Speakers: Tim Ritvo: President of Gulfstream Park and COO of the Stronach Group
Trainer: Art Sherman (California Chrome)
Jockey: Mike Smith (Arrogate)
Operator: Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational from Gulfstream Park.
It is now my pleasure to introduce your host for today, Mr Jim Mulvihill. Please go ahead sir.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Thank you so much, Melody. Welcome, everyone, to this very special NTRA, national media teleconference. We’re previewing Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park racing and casino, it’s the richest thorough bred horse race ever run with a purse of $12 million. A full field of 12 was entered yesterday with each spot in the gate having been secured for a million dollars by the owners of each horse, an entirely new concept for our sport. The Pegasus, of course, represents a rematch of the top two finishers from the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. Champion three-year-old Arrogate came out on top in that race, and for that performance earlier today, he was recognized at the Longines Awards in London as the world’s top rated horse of 2016.
The horse that ran second in the Breeders’ Cup, of course, California Chrome, he was named horse of the year at Saturday’s Eclipse Awards, in favour of Arrogate, and it was his second horse of the year title, and Saturday will mark the final race in Chrome’s story book career.
So obviously, a lot of very interesting story lines converging in the Pegasus both on track with these super star horses, but also behind the scenes with the business of creating a new, internationally significant race, totally from scratch, and recruiting the owners and horses, marketing the event, and so forth.
So, later on, on this call, we’re going to be joined by Art Sherman, the trainer of California Chrome, and Mike Smith, the regular rider of Arrogate. His trainer Bob Baffert would normally join us on these calls but he’s in London for that Longines ceremony that ended just short while ago.
So, first, we’re going to talk through some of those business storylines I mentioned with Tim Ritvo. Tim is the Chief Operating Officer for the Stronach Group and President of Gulfstream Park. He’s been working towards this event for more than a year I imagine, and I’m sure well before it was first announced publicly which happened last May, so let’s welcome in Tim right now. As usual I’ll get the conversation started with one or two basic questions but then I’ll get out of the way and leave it to the media to ask whatever you all would like.
So, Tim Ritvo. It’s Jim Mulvihill of the NTRA in Lexington. Thanks for joining us.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you, Jim. We are excited about this and we appreciate you having us on.
Jim Mulvihill: It’s our pleasure. We’re very excited as well. First of all, congratulations on the field that was entered yesterday, especially getting the top two horses in the world together again. We all know that that would never have happened without this race. So, congrats on getting to this point.
I guess to start, I imagine logistically speaking, this has been a heck of a year trying to pull all this together. So, I’m curious from your perspective, just what were the biggest challenges in your mind when you and your team first set out a year or more ago to fulfil this vision of Frank’s. What were you most concerned about?
Tim Ritvo: Yes, I mean, obviously anytime you have an inaugural running of something and you’re starting something or a new concept, there’s always a lot of twist and turns that you have to deal with where, you know, we’re fortunate, where we run a [inaudible] it’s run 141 year – a 146 years, and, you know, you have history and everything else to develop, and you become what you are, with the Breeder’s Cup now, 30 something years.
To start something off fresh like this, it took a lot of brain storming, a lot of ideas from the timing of the race, the distance of the race, how do we do it? And this was launched almost two years ago at the Breeders’ Cup, started to talk about it, then last year at the Breeders’ Cup, we’ve tightened everything up. And it was very important to the chairman that we positioned this race so not to be offensive to the Breeder’s Cup, to be an added amenity, not to be offensive to the Dubai World Cup, to also basically look for spots in the calendar that worked better than other sports. No football in that week, right? We’re between the playoffs and the Super Bowl. So, all of these little things, also with the breeding season, so that people still wanted to turn into stallions, they had the opportunity to do that.
But the main concept was through the years, people have bought million dollar horses, always looking to get in the big race, and what we did is said, ‘Why not buy the spot in the gate and then try to find your horse after that?’ So, we kind of reverse engineered that in the thought process. And then the fun part of, you know, obviously, an owner that bought a spot would love to have a horse for that spot, but if he didn’t, how he would negotiate and go out and try to bid and find a horse to make this an exciting race.
So, you know, no one knew exactly what it was going to turn out to be like, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have the first three finishers of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It definitely expands the racing calendar, it makes people think that maybe they don’t have to retire these horses at three and gives us superstars for another year, three or four. So, these are things that all went into the thinking. By no means are we perfect in the way we got everything structured, I think we’ll get better as we continue to have years running. Like anything else, you get better with practice. So – but we’re happy. We’re really thrilled to get the number one, and the number two horses, you stated, in the world in a rematch, and really a good field of a bunch of other grade one winners in this race.
You know, this is a spectacular race, at a spectacular time of year and it really gets the purpose of what we were trying to do, is to extend the racing calendar so that fans could continue to see horses that they may have never seen on this circuit.
Jim Mulvihill: Now, Tim, I’m sure you’ll understand that once the race is run on Saturday, a lot of the folks on this call will be – you know, it’s part of their job to assess the success of the event as a whole. Now, there aren’t any previous years’ figures to look at, there really isn’t a comparable event to look at. So, I’m just curious internally how you and your Stronach Group colleagues will assess the success of the Pegasus on Saturday?
Tim Ritvo: That’s a great question. Now, obviously from the ground, the GSP team, we would asses it – hopefully we could beat Florida Derby handle which was about $36 million this year, one of the highest handles ever in this building. So, that’s something that we have on our target. We have a $40 million, you know, and I’m reaching out there hoping that we do at least $20 million on the race and then $20 million on the undercard. It might be a little bit of a stretch but we have high goals.
But the true measurement, because of the size of the building and some of the problems that we deal with this, day in and day out, this is a great building, it’s a new concept of how racing is being watched, and most of the time it carries enough people. But when you do an event of this size, we will struggle a little bit with the on track on exactly how many people we can get into here. But what we will look at is our NBC ratings. We believe that we’ve done a lot of new – and Belinda – to really give the credit on this, Belinda Stronach – to kind of get involved and to reach outside the bubble, outside the racing industry with these marketing ads she has done, with the PR that she’s done with this, with Conor McGregor, these are the things. And the true measurement from the Stronach Group perspective is, what would the television ratings be? And the true return for the partners in future years is what is this worth on television, what would we be paid for to have it, what would it be for NBC, Fox, and ESPN or ABC to compete against each other to try to buy it, and also sponsorship value?
So that’s the true – to make sure that we execute as best we can a flawless event, and that’s the true value of what the success will be measured by.
Jim Mulvihill: Fascinating. Well, thanks for that answer, and I’ve got so many more questions for you but I want to turn it over to the media because that’s why we’re really here, so, let me check with Melody and see what they’ve got for you.
Tim Ritvo: Great.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, again, it’s *1 if you have a question. Again, it’s *1 to ask a question.
We’ll go to Frank Angst with Blood‑Horse Magazine.
Frank Angst: Hey, Tim, looking forward to Saturday.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you, Frank. Thank you.
Frank Angst: Hey, do you think having the stakeholders set up this unique setup helped ensure the 12 horses that are in the field?
Tim Ritvo: Yes, I mean, we think it did. Like, you know, the one thing we’re trying to compare things to which is really hard because you have a $12 million purse compared to a $500,000 purse – I mean, as people know, we have 12 in this race, we have nine in the Poseidon, which was like the backup race for the AE horses that wanted – in case something happened that we launched at the same time. So, in reality, to have 21, over handicap horses in this area, at this time, normally we struggle to get like eight in the dawn. So, you know, we looked, we said, ‘Well, who would be here? Who wouldn’t be here?’ So, obviously, having the shareholders put up the money, the $12 million purse has definitely made a difference than say what the draw would be at this time of year.
Frank Angst: And then I was interested in some of the unique conditions of this race. I saw the five-pound weight allowance if you race without Lasix. Kind of, how did that come together and is that something we could see in other races?
Tim Ritvo: Yes, you know, the chairman, Mr Stronach, is a no race day medication guy. He would eventually like to see it get there. Me as an ex horseman, I understand both sides and I understand how horsemen and culture for so long have been – you know, I’ve trained, myself, for 30 years, 25 years, and, you know, from when I started and we didn’t know anything better than Lasix. Everywhere else in the world can do it. So we’re trying to get that way.
We did have some no Lasix races this year, two-year-olds. We’re trying to look at that and eventually, hopefully, one day be a medication Lasix-free racing environment. And, you know, I mean, that’s always one of the incentives the chairman wanted to put in there to see if he could incentivize people that had horses that weren’t running on Lasix.
And also to reach out to the international horses, to say, ‘Well, you have a five-pound advantage if you continue to run your horse not on Lasix or racing medication.’
Frank Angst: And the last question along the same lines of that, of the uniqueness. The alternate entries for owners where they can also have a back-up that if that horse don’t get in, they race in the Poseidon, how did that come together and is that something that maybe we can see going forward in other races – race days?
Tim Ritvo: Yes, the biggest thing here was, we were trying to figure out – and I mean, when this was all thought out, you know, like a year ago, when we’re trying to get – let’s say, what if a guy puts up a million dollars and he enters on Monday and his horse gets sick? You know, so we throw – why not allow these people to train two horses up to the race, so they could have a back-up horse, and what we’ll do is we’ll put this other race on, the Poseidon which will be an undercard race, so that if both horses train really well up to the race, they’d have something to do with the other horse at that time? So, that was the thought process behind it.
In the beginning, it sounded like a great idea. Everybody would have two, you know, would have this other race. As it started to evolve, less and less people had the two horses, and, you know, felt confident that, well, you know what it is like, the horse, if they missed a spot, they missed a spot. But anyways, that was the concept. Was to try to make sure that, god-forbid, training – and when they put the million dollars up it with so far ago, that if something happened to the horse that they were keen that they could always have a back-up horse.
Frank Angst: Thanks so much. That’s all I got.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you. Thank you.
Operator: We’ll go next to Danny Brewer with Horseracingscoop.com
Danny Brewer: Mr Ritvo, how are you doing?
Tim Ritvo: Good, Danny. How are you?
Danny Brewer: Outstanding. I just want to ask about this snowball that’s hopefully rolling downhill. I mean, you liked the direction and you feel like this can be a tremendous kick-off to a fabulous year of horse racing?
Tim Ritvo: Yes. We think that – you know, the dawn has always been kind of the kick-off of the year, but you really never know, it was just too early to get horses started and stuff. We’re truly hoping – I mean, we’re thrilled right now with the race obviously. It would be hard not be thrilled with this, so many grade one winners and the two best horses in the world rematching. But, yes, we’re hoping that we can extend horses careers, or give horses opportunity. You already heard like California Chrome’s people thinking, ‘Jeez, you know what, if there’s a $12 million race and a $10 million race in Dubai, and a $7 million Breeder’s Cup Classic, and if somebody else did want in in the middle of the year or something, or the – you know, one of these other great handicap races where we could have this continued schedule where a horse can make $12 million or $15 million in [inaudible] runnings for the year, he could still be a good stallion at five or six.’ And we can extend the career of these horses, and really grow a bigger fan base. So, that’s kind of the hope and the thought.
And I know we’re in our inaugural year. And I know we’re far from perfect. But like you said, it’s really off to a good start. I mean, couldn’t be prouder with the field that’s put together here, and even the undercard.
Danny Brewer: I know that you’re a Gulfstream guy, but since Mr Stronach is kind of the brains behind this, could this event go to Santa Anita maybe, or do you think it’s going to be strictly a Gulfstream Park event in the years to come?
Tim Ritvo: Yes, everything’s up for grabs. Everything – obviously, we want to do what’s – we really like to do what’s best for the shareholders. He made a speech last night that he wants to really use the original shareholders, the people that got in at the ground level, to hear their input through the season. So there’s a chance –
I mean, the Pegasus statue that he built here is just an absolutely monumental thing to see, and he always wanted it to be something that was iconic with horse racing. So, he wanted to kind of brand Gulfstream with this statue to say basically, you know, when you go somewhere that you think about horse racing, you think about Pegasus, you think about Gulfstream Park.
There’s a chance that it could be ran at another facility. But I think if we’re successful and if we’re not too restraint on the ability to give people a good time in this facility, I could see it happening again here. What I can see is more of these concepts popping up and then maybe even doing an international grass race, you know, at the highest level. So, I think we could add to it.
But we want to walk before we run, and get all the kinks out this year, and see where we’re at. But yeah, positively, this thing could move around. We think we have great properties, not just Santa Anita but in Maryland also between Washington and Baltimore and Laurel. We know we can have big events there too. So, you know, we’re hoping that this concept is accepted to the shareholders to get into a little bit of the financial details of it.
If eventually someday, the four top guys could make money, the four middle guys could come close to breaking even and the four bottom guys lost just a little bit of money, I think people will be lining up to get in. So, these are the things that we’re going to work on with NBC, with sponsorships and Pari-Mutuel Handle so that we’re sharing properly with the shareholders.
Speaker: [Inaudible] of the purse, but I’m just still trying to wrap my head around how this is going to work in terms of wagering sponsorships and media rights.
Tim Ritvo: Yes.
Speaker: So, can you talk about how much of those things are going in this year and can you give us kind of an estimate of what you’re looking for, for this year?
Tim Ritvo: Yes. So this year the biggest revenue source for the ownerships, the Group, will be the purse, right? All the Pari-Mutuel Handle – 100% of that revenue from the Pari-Mutuel Handle will go to the shareholders being split. It was being split equally and we made a little bit of an adjustment later on where we try to reward the fourth, fifth and sixth a little bit more, but that’s kind of between the shareholders and the purse agreement.
Then the sponsorship level of what we’ve sold in sponsorships this year, the final number is not in yet, and minus obviously some of the accommodations that had to be made. And then obviously NBC, there’s no revenue this year to the shareholders and we’re hoping that by having good ratings and then, as I said earlier next year, networks bidding on it, that we would be able to get more revenue.
We know right now that the industry pays for three races. They pay for the Kentucky Derby, they pay for the [inaudible] and they pay for the Belmont television coverage. What we would like to do is get into that mix so that there’s a little bit of a bit more that they think that it’s worth covering and that they can sell spots and everything else. So hopefully in the future years, NBC or ABC or ESPN or Fox or one of these networks will be able to pay, and that money would be divided up equally between the partners. Also as television ratings improve, sponsorship will improve, and that money will be divided up between the partners the same as the purse revenue.
Speaker: So as of right now, there’s absolutely no revenue sharing between NBC and the partners?
Tim Ritvo: No. Actually we had to pay NBC. The Stronach Group took the commitment on themselves to take care of the hit this year to pay for the coverage, but Belinda thought it was worth the marketing initiatives in the long run to try to have a bigger reach. So the hour and half of the NBC telecast was paid for by The Stronach Group.
Speaker: All right. Thank you very much.
Tim Ritvo: Appreciate it.
Operator: We’ll go next to Art Wilson with Southern California Newspaper Group.
Art Wilson: Yes, Tim. Can you tell me how many, besides yourself and Mr Stronach, how many people kind of came together and made the final parameters for this race and had a say in it or hand in it?
Tim Ritvo: Yeah. The concept – like I said two year ago was launched at the meeting at Breeders’ Cup. And then we kind of talked through it for a complete year. And then the last year’s Breeders’ Cup, we – not this year obviously but the year before – we sat down and we really banged out all the details. And it was Alon Ossip, who’s the Chief Executive Officer, Mike Rogers, who’s the President of Stronach Group, Belinda is the Chairman now, Frank, you know, being the Honorary Chairman and the Founder and myself. Also, Keith Brackpool, who’s on the Executive Board from California. So more the five or six of us sat down and really kind of worked out the details on what this would look like, why people would sign up. We also brought in Jack Wolf who had experience with syndicates and stuff like that to kind of give us what he thought would happen.
To be honest, we were – there was lots of debate whether we would sell the shares as fast we sell them. Frank was – Mr Stronach was committed to buy three shares if he had to, to make it successful. And within the announcement, within a couple of days, we had to call him and tell him we had good news and bad news. And the bad news was he was down to one share and he said, ‘That’s what it is. You’re down to one share.’
So that was good, and we were surprised how fast – and surprised to have different diverse group. We’ve had people that have never been in horse racing say, ‘Hey. This is a great idea. I want to be in it.’ And experts and people like [inaudible] and stuff like that jumping in and obviously [inaudible] and stuff like that. It was just a pleasant surprise to see it all come together so fast.
Art Wilson: And you mentioned the fact that there’s the possibility that it could move around year by year. Depending on the success of it, is there also a chance that it could expand from 12 horses to 14 in the future?
Tim Ritvo: Yeah. And obviously depending on, right, the facility that’s running that. We are already pushing the envelope at 12 at a mile-and-an-eighth at Gulfstream. But distances, number of races, all of those things will be thought out. And like I said in the beginning, when we thought out the mile-and-an-eighth distance, we tried and have – good horses as possible. Would a mile horse try to go a mile-and-an-eighth? And we thought they would. The mile and a quarter horses, obviously, would go the mile-and-an-eighth.
So we thought of all of these little things but we want to – we definitely want to involve – now that the concept is launched, to involve more of the partnerships to – the partners to sit down and have mid-year meetings and say, ‘Hey, what do we think?’, and have open discussion about how do we move forward to make it as successful as possible. And then also the addition of maybe even a second race down the road on the grass or lawn.
Art Wilson: So the reason that you guys set on a mile-and-an-eighth was because you hoped to attract some horses that maybe didn’t feel they could go a mile and a quarter or milers like you mentioned?
Tim Ritvo: Yes. That was the mile-and-an-eighth concept. And it was debated strongly from both sides. The mile and a quarter is a real classic distance, so we should really consider that. We just thought that if we could get a really good miler that, you know, would try to push the envelope at a mile-and-an-eighth for $12 million, then we could actually have a more attractive race than alienate those kinds of horses.
Art Wilson: Okay. Great. Thanks. Good luck with the event on Saturday.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you for your questions. Appreciate it.
Operator: We’ll go next to Debbie Arrington with Sacramento Bee.
Debbie Arrington: Thank you very much for coming on today. This is such an unusual concept and, you know, like you said, it’s something that is ground-breaking. It could really set a lot of precedence. So we’re still trying to wrap our heads around exactly how it will work. So that mutuel handle, that 100%, goes toward the stakeholders, is that just on-track handle or is that the national handle?
Tim Ritvo: The national handle. Every source of revenue that comes in that’s been on that race and a percentage of the multi wages which is the pick four, the pick five, the pick six, all that percentage would go to the shareholders also. Obviously, it is the host that takes, there’s us, and then there’s the sites that take the bets, they get their percentage, but then all the rest that comes to the house goes all to the shareholders.
Debbie Arrington: You’re looking at – for first place is that going to be $6 million for the purse?
Tim Ritvo: $7 million for the purse. The purse is already set and has no relation to – that’s set for the horses. So, it’s a $12 million purse total, $7 million for first and then downward. Then the separate revenue driver is how much do they bet on the race, what’s the total revenue and divide that up by 12.
So just a quick math and a quick example. If we did $25 million on the race, everybody would receive somewhere around $200,000 to $225,000 a piece in revenue plus everybody gets $250,000 just for starting from last to fourth, and then the rest of the horses get more first, second, third, right? So the guy that finishes last right now even though he put a million dollars could end up getting somewhere around $500,000 back.
Debbie Arrington: Wow. Okay. All right. That’s what we’re trying to figure exactly all the math in this. And the stakeholders, do they hold on to those stakes from one year to the next or do you have new bidding or how does that work?
Tim Ritvo: No, they have the first right of refusal into the second year. So as we continue to build this series and, obviously, the first year is the toughest to get television revenue and to get sponsorship. As it becomes more and more popular, if we look at the Breeder’s Cup 31 years later or whatever, you would see the difference from the first year to now.
So those ownerships, the shareholders or stakeholders as we call them, would have the first right of refusal.
Debbie Arrington: And is there a re-up fee to go for another year?
Tim Ritvo: I mean right now I mean, obviously, it would be the same. It’s a million dollars.
Debbie Arrington: It would be the same million dollars. Okay.
Tim Ritvo: Yeah. And like once again in reality, we’re just kind of facilitating this. So now that, you know, we’ve got this thing going in the right direction. We would take the lead from the shareholders if they thought of putting in more money and having a second race, if they thought of putting more money and having a bigger purse. I mean there’s all different kinds of ways. And I have to tell you, it’s been really good. For an industry where people normally compete against each other trying to win, you know, this is a lot like, let’s say the NFL or something, where each team has an interest in winning but, at the same time, they’re very important about selling the whole group together, you know. So it’s been great, and a pleasure to work with these guys.
Debbie Arrington: Very good. Okay. Thank you very much. Great luck on Saturday.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you very much.
Operator: We’ll go next to Tom Jicha with South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Tom Jacob: Good. Do you have any estimate about what the crowd might be? You’re kind of moving into uncharted waters with a barely hefty price point. And I know you got a plan for hotdogs and beers and sodas and everything. What are you hoping for and what would you consider a success?
Tim Ritvo: Yeah. And Tom, you know the facility so you’ve been here, and it’s really hard without turnstiles through the years. You know, we’ve had free parking and free admission for so long. You know, we’ve estimated Florida Derby crowd up to towards 20,000, we really stacked them in there.
We think a success is somewhere between 15 and 17.5 because of the limitations when we really started to count the seats and what we could sell and the bodies we could put in the seats. Basically, the general admission with the TT area and Frank Beach side. So, you know, a success in our way is not how many people we can get in here, it’s the idea that it’s a comfortable and fun environment that will be measured by customer service, right? Can they get to the concession stands, can they get their bets down, can they use the restrooms, are we – you know, so those are the things that we’ll really be watching for. But, you know, we think that we can handle the crowd of 17,500, Something in that area, and still be able to accommodate and let people have a customer – a great customer experience.
Tom Jacob: And the other thing. With the money back 250,000 even if you finish last, I saw something the other day that wasn’t well explained. It’s some kind of an agreement has been struck with the jockeys about what they’ll get. Like if the normal purse, the guy who finishes last will get 25,000 just for riding around the track. Do you know – can you explain that to me?
Tim Ritvo: Yeah. So the jockeys have struck an agreement with the shareholders that give them the basic – I believe – and I don’t want to be quoted on, but I think it’s the Breeders’ Cup analysis, where if the trainer and jockey do not have a side agreement, which you’re entitled to have, the basic withholdings will be 10% for the winner, 5% for second, 5% for third, and a $1,000 mount fee for the rest. So that’s what the agreement was made with the jocks and that was agreed upon. Everybody was very comfortable with that.
Now if the jockey and the trainer or jockey and an owner, I should say, want to make a side agreement where they get a little more or a little less, that’s up to those people. And if they give us a signed declaration of the two bodies, then we’ll do it accordingly.
Tom Jacob: As this goes forward and if money is produced for the partners and everything, do you think you’ll maybe scale back on paying horses to finish tenth, eleventh and twelfth?
Tim Ritvo: It will be between the ownership. You know, if we were to – obviously if we were to be able to get more money on the revenue side for the shareholders, then there would be less gamble. So the idea was to try to make sure everybody got back a good chunk, or a fairly decent chunk of their money.
But yeah, we could see putting more in second, third, fourth and fifth, right? To make more of an incentive up at that level. But, once again we would pull the ownership group and say these decisions are always best made a year before the race because no one knows who has the cards. I mean we consider this almost like a poker game. The guy that has all the chips a lot of times doesn’t want to cut up the pot where if you do this a year in advance, no one knows who they’re really going to have for a horse, maybe everybody’s revenue share will look a little bit different, you know.
Tom Jacob: Okay. Thank you very much.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you, Tom.
Operator: We’ll go next to Clark Spencer with the Miami Herald.
Clark Spencer: Hi, Tim. One of the questions, it’s kind along the lines of the crowd. Charging $100 just to get in to the track on Saturday, which is probably quite a big amount of money for a casual racing fan who’s used to getting it for free, I mean what was the thought process behind kind of that pricing overall?
Tim Ritvo: Yeah. So Clark, thanks for the question. It was tough. It was not an easy decision. And then you try not to alienate your day in and day out fans, and really you are. You know, and it was a balancing act to try to figure out how not to have the place overridden at a low number so that the people that paid on the high end could experience it was all thought in the process where you didn’t want to have the place where it wouldn’t function. And not knowing what the first year and the inaugural would look like, that’s kind of where we set the price. If we could do it all over again, we’ll probably would have adjusted obviously a little bit downward, maybe half of that.
But we still believe in our heart – and I know, you know, to see two of the greatest athletes compete at any level at any sport, $100 is still not a big ticket price. Now obviously, if you said that to a person who’s been getting in free day in and day out, they might not agree with you.
But we still believe these two finest athletes in a race of this calibre – and Clark, you know me for a long time, I’ve been in the industry for 30 years in every different level, [inaudible] has worked in [inaudible] and win some of the greatest races of all time, this is a tough one to beat when we think back in our careers, what kind of race have we put together. Florida Derbies are nice but there’s a lot of derbies all around the country at that time. This is an exceptional, exceptional horse race of number one and number two in the world. So, you know, although we want to continue to grow the customer base, this is probably not the way to do it by charging $100 to get in, but at the same time, we had to do something with the functionality of the building. So that was the thought process, and we definitely will go back and look at it. As I’ve said in the beginning, you know, we’re far from perfect and we learn from all the things we do.
Clark Spencer: Could you add – or have you thought about adding bleacher seats? I mean there’s not a lot of, you know, as we know, seating at Gulfstream. Just, you know, at the track, would you think about putting in bleacher seats at some point to accommodate maybe a larger crowd and maybe charge less?
Tim Ritvo: Yes. Gulfstream Park is what you see it today. Really if you talk to Mr. Stronach it’s in its infancy with what we’re really going to see. So eventually what I could see is parking garages built because every – right now if we added seats, we would end up taking parking lot spaces away which we’re already short on. So as we develop parking garages along the track, we would build bleachers into those. So that, yeah, we already have it in our mind when we talk about building a hotel on the property, when we talk about building parking garages, everything is done within our minds to also facilitate more customers to eventually someday maybe have a Breeders’ Cup again.
Right now, the building could not accommodate something like that even with bleacher seating because of the parking element. So all of these are on the plan. They’re on the drawing board. It’s an expensive and heavy list but we’re looking at all of those – we’re definitely looking at all of those aspects.
Clark Spencer: Okay. Thank you.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you.
Operator: We’ll go next to Alicia Hughes with Blood‑Horse Magazine.
Alicia Hughes: Hey, Tim. How’s it going?
Tim Ritvo: Good, Alicia. Thank you.
Alicia Hughes: I just want to ask a quick follow-up regarding the potential attendance for this weekend. Do you guys have a figure yet as to approximately how many seats have already been sold, you know, aside from the GA but also with some of the other venues that are they going to be able to provide seating, like Christine Lee’s and Ten Palms?
Tim Ritvo: Yeah. Right now, where we’re at is around just over 13,000 that we have seats in general admission and Sport of Kings and everything else. We still believe that there’ll be a lot of general admission people at some time. People that just didn’t know they had to get a ticket and stuff like that. So you will be able to buy a ticket at the gates and hopefully we’ll learn a lot from this experience. You know, the whole crew on the ground and everything else have been here a long time but have never had to go through where we had to have security issues and places where people come in.
But right now, we’re very happy with the ticket sales. As far as dining room seats, Christine Lee’s, all of that is completely sold out. We have no more room there. All the suites and boxes are completely sold out. And all the seating in front. We do have a little bit of Walking Ring seats left which is a great seat, I believe for like $130, really good. And then Sport of Kings is really a good event space. The problem is, you don’t have a view of the track. But those things we still have tickets, and those are where people are being referred to as they call in at the last minute.
Alicia Hughes: Okay. Great. Thank you so much, Tim. And thank you for coming on and being so open today.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you.
Operator: And we have no further questions in the queue at this time.
Jim Mulvihill: Great. Well, Tim, thanks so much for all this info and spending all these time with us this morning. And best of luck to you this weekend.
Tim Ritvo: Thank you, guys, for showcasing us. We really appreciate it, and we’re glad we could help the media at any time. Thanks a lot.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. There’s Tim Ritvo. You know, Tim and his team could have all the most luxurious hospitality in the world but for this race to be a success, of course, they needed racing stars to turn out, and what more could you ask for than a two-time horse of the year, a Kentucky Derby winner, a Dubai World Cup winner, the richest horse in North American racing history making his final start in your brand new race.
Let’s check in now with Art Sherman to talk about California Chrome. Art, Jim Mulvihill here. I’m back in Kentucky now. How are you doing?
Art Sherman: Everything’s good. You know, we had a good morning. We trained great today. And you always feel good with – you can have your horse back at the barn safe and sound, you know. It’s going to be a great race this weekend and I’m looking forward to it.
Jim Mulvihill: So are all of us. You know, we were just talking to Tim Ritvo about all the planning around the Pegasus. In any other season, Chrome would have been on his way Taylor Made right after the Breeder’s Cup, can you just share with us, you know, when you first heard from somebody about the Pegasus and how much conversation it took between you and Perry and the Taylor Made folks to get on the same page about making this race an actual goal for California Chrome?
Art Sherman: Well we heard about it. You know, I didn’t hear about it. They heard about it first, and I said $12 million they’re pulling up. You know, I mean wow why wouldn’t you take a shot at that? You know, he’s at his peak right now and have been running great all year long, you know. I said $12 million sounds pretty good next to his name, you know. If he could ever get lucky and win that race, that’s $21 million, you know. That would be the all-time [inaudible] I think.
Jim Mulvihill: It absolutely would be. Now you drew the outside post which I know isn’t ideal, and the Gulfstream track is a one and an-eighth mile oval, so you’re starting pretty close to that first turn. So talk about that draw and what Victor will have to do to secure the sort of position you’d like to have early in the race.
Art Sherman: You know, I’ve not been very lucky with draws [inaudible]. But, you know, he’s overcome about every post position that I always worry about. You know, I do the [inaudible] classic and nobody was winning [inaudible] and we saw that performance. And then Dubai, he was on the outside almost, he was 11, might as well – 12, it wouldn’t have made any difference either, you know.
He is just a push button horse, you know. You can get your position coming out of there. He’s got enough early speed to put him any place you want to.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, again, please press *1 at this to ask a question. Again, *1.
We’ll go to Debbie Arrington with Sacramento Bee.
Debbie Arrington: Good morning, Art. Or should I probably say good afternoon?
Art Sherman: Hey, good morning. Yeah, you’re right, it’s 1.30 over here. The weather is different, you know. It’s actually a good time to be away from California right now, I could say.
Debbie Arrington: We’re getting absolutely swamped. We’ve had ten feet of rain in the last two weeks.
Art Sherman: Oh, god.
Debbie Arrington: Yeah. It’s been amazing. Are you happy you shipped to Florida early?
Art Sherman: Oh, I think it was the best move I could have made. You know, I never miss a day with – you know, I know everybody else is dealing with closing the tracks and deep and heavy, you know. Here it’s really been perfect. So I’m happy the way everything turned out for my horse. I couldn’t be more happier.
Debbie Arrington: And how is Chrome handling the tracks there?
Art Sherman: He just absolutely seems to enjoy it very much. You know, he had an awesome [inaudible] the other morning. I just couldn’t tell you how easy he works 58[?] before and [inaudible] 112, you know. He’s on his game right now. He’s as good as I’ve ever seen him right now.
Debbie Arrington: Wow. With –
Art Sherman: He loves his career, yeah.
Debbie Arrington: Yeah. With him doing so well, do you wish he had a couple more months maybe?
Art Sherman: I say one more year. This year would have been perfect for me but he’s going to the breeding shed. That’s final.
Debbie Arrington: Yeah.
Art Sherman: But I’ll tell you one thing, the horse is an amazing horse. He seems to get better with age, you know, like good wine I guess. And he’s just Chrome, and he’s been a lot of fun, a lot of excitement. And we’ll miss him, believe me.
Debbie Arrington: All righty. Well best of luck on Saturday.
Art Sherman: I appreciate that. Thank you.
Operator: We’ll go next to Danny Brewer with horseracingscoop.com.
Danny Brewer: Hey, Arty. How you doing man?
Art Sherman: All right. How’s my Tennessee buddy? Are you doing alright?
Danny Brewer: I’m doing great, man. Yeah, we’re doing great. We’re doing great.
Art Sherman: All right.
Danny Brewer: All right. So you have taught California Chrome to be a tremendous racehorse. What has California Chrome taught Art Sherman?
Art Sherman: Well, wow, how it is to be around a great horse. You know, it’s a once in a lifetime horse. I just can’t say enough about him. And he’s brought so much pleasure to my life, you know, just being around him and watching him train. He just developed into such a super horse. I guess you can just say he’s brightened my life and he’s done a lot for my business to, you know, get some new clients after that. And it’s really nice.
Danny Brewer: Right. Because that was going to be my next question. Do you think that Chrome maybe has opened a few more doors for you in this business?
Art Sherman: Oh, I would think so. You know, I’ve met so many nice people. And even on the East Coast, you know, we’re back here and the people couldn’t have been any nicer to us, the Chrome team. We have a lot of photographers every day and we do a lot of television shows. It’s just been super, you know.
I’ll probably miss that this time next year. I’m hoping that I could bring another horse back here. That would be great. Maybe a horse like Dortmund wouldn’t be bad. I could tell you that.
Danny Brewer: There you go, Arty. Well you’re the man to do it. I appreciate it. Wish you the best of luck.
Art Sherman: Thank you.
Operator: Once again, ladies and gentlemen, *1 at this time for any question. We’ll go next to Linda Robertson with Miami Herald.
Linda Robertson: Hi, Art. I was wondering if you could talk about Chrome’s age and how he has – as you said, he’s gotten better with age. Because I think a lot of casual race fans don’t realise that the horses they’re seeing in the Kentucky Derby and the [inaudible] Triple Crown are really at their infancy in some ways.
And do you think that Chrome gives horse racing a chance to, like Tim was saying earlier, kind of grow the fan base and extend the careers of these thoroughbreds?
Art Sherman: Well, sure. You know, it’s a pleasure, you know. In my era, it used to be Kelso’s and all the great horses that were running, and they were six and seven years old. They got to race. But of course, a lot of them were geldings too, and that’s – their longevities are a bit longer. But, you know, it’s just so great to have horses around now to that age and have start for people to see and it’s really good for our game, you know, having to deal the horse’s race and they got such a fanfare, it’s really terrific.
Linda Robertson: And they just – physically, they just become stronger and better racers?
Art Sherman: Well, yes.
Linda Robertson: [Inaudible].
Art Sherman: If you look at him as a three-year old, and now, look at him as a six-year old, there’s five [inaudible] difference in performance.
Linda Robertson: A lot?
Art Sherman: It is a lot. It’s great to keep them around and, boy, what a pleasure. And, you know, it’s one of them things that you could see them build-up of the race for this weekend. There’s so much excitement in here and all the papers are covering it. And there’s a lot of good horses in the race, but they almost put it as match race of back and forth with Arrogate. And I’m anxious to have a rematch myself.
Linda Robertson: One more thing, can you think of some other examples besides Kelso that were older?
Art Sherman: Oh, gosh. I’m just going back. I just happened to be because he was one of my favourite horses, but there were lots of other great horses throughout the country. You know, John Henry was running a long time and you’ve got – I think Cigar quit at five. So I just – off the back of my head, you know, I just remember the people that trained those horses and what a pleasure it was to be around a good horse.
Linda Robertson: Thank you.
Art Sherman: You bet.
Operator: We’ll hear next from Tom Jicha with South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Tom Jicha – you were anxious for the rematch. I’m sure that you’ve replayed that race many times in your mind. Coaches of teams, they think, ‘This is what we’ll do differently this time.’ What do you think you’ll do differently this time and what would you – how would you like to see the race unfold differently as compared to the Breeder’s Cup?
Art Sherman: Well, I think he’s going to be a little bit more focused this time, it’s a little shorter distance, and the stretch is a little shorter, you know. We’re going a mile and eighth and, yeah, the race has been a mile and a quarter. And with Chrome, you have tactical speed. So I’d look for him – when he’s turning for home and in a position to open up, I think you’re going to see a different horse, I really do.
Tom Jicha: All right. And the other thing, we’ve talked a lot today about Chrome now. Can you go back a little bit on Chrome then? Do you remember the first time they brought him to your barn, and what you thought of him and when you said, ‘Wow, this is – this could be a really exceptional horse’?
Art Sherman: Well, when he first came to the barn, he was green, you know, [inaudible] growing age, two year olds, and he needed blinkers and he was ducking and diving. And I rode him without blinkers. It’s the first time, and he wound up being second, and the next time he just breezed on home.
But as you have a horse for that many years and watch him develop and look at the athlete he is now, it’s amazing. He just turned out to be a beautiful horse, you know. He just – he’s just a – you know, when you look at him, he’s just a strong, big, good-looking horse with no flaws, you know, kind of good shoulders, good hip, intelligent. You know, you can’t ask for anything more.
Tom Jacob: All right, thank you.
Art Sherman: You bet.
Operator: And we have no further questions in the queue at this time.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Art, thanks so much for your time and best of luck on Saturday.
Art Sherman: I appreciate that. Bye bye.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. We’ll take to you soon. Art Sherman’s probably been on a dozen of these calls in the past three years and we can’t say enough about how accessible he’s been with the media and how much we appreciate that. Maybe we’ll get to talk to him later in the year about Dortmund at least.
That brings us to our final guest, and that is Hall of Fame jockey, Mike Smith. Mike, of course, has been aboard Arrogate for his two most important and most impressive wins, the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Mike, it’s Jim Mulvihill from the NTRA here. Thanks for coming along with us.
Mike Smith: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: It’s our pleasure. I guess the place to start is with this draw. Arrogate’s won twice before, breaking from the rail and that includes the Travers. But in the Classic, you were on the outside, and you kind of got to sit behind and sneak up on Chrome. Just talk about how this rail position impacts your options on Saturday.
Mike Smith: Well, I mean, it worked good for us in the Travers. I mean, so you – you hope it works for you again. With Arrogate, in this situation, the post that I didn’t want to draw the most is the 12, for him. So once that – you know, I mean, the one – probably one, the post I would have chosen either but it is what it is. And, you know, he’s sharp right now. He’s been training very aggressive in the morning, so he’s going to be aggressive leaving there being in the one hole. So whether that puts him up there like he was in the Travers or sitting off him, we won’t know until you leave there, you know?
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. And he has been aggressive in the mornings. You don’t work him but, obviously, you’re keeping close tabs and watching these moves. Just give us more of your impression of how he’s coming up to this race.
Mike Smith: It was really good. His last race, I thought, was one of his if not his best. Although it might not have been in numbers but in appearance. I mean, he was in the bridle, finished full of energy, galloped out strong, looked really good. You know, with all this weather we’ve been having here, it’s been a little bit nerve-racking with him. I’m sure, for Bob, mostly, hoping he can get the right conditioning in him and, you know, leading up to a race of this magnitude. But he’s been able to get the works in and it might not be a bad thing that he’s not a – you know, that he hasn’t had a race in between. You know, it puts him on the sharper side, and being where we draw, that might be what you need, you know.
Jim Mulvihill: Exactly. Well, Mike, hang on for a second and our operator’s going to check with the media and see what they’ve got for you.
Operator: As a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, *1 if you have a question. Again, *1.
We’ll go to Erin Shea with Blood‑Horse.
Erin Shea: Hey, Mike. So, you know, when two big horses face each other in a big race like this again, do you adjust anything in your strategy going into this race?
Mike Smith: Well, I think depending on where you draw. You know, what the draw is, is what really makes your strategy most of the time. I mean, if you had a longer run into that turn, the outside where Chrome would be that of a draw for me, because then I wouldn’t be so pressed on having to get a good position right off the bat. I can kind of take a look to my inside and see what’s happening, and if no one’s going, I can, and if someone is, then I can just hit outside of them like I did in the Classic.
With a short run into this first turn, you know, [inaudible] drew the one hole where you certainly know you’re going to have to hope your horse brakes really well and puts you in a good spot going into that first turn.
Mike Smith: Good thing is he’s a naturally quick horse and there’s not much speed to his inside. I wouldn’t think that post could hurt him near as much as it might, on a normal day, where maybe there’s three or four speed horses in there to your inside and you might get hung out. Could work out for both of us, you know? And in this situation, you just hope everyone gets a fair shot and see what happens, you know?
Erin Shea: And one other question. What’s it like being part of this rivalry[?]?
Mike Smith: It’s amazing being blessed to get it right – to get the opportunity to ride a horse of this magnitude in my – stage in my career, and then to get to ride one in the richest race in the world. It’s incredible. I’m just so blessed and so looking forward to it. I can’t stand myself. I wish it was today.
Erin Shea: Thank you.
Operator: We’ll hear next from Danny Brewer with Horseracingscoop.com.
Danny Brewer: Hey, Mikey, how are you doing today?
Mike Smith: I’m doing well. Thank you, Danny.
Danny Brewer: Hey, let’s turn back the clock just a little bit to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 22 [inaudible] move you pulled on the far turn when you ducked in and then you ducked out, was that just instinct or was that kind of in the game plan or what – how did that come about?
Mike Smith: Well, those kind of things, you can’t foresee it to be in the game plan. You’re just playing it as a as the race is unfolding. I was able to get it into a good spot going into the first turn to where I could see that Victor was looking for me, wanting to know where I was at so that he could gauge, you know, his move off of me. And I was able to position myself in behind Melatonin where he couldn’t really get an eye on me, couldn’t find me. And so I was just playing that game.
And then going into the far turn, I – there was an opportunity to just cut the corner and get him running and save some ground at the same time, and I was able to do that. And then I tipped back out to my outside so that when he looked in, I was already on the out, and he didn’t really see me until, you know, we straightened up. But in saying all that, when he did see me and he cut his horse loose on me, Chrome, man, he had some turn of foot. I mean, he left me there for a little bit and it looked like, well, it was pretty much over.
But I think Arrogate might have been the only horse in the world that could have caught him, to be honest with you. I mean – and I asked him and he gave me another gear in there at the hundred yards out, another one as we were coming to the wire. I mean, it’s what it took to beat a horse like him. I mean, it took an unbelievable effort. It’s going to take another one here on Saturday.
Danny Brewer: When you think about all that that you just talked about, that’s the chess match within the horse race between, you know, two veteran jockeys, you and Victor, is that another something that just makes this extra special?
Mike Smith: Without a doubt. I mean, it could turn into something like that again and then it could just be a no-brainer, you know, sometimes. I mean, you just never really know in these situations. But when you’re dealing with horses with this kind of talent, every little move is crucial, man. They are important. They are – you give one of them an upper hand just – you give one of them just a little bit of a reason to put another half a length on you or a quarter of length, or whatever it might be, I mean, man, that could be the race right then and there. So you’ve just got to play it as they all come up and hope you make the right moves, and then that’s for everyone that’s in there.
If someone does a little too much too early, it could set up for someone stalking and then, you know – or vice versa, if someone gets away with something, I mean, it just all depends on how the race unfolds. And you don’t really know that until those doors are open, to be honest with you. I mean, we all have an idea going in. You know, we all like to have a game plan or two, or three, or four sometimes, but you really don’t know it until those doors are open.
Danny Brewer: And that’s really the beauty of it all. Mike, best of luck, man.
Mike Smith: Exactly. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Danny Brewer: All right. Thanks man.
Mike Smith: Yes, sir.
Debbie Arrington: Hi, Mike. Thank you very much for coming on today. Gulfstream is a lot different track from Santa Anita. What are some of the differences that you see as a jockey there, and that you’re going to have to keep in mind in this race besides that short turn and that short stretch?
Mike Smith: Well, it’s – well, there’re two things. Well, the short stretch is not – you know, the stretch isn’t – it is long. The turns are big. That’s why you have – their mile and eighth is right on the turn almost. When they made that try – when they redid it, I mean, they made the turns longer, the stretch is shorter. And so then it sets you in a tough spot going a mile and eighth, you know, when you draw the 12, or you’ve got to hope things work out for you. I mean, it’s not that you can’t win from out there, but you have to have things work out for you.
The way it looks on paper, it could work out, you know, for Chrome. What’s in my favour, somewhat, I could say, is my horse runs the turns very well. I have a lot of turn to run on, and I’m going to – hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity use those turns to my – I’m trying to turn it over to my advantage because the lane is very short, or shorter, you know, than other race tracks. So, you know, if I get a chance just to let my horse run when I want him to, that’s the key, you know.
Debbie Arrington: And –
Mike Smith: So you have [inaudible], but with shorter of stretches.
Debbie Arrington: Yes. It is an odd track. And horses, lots of times between their three and their four-year old year, they really, you know, start to blossom. You know, have you seen Arrogate still out and get bigger and stronger in this break since the Classic?
Mike Smith: I have, especially this last work. I don’t know if you saw his last work. But if you’ll just look at him, man, I mean, he’s turned into a man. I mean, he really is. He’s starting to shine and really develop and fill out even more. You know, he was pretty tall and lanky early on. And now he’s starting to put a little more muscle on and he’s looking great. Bob couldn’t have him in better shape, to be honest with you. I mean, you’d probably wish there was some drier days where he could have maybe galloped a little more, you know, did a little more of that. But, again, he’s gotten the crucial works in. So he’s gotten those in and he did them really well and really good. And it might – like I said, it might – it could be a blessing that he’s going in a little bit sharper because you’re going to have to be.
Debbie Arrington: Very good. Best of luck.
Mike Smith: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from Art Wilson with Southern California Newspaper Group.
Art Wilson: Hey Mike. As a jockey who has tried to beat California Chrome and who has beaten California Chrome, can you give us your impressions of his career going into his final race, what your thoughts are on him?
Mike Smith: Yeah, I think he’s better now than he has ever been. To be honest with you, I’ve been blessed to have beaten him twice now. But I think you – I mean, he’s hard all the way through right now. I mean, he’s a man’s man right now and, you know, racing is going to certainly miss him. And like I said, I think he seems to be travelling and sound as he’s ever been. You know, he’s a tough horse to beat, especially going to a mile and eighth. I mean, it’s going to be really hard to beat him.
Art Wilson: And what is – so if you could pinpoint one thing, what is it that maybe impresses you the most about him?
Mike Smith: Ah, he’s just gotten smart about racing. Early on in his career, he was a bit unruly in the gate. You know, he didn’t like to be hit with dirt or taken a hold of much in the inside. And he’s gotten to where now, I mean, he can sit off of it, he jumps very well out of there, put Victor everywhere he wants them to be, puts him in that spot, and then he’s got of great turn of foot around those turns. And then when you ask him again, he’s got another gear, and it’s electrifying. You know what I mean? It’s – bam, I mean, it’s quick. And he just put horses away when he does stuff like that.
If you – to look – not to go to my horse, but what’s amazing about him is – it’s not just his raw – he’s just so – he’s got raw talent. I mean he’s just unbelievably talented. And then what makes him so special is he’s got this stamina that doesn’t seem to end. I don’t know where it is from. He just keeps going and going and going. He’s relentless. And that’s what it takes to beat a horse like Chrome. And it takes a horse that that has that raw talent, that can kind of match his turn of foot somewhat, and then just keep coming at him, because there’s not too many horses that can keep that long of a run like this horse can, like Arrogate can.
Art Wilson: And finally, you mention the stamina of Arrogate. Would you prefer to see the race on Saturday a mile and a quarter rather than a mile and eighth or does it not –
Mike Smith: Without a doubt. That’s not – that’s a no brainer. Yes. I’d love it to be a mile and a quarter.
Art Wilson: Okay. Great. Best of luck on Saturday, Mike.
Mike Smith: Yes, sir. Thank you.
Phil Janack: Mike. Thanks for coming on today. You’ve ridden in lots of – some of the biggest races and some really great horses. How do you think that this race – this event will rank in your career?
Mike Smith: Well, it’s new for everyone in it. We’re all excited about what it’s going to be like. You know, what the races are going to be like, what’s the turn out going to be like. I mean, to race for this amount of money is just – it’s crazy. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined we would be racing for that. You know, I remember when I – you know, a $500,000 was incredible. This is $12 million. I mean, if you really stop and think about it, I mean, it’s just – it’s an unbelievable opportunity for racing. I hope we make the most of it. I hope we all put on a great show and this race just continues to get more people interested in it. And it might just be a huge event in a few years, you know.
Phil Janack: All right. You kind of alluded to it earlier about being at this stage of your career. I mean, if you’re looking at yourself now, how do you keep it going at 51, and how does it feel to really be regarded as, you know, the best big game rider in the industry?
Mike Smith: Well, I’m just very blessed, you know, that I stayed in good enough shape. If I did anything right, that’s one thing I did early on. You know, I’ve been – I was just thinking about it actually today day I was in the gym earlier this morning and thinking that, you know, I’ve been going about 20 years now where I’ve been working out anywhere from five to six days a week for almost 20 years. I mean, there have been times that I’ve taken off here in between. But I think it’s added to my longevity, I think it helped me a lot, I feel like I’m just as strong, if not stronger, at 50 right now, 51, than I was when I was in my 30s, you know.
And then, you know, I was blessed to have come around at a time when, I think we probably had the best riding colony back in the 70s and 80s that you could ever dream of. I mean, you could name the riders and it just – you’d been in awe of naming those guys. But I came around where I was the young one and they were kind of where I am at right now. So I think I’ve just outlasted them. So now, I’m the guy that they go to. And I’m just happy that I kept myself in good enough shape that when they do call on me, that I can perform to that level. I mean, there’re young and strong talented riders that out there, man, that they’re so good, and I’m just happy that I’m the old man still part of it, you know.
Phil Janack: `Do these big races just get you jazz up that much more?
Mike Smith: I live for this day. This is what it’s all about for me right now. Especially, you know I remember when I was younger, you live for every day. You just want to win seven, eight, nine, you want to win all ten, you know. At this stage in my career, I don’t ride very many. But when I do ride, it’s usually in a situation, maybe not quite like this, but a lot of times, yes, it is and I’m blessed to be on those kind of horses and, you know, I have the experienced, the conditioning behind me and I can’t wait for these kind of days. This kind of day is [inaudible] make you go down in history, you know.
Operator: We’ll go next to David Grening with Daily Racing Form.
David Grening: Hey, Mike. Travers was the first time you were on this horse. Did you have any opinion of him going into the race and what were you thinking when you were galloping back after the race?
Mike Smith: Opinion going in, well, my agent has been telling me about this horse for a while. And, of course, I’ve got to watch him a little bit. And when we and Brad] was, you know, trying get on him, I didn’t know if it was going to work out. And it just worked out, you know, well for us in that race. And, you know, Bob had two for the race and Brockdale[?] was riding both of them. And the other one was actually in favour of going in because, you know, Arrogate hadn’t even run in the stake yet. When we found out that we were going to ride him and then, you know, [inaudible] is running as well, things just worked out for us. And so we know going in that Bob thought that this was probably his best three-year old [inaudible] other than he didn’t have the season and, you know, that the courses other horses had, or the rest of three-year olds that had already run in the Triple Crown. And he really, really liked him. And if he thought that, I knew we were going in with a chance.
And never in my wildest dreams did I think he was going to run the fastest Travers ever. And what I was amazed at was that when we hit the wire and I looked back, I couldn’t believe that he had opened up that much on him. His first time running in a stake, first time going a mile and a quarter, and he pulled up and he took one breath of air like it was, ‘Huh, is that it? Are we done?’ And I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me man.’ I mean, he was – he honestly – I mean, he was maybe blowing a little, but not like he was supposed to. He was supposed to be hanging his head coming back, and you know, just floating at the end.
And then I came back and I looked at that big clock [in infield]– big clock and I thought, ‘Holy, he ran in under two minutes?’ And that just – I mean, I got goose bumps all over my body. And that was just – it was unbelievable.
David Grening: Does he remind you at all – you rode his father. Does he remind you at all of him?
Mike Smith: You know, he’s got – to me, I mean, he’s got more stamina. He – but his father might have been a little quicker early. But in saying that, I mean, he could be quick, too, as well. I mean, he really can. They look a lot alike. They have that big beautiful stripe. I would say, yeah. And they’re both very talented.
The difference that I think in the two, we never really got to see how great Unbridled Song was. You caught glimpses of it at times, you know, winning the, you know, Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial and, of course, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he always fought those feet problems, you know, those quarter cracks. And there’s no telling how good his father could have been, but man, his son has got every bit as much talent to him, if not more.
David Greling: Great. Thank you and best of luck.
Mike Smith: Thank you, David.
Tom Jicha: You said that you could see – you could see Victor looking for you in the – in the Breeders’ Cup. The way the posts have been drawn, probably it’s better than a 50/50 chance you’ll be in front of him earlier. Will you be looking for him?
Mike Smith: Well, you know – I’m going to be looking for him and whoever I think is running well at the time. I mean, I look at body languages on riders and horses as I’m riding. You know, one of these horses could jump up and pull something off. I’m not just going to just be necessarily waiting on him, you know, to make my move.
What’s great about Arrogate is I can – I can be brave on him. I know now that he got that kind of air in him. I mean, he’s got that kind of stamina that – you know, if he’s moving well and moving good, I mean, that’s all I really – that’s all I’m really asking for. Where everyone else is at, I really don’t care.
It’s just about getting my horse into a comfortable place so I can let him run when I want to, and that he’s happy, because I know when he’s happy running, he’s got a stride that’s unmatchable, I think. And you know, he can march – he can march on early if he needs to as well.
So, you know, it’s just a matter of how I feel the race is playing up. And if I think I’ve gotten away with something or if I think I need to move out to somebody, then we’ll do it. I won’t really know that until I’m in the race, to be honest with you.
But, you know, being said, we drew the one hole. I mean, you’re probably 50% chance right that I hopefully will be in front of him, you know. Or in front of most of them, anyway, if not all of them.
Tom Jicha: And one other thing. Three of his six past performance lines indicate some issues at the gate, including the Travers that said ‘brushed gate.’ How serious was that, and what did you learn from that? And has Bob been working on those issues?
Mike Smith: They’ve been schooling him a lot. I think, you know, early on, for as tall as he was, he wasn’t – I mean, he was a bit lanky leaving there. You know, kind of wiry leaving there, so to say. He’s gotten from his three – you know, from three to four-year old year, he’s gotten stronger now. He’s gotten better about the gate. You know, they took him the other morning and he was – stood very well and stood there good. And he looks good. His muscle tone is real good. So we hope he’ll jump well.
Even though he brushed the gate at [inaudible] that day, he actually left there – he might even have left there in front of everybody, believe it or not. If you go back and look at it, I got a picture of them leaving the gate and he’s actually about a neck in front leaving there. So, if he can jump well again out of the one hole, well, we’re certainly not going to take away nothing that comes easy.
Tom Jicha: So you didn’t think that probably the comment ‘Brushed at the gate’ would might be just an overstatement?
Mike Smith: He might have touched it a little leaving there, but he didn’t brush it that bad. I mean, he still was on his way pretty quick. The second and third jump, you know, they kind of got to him and got by like about a neck in front of him. But then once he got into stride, well, he was – he was gone, you know. I think he ran :46 half, wasn’t it, in the Travers that day?, I believe it was. I mean – so, you know, you just hope you catch a really good break leaving there and try and take advantage of that. And just – and just play the race at it’s shaping up, you know. I don’t know what’s on everyone else’s mind, you know, what they – what they plan on doing. You know, we have an idea – like have an idea of going in, but you really don’t know until we’re in that situation, do you?
And it appears we have no further questions at this time. I would like to turn the conference back to Mr Mulvihill for any additional or closing remarks.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Mike, that’s it for us. Thank you so much for your time as always. Safe travels tomorrow and best of luck at Gulfstream.
Mike Smith: Amen. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Jim Mulvihill: Alright, Mike Smith. Another frequent guest on these calls and another one that you just can’t beat as far as his openness and thoughtfulness. A great call overall today.
Really appreciate our guest for coming on and my thanks also to Joan Lawrence for lining up these guests. I should mention Joan will be on track at Gulfstream this entire week, so if there’s anything any of you in the media need from Florida, feel free to give Joan a ring. Obviously, Dave and Phil and the guys at Gulfstream have a lot in their hands, so if Joan can help, by all means, give her a call.