Road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships – Tues., July 22, 2014 Guests: Trainer Christophe Clement Trainer Dale Romans NBC Sports Racing Analyst Jerry Bailey
Jim Mulvihill: Welcome everyone to our first Road to the Breeders’ Cup Teleconference of the year. We’ll do this most weeks throughout racing’s second season, talking to the connections of top contenders in the major stakes that lead up to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita. Today our focus is on the top three year olds in training. After freshening up from their Triple Crown campaigns, many of the best sophomores will be in action this weekend in either the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, or the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga. The Haskell, of course, is a Breeders’ Cup challenge “Win and You’re In” proposition. That race will be broadcast nationally Sunday as part of an hour long show from 5 to 6 Eastern on NBC. Other “Win and You’re In” races this weekend to make note of include Saturday’s King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in the turf division, and Sunday’s Bing Crosby for sprinters at Del Mar.
As always, we’ve got a fine lineup of guests today, including later in this call Dale Romans, trainer of Haskell contender, Medal Count, as well as Hall of Fame jockey, Jerry Bailey. He’s a two-time Haskell winner, four-time Jim Dandy winner. He’ll be in his usual role on NBC Sports this weekend, so we’ll talk to him about both of these races, the Haskell and the Jim Dandy.
I also want to mention that Ron Winchell, he’s the owner of likely Haskell favorite, Untapable; Ron sent his regrets this morning. He tried his best to join us today, but he’s traveling in Italy. The timing just didn’t work out. He’s currently on a train to Florence.
So, to kick us off today we’re pleased to have with us Christophe Clement, the trainer of Belmont Stakes winner and Jim Dandy contender, Tonalist. Clement was born in Paris. He’s the son of a leading French trainer. He worked under the likes of Alec Head, Shug McGaughey and Luca Cumani before going out on his own in 1991. Since then he’s won nearly 1,500 races, including more than 200 stakes: Voodoo Dancer, Dynever, and, of course, three-time Eclipse award winner, Gio Ponti, are among the top runners he’s trained. Saturday he’ll saddle Belmont Stakes winner, Tonalist, in the mile and an eighth Jim Dandy, which is a historic and prestigious race in its own right, but also typically a prep for the Travers, which comes up four weeks later on August 23rd.
Christophe Clement, welcome to our call. You’re on with Jim Mulvihill.
Christophe Clement: Good morning.
Jim Mulvihill: Good morning, Christophe. Thanks for being with us. Let’s start with the Belmont winner. Tonalist Just give us an update on how’s he’s come back the last month or so, and how he’s training coming into the Jim Dandy?
Christophe Clement: He came out of the Belmont in very good shape. He had a bit of a vacation for a week or 10 days after the Belmont Stakes. He was off for a week or 10 days at Belmont, and then he had (inaudible) work after that. To look at, he’s put on a bit of weight, but in a good way. Mentally he seems to be very happy, very fast mentally. We have him in the Jim Dandy, but we also want him to make the Travers afterwards, so we’re just trying to keep a little bit of room to work after the Jim Dandy.
Jim Mulvihill: Sure. Did that play into the decision to go into the Jim Dandy versus the Haskell? How do you make that decision when you’ve got a three year old of this caliber?
Christophe Clement: Right after the Belmont Stakes both races are very appealing, but, you know, I’ve train for Mr. Evans. He’s more of a New York guy than New Jersey that type of thing – number one. Number two, the Jim Dandy being on the same track is at least a better track, because it’s home Now that you have four weeks between the Jim Dandy and the Travers, you’ve got the timing from the two races. We don’t like to ship him elsewhere in the summer. You know, it can get warm. I think it’s a better plan to stay at home and to try to make him there.
Jim Mulvihill: Sure, and even though you’re coming back a little bit slowly with so many bigger goals down the road, you were pleased with the workout on Saturday, right? Can you tell us a little bit more about his last breeze?
Christophe Clement: Yes, it went very well. He’s always working—you know—I’ve been training him since the month of February with the same work partner, and he’s just pure (inaudible), and they’re both training at the same time. Life in Shambles is a nice horse, and they’ve been working together. Life in Shambles always seems to show a bit more speed in his work than Tonalist, and Tonalist always seems to be going better at the end when they’re galloping out fast. The work this weekend was exactly the same. Joel Rosario was riding Life in Shambles. He was behind and he came up beside Tonalist at the quarter pole and he seemed to be going easier, and by the time they went by the wire and were galloping out fast, Tonalist was getting better. They started maybe a notch slower (inaudible) but finished very well, and I was actually very happy with the work, sure.
Danny Brewer: This horse is not super experienced, but he still seems pretty versatile. Is that one of his stronger points, because I mean he can run just off the pace, on the lead? Do you like that about him?
Christophe Clement: Yes, very much so, but I think that’s a sign of talent. You know, the better ones seem to be adapting—they can adapt (inaudible) to the different kind of pace scenario in the race, which usually happens to the better horses..
Danny Brewer: He seems to also have a lot of fight in him, because when he’s challenged in the stretch, man, he’s not scared, and he seems to really fight to the wire. Is that another very strong trait you like about this horse? Is that something you’ve taught him or something he just has?
Christophe Clement: No, I don’t think you can teach that. The thing is that I agree with you. I think every time he’s been in the finish, which is a tight finish, he seems to be, you know, he tries. He gives you the feeling he tries very hard to the end. Is it because he tries hard or is it because he’s got the will to win or is it just because he’s (inaudible) and he’s got more (inaudible) than the other, I’m not exactly sure. But, yes, he always seems to be doing his best from the quarter pole to the wire, I agree.
John Pricci: Good afternoon, Chris. Was wondering have you seen the entries for the Curlin Stakes, because Tonalist’s workmate, as you know, you entered him in the Curlin, the—Life in Shambles—and I was wondering if you had a chance to look at that race and assess his chances?
Christophe Clement: No, I just—I mean I saw the entry for (inaudible) but I’ve looked at the race yet. I think he drew on the outside I believe. You know, I’m sure; it’s going to be a nice competitive race. But I’m not sure he stays a mile and an eighth, I don’t know that, but I guess we’ll find out on Saturday. I think the distance is more the issue.
John Pricci: Understood. Yes, and you have that wide draw as well to contend with. Should he, you know, should he prove to you otherwise that indeed he will go on, I mean could he be a possible Travers player?
Christophe Clement: Yes, why not? (Inaudible).
John Pricci: Absolutely, correct. Well thanks, Christophe. Have a safe and speedy journey on Friday and Saturday.
Christophe Clement: Thank you very much.
Tom Jicha: Just the likely favorite in the other three year old race this weekend is Untapable. In this country a big deal is made of fillies running against colts. But I know you’re from France, and it’s not a big deal overseas. Why do you suppose that is? Why do you suppose it’s such a big deal here when a filly like Untapable runs against colts, but in Europe it’s not unusual?
Christophe Clement: Because the program is made—the program is made in the States that generally you’ve got a wonderful program for three year old fillies. As you know, we ran in the Oaks a few days ago (inaudible). You’ve got a great program for three year old fillies, so it’s not really needed to take on the colts. Saying that (inaudible), you know, Haskell is a very popular race, and unfortunately The Jim Dandy is also a very popular race, more so the (inaudible) there’s no need to do that because the fillies have got their own program. But I think why not, you know, I mean if they’re good enough. I mean it’s great for the sport. I’m sure the fact that a filly’s running this weekend in the Haskell will be a very popular move.
Tom Jicha: So do you think then the popular perception in the United States that fillies are physically not equal to colts is erroneous?
Christophe Clement: No, no. Most of the time the average stakes race is weaker against the fillies than what it is against the colts. In the meantime, the better fillies who are not that good, they can compete anywhere, you know. Last year a filly called Treve won the Arch- she was a three year old filly. She takes all the older horses, colts and geldings. You know, as I said, Zenyatta won the Classic. She won the Classic at Santa Anita. She beat everybody else. So, no, I think the better fillies can compete with the best. Just as an average, the graded stakes fillies, the races are usually weaker than the races with the colts.
Jim Mulvihill: Christophe, before we let you go, I just wanted to get a couple quick updates on some of your other stars who ran the last couple weekends. If you could just tell us how they came out of their big races and what might be next for them, maybe starting with Discreet Marq?
Christophe Clement: Discreet Marq, I thought had a great race. She got beat, which was annoying because she ran such a good race. I don’t know, it would be nice if (inaudible) an easy race for once. Being a New York-bred, she didn’t (inaudible) and then she could move to the two Grade 1s left.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. And Summer Front?
Christophe Clement: Summer Front just finished second in the Eddie Read; a little bit painful because, you know, not a win, He ran a nice race. Sure he’s coming back now. He’s back in New York on 4 or 5 p.m. We’ll (inaudible) a little bit of time off. He just had two very hard races in a row. He shipped to California twice in five weeks. You know, let’s just give him a bit of time off.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Christophe, we really appreciate your time today and we wish you luck on Saturday in the Jim Dandy and your other entrants this weekend as well.
Christophe Clement: Thank you so much. Thanks a lot.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, that was Christophe Clement. He will have Tonalist in the Jim Dandy on Saturday, the Belmont Stakes winner.
Now we’ll move on to our next guest, and that is Dale Romans. Dale has been a licensed trainer since 1987 when he was 18. He’s trained a champion in Kitten’s Joy, a Dubai World Cup winner in Roses In May, Breeders’ Cup winners in Tapitsfly, Court Vision, and Little Mike, and a Preakness winner in Shackleford. He won the Eclipse Award as the Nation’s Outstanding Trainer in 2012, and on Sunday he’ll start his top three year old, Medal Count, who was third in the Belmont last time out, in the $1 million Haskell.
Jim Mulvihill: Welcome to our call. You’re on with Jim Mulvihill. Thanks for being here.
Dale Romans: Well, thanks for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: If you would, just fill us in on how Medal Count’s been doing since the Belmont, and especially with regard to his last few works at Churchill.
Dale Romans: You know, Medal Count’s a unique horse. You just listed off some of my best stock I’ve ever had, and some of the best stock that’s raced in the last 10 years, but he fits right in there with all those horses, and he’s unique in the fact that he never has a bad day. He just continues to get better and better, and, you know, he does whatever we want. He’ll go fast, he’ll go slow, he’ll—you know—he’s just been a remarkable horse to be around. I think he’s as good now as he’s ever been.
Jim Mulvihill: And these last few works at Churchill, can you talk specifically about his last breeze and what you saw in that?
Dale Romans: Well, you know, it’s—the last few breezes—he’s so fit. I mean we ran a lot early in the year trying to get points to get into the Derby. We accomplished that, so we had to run him quite a few races in a row. He’s come off a mile and a half race at the Belmont. So all I’ve done with him is just give him maintenance works, and he just goes around there and does whatever I ask him. You just couldn’t ask him to be doing any better.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. You know, this is a pretty salty field he’s going to face; any million dollar Grade 1 is. How does the field shape up, and how do you see it playing out?
Dale Romans: Well, it is a salty field, but like you say, the value of winning a Grade 1 is because they’re all so—they’re—all Grade 1s are tough. You know, I don’t size the field up a whole lot when I’ve got a horse I really believe in. I just take him over there and hope that we run our best and let the chips fall where they may. He’s doing as good as he can possibly do. I always like taking horses to the Haskell. It’s a fun place to go. It’s a fair, safe racetrack, and it can make a stallion. It can put him in the stallion barn. You know, that’s the reason we’re there. We want to prove to the world that he’s a Grade 1 dirt horse, and that they’ll all want to breed to him in a few years.
Lynne Snierson: I just want to confirm that Robby Alborado is keeping the mount, yes?
Dale Romans: Yes, he is.
Lynne Snierson: Okay.
Dale Romans: Robby’s done very well for me in some big races, and two of my three Breeders’ Cup winners were ridden by Robby, and he seems to be my go-to man in the big spots, and very glad to have him.
Lynne Snierson: Excellent. There—looking over at the field, it looks like there’s an awful lot of speed in this race. Just wondering where you see—how that’s playing out for your horse?
Dale Romans: Well, you know, we’ve seen it—we’ve all seen it as racing fans time and time again, on paper a race looks like it’s got a lot of speed and it never materializes. But Medal Count can do whatever you want. As you saw in the Belmont, he laid a lot closer than he had in his previous races, or he can come from way back. I’ll leave it up to Robby. Like I said, the horse is so versatile that if they’re going fast he’ll be back quite a ways. If their speed does shape up and they’re going slower than we expect it, then he’ll be laying up pretty close.
Danny Brewer: Hey, Dale. Appreciate you being here today.
Dale Romans: Hey. Haven’t heard from you in awhile.
Danny Brewer: Yes, I’ve been kind of a space ball; son playing ball, and all that kind of stuff. But just talk for a second about the horse/trainer bond that you seem to form with a lot of your runners. You’ve talked about believing in Medal Count, and when you believe in them you run them and they seem to always run strong for you, so what kind of bond do you have with Medal Count?
Dale Romans: Well, Medal Count, you know, the first time I watched him breeze, I thought this is a special racehorse. You don’t see Dynaformer’s doing what he did at two. I left him at Ellis Park because I didn’t think he was the kind of horse that could do what it takes to get ready to win a main race at Saratoga. So we let him get good experience under his belt, and like I told Mr. Hughes, at the end of the day, if he’s as good as we think he is, nobody’s going to care where he broke his maiden anyway. Let’s use it more as training than it is worrying about winning a big race. But he never put it all together for me like I was seeing in him until, you know, we came back to Keeneland in the spring. I thought he had his breakthrough race and he just—he’s finally showing in racing what he showed me in training.
You’re right, I did stick with him. I kept saying if I’m wrong about this one it’s the most wrong I’ve ever been about a racehorse. It took him awhile before people—other people got on his bandwagon, but I think the Derby was a lot better race than it looked like. The Blue Grass was a very good race, and the Belmont was an excellent race. I mean I honestly believe he should’ve been no worse than third in the Derby. He was making a big run down the lane, and he completely got eliminated at the eight pole and had to check and pull up, and, you know, by then the race was over. So the Derby was even better than it looks on paper. But I’ve had a bond with him early. He’s just always been a good horse that always did things right and has all the characteristics of a top horse..
Danny Brewer: When you look at what happened with Dullahan and kind of the blueprint you laid out for him, Medal Count is really similar. Does that mean Pacific Classic is coming up in August for Medal Count, or is it a wait and see kind of thing?
Dale Romans: Well, it’ll be in the discussion, that’s for sure. I mean, you know, the Travers will be in the discussions. There is a lot of ways we could go with him after this race, so we’re just going to take this race and then figure out where to go from there, you know, and eventually some day go back on the grass with him. I mean this 7.5 furlong race at Gulfstream on the turf, I mean I haven’t had a horse show that kind of turn of foot. I (inaudible) 7.5 on the turf thinking that there would be a lot of speed and we could teach him to settle back in the pack and come running late, and the race developed with no speed, and (inaudible) the first half in 51, and he had to go five and change the last sixteenth of a mile to get up for a dead heat. So I know that he’s got a future on the turf if we want to go that direction, but right now at three we’d like to prove to everybody that he’s so versatile that he can do anything for when he goes to the stallion barn that people won’t think they’re strictly breeding a turf horse.
Jim Dunleavy: You know, you referred to his campaign in the spring, and it was kind of an unusual campaign with so many races in a short period of time, and some on synthetic, and then the Derby, and then the mile and a half in the Belmont, and now we’re going a mile and an eighth in the Haskell. He’s won on all three surfaces. What do you think eventually as he matures and the campaign goes along will be his best surface and distance?
Dale Romans: Well, again, I say that he’s such an unusual horse that he can do just about anything. You know, he went 7.5 on the turf and he ran third going a mile and a half on the dirt, and there’s very few horses that are like that. So I really don’t know, because everything I’ve done with him he’s done well. I mean he was pegged this spring as probably a synthetic horse, but I didn’t really believe that myself that that’s all it was, because he didn’t run very well at Keeneland at two on the synthetic. You know, he ran in the stake and he didn’t run as well as I know he could, and I just don’t think that his mind had caught up to his body and talent and he hadn’t really figured the game out. I think by the time we came back to Keeneland in the spring, he had figured it all out and his mind and body were one. I think it was more that than it was the surface. I mean the—we have so many options because he can do so many things. He’s proven he can run with the best on the dirt. He’s proven he can run with the best on the synthetic, and I don’t think there’s any doubt he can run with the best on the turf. So there’s a lot of options with him, and—but for right now we’re going to focus on keeping him with the three year olds and the best races we can on the dirt.
Jim Dunleavy: It seems to me it’s quite rare to have a horse be able to go through the spring campaign he did and keep his energy level up, but you sound so pleased with him. Can you put it in perspective from the, you know, the horses you see going through your barn, and, you know, how rare is it for somebody to do what he’s done this spring?
Dale Romans: You know, it’s not rare to have a horse that can take a lot and maintain. What is rare, and I’ve only had it in a few horses, such as maybe Shackleford and Kitten’s Joy and now Medal Count, that I think the more I do with them the better they get. And he’s been one of those horses. The harder I train him, the more I run him I think the better he gets. It’s not just a matter of maintaining and keeping his way and keeping him in the tub, it’s a matter of gaining weight and getting stronger, and getting bigger, and he’s one of a handful in my entire career that I’ve had that I would say got better with more work.
Jim Mulvihill: Dale, you know, so many of these questions have been about his sort of throwback profile. He can run on short rest, run on any surface, never misses a work. Can you talk a little about what you attribute that to, whether it’s the Dynaformer or something else in his pedigree? Where does his throwback style come from?
Dale Romans: If I really knew that I’d go out and buy more of them, and I’d buy a lot of them just like him. He’s so unique that I don’t know. I don’t know where it comes from. I just know that he is a—he’s such an easy horse. I’ve had difficult horses train. Little Mike was a difficult horse to train, but was a good horse and he rewarded you for doing the right things with him. Horses like that I’ve had quite a few of them. This horse is not a hard horse to train. He just goes out there, does his work, comes back in the barn, eats his lunch, takes a nap and gets up for dinner. I wish I could tell you why, because if it was Dynaformer I’d buy every Dynaformer I could get my hands on. But I’ve had a lot of them, and they weren’t all like him. He’s just an unusual animal. He’s smart, he’s strong, he’s sound, and he’ll just do whatever I ask him to do.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Dale, we wish you luck on Sunday in the Haskell and appreciate your time today.
Dale Romans: Well, thanks for calling. I always like to hear from you also and know something good’s going to happen.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, we always appreciate talking to you; very insightful stuff. Thanks, Dale.
Dale Romans: Talk to you later.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Dale Romans is going to start Medal Count in the Haskell on Sunday. Somebody else will be at Monmouth Park that day is our next guest Jerry Bailey. Bailey retired from the saddle in 2006 with 5,893 wins and more than $296 million in earnings; that’s third all-time. He’s a record seven-time Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Jockey. He won all three Triple Crown races twice. He won the George Woolf Award in ’92, and was elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in ’95. As NBC Sports’ racing analyst, he’ll once again be part of all of this fall’s Breeders’ Cup challenge broadcasts on NBC and the NBC Sports Network. As we mentioned earlier, he won the Haskell twice, the Jim Dandy four times, so who better to talk to about this weekend’s major stakes.
Jerry Bailey, welcome to our call. You’re on with Jim Mulvihill.
Jerry Bailey: Yes, thanks, Jim. Thanks for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: You got it. We appreciate you coming on with us. Let’s start with the Haskell. It’s the race of the weekend, and the one you’ll be at for NBC. The big story, of course, is Untapable taking on the colts. Tell us how you like her chances?
Jerry Bailey: Well, I mean even if the race didn’t set up for her, which it does, I would still like her chances. I mean in my mind, going through the spring she might’ve been the best three year old in the country. Not to diminish what California Chrome has done, but she was arguably in that conversation, and then, you know, Shared Belief now is kind of stepping up. So she is one of the top three three year olds in the country at the very least.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. You’ve ridden some top fillies in your time, including some that beat males. I think specifically about Six Perfections and the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Are fillies really at any inherent disadvantage or are we more fascinated by this than perhaps we should be in the US?
Jerry Bailey: Yes, I really don’t think they are a lot of times. You know, there’s obviously some instances when they’re not mature enough to do that, but you get a special horse whether it be male or female, they’re just good. She happens to be special. She happens to be very good. Her running style is very adaptable. Steve Asmussen, her trainer, has done a great job with her. I don’t have a problem with that concept. Obviously in Europe they do it a lot more than we do. But I think trainers in general like to win, and when you put fillies against the colts it somewhat diminishes their chance just because they’re going against in theory stronger of their species. But I think it should be done more. I think it’s exciting. I think they belong in races a lot more often than they’re actually entered into them.
Jim Mulvihill: Right. You know, we mentioned that you won the Haskell twice. What can you tell us about riding the main track at Monmouth? Anything specific that these riders should keep in mind on Sunday?
Jerry Bailey: Well the last time I won it was ’05, so it’s a bit ago, but I don’t think Monmouth has changed that much. It’s generally a speed-favoring racetrack. It hasn’t changed that much over the years. Speed horses do well over it, although they don’t have to be frontrunners. This particular year, this field is laden with speed. You’ve got, you know, Wildcat Red coming in from Florida. You’ve got Bayern, who is a speed kind of horse. Albano who is not a committed speed horse, but he’s up close. Even General A Rod runs up close. And speed races to me—and Social Inclusion, I don’t want to forget him either—but speed horses steal races when there’s no second or third level of speed in there, because they’ll just go to the lead and go as slow as they want or as slow as they’re allowed to go. But when you have a second, especially a third speed horse in the race, and this one you’ve got three or four, they keep the pressure on, and they keep the pace on us throughout, not just going into the first turn and not just turning up the backside, but all the way through until the far turn when you have several speed horses. So I think the pace will be more than honest. I think it’ll be on the quick side, which certainly helps a horse like Medal Count and Untapable.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, before we get to the media, I wanted to ask you about the importance of these races overall on the calendar, not just the Haskell, but also the Jim Dandy, which you won several times. Why are these races significant in terms of the overall calendar and also determining a horse’s campaign from here to the Breeders’ Cup?
Jerry Bailey: Well, viewership specific, I think, you know, we get the largest number of viewers that normally wouldn’t view races through the Triple Crown. I mean if they’re not racing fans, they are going to tune in usually to the Triple Crown. This is a chance—you know—the Jim Dandy and the Haskell before we get to the Travers is a chance for those people to re-associate with the names that they’ve become familiar with through the Triple Crown races, even if they don’t generally watch other races. So to me this is very important, you know, to reattach America, especially on the flagship, the mother ship of NBC, for people that would tune into a broadcast network—network broadcast and be reunited with—yes, yes, I remember that horse’s name. I know that—even though California Chrome’s not here, Untapable ran Kentucky won the Oaks which draws a tremendous amount of viewership. Social Inclusion ran in the Preakness. Bayern ran on Belmont Day. You know, General A Rod, he ran in all three races. So this is—to me this is important because it gives the viewers a chance to reattach with the horses and follow them now through this race, the Jim Dandy, Haskell, Travers and then into the fall.
Danny Brewer: Is there any advantage running in—if you’re prepping for the Travers, is there any advantage running in the Jim Dandy as opposed to the Haskell, or is it six of one and half a dozen of another?
Jerry Bailey: No, I personally think that it is an advantage to run over the racetrack that you’re going to run in in the future. You know, I don’t think for any particular reason other than it’s just my personal feeling that horses, unless they train there on a daily basis then they’re obviously—horses that are stabled on the Saratoga main track and they train there on a daily basis, maybe they ran there as a two year old, then it’s not much of an advantage. But for horses shipping in, yes, I think it’s a slight advantage. I don’t think it’s a huge advantage, but if I had a choice and the rest of the race laid out for me, I would choose a race like the Jim Dandy if I’m planning on the Travers being my ultimate goal over the Haskell. But then there’s a purse difference. You know, the Haskell is a lot more money. If you have a speed-type horse, the Haskell is certainly—and the track is certainly very friendly to speed horses. You know, look at the favorites that just dominated in the Haskell, so if you think your horse figures and is going to be a favorite, the Haskell is never a bad place to go. But in general, I always prefer to get a race over the racetrack if the ultimate goal is on that track.
Danny Brewer: What do you think about the three year old class in general, and I’m talking Untapable -I’m talking all of them, the three year old class in general, and how strong it is overall this year?
Jerry Bailey: Well, to this point I think it’s above average, but I don’t think we’re going to know until the three year olds beat older horses, and that’s really, to me, the true test. I was wondering last year how strong the class was, and especially when Palace Malice kind of disappointed in the Breeders’ Cup, because I thought he was among the top in the three year old division, but, you know, Will Take Charge came back and ran great in the Breeders’ Cup. Palace Malice didn’t, so I was kind of wondering, but look at how good he’s been this year. So I think it takes a little bit of time before you can really pass judgment on a crop; at least the fall and sometimes until the following year.
Danny Brewer: With Shared Belief, you mentioned him. I know he’s been looking really strong out there. If he goes to the Pacific Classic, could that be a greater challenge for him as a three year old than maybe even winning the Kentucky Derby?
Jerry Bailey: It might be a greater challenge at this point in his career, but it certainly doesn’t make his resume stronger. I think the Derby always makes a three year old’s resume stronger than any other older horse race they could win, maybe with the exception of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. So in that aspect, don’t think that’s why they did it. He just wasn’t ready. But I don’t think it necessarily makes it stronger by winning a Pacific Classic over the Kentucky Derby, no.
Danny Brewer: But it may be a greater challenge as a horse competition-wise?
Jerry Bailey: Well, at this point in time at the end of August they’re almost ready, you know, for the fall races anyway, so I’m not going to make that equation. I really can’t draw a line and say that, yes, it’s more of a challenge for him because he’s a bigger, stronger horse, and especially this year, because it’s not a particularly deep field. Especially if Game On Dude is not on his game, it’s a fairly weak division in older horses out in California. So, you know, with that understanding, no, I don’t think it’s more of a challenge for him.
Ed McNamara: I was wondering, in your experience, horses coming back from the Belmont in their first race, did you find that maybe they needed that race to get back to top form?
Jerry Bailey: Well, it kind of depends on how much they’ve done before that; if they danced every Triple Crown race before that. I think they all need, you know, a little bit of time. But if they—going into the Belmont, without having to go through both the first two legs of the Triple Crown, not necessarily, no, I don’t think they need extra time. I don’t think that they’re at a disadvantage by running back into the—their first race back after the Belmont I don’t think is necessarily a poorer race, no. Horses coming out of the Belmont have done pretty well in the Haskell. It’s a fairly quick turnaround.
Ed McNamara: Right. Maybe, yes, I would—I can see what you’re saying, because Curlin did not run—did not look that good in the paddock for the Haskell. He didn’t run that well, but he had to run his eyeballs out in the Preakness and the Belmont, so maybe that was the reason rather than the fact that it was just the Belmont, do you think?
Jerry Bailey: Yes, that’s true. Also I think one of the nuances of Curlin was that he was a big horse, you know, and he negotiates sharper turns quite as well as he did the bigger sweeping turns. He could win on them, but I didn’t think he was at his best, you know, having to negotiate sharp turns and making a move and having to make up ground around a turn on a lot of mile smaller tracks versus a larger track.
Jim Mulvihill: Your best years came during a time of—that was essentially a golden age for jockeys, and we maybe have fewer superstar riders these days, but there’s no shortage of talent either. I’m just wondering of the younger riders that are coming up right now, are there any specific ones that you can tell us about that have caught your eye or you’re particularly impressed with?
Jerry Bailey: Well, I mean obviously in the northeast the Ortiz brothers have gotten a lot of attention. Irad is a very, very good rider. Jose might have a little bit, you know, a little bit more potential. I’ve just seen him do a couple of things that really caught my eye. I mean not to overshadow his brother, but they’re both very, very talented. A kid in California named Drayden Van Dyke, who is—he’s a pretty solid little rider. You know, a lot will be told when he loses the bug so that’s the defining moment. But I think Irad Ortiz has done particularly well since losing his apprentice, and that’s really the telltale sign of how a young superstar as an apprentice, you know, can graduate through the ranks, how do they do in their sophomore year, and he’s done really pretty well since losing his bug.
Jim Mulvihill: When you say you’ve seen a few little things that he’s done, are we talking about things on track or is it more about the way that they conduct themselves, you know, in the mornings and day-to-day?
Jerry Bailey: Well, it’s all a package, but they’re a very close-knit family, the Ortiz brothers. The younger one lives with his older brother. I believe they live with their uncle, or at least they did for a long time, and very family oriented and very work oriented; very teachable. But on the track—you know—he’s shown me in some specific moments a great deal of poise and patience in big spots. You can teach a lot of things, but patience and poise under pressure in big races that comes natural is pretty cool to see, and that’s what I’ve seen out of him.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, last question for you, looking ahead to the rest of 2014—you know—what are you most excited about; which horses, which storylines? What gets you pumped for the rest of the year?
Jerry Bailey: Well, I think along with America I want to see California Chrome come back, and, you know, how does he jump back into the fray, and how is he compared to the other new superstar out on the West Coast, Shared Belief. I mean this is a horse that didn’t run in the Breeders’ Cup yet got a Two Year old Champion, which was pretty exciting. Then, you know, we all wanted to see him run in the Triple Crown races and he missed them, but he sure came back in great fashion; you know, the sprint race at the Golden Gate, and the Los Al race, you know, going long. So I can’t wait to see him run and how he stacks up between California Chrome on the West Coast and Tonalist and Shared Belief—I mean Untapable on the East Coast. I want to see more of both of them. Can Untapable, can she beat the boys? And if she does in the Haskell, does she jump into the Travers—you know—against a horse called Tonalist. If he were able to win the Jim Dandy, that would be a pretty terrific showdown. So—you know—the Whitney is loaded. I mean I just looked at the probables for the Whitney. So we’ve got a great three year old division, we’ve got exciting fillies, we have a great fall coming up when the three year olds meet the older horses, and it’s really, really good races.
Jim Mulvihill: Our thanks once again to all of our guests today, not just Jerry, but also Christophe Clement, and Dale Romans. A reminder we’ll be back here next Tuesday when we’ll preview the $1.5 million Whitney. That’s one of three Grade 1s at Saratoga on August 2nd, and the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar for older females also next weekend. A reminder an audio file of this call will be on NTRA.com later today. The transcript will be up tomorrow.