Eric Wing: Welcome, to today’s NTRA communications national media teleconference. As usual we’ll have both the transcript and a podcast of this call up at ntra.com in about 24 hours. Certainly it was a big day last Saturday. Lots of people watching the Arkansas Derby and the Toyota Blue Grass stakes on CNBC, and with a combined attendance of more than 103,000 people at Keeneland and Oaklawn, that was more than any other two sporting events in the nation combined. So lots of people paying attention to the road to the derby. This week the two main three-year old races, the Jerome and the Coolmore Lexington Stakes, not expected to yield a Kentucky Derby starter. HRRN, incidentally, (Horse Racing Radio Network), will have coverage of the Coolmore Lexington from 4:30 to 5:30 pm Eastern. But again a derby starter not likely to come from either Aqueduct’s, Jerome or Keeneland’s Lexington, so what better time than now to start with our first of two looks at the 138 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands.
A little bit later we’ll talk to trainer, Dale Romans, and Jerry Crawford, the manager of Donegal Racing. They are the men behind Dullahan, the winner of last Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass. We’ll also check in with trainer, Doug O’Neill, who (inaudible) the Santa Anita Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, in the 138 Run for the Roses. First up though, we’re delighted to welcome in the founder and CEO of Team Valor International, Mr. Barry Irwin, who will try to catch lightning in a bottle for a second straight time this year at the derby with Went The Day Well, the Spiral winner.
Barry, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being on the call with us today.
Barry Irwin: Thank you very much.
Eric Wing: Barry, you’ve got at least 18 days left as the reigning Kentucky Derby winning owner, what has the last year been like for you both on a professional and on a personal level?
Barry Irwin: Professionally, it’s been great. I think it gave me some credibility that I didn’t have before. I do a lot of unusual things with my selection of horses and the way we run them and where we run them, and I think people kind of look at me like I’m just pretty weird and strange, however, and my outfit, and I think this last year winning the derby and some other races I think people are finally figuring out what it is I do. On a personal level, it’s been extremely satisfying. Just, you know, having bred the horse and then (inaudible) and sold a sire originally and stuff like that, has meant a lot to me.
Eric Wing: Let me expand, if I may, Barry, on what you’d just said. During his two-year old year Went The Day Well had run second in a pair of obviously grass events in Great Britain, could you walk us through how you and your team, not just purchased Went The Day Well, but identified him in the first place as a candidate for purchase?
Barry Irwin: Okay. I have three or four people that I’ve relied on for the last 20, 25 years, which is five horses for me. They probably send me information, between the two of them, on about 300 horses a year. I mean virtually a day doesn’t go by that I don’t get at least one or two horses from these guys. And one guy in particular, Don Brauer, who’s a bloodstock agent, lives in Florida, and he’s bought many good horses for both me and Bob Baffert and other people over the years, such as Went The Day Well, for us, and War Emblem. He’s had the last—he bought the last three winners of the Santa Anita handicap. He’s a pretty sharp guy. Like, he watched the (inaudible) and called me up, told me to watch it and it was the debut of Went The Day Well. He was in a maiden race at a smaller track, ((inaudible). It was about a mile in the race and he got pinched at the break, fell back, he was about, I’d say, sixth place, maybe seven, eight lengths out of it with an eighth of a mile to go, and when he finally found a spot to run he just flew home. It was breathtaking. So I tried to buy him, was very, very tough. I didn’t have a deal until I went over to England to look at him and met with the owner who didn’t really want to part with him and basically, as they say in Kentucky, ‘I’m money (ph) with them,’ and he sold me 75% of the horse, he kept 25. We ran him once over there, after that, for some reason, the jock got it in his head to put him on the lead which is not what he wants to do. When I looked at the horse, I bought some horses overseas that I thought would be dirt horses. One of them was a horse called Martial Law who was bred to run on the dirt but he was in England sprinting on turf. We were able to bring him to California and (inaudible) Santa Anita to handicap with him in his third start. So I’ve done that a few times. I did it with another horse called the Deputy of one (ph), the Santa Anita Derby. This horse looked like a horse that was in the wrong place to me. He’s bred strictly for the dirt, he’s a big strapping horse, looks like a dirt horse, he’s got good bones, he’s another one of these horses that’s kind of a throwback to an earlier era. He’s a terrific looking solid horse. And I contacted my top clients and I stuck my neck out. I said, “Look, I think this is a Kentucky Derby horse. We’re going to have to spend a lot of money to get him, we’re paying more than the premium, I realize that, but I think it’s a horse we can take a shot with.” So that’s basically how we found him and bought him.
Eric Wing: Great back story. Barry, we’ve got some writers and broadcasters on the call with us, so at this point I’ll turn things back over to our announcer, Shelly, and she’ll check in with the media to see what additional questions they might have for you.
Danny Brewer: The comparisons are going to be inevitable between Went The Day Well and Animal Kingdom, but how much alike are they really?
Barry Irwin: Not really that much. I think the main thing that they have in common is they both look like they were mile and a quarter horses to me. Animal Kingdom had a very, very stout pedigree, he won going a mile and an eighth late in his two-year old year at Keeneland and we thought he would like the mile and a quarter, and he did. This horse looks like he actually wants to run a little farther maybe than Animal King. His pedigree isn’t quite as stout but for some reason this horse just has a lot of stamina. The thing that we like about him the best, Graham Motion and I, is when he ran in the Spiral he had to overcome trouble a couple of times just to be in a contending position. When he got to the front his ears went straight up, he looked like he had no idea where he was and Johnny Velazquez got him going, but it wasn’t until about the last 50 yards of the race where he kind of dropped down and went into another gear and we caught a glimpse of that in the last couple of seconds of the race and that’s what we’re hoping to see going a mile and a quarter that we think he’ll move up into a different context.
Danny Brewer: Do you think that you’ve gotten to the bottom of this horse yet and seen his best?
Barry Irwin: No, the trouble with this horse is when he came over here he got stuck in quarantine. He had a bloodd test for a disease called pyroplasmosis. It was an erroneous reading and they were going to force us to send the horse back to England, and we were able to get them to retest and it came out fine but the horse got stuck in the stall for 12 or 13 days without being able to go outside of it and exercise at all. So he probably missed about a month to five weeks of conditioning because of that. He’s one race short of where he should be. He only now looks like he did when I bought him. He has regained his full bloom and his health, he’s got the correct amount of weight and I really am hoping he’s going to do well in the derby but I think that later on I expect him to do a lot better. He’s just only now where he was when I bought him physically.
William Doolittle: Barry, it’s Bill Doolittle in Louisville, and I noticed that you said that as in Kentucky that you ‘money with the previous owner’, I’d just like to know what the owner’s name was and maybe how much you paid for him?
Barry Irwin: Okay. The owner’s name is Mark Ford, and Mark Ford… I’m going to read this little thing he sent me about him the other day.
William Doolittle: Good.
Barry Irwin: Mark Ford is British and he lives in the United Kingdom, he’s a consultant in the field of town planning, transport engineering and development, and he’s been a race horse owner for about 20 years. He actually did what I did in England for a while, he had a stable of syndicated race horses and he raced them under the name of Pinnacle Racing, P-i-n-n-a-c-l-e Racing. He is married to his wife, L-e-i-g-h, Leigh-Ann, A-n-n, and she is a practicing attorney in London and she’s one of the few women who is able to practice (inaudible) in the Queen’s Council.
William Doolittle: And how much did you pay for him?
Barry Irwin: That’s not a matter of public record at this point.
William Doolittle: Oh, well, then you shouldn’t have mentioned it. Anyhow.
Barry Irwin: Yes.
William Doolittle: The other thing I’d like to know is, who’s going to be the rider for the horse?
Barry Irwin: A guy called Johnny Velazquez.
William Doolittle: And he’s also signed to do this? You’ve got him…
Barry Irwin: Yes.
William Doolittle: … locked in.
Barry Irwin: We’re taking his agent’s word for it (cross talking)…
William Doolittle: That sounds good. Of course you won the derby with him last year.
Barry Irwin: Right.
William Doolittle: All right. Last thing I’d like to know is if you could just say, describe your horse as an individual? You look at horses and you see what they look like.
Barry Irwin: Yes. He is about 16’1, 16’1 1/2. He’s a big, solid horse with a big barrel of a chest on him, he’s got good, correct front legs, he’s got a lot of bone, he’s got a good length of rein. The only thing about him behaviorally, he’s—everything’s fine, except he has a tendency to want to rear up. Last week he did that in his stall at Keeneland and banged his head on the top of the stall. But otherwise on the track he’s really good.
William Doolittle: All right. Well, thanks, Mr. Irwin.
Barry Irwin: Okay.
Debbie Arrington: Hi, Barry, thanks a lot for coming on today. And it’s been almost a year since Animal Kingdom’s winning the Derby, how has winning the derby changed your life?
Barry Irwin: I don’t think it’s really changed my life as much as I’ve heard from other people. Kind of a—I’ve got a regimented routine that I follow.
Debbie Arrington: Right.
Barry Irwin: And it’s—you know, I mean I got a big charge out of it, it was extremely exciting, it’s meant a lot to me personally and professionally but I mean I think the major thing I would say is how it changed my life is, I like to think I was kind of a private person but I can’t go anywhere in Kentucky that somebody doesn’t know who I am and I used to like to walk around the racetrack kind of anonymous and now those days are over. Everybody knows who the heck I am.
Debbie Arrington: Okay, great. And also, how—looking out, you know, the other contenders in this year’s (inaudible), it seems pretty wide open – how would you rate this class by—on a, you know, grade scale? Like, is it a B class, an A class? And who do you think are some of the A-plus students?
Barry Irwin: This crop looks like it’s deeper than last year, for sure. There seems to be a lot more depth in it. The horse that impressed me the most so far was that Bodemeister. I mean that one—that was big, brown Mike (ph) to me. I mean he looks like he’s the one, he’s the most talented horse whether or not he can come back in a relatively short period of time after a big race like that, and whether he’s going to be able to fend off other horses on the lead, I don’t know, but just from a pure talent point of view, he looks like he’s the one. I still think that Hansen is a good horse. I don’t know, about a mile and a quarter for him. I don’t know what all that pre-race activity did to him in this race. He’s kind of folded up a little earlier than I thought he would. I still think he’s a top horse. I think Gemologist is a terrific horse. He’s the one that I would say would be a solid horse. Union Rags, I would put second in this group. My only qualm about him is he’s a big son of a gun, he’s (inaudible) horse that was basically fast and gets fast horses. I’d be a little concerned about, to getting the mile and a quarter for him but he’s another super talented horse. I mean I would say Union Rags and Bodemeister are A horses. I think Gemologist and Hansen would be B-plus. Dullahan, I don’t know what to make of him on the dirt. Obviously on the Poly track he’s as good as it gets; dirt, I don’t know, I have a question mark.
Jennie Rees: Following up on the previous question about the crop, the trainer, it’s said to be, what makes you think this is such a good crop because they’re not running fast? And I have my own criteria but I would be interested in your criteria about, you know, this crop and what makes them seek (ph), you know, a really good, deep crop?
Barry Irwin: Well, I don’t know how much faster you could have gone in that Bodemeister…
Jennie Rees: Yes. Okay, well, I mean as far as—okay, then you could say there’s one and then there’s the rest, but.
Barry Irwin: Well, I think Dullahan broke the stakes record at—in the Blue Grass. I thought that was pretty good.
Jennie Rees: Mm-hmm.
Barry Irwin: You know, fast is a relative term. Are you going to look at the clock at the racetrack or are you going to believe the figures that are produced by guys like Andy Beyer and (cross talking).
Jennie Rees: Mm-hmm.
Barry Irwin: I mean, I unlike you, I’m not going so much on what the figures are because I think they change from year to year and at best it’s guess work. It’s just like when I had Captain Bodgit and that crop had Free House and Silver Charm, and those horses are running 1.17 and 1.18.
There’s no way that those horses were going to beat a horse like Bodemeister and Union Rag by five or six lengths. So I don’t know what to make of those. Those things are like trying to catch a cloud in a bottle to me.
Jennie Rees: Yes. And I mean this is kind of a, you know, I’m throwing a hanging curve, but also it seems to me the consistency of these. I mean they don’t look like they (inaudible). They might get beat but they seem like they still run, you know, your top tier on very well every race.
Barry Irwin: I agree, and I think the only race that was weird was the Florida Derby and I think that’s just because of the pace. That entire race I’d just kind of throw out. I don’t think El Padrino ran his race. For sure, Union Rags didn’t run his race. The winner got loose in the lead and there was no pace and I don’t make much of the winner. But the other preps—I mean the prep in California was extremely contentious. I don’t know how good those horses are. I think Creative Cause is probably a very, very good horse, the horse that won it. I don’t know what to make of him. But I think that there are good horses this year.
Jennie Rees: How much do you think though that your horse has to improve, if you think he has to improve, to be with the horses that you’ve just mentioned, like Bodemeister, Union Rags?
Barry Irwin: He’s—excluding Bodemeister, who (inaudible), we can keep him out of the mix. The other ones I think right now I think we’d be about three or four lengths behind them. I think my horse has a lot more room to catch up in them and I think that my horse is probably about two lengths ahead of where Animal Kingdom was last year.
Marc Doche: Hi, Barry. There’s been reports that (inaudible) Saturday morning (inaudible) was rather nondescript, can you comment on that?
Barry Irwin: I would say that’s the most complimentary term I’ve heard about that work so far. He’s a lousy workhorse. We have three very talented three-year olds this year. We have two colts and a filly. The other colt is one named Howe Great, who’s fantastic on the grass, he ran the Blue Grass with a Poly, didn’t run very well, and then I have a filly called Table Three Ten who won her first couple of races, and she’s out with a minor injury. But these horses have all worked with other horses and they’ve worked together, and they’re all great at stakes horses but they are the lousiest workhorses you can imagine. They just don’t care. There’s work the other with Went The Day Well, he broke out the half a length behind a good workhorse and wound up in the same spot. The girl (ph) who was on the other horse had a good hold on her horse and was looking back and the guy that was on our horse kind of nickered at him to make some kind of a move and he never responded. There was probably a 20 pound weight difference in favor of the workmate but still this is not the kind of horse that’s ever going to inspire anybody in the morning. I know a lot of people are going to wait for this horse to come over to Churchill and is two works (ph) from now and they’re going to wait to see if he does what Animal Kingdom did the day Animal Kingdom blew everybody’s mind in his pre-derby work and I can tell them right now that it is not going to happen. This is not that kind of horse. He’s (inaudible) in the morning but in the afternoon he brings it; that’s all that really counts.
Marc Doche: And then back to Animal Kingdom, can you give us an update on him and rate the chances of him ever running again?
Barry Irwin: I would say the chance of him running again are as high as can be. We’ve talked to some people about selling him as a stallion this year but in the final analysis I just bring myself to do it. I think there’s too much racing left in this horse. He had a stress fracture on part of his pelvis that didn’t break the bone. There was no actual hairline or real fracture, which is inside the bone, it’s a three-month lay-up, the last month of which he’ll spend on an AquaThread. We hope to get him back to the races late September, early October. We’re not going to have any kind of schedule or plan for him; we’re just going to train him, let him take his time, when he’s ready to run we’ll figure out what to do. Our goal next year will be to try to run him in the World Cup that we missed this year.
Eric Wing: Barry, given that you mentioned Went The Day Well is just now reapproaching his peak physical condition but on the other hand it’s a deep and talented crop, how would you compare your confidence level going into the derby this year compared to what it was last year?
Barry Irwin: I think last year I felt really good because of the work of Animal Kingdom. I didn’t really think we’re going to win the derby. I could see us winning the derby but I didn’t, when the gate broke open, I didn’t say, ‘we’re going to win this sucker,’ you know. With this horse, I think it all depends on what happens in the race and it looks like there’s a ton of speed. If somebody goes with this Bodemeister, and there is a lot of speed, I can see this horse picking them up and getting the job done. He really can turn it on. I mean he’s the kind of horse that used to say, ‘if you could run the last quarter in 24 seconds you could win the derby,’ I think this horse can run 23 or less.
Eric Wing: And lastly, Barry, any plans on the drawing board now for Howe Great, as you mentioned, sits on the Blue Grass after three straight grass wins?
Barry Irwin: Yes, we’re going to run him on Oaks Day, say, in the American Turf, whatever they call it (audio interference). Yes, he was a grass horse. I said that going in, I really didn’t feel that comfortable riding him in that race but I kind of took one for the team on that one. We had to, I felt we had to run him there so our people could have at least a shot to say that we tried to see if he was a derby horse, and he’s not that kind of horse and he’s got the quality of a derby horse but he’s a grass horse. I mean on grass he has—the stride is elastic and he’s explosive and I think he’s probably one of the top three (inaudible) grass colts around but on dirt on Poly track he just can’t do that. So we’ll run him on turf at Churchill.
Eric Wing: All right. Well, a big May 4th and May 5th shaping up for you and for Team Valor International, most notably with Went The Day Well who’ll be in the Run for the Roses. Barry, as others have mentioned, thank you for your time and best of luck with all your horses in the weeks to come.
Barry Irwin: Great. Thanks a lot, Eric.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s Barry Irwin, founder and CEO of Team Valor International. They won the derby last year with Animal Kingdom; this year they are back in partnership, as Barry mentioned, with Mark Ford who retains the 25% interest in Went The Day Well as that crew looks to capture a second straight Kentucky Derby.
Okay. And our next guest we’ll hope to thwart Team Valor International’s attempt at a second straight Kentucky Derby. We now welcome in Jerry Crawford, the manager of Donegal Racing, and the trainer of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner, Dullahan, Dale Romans. Gentlemen, good afternoon. Thanks very much for being with us, and I’ll ask Jerry the first question.
It’s not always easy to even have the opportunity to buy a sibling to a derby winner or a half sibling, I should say. When you bought Dullahan for $250,000 at Keeneland in September in 2010, was that more or less than you expected to pay?
Jerry Crawford: First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity, and before I answer the question about Dullahan, I want to point out to everyone that Barry Irwin won the Kentucky Derby last year and Doug O’Neill’s 20 years younger than I am so I hope everyone can figure out who’s turn it is, at least in terms of this call. You know, I had an interesting talk with the sales team at Keeneland this past weekend and they shared with me that there’d been an argument over Dullahan, then of course a hip (ph) at the sale. Some people wanted him in Book 1 because they thought he was this final (ph) looking, physical specimen, as there was other people said, ‘yes, but it doesn’t even the score.’ I think if he’d been in Book 1 we may not have ended up with him because with that kind of attention I think he might have been the $500,000 yearling, but I would have to say we were pleased to get him for 250.
Eric Wing: And I’m sure Dale Romans is pleased that you’ve got him regardless of price. Dale, you mentioned in the aftermath of the Blue Grass that Dullahan was one of the top three derby favorites, at least in your book. Skeptics will point out his (inaudible) three record on dirt, what gives you your confidence that he’ll run every bit as well on dirt as he has thus far on synthetic?
Dale Romans: Well I think he’s (inaudible) on dirt but she still has the first two races (inaudible), his strength is in stamina and then you have the (inaudible) which is shaping up to be the best breeder (inaudible) juvenile (ph) history with a nine (ph) graded stakes winners coming out of it. He ran as good a race as anybody in the race, was (inaudible) the first time with all the way back to last, so it’s a lot of ground to be a good horse on a speed (inaudible) racetrack. He trained everyday at Churchill Downs and he seems to love the racetrack. I just did not see the dirt being a problem.
Ron Flatter: Dale, could you address the issue with Kent pulling up Dullahan at the end of the race so quickly, what happened there?
Dale Romans: Well, anybody who watches Kent ride daily as we know that he is—he does pull his horses up fast after a race. He likes to get them pulled up and (inaudible). But he told me the other day, he said, if he didn’t (inaudible) big, strong hold of Dullahan pulling up his wire (ph) he (audio interference) he didn’t know how far it was going to go. He was just getting stronger and stronger, he was afraid he wasn’t (audio interference).
Ron Flatter: But there was nothing along that looked like he was favoring the right foreleg there after—it’s not—there’s nothing to that?
Dale Romans: No, there’s nothing to that, and I think anybody if you watch (inaudible) and kind of decelerate you’ll see a lot of times that it looks like it’s a lift (ph), but it’s really just switching from a run to a jump to the wall (ph). He’s a very, very (inaudible) horse.
Dan Johnson: You want—you know, the derby buzz for Paddy O’Prado really didn’t get going until close to the race. This year you’ve got one of the top contenders now. How does that change for you, is it more fun? Is it more pressure? How do you like it?
Jerry Crawford: Well, it’s the kind of pressure I hope to live with for a lot of years to come. One difference is that the first time that you’re in the Kentucky Derby you don’t really know what’s coming at you, and this time we have six folks – I always remember what Al McGuire (ph) said about the most important thing of coaching in the final four in college basketball, which is ‘let somebody else handle the tickets.’ This year I’m letting somebody else handle the tickets. And we’ve heard from over 500 people, just in Iowa, who want to be president, and so, you know, the infrastructure of all this, and we have a very big partnership to start with, anybody who saw the winner’s circle at Keeneland last Saturday knows that, or in prior years. So that’s the big thing, Dan, is just to try and organize things in a way that everybody can have a great time. We had an amazing weekend at Keeneland. Dale Romans and Tammy Fox threw an amazing party at their farm on Friday night. We went to brunch on Friday at the Thoroughbred Club; Saturday night we had a big party at Julie Cauthen, who’s our chief operating officer. Hell, there might have even been a little moonshine in one place or another, I’m not sure.
Dan Johnson: Did, you know, Paddy O’Prado got to be known as Iowa’s horse, do you sense the same type of enthusiasm for Dullahan?
Jerry Crawford: Yes. People in the grocery store, at the drug store, on the street corner, not one person says, ‘how’s your horse doing?’ They need to say, ‘how’s our horse or how’s my horse doing?’ And so, and frankly that’s one of the most enjoyable aspects about it is the way Iowa adopts this. This is not exactly everyday stuff here in Iowa to have horses in the Kentucky Derby, although we’ve been doing a good job of moving in that direction.
Dan Johnson: Yes. Also want to, Dale, how do you see Paddy and Dullahan, are they—as being similar or different?
Dale Romans: No, you know, their paths (ph) to the derby is very similar but I think they were different types of horses. In their own right, Paddy is a big, strong (inaudible) type of horse and the—he just got going and got stronger with (inaudible) but it took him a little bit to get going. Dullahan has great acceleration. I mean he can go from zero to 60 like a Ferrari and, you know, he has to me what I think it takes to win at Kentucky Derby is that acceleration, to get yourself out of trouble and to (inaudible) tight holes like he did in the Blue Grass and he’s been just as fast if he did.
Dan Johnson: Also it’s been as, it was discussed earlier, is this like a really strong derby crop? Would Dullahan have to be better than Paddy if he wants to (audio interference) on the derby?
Dale Romans: Well, he (inaudible) special to me and it’s like comparing your two kids. I’m not going to say one’s better than the other, but this is an extremely good crop of horses. I think, you know, usually this time of year you’re hearing about how bad the three-year olds are and it takes until they’re handicapped horses to prove everybody wrong. This year everybody’s realizing what a good crop this is and it’s been pretty exciting to have one of the best crops we’ve seen in a long time.
Danny Brewer: Is it an advantage to have Kent Desormeaux in the Irons (ph), being a three time Kentucky Derby winner already?
Jerry Crawford: Absolutely. He’s a Hall of Fame rider, he gave us a Hall of Fame ride last Saturday, there’s nobody I have more confidence in in a big race. And, you know, he’s going to have to be good to get everything out of Dullahan he has to offer. And Dale Romans is a future Hall of Famer. My hope was that I’d win the first grade 1 with Dale Romans, and then he went and did that without me, and then my hope was I’d win the first breeders cup with Dale Romans, and he went and did that with Frank Jones, but I have a feeling that if I can win his first Kentucky Derby with him I’ll still be his favorite owner.
Danny Brewer: Okay. Dale, when you saw Dullahan come down in the final furlong of the Blue Grass, he was so impressive – how high were you stepping when you saw that ’cause it’s got to be rewarding for you to see that kind of performance?
Dale Romans: It got very rewarding, and I was just proud of him. I, you know, I felt like it’s a three-eight pole that if he got through he had a chance, and then it’s a quarter pole when he did get through and he only had a couple of (inaudible) to split . I thought, you know, we’re not going to be any worse than second, but then when he exploded and went past Hansen like he did, I mean it was just an unbelievable feeling and an unbelievable amount of respect for him.
Danny Brewer: Yes, does this mean he’s made-to-order for the derby? I mean you’ve got the size, you’ve got the closing (ph) kick, he loves Churchill, what do you think?
Dale Romans: Well, I mean, I never—I don’t want to sound arrogant about it. It kind of a long time ago when he was under the radar screen. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody right now. To me he has, when we put together through Donegan (ph), Jerry, a profile of what we think of the derby horse is, and he jumped through every single hoop and the way he can accelerate and maneuver through a crowd and the distance is perfect for him, I do think that this is the prototype for a derby horse.
John Pricci: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Actually my question was asked and answered a little earlier, but I will follow-up. Dale, did you have any discussions with Kent after the race relative to the rather abrupt pull-up after the finish?
Dale Romans: I know Kent well enough and I (inaudible) him on enough horses that I’ve seen him pull them up quickly before. Yes, I just thought, I just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t an issue and that’s when he told he, he said, “If you didn’t get any pull-ups then (inaudible) getting pulled up,” he didn’t think. He said he was just getting too strong with him, he had to (inaudible) pull him up quickly. You know, with that being said, Kent’s run a whole lot more horses than I have and I’m not going to argue with him about it.
John Pricci: Ideally as a trainer is that something you would have preferred not to see any, you know, generally speaking everybody’s always talking about the gallop paths (ph) and it gives you an indication of what you might expect next time out and he wasn’t really getting an opportunity to do that this time.
Dale Romans: You know, gallop paths are important for really one reason, and that’s the fact that you know that they can go ahead and gallop (inaudible). They (inaudible) going to have that energy, but this horse obviously had the energy to gallop out if Kent wanted him to and like Kent said he had too much energy galloping out, he was afraid he was going to go all the way back around to the half mile pole and with three weeks between races he felt like getting stuff as quick as he could was the best thing to do and that was the right thing. And I don’t have a problem with that. I mean if Kent, you know, in a perfect world maybe you’d like to see him (inaudible) a little bit slower, but given the (inaudible) pull-up fast are expend enough energy to go another half a mile with Kent seesawing on him, I think Kent made the right decision.
Debbie Arrington: Hi, thank you very much for coming on today. Jerry, could you tell us a little bit about Donegal racing and how many partners you have? I was looking at your website and it said that, you know, your goal is to get to the Kentucky Derby and here you come, and so I think a lot of—I think this is like a great advertisement for your group.
Jerry Crawford: Well, thank you, Debbie. We—it’s the way we started out. The plan we put together, I had—to be honest, I had studied equine genetics very carefully with an eye toward handicapping the classic races, and then in about 2008, I thought, why not use this same formula I was using genetically to try and buy triple crown horses and in 2008 the market just fell apart and I went down hoping to buy a couple and with the same amount of money I was willing to invest in a couple, I was able to buy eight. One of whom was Paddy O’Prado and…
So I came home and I said to a bunch of my friends, “Look, here’s what happened. If you all want to do a partnership, great, if you don’t, I’ll be happy to raise these horses myself,” and they were all, you know, excited about it, let’s do it. And the partnership is more the same than different. I mean each year you add a couple of people, lose a couple of people, but it’s more the same than different in terms of who the partners are each year. The one thing that’s different, I’ve been in other horseracing partnerships and I love a lot of people. I have enormous affection for Pat Campbell (ph), for sort of coming up with this concept. I think it’s great for racing. But, just like in my own situation, you know, you’re in a—in what you know is a great partnership but you’re on this horse and this horse and this horse and then some other horse is the big horse and you’re not involved. And so the way we do it is, we have one partnership a year, if you’re a partner you own part of every single racehorse that year, and so if we have a big horse, as we have two of our first three years, well then you’re in on the big horse. And we also don’t mark these horses up, we also don’t charge management fees, we take 20% for doing the whole thing and then we pay our 20% of the overhead just like everybody else.
Debbie Arrington: And how many partners do you have?
Jerry Crawford: Give or take 20, would be an average number from, for any given year.
Debbie Arrington: And how much of an investment do they have to put in?
Jerry Crawford: Well it depends on the year and how much we spent on the horses. Dale thinks that we should take all the money anybody will offer us and buy more horses. I don’t know where he’s coming from exactly on that.
William Doolittle: What’s going to be your schedule going up to the derby?
Dale Romans: What’s going to be the training schedule?
William Doolittle: Yes.
Dale Romans: Well, we went back to the racetrack this morning. I haven’t even talked—had a chance to talk to Jerry about it. We usually (inaudible) three days but he was (inaudible) so fast I went ahead and took him to the track and just (inaudible) this morning. (Audio interference) on Thursday (inaudible) until Saturday (inaudible) derby we’ll have a nice five-eights a mile work, probably (inaudible) the gates, doing the (inaudible) a couple of times and maybe more.
William Doolittle: Dale, I know you’ve seen a lot of derbies and a lot of derby winners, is there one horse that your horse this year reminds you of, I don’t know style, color, personality? Some horse maybe way back there that you saw run do you like to think of them as?
Dale Romans: Well, I guess, you know, on color and style and he was one of my favorite horses for several reasons (audio interference) in the class of like a Ferdinand (ph).
Dale Romans: And I could see him coming up the rail to 110, like Ferdinand did with Shoemaker, making that big last eight to the mile run.
William Doolittle: That was something.
Dale Romans: Yes.
William Doolittle: Well, thanks very much. And I did have one question for Jerry. You mentioned your partnership ideas, you know, today, I just thought you might take a whole (ph) historical perspective and compare, you know, decades ago it was one famous, rich person that owned a farm in Kentucky and two or three of them had all the derby horses and now it seems like owners have spread out over all places and you buy horses now instead of breeding them so much, do you feel part of this whole historical trend and do you think that is the way it is?
Jerry Crawford: You know, I really do and I think that’s a great question. I don’t think there’s anything more (inaudible), more special in life than experiences we share with family and friends, and I promise you, when you stir in these incredible horses and the way people are drawn to them and fall in love with them and then create experiences around that for the people you care most about in your life, as we have with Donegal racing, I mean these are transcendent experiences. I don’t mean to get too carried away here but.
I mean, and I think it’s what the sport’s soul needs. You know, there’s been a lot written about horseracing lately; some of it not too favorable but when it comes to animal husbandry, which we do now a little bit here in Iowa, I can just promise you that if we ever took a chance with one of our horses or if we ever treated one of our horses other than what the absolute, utmost respect and dignity, there’d be a little news story about Crawford being hung on the capital grounds. Because that’s how deeply people care about these horses and that, in my experience, that’s the rule and not the exception. And I hope our little group of family and friends could help spread that story in the coming weeks.
Liz O’Connell: How’s Paddy doing? How’s his book going this year?
Jerry Crawford: Well, Liz, I’m answering the telephone from people who want tickets and he’s covering several mares a day. I think he’s doing a hell of a lot better than I am.
Liz O’Connell: And how about your syndicate, did you guys get some mares for him or how (cross talking)?
Jerry Crawford: We did. We bought four mares perfectly suited for him. I think three of them have already been there. He’s also putting up quite a good record in terms of the coverage rate so far and I know at the farm, it’s been through a farm and they love him.
Liz O’Connell: Very good. Are you going to have some Iowa breds or are they going to fall down (ph) in Kentucky?
Jerry Crawford: Both, there are a lot of Iowa mares that have gone through them. Liz, of course, wanted us to take him to New York, which would—as things have played out, Liz, I wish I would have listened a little harder to you.
Liz O’Connell: You know, we could still do it, it’s okay. So, thank you very much.
Jerry Crawford: Sure.
Eric Wing: All right. Thanks, Shelly. Hey, well, you two guys with your sense of humor are obviously not going to have to worry about having a good time derby week, but in terms of possible worries, just from looking at the charts, it looks in two of his last three starts he had some—Dullahan had some sort of difficulty at the gate, is that anything to worry about? Obviously he’s a come-from-behind horse, but I guess you can lose the derby at any point in the race, is there anything to these apparent gate problems, Dale or Jerry?
Dale Romans: I don’t think there’s any—I didn’t even know we had problems. It didn’t—it looked like he did all right to me. I’m having (audio interference) in the gate like we always do but he’s not a problem gate horse. I mean like I said in the derby you need to catch a few breaks and you need to break from the day (inaudible) and hopefully we will. The next big worry I think is (audio interference)
Jerry Crawford: And that’s exactly what I was going to say. Any number of four or higher and I’ll be fine.
Dale Romans: Yes.
Eric Wing: Same with you, Dale, just not the way down inside?
Dale Romans: Well history tells us that down inside is tough on a horse in a derby, so anything outside would be good.
Eric Wing: And I want to ask you kind of another generic derby question. Barry Irwin has already forewarned the media that anybody expecting Went The Day Well to turn in an eye popping workout a la Animal Kingdom is going to be sorely disappointed because the horse couldn’t care less about working out in the morning, how important do you see it, Dale, as somebody who’s running these things and watch the others very closely, how important is it for a horse to train and train well over the Churchill surface and to get those, you know, so-called glowing workout reports the week or two before the race?
Dale Romans: Well, you know, Churchill’s a little bit of a different factor in some of these other (inaudible). It’s like, you know, sprinting (ph) well and working well but if you have a horse that’s not, that’s not normally a good workhorse then I wouldn’t worry about it much and (inaudible) was talking about and not, you know, with these horses you just want to see them sound (ph), you want to see them happy to be out there and consistent in their training. I think that says most of it.
Eric Wing: Last question, I’ll let you both answer and you can answer with as little as one word, if you wish. You guys would obviously like to see a rapid pace in the Kentucky Derby, who do you think will have the early lead, Bodemeister, Hansen or somebody else?
Jerry Crawford: I think Bodemeister, and I think if I had to pick one horse to be concerned about I would pick Bodemeister because as we all know with Empire Maker on top and Storm Cat on the bottom, he’s got the genes to keep on going. But I hope somebody’ll put up a consolation prize for who sets the fastest fractions and let Bodemeister and Hansen compete for it.
Dale Romans: Well, and again I think it’s a little bit could have been both positions (inaudible) and the strategy of what the—each individual decides to do with their horses but if I had to just pick a horse it’s going to be (inaudible). I think—I don’t think you’ll be able to keep Hansen off the lead at a mile and a quarter. He looks like he was getting a little aggressive with Ramon the other day and I think if he has a chance to win (inaudible) and steal the race.
Eric Wing: Okay, so perhaps a side bet is brewing here between Jerry and Dale. But be that as it may, we do understand there is one additional question from the media, so we’ll back to Shelly and take that real fast.
Operator: Thank you. And it comes from Nick Hahn from Virginia Racehorse Network. Please go ahead.
Nick Hahn: Jerry, hey, Dale. Congratulations with Dullahan. And wanted to ask you a question about Paddy O’Prado what he (inaudible) that’s going to go out racing in (audio interference)? What sort of growth have you seen in interest with Paddy O’Prado, what sort of impact did that horse have. And just sort of as a follow-up, it’s sort of interesting that they sort of have (inaudible) same in the past, through the Blue Grass, through the Palm Beach, you know, was that by design or, you know, could you talk about maybe how they have similar (audio interference)?
Jerry Crawford: Well, Paddy O’Prado obviously had shown his potential on the turf as a two-year old and so the Palm Beach made a lot of sense as a comeback race for him. You know, I’ll speak for myself, and I don’t pretend this is Dale’s view, but I think that to the extent you can keep courses on soft surfaces particularly early in their careers, I think it’s good for them and that was the reason for the path with both of these horses and I think it’s been a good decision.
Dale Romans: Yes, and I—you know, it worked with Paddy and it worked—it looked like it’s going to work with Dullahan and, you know, (inaudible) creatures of habit in (audio interference) to try to duplicate, so it’s a pretty decision especially with Dullahan not having to worry about the earnings issue to go ahead and (inaudible) two races and in the same two races we used before.
Jerry Crawford: And with Dullahan we sent him to the Dixiana Futurity the fall of his two-old year because Mine That Bird although overlooked in the United States had become a Poly Track monster late as two-year old year up in Canada and we were just thinking maybe history will repeat itself and so we sent him to the Dixiana and lo and behold he prevailed very impressively which of course earned him other things a free entry into the Toyota Blue Grass and also allowed him to become the first horse—only the second horse in history and the first horse since Round Table, I think back in 1955, to sweep both races. So that was exciting too.
Eric Wing: All right. Well, Jerry Crawford and Dale Romans, very good of both of you to spend so much time with us and answer these questions with such candor and good humor. We wish you both the best of luck with Dullahan in about two and half weeks.
Jerry Crawford: Thanks so much.
Dale Romans: Thanks.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s Jerry Crawford, the manager of Donegal Racing, and his trainer Dale Romans. They will be sending out the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Dullahan in the 138 Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May the 5th.
And that will take us to our third and final guest today. For that guest we will shift our sights west and now welcome in the trainer of the Santa Anita Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, Doug O’Neill, joins us now. Doug, it’s Eric Wing in New York, thanks for being with us today.
Doug O’Neill: Good afternoon, Eric. Thank you.
Eric Wing: Doug, I want to ask you about the Arkansas Derby in this respect. I mean I think a lot of horsemen were looking at Bodemeister and saying, “Oh my goodness, what a tough son of a gun he looks like,” watching it from your perspective out west, your horse had just somewhat validated himself, shall we say, in the Santa Anita Derby with a very impressive win over Creative Cause, Bodemeister had been tangling with Creative Cause prior to that race, do you think that in some respects the Arkansas Derby maybe added another feather or two not just into your horses cap but out of Creative Cause as well?
Doug O’Neill: You know, I think that the Arkansas Derby just showed how good Bodemeister is and he’s lightly raced so he’s just getting better with each run and, you know, he’s got Hall of Fame connections, that doesn’t hurt at all either and so (inaudible) from, you know, watching from the sidelines it was like, uh-oh, kind of watching that race ’cause it looked very, very impressive and I just know how Bob trains. Those horses every time he leads them over there they’re so fit and when he has one right you want to stay out of the way. So he’s a good one and I’ll Have Another will have to really step it up to compete with him right now.
Eric Wing: Well, and, you know, stepping up is something he’s already done, Doug, in some respects. I mean he was purchased as a two-year old for the relatively modest sum of $35,000; I believe purchased for less than that as a yearling, so I suppose you could say he’s overachieved already. What was it about I’ll Have Another that caught the eye back when you first got him?
Doug O’Neill: You know, I’ve got to thank my brother, Jim (ph), who picked them out and Paul (inaudible) for seeing what (audio interference) and buying him. You know, I think Dennis just saw an athlete there. He was at Florida (inaudible) and Dennis really liked the way he traveled and so, you know, one of those where you win some, lose some and right now we’re real—he’s liking the way this guy is turning out and a credit to team (inaudible).
Eric Wing: And before—only ’cause I don’t want to forget to ask it later, Doug, I want to ask you a question that multiple people have asked me to ask you – I’ll Have Another is certainly an impressive horse but what enquiring minds want to know is, will Lava Man be shipping to Louisville with him to serve as I’ll Have Another’s stable pony again?
Doug O’Neill: He will. Yes, he’s slated to go back with him and, you know, if horses talk, which a lot of us in the business they do, you know, hey, we like to think that Lava Man has given I’ll Have Another some good tips in the morning and so it’s been a real pleasure to watch Lava Man transform into this, you know, from a great racehorse to a, you know, a great morning pony and now Chaperon (ph) and his first horse to the race and being in the Santa Anita Derby when you’re so stressed (ph), it’s been a lot of fun and very proud of how that’s playing out.
Eric Wing: Well no doubt that’ll be a sidebar story come the Kentucky Derby.
Marc Doche: Hey, so you’ve had a little bit over a week now to let the Santa Anita Derby soak in; looking back, considering all the other success you’ve had and exciting times you’ve had at the track, would you say that that’s your career highlight to this point?
Doug O’Neill: I have to think so. You know, we oftentimes have short memories in this business, but, yes, I can’t remember being (audio interference) happier than I was at Santa Anita Derby, and I think as I’ve matured as a person, a little bit, and as a trainer, a lot, you know, it’s been a lot more gratifying as well, you know. I think if you happen to get lucky and have some success early on in your training career, sometimes can be a little bit overwhelming ’cause you’re not really exactly sure what you just did to get you there and the longer you’re in this you really get a good grasp of what’s going on and you learn to, or at least I have, learned to appreciate it more. And so that was—I don’t know how you could feel any better than after watching that Santa Anita Derby.
Alicia Hughes: One thing I think (inaudible) it certainly was—an enthusiastic owner I’ll Have Another has. Could you just talk a little bit about the kind of relationship that you and Paul have, how you guys first got together and how much an add the kind of the derby compares (ph) to be able to have a horse like this for a client like them?
Doug O’Neill: Yes, you know, it is, definitely adds to it. You know, Paul’s a blue collar guy, has true education, worked his way up through the business world and now he’s turned out to be just a real successful businessman. And, you know, there’s just a lot of things that, you know, I think both of us really appreciate and Paul’s just so loyal it’s unbelievable and he’s got multiple trainers and he would never take one from one guy and give it another and he’s very loyal to everybody and he’s a great guy, loves the game, not only is he a big (ph) owner but he’s a huge fan of the game. And again, he’s not a silver spoon guy, he’s a guy who’s earned everything he’s been able to achieve and so it’s added a lot of icing to this wonderful ride we’re having with I’ll Have Another, that’s for sure.
Alicia Hughes: And yes, I know you guys have been together for a while, exactly how long have you been training for him?
Doug O’Neill: Kind of done 10 years, maybe.
Alicia Hughes: Wow.
Doug O’Neill: (Cross talking). I may have that off a little bit but really a friend of mine named Mark Schlesinger (ph) who lives in Arkansas is the one who helped introduce me to Paul and, you know, Paul grew up in Canada, in Ontario, kind of right over the way of Detroit, Michigan where I grew up and my brother, Jim, and my whole family obviously grew up and so we kind of have that Midwest/Southern Canada thing going on there. And so, you know, we dabbled with some claimers and it’s really just been the last maybe five years or so that—five, six years that we’ve really been able to step it up and Paul has wrote some pretty big checks for some young horses and some have worked, some haven’t and we’re hoping this guy’s the guy that’ll really continue a fun run that we’re having right now.
Jon White: (Inaudible) was able to win big races like the Santa Anita Derby handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Pacific Classic, Cinco de Mayo (ph) in the quarter, what is it about I’ll Have Another that gives you encouragement that he can (inaudible) quarter?
Doug O’Neill: Well, first place, only one way to spell John, and that’s Jon. Never put an ‘h’ in Jon. So that’s key.
Yes, John. You know, I think with I’ll Have Another he’s just, he’s got an amazing stride, he’s got a stride of a much taller horse, he’s got amazing (inaudible), you know, he could sit along the rail there and be turned away, he can gallop high and you can’t hear him go by. You know, he’s just got tremendous air (ph) and he’s got that something that you can’t pick out of a pasture and he’s just got that will, he’s so competitive and there may be some horses that are more talented than him but, man, there can’t be many out there that has his kind of drive to be first to the wire and be a leader and amount of followers. So, you know, even in the Santa Anita Derby going at a mile and eight, he still had something left at the end there and, you know, as we ship him out in the quarter I don’t think it’ll be a problem.
Jon White: Is there anything that gives you concern about him going a mile and a quarter?
Doug O’Neill: Well, you know, he’s a horse that likes to run near the front, so, you know, he doesn’t have to be on the lead, he’s got tactical speed, but I guess if something just crazy happened and the (inaudible) was crazy and we were up too close to it, then that would be a little bit of a concern. But I’d rather that concern than being just a deep (ph) closer (ph) who’s half that of a fast pace, so I think with a little bit of luck regardless what the pace is we should be in a good spot and we should be able to get the distance.
Jon White: What do you have in mind in terms of workouts between now and the derby?
Doug O’Neill: If all goes well, Jon, he’s going to work six furlongs this Thursday at Hollywood Park, and then comes out of that good, if all goes well, he’ll work six furlongs eight days rider (ph), so the Friday before the derby, and then if all goes well and he comes out of that good, he’ll fly to Kentucky the Saturday before, so the day after or the week before the derby he’ll be Churchill.
Jennie Rees: Yes. Doug, recently you were talking about shipping him to Churchill, more on the early side, and I just wondered why you changed plans and he will not have a work (ph) at Churchill?
Doug O’Neill: You know, I believe everything is going so good right now and, you know, we’re blessed here in Southern California with having pretty darn consistent good weather, bad traffic but good weather, and just thought it would be smart to get his (inaudible) out of the way here and then, you know, he’d still have a good six, seven gallops at Churchill. So that was not a lot of deep, deep thought going into it but just one more of a just trying to figure out where would we have consistent weather, consistent training and just figure it’d be better here.
Jennie Rees: And also kind of following up on your conversation with John, you said the horse does have a lot of speed, when you think of Bodemeister and also Hansen in there, you know, could it work in your favor because if he’s going to really relax more off the lead and having that kind of speed in there or do you think—you know, that’s a real problem for him.
Doug O’Neill: I think it’s for, I think (inaudible) in an ideal world of Hansen, Bodemeister will hook up and go toe-to-toe early and that would definitely weigh on our—be of benefit for us. You know, the one thing about I’ll Have Another is he does, he’s got a really good mind on him and I think he can fit and the great thing about Mario Gutierrez, he’s a really relaxed kind of unknown but to us he’s known, but he has so much confidence in the colt and I kind of like our style ’cause we have enough speed (inaudible) in there to kind of stay out of a lot of chaos and not—he’s not going to run off to where he has to from the front end. So I really—I love our style, I love our horse and, you know, just the darned thing you’ve got worry about (inaudible), what they’re going to do, but I am very confident with what we have so far.
Jennie Rees: Do you have any thoughts on, you know, Mike Bataglia (ph) says, “I have no clue who’s going to be the favorite. It could be one of six horses,” and I know John’s gone on the record saying he thinks it will be Bodemeister, do you have an opinion?
Doug O’Neill: I would think so too. You know, with his (inaudible) and with the Hall of Fame connection that I would have to think Bodemeister would get the majority of this. The money’s not with Union Rag but gets maybe second choice in my mind, and pending kind of, you know, I think Dale’s horse will get some action, you know, (inaudible) horse will get some action, hopefully our horse will get some action. And so it’s kind of—it is a wide open race but the way Bodemeister ran if you were to repeat that I think everyone’s running for second.
William Doolittle: Doug, John, and Jennie both touched on my question, but I just want to go back here again, and you’ve—coming to Santa Anita Derby I noticed your horse worked six furlongs and seven furlongs and even a mile, and I know it works in California trainers a lot of times work a little longer, is this how you get stamina into a horse and has—does that horse respond to it? Are you thinking about putting, getting distance into it, I mean the derby distance?
Doug O’Neill: You know, it’s—to me the next—the two works (ph) he’ll have between now and the Kentucky Derby are just kind of maintenance work. He’s (inaudible) and I—you’ll have conversations with other trainers and owners about this, but in my mind you can’t take a sprinter and work him mile after mile after mile and make him a router (ph). If they’re a sprinter they’re a sprinter.
So, yes, I think we’re dealing with a great one, a route horse that right now he’s fit as can be and for now it’s just more of a maintenance mode and not trying to do anything, in my mind, in the mornings to try to add any stamina, etc. I don’t think any stamina can be added. He has a one carry (ph). Where we’re blessed out here is we’re training everyday. You know, worry (ph) about a gallop (inaudible) everyday where some other parts of the country you might have to back off a little bit depending on Mother Nature. So I do feel like there may be a little cardio added to the California horses made just to the weather—for weather reasons.
William Doolittle: The last question I have is, do you think it’s a big advantage to be going a mile and a quarter, to go beyond a mile and an eight for your horse? I think Dale Romans does think so with his horse, with Dullahan and I wonder if you think so?
Doug O’Neill: Well, you know, I like that you have more of a run in that first turn, I like to that. You know, I don’t know, I think so much of it is not on this mile and a quarter, it’s just a trip. You know, sometimes, you know, a mile and a quarter race, the pace really slows down which will give frontrunners more of an edge in my mind, so I don’t know ho