well, I’ll tell you, the last two or three works have been just awesome, you know what I mean? He’s just picking his head up now and I think he’s reaching his peak. Victor was all gung-ho about it after his last workouts so we’re all in good shape, ready for Saturday. I didn’t draw the best post position in the world, but I don’t know, we’ll see how the race unfolds.
Jim Mulvihill: Yes, well what are your thoughts on drawing the rail a little bit more?
Art Sherman: Well, I’ve never been on the rail with him before.
Jim Mulvihill: Do you have to be more concerned about what Bayern is doing?
Art Sherman: Well, Bayern—there’s other speed in there. I think Bayern will have some company in this race. I don’t think he’ll be on a long lonesome I don’t think, but maybe he will be. I’m just thinking that there’ll be some honest pace. There’s a couple of horses that have speed that are in there, you know. Then if they don’t go for him, I’m not going to let him just gallop along the lead. This horse has got a little speed himself.
Jim Mulvihill: For sure. Well, in looking ahead, I mean it’s six weeks to the Breeders’ Cup, and this is your one prep race, so is it…
Art Sherman: I know.
Jim Mulvihill: Are you hoping that this is a hard race? I mean, it pays the same whether you win by a nose or five lengths, so would it be better for the horse in the long run if it’s a hard race?
Art Sherman: Well, not really. You know, it still gives me quite a bit of time to prepare him for the Breeders’ Cup. Once he gets this race under his belt and comes out of it fine, we won’t have no problem going another eighth, believe me. This horse can run.
Jim Mulvihill: Terrific. Well…
Art Sherman: So I’m looking forward to that, yes.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, we’re looking forward to it, too.
Art Sherman: I know. It’s going to be pretty—it’ll be standing room only there at the Breeders’ Cup.
Jim Mulvihill: Oh, for sure. Well, Art, do you have time for a few questions from the media?
Art Sherman: All right, let them roll.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Michelle, let them roll.
Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question, please press star, one at this time.
Our first question will come from Danny Brewer of Thegreatest2minutes.com. Please go ahead.
Danny Brewer: Hey, Artie. How’s it going, man?
Art Sherman: Great. I’m just here in the Bluegrass country. I love it back here. You know, I always feel good when I get back here.
Danny Brewer: Talk for just a moment about the jockey-horse relationship between Victor and Chrome. Talking to Steve (Coburn), he says they seem like they’re one and they really communicate good. What’s your thoughts on it?
Art Sherman: Oh, I think so. He knows him like the back of his hand, and I was so pumped up the other day after he worked him and he said this is the best he’s felt since he’s been getting on him. So that made me really pick my head up, you know, because you always wonder after a layup if a horse is going to be coming back to like he was, but Victor couldn’t say enough about him at his last workout. He was just kind of pushbutton.
Danny Brewer: Artie, appreciate it, man. Wish you the best of luck.
Art Sherman: Thank you.
Operator: The next question comes from Tom Pedulla of America’s Best Racing. Please go ahead.
Tom Pedulla: Yes, Art, would you say that Chrome will be 100% for Saturday, or will he be less than that, and perhaps you want him to be less than that?
Art Sherman: Well, it’s not like you want them—you know, I’m from the old school. You don’t want to run a short horse in them kind of races. It seems that’s when a horse has a tendency to knock themselves out with extra time. But, you know, he’s the kind of horse that he let’s you know where he wants to be, you know what I mean; where he’s sitting comfortable in the race. Victor knows him like the back of his hand, you know what I mean? I just hope he has a clean trip, and if he gets outrun he gets outrun, but I look for him to run a big race.
Tom Pedulla: So you do feel like you’ve got him 100% ready?
Art Sherman: I do. I think he’s going to be right on. I just like what I see.
Tom Pedulla: Okay, thank you.
Art Sherman: You’re welcome.
Operator: The next question comes from Tim Wilkin of Albany Times Union. Please go ahead.
Tim Wilkin: Hey, Art. The last time we saw California Chrome was the Belmont. A lot of the public was turned off by the comments that Steve made after the race. Do you think that’s hurt his popularity at all?
Art Sherman: Well, not the horse’s popularity. It might’ve hurt Steve’s a little bit. But, you know, people forget, and, you know, he really did say something that was out of context. You know, sometimes you get all bummed out and you get beat. And don’t forget, this is the first horse they ever had to run. You know, it’s not like he’d been in the game for a long time and we’re all veterans; we know things can happen. But it’s been a great ride and I’m sure if he had to say it again he would never do that.
Tim Wilkin: So you think the horse is still popular, though?
Art Sherman: Oh, you ought to have seen the crowd out there when I worked him between races at Los Alamitos with banners. He’s the people’s horse. You know, the horse can’t take its owners with them. He’s just a popular horse that has a big fan base.
Tim Wilkin: Thanks, Art.
Operator: Thank you. The next question comes from Paul Mazur of Chicago Now. Please go ahead.
Paul Mazur: Mr. Sherman, thank you for taking the call and congratulations on your purchase at the Keeneland sale.
Art Sherman: Oh, thank you. I bought another California Chrome. He looks just like him, I swear. He’s got a blaze down his face. He has three stockinged feet and he looked just like him walking in the paddock. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I said, my God, I’ve got to have this horse. He’s a nice bred horse. We tried, you know.
Paul Mazur: Has your stance changed with California Chrome as to him being campaigned possibly at the age of four or beyond? You’ve said before in print that you’ve wanted to keep him around for a campaign at four.
Art Sherman: Well, I’d love to see him run. You know, they’ve been getting a lot of offers. I’m just hoping they can keep him through his four-year-old year. I really think he’d make a great four year old who’s developing, and he’s really turned into a good looking horse, you know; filled out and he’s looking good, you know what I mean? I hope he’s there, but, you know, sometimes when you get offered a lot of money, that changes everybody’s mind. These people are just working people. They don’t have a lot of money. So it all depends. I can’t really tell what they’re going to do.
Paul Mazur: Understood. Do you know what hip it was you bought at Keeneland September?
Art Sherman: Twenty one eleven. He’s by Macho Ono out of a nice mare. You know, his body English is what I went for. I didn’t really care about the breeding, but he still was a nice bred horse. You know, he’s got a stakes winning mare and they have two sisters that are stake winners. So he’s got the pedigree. He’s got the family along with it.
Paul Mazur: All righty. Thank you and good luck the rest of the year.
Art Sherman: All right. I appreciate that.
Operator: Thank you. The next question comes from John Engelhardt of Winning Ponies Radio. Please go ahead
John Engelhardt: Hi, Art. Thanks for being on with us. Appreciate you taking the time from the sale. I worked alongside a gentleman by the name of Mike Manganello, and…
Art Sherman: Mike Manganello, that’s not the rider is it?
John Engelhardt: Absolutely.
Art Sherman: Really?
John Engelhardt: He’s a steward at Belterra Park. He reflects on riding alongside you and says you were nothing but a class act back in those days.
Art Sherman: Well, you say hello to Mike. I haven’t seen him in years. My God, that’s pretty cool.
John Engelhardt: Well, can you reflect on your early days in the saddle for us, please?
Art Sherman: Oh, my God. I don’t know. That was 23 years I put in, and I wasn’t no superstar, but I always thought I rode a good race, you know? It was a tough era in them days. It’s a little different now. You know, all them jocks make a lot of money now.
John Engelhardt: What was the circuit that you rode on primarily?
Art Sherman: Oh, I rode all over. I rode in New York, I rode in Maryland, and I rode in Kentucky and Ohio. Geez, I rode all over. I went up to New England for a little bit. I was back there for nine years.
John Engelhardt: Well, thanks a lot. I appreciate you sharing your time, and I’ll tell Mike you said hi.
Art Sherman: Thank you.
Operator: Thank you. The next question comes from David Grening of Daily Racing Form. Please go ahead.
David Grening: Art, I just wanted to ask you about the foot. How serious was it when you got him back to California, and did it change what you would’ve done with him this summer or was this always the plan to just give him the whole summer off and…
Art Sherman: Well, I wanted to give him a little time off. You know, the foot made it easy, but it was just superficial really. It just took the ball of his foot. If it had went any deeper it could’ve been a quarter crack, but we got lucky; really lucky at that stage of the injury. It was treated right away, and we got to where no infection was in there. You know, it was an open wound, but everything healed up perfect and couldn’t have asked any more. The veterinarians were great. They patched him up very quickly.
David Grening: You got started back training when you wanted to? Did you have to do any shoes or anything?
Art Sherman: Well, no, I’ve got my own blacksmith that comes with him and he knows him. Shoeing is a little on the delicate side. He don’t grow a lot of foot, so you’ve just got to kind of live with it. He’s got white feet. You know, white feet, they don’t grow as good as the darker feet.
David Grening: And you were doing something with his shoes back in the springtime anyway?
Art Sherman: Yes, we use a special clip-on shoe for him.
David Grening: And that is still in place right now?
Art Sherman: Yes, it is.
David Grening: When you look at this field from top to bottom, is it a little deeper than you were hoping it to be?
Art Sherman: I knew that the California horses were coming I know Tapiture is a good horse. You know, he looks really good with the Charles Town race. But I just don’t know how to tell you how they’re going to run with Chrome. You know, Chrome’s challenged and beaten a lot of good horses, too. When he runs I have a lot of confidence in him, so I’d just like for him to have a good, safe trip. I’m not worried that he can get outrun. If he gets outrun, he gets outrun, but they’re going to have to have their running shoes on.
David Grening: Thank you very much. Good luck.
Art Sherman: Thank you.
Operator: Thank you. The next question comes from John Pricci of HorseRaceInsider.com. Please go ahead.
John Pricci: Good afternoon, Art. You had mentioned—you’d made a reference to this is the first time that Chrome is coming out of the one hole. You were inside at the Belmont and there seemed to be little jamming there going into the first turn.
Art Sherman: It’s true.
John Pricci: Is that the basis of your concern, and do you think that his state of freshness will help him this time in that regard?
Art Sherman: He’ll show them the speed away from there, but I’d really like for him to have a target, to be honest with you. If he could be third or fourth down the backside and be in the clear I’d be very happy.
John Pricci: Okay. You know, do you envision that—did you have a chance to look at the competition in here yet?
Art Sherman: You know, I’ll be honest with you, I was here at Keeneland and I was going to pick up a form and get all the PPs on everybody and I’ll look it up on my iPad when I get home, but I haven’t really had a chance. I’ve been studying the darn Keeneland sale book, and I kind of got involved in that while I’m back here. You know, I’m only going to be here for a couple days, so I wanted to pick up a few horses. So I figured I’ll get plenty of chances to look at the PPs when I get there, you know.
John Pricci: Yes, you probably will, Art. Make sure you have a safe trip on Saturday.
Art Sherman: I hope so. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Operator: Thank you. Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question, please press star, one at this time.
The next question comes from Bob Ehalt of ESPN.com. Please go ahead.
Art Sherman: Hey, Bob. How are you doing?
Bob Ehalt: Good, Art. How are you today?
Art Sherman: All right; super.
Bob Ehalt: Good. The stable’s a little bit bigger there. Just wanted to ask, earlier in this conference call we had Ron Winchell the owner of Tapiture on the phone, and he said he felt your horse was going to be vulnerable in the Pennsylvania Derby, and if he owned the horse he wouldn’t have chosen this spot. What’s your…?
Art Sherman: Oh, really? Why wouldn’t he? What did he want me to run in the Awesome Again against—they must not believe in Shared Belief. Shared Belief is a good horse. I want to be at my best when I face him because I want to tell you, he and my horse, to myself, are the best three-year-olds in the country. So I don’t know, everybody has their opinions, you know.
Bob Ehalt: When you formulated the plans, what was the compelling factor that you decided to ship back East for the Pennsylvania Derby over the possibility of staying for the Awesome Again?
Art Sherman: Well, I was going to stay in the Awesome Again, but I really think the Awesome Again is going to come up a lot tougher than this race. That’s my personal opinion. I might be wrong, you know, but I’m looking forward to the competition. You know, it’s great three-year-olds. Why do I have to hook the older horses until the Breeders’ Cup anyhow? So, you know, for a million dollars or $300,000, you’ve got to take a shot, wouldn’t you?
Bob Ehalt: I can’t argue too much with that. All right, Art, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Art Sherman: Will do.
Operator: Thank you. The next question comes from Art Wilson, Los Angeles Daily News. Please go ahead.
Art Wilson: Yes, Art, with all that’s…
Art Sherman: Hey, Art. How are you doing?
Art Wilson: I’m doing good. How are you doing?
Art Sherman: Everything’s good.
Art Wilson: Good. With all that’s gone on with you this year and Chrome, when you look back at it all, having this kind of a year at this stage in your career, did you ever think it was possible? What’s your thoughts on the whole year?
Art Sherman: Well, I just thought at my age and everything, I thought, you know, I always had a decent career. I’d always felt that it was very rewarding for me what I did do, you know what I mean; been in the game and had a lot of Grade 1 winners and Grade 2 winners and just enjoyed myself, and had close to 2,400 winners. I’m happy and my family’s involved with it, and we’ve always made a decent living. This is just the icing on the cake of a long career. You know, I never thought I’d be able to win the Derby or the Preakness at this stage of my life and I’m just very thankful. I’ve met a lot of nice people on the road and it’s been very rewarding to me personally.
Art Wilson: Obviously 100% of your focus is on Saturday’s race, but the media and the fans have the luxury of looking forward. If all goes well Saturday and both horses stay sound, Shared Belief and California Chrome, are you looking forward to a matchup in the Classic as much as we all are?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, me and Jerry go back a long time. We were neighbors. We lived in the same building years ago, and it’s kind of a little northern (California) rivalry. He kicked my butt all the time. I kind of it like Hertz and Avis; I’m always second to him for a lot of years. I beat him one time I think in 20 years. So I mean it’s nothing new about me and Jerry running against each other, but it’s a friendly rivalry, and I wish him luck and I’m sure he does the same to me.
Art Wilson: Does it make it even more special that you’re such good friends and you both have such good horses?
Art Sherman: Well, it is. You know, it’s kind of like, hey, we’re going to see who is the bad dog is in the town now. You know, it’s—hey, listen, we’ve got to prove. Eclipse Awards are up for grabs, and if you’ve got the best horse you’ve got the best horse. You know, I’m old school. You know, I hate making excuses.
Art Wilson: Right. Okay, well best of luck on Saturday, Art.
Art Sherman: I appreciate that. Thank you.
Jim Mulvihill: Art, just I’ll ask you one more question just to help set up the stories that folks are writing. I’m wondering if looking back at the Belmont you can tell us what you think were the biggest factors that led to getting beat that day.
Art Sherman: Well, there’s always factors. You know, I think the biggest factor is running three giant races in five weeks. That’s the biggest factor. The other thing is, he didn’t have the trip that he usually does. You hate making excuses, you get beat a length and a half for all of it, and I knew down the lane my horse wasn’t himself. I could see him. I know that horse like the back of my hand. And, you know, he had six great races in a row. You know you’re due for some bad luck. It’s just—that’s the way this game is, you know what I mean? In an all perfect world, you know what I mean, you hate making excuses, but I thought he had a legitimate excuse in that race.
Jim Mulvihill: Most definitely. Well, Art, we will hope to see his best race this Saturday. Best of luck to you. Thanks for joining us yet again on one of our calls.
Art Sherman: All right, I appreciate that.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, thank you Art Sherman. Hopefully we’ll talk to Art maybe in a few weeks about the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and maybe even next fall and the spring after that about his Macho Uno colt, who knows.
Art Sherman: Here comes Little Chrome, we’ll call him.
Jim Mulvihill: Little Chrome.
Art Sherman: Chrome’s brother, yes. All right.
Jim Mulvihill: I like it. I like it. Thanks so much, Art.
Art Sherman: All right, thank you. Bye-bye.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, thank you so much, Art Sherman, and thanks also to Ron Winchell and Phil Schoenthal. As always, you can find this call on NTRA.com, and if you have any questions about the Pennsylvania Derby, covering it this weekend again, you can feel free to contact Joan Lawrence at NTRA Communications. She’ll be up at Parx this week.
Now to wrap things up, I’ll send it back to our Operator, Michelle.
Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, this does conclude the conference call for today. You may now disconnect your line and have a great day.