Road to the Triple Crown Teleconference – Elliott Walden, Julien Leparoux, Mike Smith

Eric Wing: Welcome to today’s NTRA Communications National Media Teleconference.

 

Today, of course, we’re gathered to discuss the 138th Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum Brands, taking place May 5th at Churchill Downs in Louisville. NBC will provide television coverage of the Derby on May 5th from 4 to7 pm. They’ll also have the Kentucky Oaks on the NBC Sports Network, the Kentucky Derby post position draw on Wednesday 5 to 6 pm on NBC’s Sports network. They’ll have a Derby wrap-up show on NBC Sports Network after the Derby and they’ll be mixing in some Derby classics programming during the week, as well, on NBC Sports Network, but again, the Derby, itself, 4 to 7 pm on NBC.

 

Horse Racing Radio Network announced this week they’ve extended their deal to be the live radio cast providers of the entire Triple Crown, and they’re going to have 30 hours of Derby week coverage capped off by Kentucky Derby day from 2 to 7 at Churchill. They’ll give you a wall-to-wall coverage of all the Oaks and Derby week stuff leading into that, as well.

 

We’ve got two key riders on today’s call that figure to play prominent roles in the Run for the Roses. A little later we’ll talk to Julien Leparoux who will ride Union Rags, and we’ll also check in with Hall of Famer, Mike Smith, who has the assignment aboard Bodemeister.

 

Right now we’re very happy to welcome in the President, CEO and Racing Manager of WinStar Farm, Elliott Walden. WinStar, of course, will be sending out the undefeated colt, Gemologist.

 

Elliott, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being with us today.

 

Elliott Walden: No problem, Eric.

 

Eric Wing: Elliott, I’m going to ask you the most obvious question first, because if I don’t ask it, somebody else undoubtedly will. How do you compare Gemologist with WinStar’s 2010 Derby winner, Super Saver?

 

Elliott Walden: Well, you know, it’s interesting because they both took similar paths to Kentucky as a two-year-old, both through the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. And Super Saver was probably, at that time, was probably more impressive. You know, he set a stakes record in the race, he won Best Looks (ph). Very visually, it was an extremely impressive race, and it kind of had him as a favorite, you know, going into the three-year-old year, you see, he was one of the top two or three picks off that race.

 

Gemologist came into the race off two, maiden Allowance race, over in at Churchill. And while he was one of the favorites and dominated the race, it probably wasn’t quite as good as Super Saver’s, but, you know, at this point, a week and a half before the Derby, I feel like— feel as good about Gemologist as I did about Super Saver.

 

Eric Wing: Elliott, Gemologist is by no means a need-to-lead horse, but he always has been pretty pace-prominent in his races, and with the Derby more than likely there’ll be a 20 horse field. You’ve got Hansen in there, Bodemeister, now we hear Trinniberg. Where do you guess Gemologist might be early in the race? And are you and your team, fine if he is 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th in the race early on?

 

Elliott Walden: No, we’re very comfortable with that. You know, he’s always—the interesting thing about Gemologist for, you know, horsemen and fans, alike, is that he’s a very big horse. He’s 16, probably 3, maybe even 17, and he’s 1300 pounds, but he shows speed. And so, from the standpoint of–you know, that’s a bit unique and so, you know, for me that’s athleticism. That speaks to his athleticism and I think he’s not the type of horse that has to have the lead, or he basically had it in his previous races early on in his career, but just his pure athletic ability and he was just faster than everybody, but, you know, when a horse gets in there that’s faster than him, he’s certainly, he’s at eight (ph), and I do think that he will be, you know, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 10 links back come Derby day.

 

John White: Elliott, I was just kind of curious in terms of Gemologist, with only five career starts and two starts this year, why did he not race between the race at Churchill, the Kentucky Jockey Club, and the Allowance race at Coldstream in March?

 

Elliott Walden: Well, John, that’s been kind of—if you look back through most of our Derby horses, that’s kind of a strategy that we’ve used at WinStar for a long time. You know, we typically have a pattern to the horses we develop, and, you know, part of what we want to do is try to have Derby horses and have horses ready for the spring of the year. And part of that is that we don’t over race them at two, so typically, you know, you don’t see any of our juveniles come to hand in the Breeders’ Cup juvenile. We typically stay away from that race and we’ve won races like the Remsen, twice. We’ve won the Jockey Club twice, so we typically use those races that are on Thanksgiving weekend as kind of a spring board to the three-year-old year. And then, I like to give them some downtime between the races and between the two different, you know, between two and three I think it’s important for a horse to almost wind down and then wind back up so by the time you do that you’re not making your first start until March.

 

John White: Do you feel any added pressure in terms of the fact that he is undefeated going into the Kentucky Derby?

 

Elliott Walden: Not really. I mean it is funny, Kenny Troutt, the owner of WinStar, and I had a laugh. Kenny is not—Kenny is very—he’s a great guy to be around. He’s a great guy to work for. He’s funny, privately, but he doesn’t really, you know, sell himself too much. And we were up at the Wood and he said—I forget who he said it to, but somebody we were talking to up there. He said the only undefeated horse I’ve had this time of year is the one that hasn’t started.

 

You know, we were having a laugh about that and, you know, I don’t think there’s any added pressure, because to win the Derby, there’s pressure enough, so that doesn’t really play into it.

 

Danny Brewer: The final furlong at the Wood Memorial when he was challenged in the stretch, was that a good thing, you think? Does that tell you something about this horse?

 

Elliott Walden: It was a great thing. And part of it is that, you know, he wasn’t tested at all in his first start of the year, so he needed that. He needed to be battle-tested a little bit and quite honestly, I thought he was going to get beat. You know, when Alpha had all the momentum and you could see him drop down and start extending—most of the time in that scenario if you’re watching a horse race, you’ll take the horse coming on and so I was very nervous at the 16th pole, but I think it showed, it showed me something about Gemologist and, you know, I think he comes by it naturally with his sire, Tiznow, and it kind of reminded me of his daddy.

 

Danny Brewer: Do you think that he is the jewel of your stable? I mean you’ve had a lot of good horses, what kind of jewel you got now, do you think?

 

Elliott Walden: Well, I think he is. I mean, you know, it’s easy to always talk about the horse that’s on the present, you know, the one you’re talking about in the present tense. We’ve had a lot of good horses at Win Star, but none of them had been undefeated. And you know, obviously, he’s going to have to make that next step to be talked about with the realms of Super Saver and Drosselmeyer, but to be undefeated at this point, he’s definitely showing himself to be special.

 

Debbie Arrington: Hi, thank you very much for coming on this morning. I wanted to talk a little bit of more about Tiznow, the pride of California, when he was running. And what are some of Tiznow’s qualities that you see in Gemologist, and what do you think that Tiznow, you know, brought to his son?

 

Elliott Walden: Well, you know, it’s interesting. He’s got some physical traits. Gemologist has Tiznow’s size, has his stature, has that long shoulder that Tiznow has, got the developmenter’s gaskin that Tiznow has and the power that comes from behind. The other thing that strikes me about Gemologist in reference to Tiznow is his attitude. Tiznow is a very, very intelligent horse. You know, he’s extremely smart in Stallion Barn. He’s a horse that has a real character, real definition to his psyche, and Gemologist is just as easy going and smart. When you look into Gemologist’s eye, you see something that looks back at you and that’s just really, that’s the only way I know to describe it. And that does remind me of his daddy.

 

Debbie Arrington: And how has he developed since he was a two-year-old? Have you seen him grow up?

 

Elliott Walden: Yes, he’s really filled out. Like you said, when you, you know, when they showed him Derby week and he comes in to the paddock, he’s a lot of horse.

 

Mike Penna: Hey, you talked about his win as a two-year-old in the Kentucky Jockey Club. As a former trainer, how much of an advantage is it to know that he has that win over the track, that he can handle the track? Or is there any type of advantage, considering that the track on Derby day is more likely going to be completely different than when he ran on back in November?

 

Elliott Walden: You know, you make a good point, and I think maybe it’s more for our comforts than the horse’s comfort because I do think the tracks will be a little different. But, you know, he did run on Breeders’ Cup week, as well, and usually that track’s tighten down for Breeders’ Cup like it would be for Derby week, so I think that’s a similar type racetrack.

 

But, you know, I think it was important—I think the most important thing is that he doesn’t need to carry this track with them. You know, he’s run at four different racetracks and he stepped foot on the racetrack, as far as running those three different times on the day of at the Gulfstream he stepped in, Aqueduct he stepped in and at Turfway he stepped in and all three of them he won, so I think that that’s probably the most important thing, that he doesn’t need to take his racetrack with him.

 

Frank Angst: Hey, in a lot of years the Grade 1 winner and winner of the Wood who’s undefeated and also has a win—a great at stakes win at Churchill Downs would be the, you know, the far and away favorite for the Derby. This year it’s kind of more up in the air. It looks like 4 or 5 horses might get that honor. Do you like that position of just kind of—or would you rather be the favorite, or just kind of, what are your feelings on that?

 

Elliott Walden: I’d rather be 3 to 5. You know, I mean, you know, I do know exactly what you’re saying. I think for all of us in this sport, it’s exciting to have a Derby that has basically all the number one seeds show up. And, so, I think that’s going to make for a great 10 days, and I think it’s going to be, it’s going to make a spectacle for great race because, really, you have some very good horses in there.

 

And then, I could see Gemologist being anywhere from favorite to, you know, third or fourth choice and like you said, being undefeated, Grade 1 winner, won twice at Churchill, (inaudible), the whole 9 yards, you know in a lot of years you’d be even money (ph).

 

Frank Angst: Yes. How big, of course it’s always big to have a Derby starter and especially one that’s going as well as Gemologist, but how much bigger is it that he’s by Tiznow in his ties with Win Star?

 

Elliott Walden: You know, it’s very important. I mean it’s, you know, we do support our stallions at the auction ring, and we’ve—that’s why we purchased this colt, because we’re always looking for progeny by our stallions and so it does, it just kind of made it—doubles it up, you know, it makes it double. And you know, Super Saver is the same. We had the mare, and so it’s nice. It just helps, you know, it helps solidify the whole program.

 

David Greening: (Audio interference) on Javier Castellano, on how he picked this horse and just his emergence as a lead rider in a couple of years?

 

Elliott Walden: You know, he’s a rider that has definitely, you know, stepped up his game in the last couple of years. I was always, you know, light time of year thought he was a good rider. Wasn’t sure he was, you know, a top three or four last rider and, you know, for the past two years he’s really stepped up his game and, obviously, Matt Muzikar’s doing a good job of getting him on the right horses and, you know, ridding a lot of Todd’s (ph) helps as well. But, you know, you could see the confidence in his eyes.

 

You know, when Gemologist made his first start of the year this year, he was told to get him behind horses. You know, as I spoke earlier, this horse is naturally athletic. He’s naturally kind of inclined to break well and get in the race. And so Todd was concerned that he would do that and not really get the experience that we needed going into Kentucky, so we’re going to try to use that opportunity to get behind Currency Swap a little bit, who was coming off of a sprint. Horse broke ((inaudible)), Javier just went on with it and that’s a sign of a confident rider. That, you know, the plans can be drawn up, but Javier knows that when the gate’s open it’s in his control and it’s his charge and, you know, he came back after the race and he said, you know, I couldn’t really quite get it done that way. But you know, you could just see in his eyes that he knew exactly that he was in control and that he’s riding with a lot of confidence, so we feel confident.

 

Eric Wing: Elliott, the coach of the New Jersey Nets, Avery Johnson, now unfortunately, he won’t be busy in mid to late May, probably at all in May, given the fortunes of the team this year. However, I do know he was at Turfway on Spiral Day when Gemologist made his debut. He was there at the Wood, and is he going to be with you and Mr. Troutt on Derby Day as far as you know?

 

Elliott Walden: Yes, he is. He’s very excited. Gemologist is a horse that he’s followed all through his career. And, like you said, it’s unfortunate that he’s not going to be working hard getting the Nets ready for the playoffs, but he’s coming to the Derby and he’s excited about it. He’s a great guy that—you know, the horse racing needs more guys like him that aren’t just there on Derby Day, but are in a national spotlight, and he’s a true fan of the sport. He loves this sport and, you know, like I said, horse racing needs more guys like him.

 

Eric Wing: He doesn’t try to give you any instructions in the paddock, does he, during…

 

Elliott Walden: We joke about it. We joke about it, but he knows I’ll try to give him instructions at the Nets game so he lays off.

 

Eric Wing: Very good. Well, Elliott, we look forward to seeing you and Avery and the whole team a week from Saturday in Louisville. We wish everybody the best of luck with Gemologist, and we thank you very much for coming on with us today.

 

Elliott Walden: Thank you, Eric.

 

Eric Wing: That’s Elliott Walden. He’s the President, CEO, and Racing Manager of the Win Star Farm. They accounted for the Derby in 2010 with Super Saver, and they hope to do so again in 2012 with the undefeated Gemologist.

 

Okay, our next guest is jockey, Julien Leparoux . Julien, of course, will have the mount on Union Rags who is the king, perhaps, within a head of winning the Eclipse Award last year having fallen to Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup juvenile, and Julien took over the riding assignments aboard Union Rags from the aforementioned, Javier Castellano, prior to Union Rags’ first start of the year in the Fountain of Youth stake. Julien, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for coming on with us today.

 

Julien Leparoux: Thank you for having me.

 

Eric Wing: Julien, obviously, there’s been lots and lots of discussions about the trip Union Rags had in the Florida Derby. Now that you’ve had two or three weeks to digest it all, what was your view of how the race actually unfolded?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, you know, I think the main thing now, after, you know, a couple of weeks after the race, I think is that I actually came back, you know, sound and he had a easy race. So I’m just happy about it and try to forget about the Florida Derby and try to focus on the race Saturday, next Saturday.

 

Eric Wing: Now, we mentioned earlier, Julien, that you’ve ridden him for both of his 2012 starts. In those two races aboard Union Rags, is there anything you’ve learned about him that you didn’t know before you had the mount?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, just, you know, the first race was kind of (inaudible). You know he was very impressive. And I think that’s the race before (inaudible), too, and I think hopefully we’ll get a good trip in the Kentucky Derby and he can show his patterns, you know, that would be great.

 

Eric Wing: And are you going to feel—I mean there’s always pressure associated with riding a horse in the Kentucky Derby, but is there a lot more pressure with a horse that has as high a profile as Union Rags?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, you know, yes, like you said, there’s always pressure for the Kentucky Derby, but you know, it’s obviously, you know, great to have a shot at the race and it is definitely more pressure when you do. I think this year is a very competitive group of three years old and a lot of very good three years old, so hopefully we get a good, clean trip and see who’s the best one.

 

Bill Finley: Hi, Julien. Shortly after the Derby you’ll be coming to New York as a regular rider for the first time you were an apprentice. Could you tell us why you decided to leave Kentucky and come to New York? And riding against what’s going to be a very difficult riding colony, how do you think you’re going to do?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, you know, I think it’s actually more than one reason. You know, I think just for my career I think it’s a step forward and, you know, I’m just very excited about trying to get something done in New York. Like you said, I’m was there as a apprentice and, I think it’s a right step for me to come back there now.

 

Bill Finley: Julien, I’d also like to ask you, you know, you just told Eric that you’re looking, you’re not looking back at the Florida Derby, but shortly after the race you sent out a tweet where it was clear that you weren’t happy with some of the criticism. And considering that you were criticized for the ride, do you feel like you have anything to prove in the Kentucky Derby? Do you want to get revenge, so to speak, on the people that say you didn’t ride the best race in Florida?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, all I want for the Kentucky Derby is to have Union Rags in a, position to win and see if we can win. That’s the only thing I really want, and I hope we do win and see what happen. You know, he’s a great horse. He’s very nice and we definitely got great chance.

 

Frank Angst: Pretty good. Hey, really the only two losses on Union Rags’ record that came against front-running horses that kept going on—horses that kept going on the front end. On paper, the Derby looks like it’s going to have a lot of speed in there. Is that you’re feeling as well, and do you think that puts your horse in a better position?

 

Julien Leparoux: Yes, I do. Definitely, I think, you know, it all feels like Hansen and Bodemeister. And all those, you know, Take Charge Indy and stuff. It’s going to be a lot of speed, but, you know, like usual, there’ll be for the rest of Derby you get speed anyway. Yes, definitely for him I think it would be great, mile and a quarter, if we got a good speed in front

 

Frank Angst: Do you have any post positions your pulling for at this point?

 

Julien Leparoux: I generally don’t think about it. And generally talk about it with my (inaudible) trainer, but you know, the perfect one would be in the middle of it a little bit. You know?

 

Frank Angst: Yes.

 

Julien Leparoux: Not too inside, not too outside.

 

Frank Angst: Got you.

 

Carol Holden: Hi, Julien. Thanks a lot for joining us. I love watching your riding style, but one of the most distinctive things is your hands. You ride more like a show rider of that with your hands. I’m wondering what your background might be in riding.

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, actually, I did show jumping when I was younger. I started when I was 11, and did some competition like until 18. And then I started riding racehorses.

 

Carol Holden: What comparison can you make? When I watch your hands, as opposed to most riders, you tend to sort of give with them as opposed to a lot of riders just taking a hold of a horse.

 

Julien Leparoux: Yes, I guess I just try to don’t fight so much with my horses. And, yes, be gentle around the mouth. You know, that’s how I learned how to ride from the show jumping.

 

Debbie Arrington: Hi, Julien. Thank you so much for coming on today. You were also the regular rider on Daddy Nose Best and won two Derbies with them this season on the walk-up. What do you think about his chances in the Derby?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, you know, I always say, I mean Daddy Nose Best the more distance the better it’s going to be, I think it’s going to run good in this race. I guess he’s been working very well at a very good pace, which I’ve seen in the Racing Form, but more distance, definitely something to look forward to.

 

Debbie Arrington: And, do you think with these horses in this field so closely rated together, do you think that it could become a jockey’s race, and that you might have an edge being a regular at Churchill?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, I think, yes, I think there’s a lot of good three years old this year. And, you know, I rode a lot of years in Churchill, so I may have an advantage, but, you know, every year the jockey’s are great jockeys, so it doesn’t really matter, I think, at this point

 

Mike Penna: Hey listen, the big question mark for all of these three-year-olds at this point in the season is how will they handle a mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs. And what has—you would know better than anybody with Union Rags—what has he shown you that makes you believe that he’ll get that mile and a quarter, and he’ll be the same in a mile and a quarter as he is at the shorter distances?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, you know, I think is being aware and make a late run, you’ve tried ((inaudible))

 

Mike Penna: What are some of the things that you look for when you’re aboard him that tell you that he can—he’s going to finish the same way he finished as going a mile and a quarter?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, I think it’s mostly the start. You know, if you go a mile, mile and a quarter, —I mean mile and 16th or mile and an 8th—and after the while they just stop and you’re not going anywhere. I think the distance might be a problem, but if you get out and doing good with no problem, I think I’ll be fine there.

 

Mike Penna: One last question, one last follow-up, as this is—looked like during the Florida Derby that you just laid a few different gears. And I heard a lot of riders talk about a horse needing to make a few different runs in the Derby to be successful. Does he have those multiple gears?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, in Derby, you definitely have to have those gears – a lot of traffic, so definitely you have to have those gears to go through traffic. Yes, I think he has those gears, and when I get him out, you know, in the Florida Derby, he actually kicked on very nice for me so, yes, I think he’ll be good.

 

David Greening: Julien, along those same lines as a question that was asked earlier, I was wondering, when you look at what’s going to be here (inaudible), A do you view this as the toughest colony you’ve ridden in; and B, how confident are you that you have enough business to be as competitive as you want to be?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, it definitely is competitive tougher meet that anybody’s going to be in, anyway. I think you know, business wise, I mean we’ve got to work on it, but, I’ve been working for trainer Patrick Biancone in Florida and New York, too, so I feel like I pick up some business area.

 

David Greening: And how difficult it is Belmont? I mean obviously the mile and a half track, but do you feel that that plays into your strengths or is there’s a challenge at this course here?

 

Julien Leparoux: No, I mean I’ve been riding for New York trainers for years so I know the track. You really have to ask that to the other guys. I go over there in September before (inaudible), so I know the track. And, but, it’s going to be definitely interesting to see what always going to be a (inaudible).

 

Bill Finley: Yes, thank you Julien, another follow-up question. Back in the day, when you were riding in France or growing up in France, how much did you even know about the Kentucky Derby, and was your dream to win a race like the Arc de Triomphe and you didn’t even really consider something like the Derby?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, actually, in France (inaudible), so it was only in 2002, that’s the first one that I believe they showed on TV. So then after that, I followed it every year. Well, I came in 2003 so I watched it in 2002 and 2003. And then, you know, I was—I saw my first Derby in 2004 and, you know, it’s good on TV, but that’s amazing when you’re actually there and watch it, so I definitely was my dream the first year I was here and saw that.

 

Bill Finley: And, Julien, why did you come from France to try to ride in the United States?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, my first reason was actually to learn the language. And see, I did school and I finished school before. I never rode in France, actually, I never rode races. So what I did, I finished school and afterschool I went to see something in France, and I came here and just loved it and, you know, my dream was always to be a jockey, so we start make it real. (Inaudible) and since then I never wanted go back in France to ride, that’s for sure.

 

Bill Finley: When you first came here, just to be— as you said, to learn the language, did you expect that you would eventually go back to France to be a jockey there?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, you know, I was obviously younger and didn’t really know, you know, what to expect that at this point. So for me, I was just coming for the experience, learn the language, but also learn how to ride racehorses and, you know, after six months over here, I knew I want to stay here and try to be a jockey here, yes.

 

Eric Wing: Julien, one more from me before we say goodbye. You mentioned the traffic that’s always a part of the Kentucky Derby, and 20 horses, and you’re going to be riding a horse that will be coming from behind. I don’t want you to reveal your strategy, but will you go into the race with a plan or are such plans usually rendered pointless and you wind up just having to ride the race as it develops?

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, you always try to go with a plan in a race, you know, but to get a plan, you got to see first the post positions for everybody. But you cannot try to get a plan. But usually a race you have to ride your horse as it comes because, you know, you’ve got Plan A, but usually you need a Plan B and C, usually.

 

Eric Wing: And, Julien, do you indeed—or any rider for that matter, but you can only speak for yourself—do you come up with like three or four or five plans, or at what point do you say like all right this is enough?

 

Julien Leparoux: No, I think, I think you come up with only just one and try to see how the race is going to go. And then when you’re actually at the gate you’ve got to just make your own plan after that, you know, just tensions and…

 

Eric Wing: Then you’re relying on your experience at that point?

 

Julien Leparoux: Yes. Well, yes (inaudible) enough. I mean it’s just—I cannot, I cannot really explain it. It’s just something you got to do and and see how it goes.

 

Eric Wing: Yes, well it makes perfect sense, Julien, and we thank you for coming on the call with us today. And we wish you the best a week from Saturday aboard Union Rags

 

Julien Leparoux: Well, thank you very much.

 

Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s Julien Leparoux, running away with the Keeneland Title, as per usual, and mentioned earlier he’ll be shifting his tact over to New York after the Kentucky Derby, but he’s got some important business ahead of him at Churchill Downs, the most prominent of which is Union Rags on Kentucky Derby 138 Day.

 

Our third and final guest today is also going to be riding one of the real marquee horses in the race. We’re very happy to welcome in now Hall of Fame Jockey, Mike Smith.

 

Mike, Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for coming aboard with us today.

 

Mike Smith: Thanks for having me, Eric.

 

Eric Wing: Mike, over the last few years or even before that, really, people think of Mike Smith as the smart veteran, so adept at timing his move just right on horses like Giacomo, and Zenyatta and Drosselmeyer, to get them to the wire first in these mile and a quarter classics. Put us in your shoes. How is your job going to be different or how is it different when you are riding a speedy type of like Bodemeister?

 

Mike Smith: I guess, you know, the main concern is the fractions, I mean, you want to, you know, you certainly don’t want to go too, too quick otherwise, you know, it takes a toll on you towards the end, but it’s just a very naturally quick horse. A very, very gifted and we’ll be, you know, looking forward to place. That’s just the way it is. So my main concern is to get him relaxed, get him in a rhythm, and go from there.

 

Eric Wing: A few days before the Arkansas Derby, Mike, it was announced that you’d be riding Daddy Nose Best in Kentucky. Now we know that you’ll understandably be sticking with Bodemeister, but how does that all play out? Was it hard getting freed up from the Daddy Nose Best commitment?

 

Mike Smith: You know, yes, I have permission to get off, you know, I expected Bodemeister to run well and even probably win, and I didn’t expect him to do what he did. and in doing so, I mean, you know, Steve saw it and understood, and I’ve never really even been on the other horse before and I just wanted the opportunity, if I could, to ride Bodemeister and we agreed.

 

Eric Wing: Okay, so no hard feelings on Steve’s part, it sounds like?

 

Mike Smith: No, sir.

 

Jennie Rees: Yes, Mike, I wonder what Bob told you about Bodemeister before the race, and then in that context, what you thought about the horse after the race.

 

Mike Smith: You know, before the race he told me, you know, I mean he’s going to be forward (ph) and place. I mean he’s naturally quick. Get him out of there good and, you know, after that, of course, try and get him relaxed and then go from there, wherever that foot is either right on the lead or just off the lead. And I broke very well. Was able to secure the lead and, yes, he impressed me a whole lot more that I already kind of was of him. I’ve seen him before. I’ve watched him train, but that last eighth of a mile was pretty impressive.

 

Jennie Rees: And obviously, there’s a lot of speed in this race. With Hansen and Trinniberg, your thoughts on that and is he a horse that will rate, if needed?

 

Mike Smith: Well, I mean, he’s going to be ((inaudible)) in place, Jennie, and reading you know, that’s certainly not going to put us way back. Hopefully we get away well, and we’ll just see what happens from there. He’s quick in his own right, so we’ll just all have to see. No one really knows, do they, until we’re at the gate on who breaks better than who and, you know, it certainly isn’t going to take nothing away that comes easy for him .

 

Jennie Rees: Do you think—I mean what did you think when you heard about Trinniberg going? Do you think that’s going to have no impact on the pace with this other horses that are proven that, you know, two turn racing or did you say I was he would be going into the Derby trial?

 

Mike Smith: He’s a very good horse in his own right. You know, he deserves his shot if they want to take it, but, yes, I mean he is a quick horse, as well. Again, we’ll just have to see who draws where and, you know, who gets away well, and we’ll go from there. Like I said, you know, my horse is trained or his natural speed is high true-to-speed and I’m certainly not going to take it away from him.

 

Danny Brewer: Okay, you talked about the final furlong with Bodemeister. What was going through your mind? Was it just simply, don’t fall off and hold on tight?

 

Mike Smith: No, I mean, you know, he certainly needed the graded earnings to get him into the Derby, and just before April I kind (inaudible) took a bit of a peek back and saw Bob’s other horse about a week and a half off me so I went ahead and asked mine to run a bit. At that point to secure the race and, man, I mean, he jumped into (inaudible) and just accelerated into the 8th pole (ph), and I was just like, wow, he went from a matter of being, you know, a length and half in front to five, six, seven, pretty quick. Thank god (inaudible) recovered very well, very fast. I mean he should get the distance.

 

Danny Brewer: Do you think he likes you? And is it important to know—to have a horse-jockey relationship?

 

Mike Smith: Yes, I mean it certainly helps, doesn’t it, I mean in anything. I know him a little better now. I mean he’s such a straightforward horse. I mean, it’s not like you’ve got to get to know him to ride him. You know, Bob was confident in that, you know, in the horse, so it’s not like I need to really know him, but it was good to see him without the blinkers, the way that once you do get (inaudible) relaxed well and acted like he would go on if I needed him, so that was important.

 

Danny Brewer: Will you be aboard Amazombie on Derby Day also because I think he’s going to run at Churchill that day too, correct?

 

Tim Wilkin: Hey, Mike, ideally, what would you like to see the fractions in the Derby?

 

Mike Smith: Well, I mean if we get away well—I mean they’re not going to be slow just because they’re naturally great horses, you know. But either way with it, you know, 23, 47, 48 it would be great, something like that, you know. We’ll just have to wait and see, again, where we all draw and how it plays out, but, you know, there’s three or four of us in there that are just naturally quick so they’re going to be on the fast track. Like I said, (inaudible) so if I can get away with something like that that would be great.

 

Tim Wilkin: I know you haven’t been on—you’ve only been on him one time, but does he get, he doesn’t seem to get tired.

 

Mike Smith: He sure did seem at the end of the day (ph) and usually, you know, he’s still lightly racing and getting better with each and every start so I mean, you know, if he runs his same race back, I mean that puts him right there. And if he improves, then, you know, it’s going to be even better. You know, where that puts us in Derby Day, I don’t know, but I believe he’s going to run very well.

 

Debbie Arrington: Hi, Mike. Thank you very much for coming on here today. Does Bode remind you of any other horses you’ve been on before?

 

Mike Smith: You know, he’s certainly not the same color, but Holy Bull had a really high true-to-speed in him and then had a final eighth like that that was so impressive, because I mean a horse just had to run awful hard just to keep up with his true-to-speed and then, you know, you also have another gear the last pace to hold off the closers, and that’s kind of what this colt has.

 

Debbie Arrington: And do you think this race has really been shaping up as being a pretty wide open race until people saw what Bodemeister did. A lot of folks asked me—were calling him a freak and something that may just leave everybody behind. Do you feel like that could be a possibility?

 

Mike Smith: Well, I hope they’re right I certainly hope so. You know, his race was very impressive the other day. His number was very high. He was, you know, the older horses that ran 30 minutes before that, he ran a full second faster than—which was really impressive. Now we’ve go out there and do it on Derby Day. We all know many things can change awful quick on Derby Day. So, we, you know, God bless him and we get our trip and he gets the opportunity to run his race (inaudible), so I think that he can run a tremendous race, really.

 

Marc Doche: Hey, Mike. You’ve had an unbelievable career, obviously, and over the past year it’s kind of been accentuated with all the success. Have you considered or thought about a plan as far as how long you’re going to keep riding for?

 

Mike Smith: You know, I feel so good right now, I’d certainly like to at least go another five more, I keep telling myself. I might ride until I’m, you know, 50, 51, and then take a look at it from that point on, and then see what I want to do. If I want to continue to go a little farther, fine, if I don’t, and decide that I want to stop a little earlier, well then I will. You know, maybe—I want to stay in the industry in some way, I just don’t know exactly what I’m going to do yet, but I do plan on riding at least another five more.

 

David Greening: I know you’ve won this race in ’05 with Giacomo, but it feels like it’s been a while since you came into the race with the horse. And I was just wondering, you know, how much—you look back at the Derby rides, which, you know, does this horse get you as excited as say, when you rode the favorites back in the 90s like Holy Bull and Unbridled’s Song? Is this the first time since then that maybe you come with the real good?

 

Mike Smith: Yes, you know, it really—to be honest with you, yes, you’re exactly right. I mean you just kind of said it, kind of hit it on the head right then and there. But the important thing with him, too, is, you know, he’s getting over the racetrack well, and I guess he breezed over and looked great going over this morning, which is extremely important.

 

As you all know, a lot of horses, like Holy Bull, just didn’t handle that track that day for whatever reason. You need the same horses for (inaudible) before that and after that, but and on that track just didn’t handle it and so they need to be able to handle it. And then you look at a horse like Giacomo who just skipped over it like a little dear, absolutely loved it, so you just kind of hope that he takes to it, and if he does that then he gets his opportunity. I mean he can run extremely well.

 

David Greening: Is the fact that you have won it sort of makes it a little, you know, it’s not that pertinent to you to get it done or how much more, I guess, what matters, but how much do you want another one?

 

Mike Smith: Well, now you know what it feels like, Dave, you know, to win it so you even want it more, believe it or not. I mean everyone wants it, but man, once you get a taste of it, man, you want it even more. You just can’t—you don’t just want more than one, kind of like eating potato chips then.

 

David Greening: Yes, you eat a lot of those potato chips I’m sure. Thanks, Mike.

 

Mike Smith: You bet.

 

Frank Angst: Hey, I was curious about your relationship with Bob and what it’s like to work with him. He’s had, obviously, a lot of Derby success. Do you see him shifting into a different mode this time of year, and just kind of what that’s like?

 

Mike Smith: Well, he’s just a tremendous force. I mean he really is. I mean his record speaks for itself, and you know, I’ve always had a great working relationship with him. I don’t ride a lot for Bob, but when I do ride, when we’re knocking out (ph) a Grade 1 and I told him several months ago I’m sitting here, I’m waiting for you just to, you know, just let me know when I get to play coach. He said just sit there for a little bit. I think I’m going to have a few of them going in; it looks like anyway, so far so good.

 

I told him to hold that line up on Bode and was just incredible. But yes, I mean I’m so excited to be able to, you know, get this opportunity to ride for Bob in this kind of race, and I’m really looking forward to it.

 

Frank Angst: Obviously, yes, it that starts with great horses, but beyond that what are Bob’s strengths going into a race like this, do you think, in preparing a horse?

 

Mike Smith: Well, he’s prepared them so well. I mean, he get them—I mean they’re really straightforward. Man, they know what they’re in there for. And I mean they walk in that gate and they, you know, they usually leave there, they’ve got a lot on their mind, and it’s just a matter of, you know, if you can get your distance and handle the track, but all his horses are pretty straightforward. There’s not much course to them. I mean he gets them that way.

 

Liz O’Connell: Good afternoon. I’m just calling in to see if you’ve—want to say your possible or what would it be 2015, now, the Zenyatta baby? Have you visited him?

 

Mike Smith: I’m going to see him on Tuesday. It’s the first time I’m going to get him, so I’m excited about that as well.

 

Liz O’Connell: Excellent. Have you got your name in for him?

 

Mike Smith: No, they haven’t named him yet. I’m anxious to see what it’s going to be.

 

Liz O’Connell: Yes, yes, everybody is, I think. Okay, well thank you.

 

Mike Smith: You bet. If there’s no further questions I’m going to run inside the gym. I’ve got to get to training, myself.

 

Eric Wing: All right, well sounds good, Mike. Michelle, I don’t believe we had any more questions. Did we?

 

Eric Wing: All right, Mike, can’t thank you enough for taking the time. Have a good workout, and best of luck a week from Saturday aboard Bodemeister.

 

Mike Smith: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.

 

Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s Hall of Fame Jockey, Mike Smith. He will have the riding assignment and get a leg up from Bob Baffert among–aboard Bodemeister who we’ll have to wait and see, but could wind up being the morning line, if not the post time favorite for Kentucky Derby 138.

 

Well that’ll bring an end to today’s call. I want to thank all three of our guests, Elliott Walden, Julien Leparoux, and Mike Smith.

2016-12-14T16:10:29+00:00 April 24th, 2012|Categories: Teleconferences|
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