Eric Wing: Welcome to today’s NTRA communications National Media teleconference. Coming up this weekend, another Road to the Kentucky Derby telecast on the NBC Sports network. This week’s installment will come to you Saturday from 5 to 6: 00 p.m. Eastern time and the featured events on NBC with Christina Olivares with the live runnings of both the Florida Derby and also the Gulfstream Oaks for three-year-old fillies, both of those races taking place at Gulfstream Park. Another—obviously another big weekend ahead in looking at the three-year-old division, a little bit later on we’ll be talking to Bryan Sullivan, who is one of the two principals involved in Let’s Go Stable. They are the owners of El Padrino, who will be one of maybe seven or eight horses slated to take part in the Florida Derby. We’ll also take a look at Sunday’s Louisiana Derby, and to help us do that later on, we’re going to talk to the rider of Mark Valeski, that being Rosie Napravnik. Mark Valeski likely to go off as the favorite in that million dollar Louisiana Derby.
First of all, though, we’re going to focus in on Saturday’s big race at Gulfstream, the Florida Derby, and we’re happy to have with us now trainer, Michael Matz, who will send out Union Rags in that one. Michael, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being with us again.
Michael Matz: Yes, you’re welcome.
Eric Wing: Michael, the Fountain of Youth, as far as you are concerned, was that just a perfect comeback effort for your horse?
Michael Matz: Well, you never know after a four-month layoff and I thought I couldn’t have asked for anything more the way he came back and the way he came out of it, so I was very pleased with it.
Eric Wing: Okay, now you say he came out of it well. A lot of people utilize workout services to rate the morning performances. The few that I’ve seen regarding Union Rags since the Fountain of Youth have been unanimous in their glowing reports. Do you share that view?
Michael Matz: Well, he’s training well coming into the Derby, and so far, he’s done everything we’ve asked and I certainly have no complaints right now.
Danny Brewer: When you lost in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, as the only blemish on this horse’s record, did that cause you to rethink anything about this horse and how you train or how you work him?
Michael Matz: No. I mean, it was just a—it was a, I think an isolated incident and I think there was some other things involved that—I mean, he was going to have a rest after the Breeders’ Cup no matter what and—no, nothing changed it for me.
Danny Brewer: Now, he’s obviously extremely talented. What’s your thoughts on his versatility as a runner?
Michael Matz: His versatility? In which way?
Danny Brewer: Well, I mean do you think he can stalk? Can he come from behind? Can—I mean, what’s your thoughts on that? Is he versatile enough to get the things done in the Triple Crown, those challenges that may face him?
Michael Matz: He’s done it every which way you want to do it, and I don’t see that there’s any problem with how—I mean, he can run close to the pace, he can run off the pace, going—he can do whatever you ask him to do.
Danny Brewer: And essentially that’s what you’re—you think that that’s one of the essential elements to him being the horse that he is?
Michael Matz: Well, he’s got a terrific temperament, that’s for sure, and that obviously is a big asset when you’re dealing with horses in any manner, but he has a terrific mind and I think if he—in the Saratoga Special, he was right on the pace; Breeders’ Cup, he was way out of it. His last race, he was right off the pace, so I think it all depends how the race unfolds and he can do whatever—his mind is that good that I don’t think it really matters.
Bob Ehalt: Okay. Michael, my question, I’m just wondering, from your viewpoint, how fitting is it for Mrs. Wyeth to finally have a, such a horse like Union Rags? And also, can you just talk a little bit her as an owner of—what she’s like to work for?
Michael Matz: Well, for her to have a horse like this with—after what she’s been through her whole life, you know, in that wheelchair, I mean it’s—I think it’s pretty special for her, and I think it’s, you know, a great tribute to her that she’s sold the horse, and she had to have it back and she bought it back and she’s a wonderful person, and to work for, she couldn’t be any better.
Tim Dewire: I have a two-part question. Back in 2006, when you conditioned Barbaro, you bucked conventional wisdom by laying off—this was his last (inaudible) five weeks out to the Kentucky Derby. First part of that is what was your thinking at the time? And second part is, do you see a similar path for Union Rags, and if so, are there similarities between the two? What similarities do you see between the two horses?
Michael Matz: Well, I mean, I thought the time we gave Barbaro between the races was the proper time for him. The media didn’t think that, but I thought it was just best for my horse. The similarities between this horse and Barbaro, I mean they’re both big, strong horses and, again, the same—we’re taking the same route with the Florida Derby. And we didn’t do the Fountain of Youth with Barbaro but he had run another race before that, so he—Barbaro was going to have two races—three races before the Derby and Union Rags is only going to have two, but I think Union Rags did more as a two-year-old than Barbaro did. So it works out in a similar situation and they are both big, strong horses that can go a distance and they’re lovely dispositioned horses and this horse has a lot ways to go to prove what Barbaro has done but we sure hope we get the same results.
Jennie Rees: Yes, Michael, for those of us watching the Fountain of Youth on simulcast, I mean, you (inaudible) sheer joy. Could you reflect on what was going through your mind during the race, and also, was it nice to have a race where there wasn’t a lot of sort of drama as far as he’s (inaudible) is he going to be able to (inaudible)?
Michael Matz: Yes, that was a relief, that’s for sure. But, no, I—just to see the way that he, you know, he did it with (inaudible) and it’s like we said earlier, he couldn’t have ridden it any better that he ran that way in the Fountain of Youth and he came out of the race good and when Julian came back from him, I said, “Anything we should work on?” He said—or I said, “Is there anything you can tell me?” and he said, he says, “No, when I asked him to wait, he waited; when I asked him to go, he went.” And he said, “He just was good in the gait, he broke good.” He said it was uneventful, and he said it was just a nice, easy ride. So, yes, you’re right, I was very relieved to have an uneventful race.
Jennie Rees: Yes. The last time you were on a conference call, you were talking about how Julian had—originally, you were trying to get him to ride the horse at Saratoga and he had something that fell through and he’s been trying to get on since. Can you talk about what Julian brings to the table with this horse, or with any horse?
Michael Matz: He’s a very patient rider. He doesn’t look like he gets too nervous when something isn’t going right; he’ll wait it out. I think he has a good feel for a horse; he’s got good hands. And the one thing with this horse is he’s a very—and I have to give credit to my assistant and Peter Brett, is that Peter rides him all the time and he has a beautiful mouth on him andhe’s easy to control for such a big horse as he is, and he’s just a joy to be around and you can do anything with him, I can’t tell you that there’s—the only bad thing, when you walk him in the ground, he can be a little bit of a bully that way, but I’d rather have at least that than have a rider on top of him and do some things, so when he’s under tack, he’s just a real gentleman.
Jennie Rees: Can you just sort of articulate the differences or changes in him, especially in the wake of having seen one more race, or another race in him from three to two?
Michael Matz: Well, Jennie, I just think it’s a chance that he had some time off after his two-year-old season. He grew a lot and I just think the fact that he matured physically and mentally is what we’re looking at right now. We’re just looking at a bigger, stronger, a more mature horse.
Jennie Rees: the question, but would you have been very disappointed having not gone on and matured like you thought he probably would go on and do?
Michael Matz: As a three-year-old?
Jennie Rees: Yes, right, right, had he not made that jump from two to three? I mean, did he always give you the signs that this horse is going to be better at three than he is at two, and he was awful good at two?
Michael Matz: I would say as, you know, we weren’t sure if he would get to the race as he just sort of, as big as he is, and he just came around so quickly as a two-year-old, we sort of planned to have four races with him and give him a break, and we always thought the longer the distances got, the better he would be.
Tim Wilkins: Hey, Michael. When did you realize that this horse had the potential to be something special?
Michael Matz: Well, he worked well as a two-year-old, he worked well in the sales ((inaudible)) when we got him back to the farm at Fair Hill. He just did everythingthe way you would want a horse to do it. He was very professional and we were working him and he worked with other two-year-olds, he worked with older horses; and when he was ready to run five-eighths, I said to Peter, I said, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t give him some experience and —there was a race at Delaware Park going five-eighths of a mile and he was doing everything right at the farm and he was ready to do that. Now, he wasn’t ready to do much more than that but—so we just thought that it would be a world of experience to let him do that, and we didn’t really think that—I’m not noted for having sprint horses that well (ph). But even with me training him, he won that race so he must be a good horse.
Tim Wilkins: How much better can he get?
Michael Matz: Well, I—I don’t—you know, again, like I say, he’s just coming in for his three-year-old season and I couldn’t be happier the way he’s training and the way he’s working. I think he—I hope he makes a step forward from the Fountain of Youth and that—I hope we see a real good horse this summer.
Lucas Marquardt: Hi, Mr. Matz. Thanks for joining us. Was hoping you could talk about what you’ve done in the mornings with Union Rags since the Fountain of Youth. It looks like you had two, you know, kind of slower works right after the race and then last time picked it up a little bit. You know, have you done anything different with him in the mornings, after the race and before, and have you.
Michael Matz: No.
Lucas Marquardt: how you train him?
Michael Matz: No. We are just—we’re just trying to do what we feel the horse needs and I don’t think you have to do a fast work all the time, and his—what he did do, I mean even when he worked the slow five-eighths, he galloped out, he went seven-eighths of a mile in 1: 30 so I mean he did a lot of good things and he’s doing what we’ve asked him to do, I could tell you. He’s a delight to train. He’ll do whatever you want him to do. I just don’t see any reason that every week you have to, you know, have a race.
Lucas Marquardt: (Inaudible). And the other thing I wanted to ask you, have you looked past the—looked past (inaudible) at all in terms of when you might come up to Churchill Downs?
Michael Matz: Well, we’ve put a lot of thought into it. We—I’m not sure I’m—it’s making me a little nervous. This winter down here in Florida has been so nice and the winter up north has been so good that I’m afraid we’re going to get killed during the spring. But hopefully not and he’s going to stay down here for two weeks after the Florida Derby and have a maintenance work (inaudible) and we’re going to make a decision when he comes up north. I don’t want to get to Churchill and then we have a rainy spring, so it’s a possibility to go Keeneland and then go over to Churchill. I haven’t thought that far.
Lucas Marquardt: Right, so you came up to (inaudible) with Barbaro, right, worked him once there?
Michael Matz: Yes. I mean, at that time when we came up with Barbaro, there was—they also had the Duratrack in, the synthetic track, not that that would make that much of a difference but I just—you know, it’s play it by ear. I know he’s definitely going to stay down here two weeks after the Florida Derby and have his maintenance work down here.
Linda Robertson: I wanted to ask you about your career and how gratifying it is to have a horse like Union Rags after what happened with Barbaro and Barbaro’s owners and that whole—where they let you go and they didn’t seem to give much of an explanation and, just talk about how, you know, how your career has gone since then.
Michael Matz: Well, I mean, it’s something we have to move on with. I mean, I was just grateful for the Jacksons that I had Barbaro. It did, you know, it did hurt an awful lot when I didn’t know why I was let go, but anyway, that’s over with and, like I say, I, you know, just have to look at it that they were lucky enough to—I was lucky enough that they gave me a horse like Barbaro to train and be lucky enough that Mrs. Wyeth gave me a horse like this to train. So, I have no complaints. I’m, you know, lucky to be back there again and hopefully, like after the Florida Derby, that we’ll put our sights on the Kentucky Derby and we’ll just—like I say, I—you just can’t look at things like that. I got to look at it to the point where I was lucky enough that the Jacksons gave me Barbaro, so it’s just—it’s finished and it’s done and that’s the way it goes.
Linda Robertson: Do you ever hear from them?
Michael Matz: No.
Michael Matz: No. They—no, I mean like I say, I have, you know, no—it hurt at the time but certainly I’m over that now. I mean, I wish them all the best of luck and, you know, I’m sure should they wish the same for me, so that’s—I’m sure I’ll run into them along the way and, like I say, they live very close to us and I’m sure I’ll see them in—around the town or something like that. But, you know, they—they’re busy. They have their horses and, you know, and that’s—it is what it is.
Linda Robertson: Michael, let me—oh sorry, go ahead.
Michael Matz: No, no, it’s fine.
Linda Robertson: Okay. One other thing I wanted to ask you, another thing from your past is when you were in that airplane crash and you rescued the passengers, do you ever hear from those people or do you ever wonder what became of them?
Michael Matz: Well, my wife keeps in touch with the children.
Linda Robertson: Really?
Michael Matz: Yes. They’re grown up now. They came the last time to the Derby when Barbaro was there, and they’re all grown up and Melissa, the girl, she had some children and I don’t know if the two boys are married, so—but my wife does keep up with them and we keep up with their parents too.
Linda Robertson: Where do they live?
Michael Matz: They live in Wyoming.
Linda Robertson: Okay.
Michael Matz: Laramie, Wyoming, the—they live out there and they just took a trip around the world, so we got a letter from them about a month or so ago, so they’ve been doing a lot of traveling.
Linda Robertson: When you look back on that experience, I mean do you have sort of, you know, awful memories or good memories or (cross talking).
Michael Matz: With Barbaro?
Linda Robertson: No, with that plane crash.
Michael Matz: Oh, well I mean, nobody wants to go through that, that’s for sure. But, no, I just try to—I try to ignore it. I mean, it’s something that happened and, you know, we were lucky enough to survive and I don’t look at it as a good or a bad; it’s something I never want to do.
Michael Matz: But, you know, that—it was a long time ago and so I just try not to look back at it.
John Pricci: Good afternoon, Michael. Last time you were on with us, you were pretty philosophical about Union Rags’ trip in the Breeder’s Cup recently you have said that, I’m sure (inaudible) tried everything he knew, everything that he can do to win the race but it didn’t work out. But it sounded there like there was some regret in there and, you know, it seemed that there was some resentment about the margin of victory, like considering the narrow defeat in the Breeder’s Cup, a little resentment regarding the margin of Eclipse’ victory by Hansen over Union Rags. Can you speak to that?
Michael Matz: Well, I think you’re right. I just—I was just surprised that it was such a—and I think this is—I’m not—I don’t want to speak for everybody, but I think when you look at something yourself and you see something one way and something comes up that is really differently, you say, how could I be so wrong? And I think that’s what I was getting at, at that point, that it was only a head and yet the voting was, like, three to one. I just didn’t think —I mean, if the criteria was the Breeder’s Cup, which is fine, I just—I mean, I just was surprised that it was—that I could be that—you know, not to say that I can’t be wrong; I certainly can be wrong, but I just thought that it—I found it difficult for me that it was that far off base. And that’s what I meant about that.
John Pricci: In that regard, the term world championship races, given your experience and what you just said right now, do you think maybe a little too much emphasis is placed on the results of the Breeder’s Cup as opposed to, say, the body of work over an entire season?
Michael Matz: Well, I mean is, then that’s fine if we know what the criteria is. I don’t think that is the—for what I understand, I certainly could be wrong, but I think when you say this is—when you’re picking a champion, it just doesn’t say that from one race, does it? I mean, the year Zenyatta was champion, the year she lost the Breeder’s Cup, and I don’t know—that sort of was funny to me in that situation. I thought she should have got it the year before, but she didn’t and if this is the people that are voting for it, they should—and I could—and I certainly could see it if the horse would have gotten beat by five lengths or—and they had a very—they both had good trips. I didn’t think my horse had the best trip and he got beat a head. It’s just my own opinion. I’m sure I’m prejudiced but—and biased, but that was just my feelings towards it and whether it’s right or wrong, obviously the people that did the voting for the Eclipse awards had a different feeling, which is fine. But that was my feeling towards that matter.
John Pricci: And finally, the last one from me, in that context, listen, a lot of the voters, of which I am and many other people listening are, you know, there are no rules, so you as a horseman, would you be in favor of some sort of objective standard and then bringing the element of a vote to it? You know, what do you think might better improve the situation?
Michael Matz: Well, I think it’s the same thing where you—when you’re talking about the Eclipse awards for the jockey or the Eclipse awards for the trainer. I mean, make it—you know, if there is no rules, then it’s usually done by—I mean, Graham Motion had a hell of a year last year and he didn’t even get a nomination. I mean, my goodness, and—went from the start to the finish and he didn’t even get in the top three. I mean, maybe it was one of those years but, you know, if they want to make it, the Breeder’s Cup for the two-year-olds, then that’s perfectly fine. If they want to make it money won for the trainer or the jockey, that’s fine; it would be a lot clearer. But if it’s supposed to be over the whole year, that’s one thing. I just didn’t—like I say, if it was for the whole year, for me, I just could not see the big three to one ratio in the voting. That’s all I was getting at.
Jon White: Michael, as far as Saturday’s race is concerned, is there anything that you’re worried about?
Michael Matz: Well, I’m—you’re always worried about the same thing that can happen at the Breeder’s Cup, but Jon, he has trained very well coming into the race. We set a schedule for him the beginning of the year, so far, and we’ve been able to follow that, and our main goal is to get to Kentucky Derby and May, and so far, everything has gone as we had planned to reach that goal at this point. He’s trained well. I mean, if he gets beat by a, you know, a better horse then—then he did, but he has done everything we’ve asked him to do. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody right now. I’m just real happy to have a horse like this and be able to be in this position where you’ve set a plan and a lot of times these plans don’t go like you expect them to go and, knock on wood, so far it’s been straight down the line what we’ve planned.
Jon White: What would you say is this colt’s best attribute?
Michael Matz: Well, his disposition is fantastic. He’s fast. His disposition is good. I mean, we took him down to school in the paddock last week at Gulfstream and he just walked around there like, you know, he just came off the van and walked over there. (Inaudible) walking him up into the paddock, they were getting ready for the first race, they rang the bell to see that it worked and gave a little buck and then walked—continued walking in there. I mean, it didn’t upset him. I think those are the things that will make a good racehorse and I think they call that class. I mean, he’s got plenty of that. I can’t tell you, you know, how great it is to wake up and go down to the barn in the morning and look in his stall and see his ears looking out at you and like he wants to train, so it’s just a delight to have a horse like this.
Jon White: Well, thank you very much for all your cooperation with the media. Not—you know, through the Barbaro time but, you’ve continued on with Union Rags and it’s very much appreciated, I think, and you mentioned Union Rags has class. I think, from that standpoint, you’ve exhibited a lot of class as well, and I personally thank you for that, Michael.
Michael Matz: Thank you.
Jon White: And thanks for your time today.
Michael Matz: All right. You’re welcome.
Marc Doche: Hi, Michael. I know they haven’t drawn the race yet for Saturday, but in your estimation, who would you consider to be the biggest challengers to Union Rags on Saturday?
Michael Matz: Well, I don’t—I mean, obviously he’s never ran against Todd’s horse, El Padrino, and I think he’s an awfully nice horse, and actually, I tried to get somebody to buy him as a yearling but they never returned my phone call, so I think he’s quite a nice horse and, you know, Pat Byrnes horse is nice. He has run against that horse once as a two-year-old. I don’t know the horse, Reveron, that—he’s from Calder and obviously the horse that was second in the Fountain of Youth certainly has a right to improve and he and (inaudible) horse had, I think, a pretty bad trip in the Fountain of Youth so I think that, you know, I think that’s why they call it horseracing, so—but obviously, I think Todd’s horse, El Padrino, probably is the horse that—he’s won in his last two starts so I think he’s, you know, probably the horse that he’ll have to contend with and (inaudible) certainly could improve after that last race. It looked like he ran well there.
Marc Doche: And when you look around the country at other circuits and the other three-year-olds that are running, who would you consider to be the top five maybe, because obviously, most people have Union Rags on top or near the top; who would you consider to be the biggest challengers right now?
Michael Matz: Well, I guess the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile was a pretty good race because all those horses came back and won pretty nicely, so I would say that probably was a key race and those horses looked like if they mature from two to three, they’d be pretty darn, you know, good horses to have. I’m sure there’s always—I don’t know a lot of the horses on the West Coast or down in Louisiana. I don’t know them so it’s really hard to say anything about those horses.
Eric Wing: Okay. Well, Michael, very good of you to spend so much time with us. Obviously, there’s a lot of interest in you and your horse and we wish you and Union Rags the best of luck Saturday in the Florida Derby.
Michael Matz: Well, thank you so much.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s Michael Matz, trainer of Union Rags, and Michael will give a leg up to Julian Leparoux aboard what will undoubtedly be the favorite for the million dollar mile and an eighth Grade I event at Gulfstream on Saturday. That race, again along with the Gulfstream Oaks, live on NBS Sports network, 5: 00 p.m. Eastern as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
Our next guest made history last year as the first woman to win the Louisiana Derby, the first woman to win a Fair Grounds riding title and just the sixth woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby. She certainly has an opportunity to achieve all those things again this year in 2012. We welcome in now the rider of Mark Valeski, Rosie Napravnik. Rosie, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for joining us on the call today.
Rosie Napravnik: Hi, Eric, and hi to everybody else. Thank you for having me.
Eric Wing: Rosie, first of all, unlike most weekend races on a Tuesday, the Fair Grounds—the Louisiana Derby has already been drawn, a field of 14. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to look over the field, but it is a bulky field and there appears to be quite a bit of speed in the race, or at least a couple who are exiting sprint races and figure to be quite prominent early. What did the race look like to you when you took a gander at it?
Rosie Napravnik: You know, it actually looks—we don’t have too many horses coming in from out of town, or at least not too many of them that have been winners of—from the other prep races, so the race looks a little bit wide open. I think some of the toughest horses are actually coming out of maiden races that they’ve won impressively, Cigar Street being one of them. But like you said, you know, there’s a lot of speed in the race. One of the horses is Hero of Order who’s been a really hard knocker here down at Fair Grounds in local races; he’s run a lot throughout the late winter and the early spring, and he’s actually, you know, run relatively well. Also there’s the—another speed horse of Ron Sochet’s (ph) who is coming out of some cheaper races but has been running some big numbers. And then Cigar Street is Steve Margolis’ horse who just broke his maiden with a huge number, and he’s got some speed as well. I think the greatest thing about Mark Valeski is that he’s, you know, 100% versatile. He is a very kind horse, he’s easy to ride and he’ll probably do whatever it is I ask when we come out of the gates as far as the race setting up.
Eric Wing: Rosie, as the current leading rider at the Fair Grounds, your services are obviously in high demand and while Mark Valeski may be the most prominent of your stakes mounts, certainly not the only one. You’ll be on Believe You Can Friday in the Fair Grounds Oaks and on Saturday in the New Orleans Handicap, you’ll be on Pants On Fire, who you won the Louisiana Derby with last year and rode in the Kentucky Derby. Will that horse always hold a special place in your heart?
Rosie Napravnik: Absolutely. You know, I was asked this morning in an interview with a local TV station what’s been my greatest moment in my career, and it’s probably a tossup between the roar of the crowd in the Kentucky Derby, but I think I’d have to say, you know, my greatest moment in my career was winning the Louisiana Derby and, you know, obviously that horse does hold a special place to me. And, you know, it would be almost too good to be true if we came back the next year and won the New Orleans Handicap, but I think we’ve got a shot to do it. This also seems like a pretty tough race and we got Mission Impossible coming back who won it last year so I’m sure he’s going to be a very tough horse, and there’s a few others in there that looks like they’re going to be very competitive. So, you know, I’m really looking forward to getting back on Pants On Fire. He ran well last time I rode him, and I know he’s had a bunch of time off so he came back fresh from that layoff with a (inaudible) at Gulfstream, and he’s looking like he’s in really good form, so I’m really looking forward to that race as well.
Jason Shandler: Hi, Rosie. I know Mark Valeski worked this morning. Could you talk a little bit about how he went? And also in talking to Larry Jones, even after Mr. Bowling won the Lecomte, I know he was just as high on Mark Valeski, if not higher than Mr. Bowling, so can you talk about, you know, that horse and how, you know, he’s progressed kind of since he came to Fair Grounds?
Rosie Napravnik: He worked—Mark Valeski worked fabulous this morning. I believe it was the bullet (ph) work and it wasn’t as fast as it was last week, but I don’t think it needed to be. He’s feeling great. He probably felt as good this morning in his (inaudible) as he has since I have sat on him for the first time. I know, like you said, Larry Jones has—he’s been high on the horse since before he even ran in the Risen Star and, from my standpoint at that point, I was impressed with your sprint races and obviously there were questions of whether he would go long and getting into the stakes company for the first time, but he’s done nothing but impress me every time I sit on the horse and he just exudes class and I think he’s really the real deal. So, I have just tons of confidence going into the Louisiana Derby.
Danny Brewer: All right. Hey, listen, there has been girl power in horseracing in the last three or four years, what with Rachel Alexandra’s Zenyatta (inaudible), Chantal Sutherland, you, there’s—it’s just girls everywhere are just taking control. What’s your thoughts on that, and how do you feel about being a big part in that?
Rosie Napravnik: Well, I think it’s great to see women in this industry being so successful and, you know, it really has been unbelievable. The real stars of racing in the past four years or so have been—it’s unbelievable females, you know, horse and human. Like you said, from Rachel to Zenyatta to Black Caviar and Linda Rice, you know, scored the leading training title at Saratoga; Chantal is riding the World’s Cup at Dubai for, you know, the first female to do that and, you know, myself riding in the Derby last year was really awesome. So, I mean it’s really been—I guess it shows, you know, that, like you said, the girl power is something to watch out for and the women in this industry are—you know, can absolutely compete with the best of them. And, you know, we’ve got Maggi Moss coming down for the leading owner title at Fair Grounds again and so it’s just really—it’s great to see that there’s, you know, so many of successful women in the industry at this time.
Danny Brewer: Do you think that having the girl power can help expand the fan base of thoroughbred horseracing?
Rosie Napravnik: Absolutely. I mean, it’s something that brings attention to the game and, you know, it’s—like, for example, when I rode in the Derby last year, it just brought a whole lot of popularity due to Pants On Fire and to the whole team and to the game and, you know, all the women in the United States that were watching the game were betting on number seven because there was a girl jockey. So, you know, I think anything that stands out in the industry is going to attract a new fan base, anything that stands out, and in the recent years, it’s (inaudible). In the recent years, it’s been, you know, these female stars that have really brought out the popularity and the attention focused on them, being Zenyatta and Rachel; I mean, there’s a rivalry, but it’s just anything that’s going to stand out in the industry is going to bring the new fan base and I think it’s great that right now it’s just how well the women in the industry are doing.
Danny Brewer: Do you think Mark Valeski can give you a second consecutive mount in the Kentucky Derby?
Rosie Napravnik: I’ll tell you one thing; I wouldn’t trade places with anybody in that race, absolutely not. I mean, I have all the confidence in the world in going into Louisiana Derby and, like I said, he’s done nothing but impress me.
Eric Wing: Rosie, one more from me, if I may, before we say good-bye. In the Risen Star stakes, that was your first ride aboard Mark Valeski in a race, going a mile and a sixteenth, you got run down late by a very nice horse in El Padrino. On Sunday, you’ll be stretching out an extra sixteenth and picking up six pounds in a big field. Any concerns whatsoever about your horse’s ability to get the mile and an eighth?
Rosie Napravnik: Actually not. I don’t think that he’s distance limited and, you know, having run against—having run his first (inaudible) race against one of the top horses in the country, being El Padrino, and in my opinion, you know, we should have and would have come out the winner if there was no interference in that race. You have to remember that there was an inquiry and a claim of foul, and I truly believe that he would have won that race if—had we not been bumped around and leaned on most of the way down the lane, so I think, you know, he’s only going to improve off of that race. I don’t think that the distance is going to limit him, and you know, I don’t really have any hesitation with the mile and the eighth or going into this race in the Louisiana Derby.
Eric Wing: All right. Well, Rosie, I think you sold yourself short earlier when you said the impact you had on the Derby was in part because you’re a woman. You also represented yourself extremely well throughout all of that. We thank you for your time today and here’s hoping that you get another ride in Louisville come five weeks from now.
Rosie Napravnik: Thank you all very much.
Eric Wing: That’s Rosie Napravnik. She’s the rider of Mark Valeski, who is part of a coupled entry with Mr. Bowling and certainly, Mark Valeski, the horse on paper that appears to be the one to beat in Sunday’s million dollar Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
Okay, we have a third and final guest with us now. We will shift our sights back to the Florida Derby, which is on Saturday, a million dollars in its own right, Grade I event and with us now is the recently mentioned El Padrino, his owner, or one of his owners, Bryan Sullivan, who is part of Let’s Go Stable. Bryan, it’s Eric Wing in New York. Thanks for being with us today.
Eric Wing: Glad you can be with us, Bryan, and first of all, congratulations on the success you’ve already had with El Padrino and can you fill us in on Let’s Go Stable? I know it’s really you and your partner, Kevin Scatuorchio, who kind of head that up. Tell us how it came into being and where it’s at right now.
Bryan Sullivan: Sure. You know, we formed it in 2006 and Kevin and I are partners, it’s 50/50 and, you know, we raise money for the respective two-year-old training sales and yearling sales throughout the year, we kind buy a number of horses and syndicate them out as a group. So El Padrino is actually part of five other horses; there are six in that fund, per se, and we spent 1.3 million buying the six of them. And we basically kind of syndicate them out, almost like a hedge fund, so you’re kind of owning a diverse group of horses because we know this game is so tough and it’s tough to put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.
Eric Wing: Okay. Now—and that’s for sure. With respect to the Florida Derby, Bryan, I suppose it could have been a very easy decision for you and Kevin and Todd Pletcher to go right back to Louisiana where you had won the Risen Star. Instead, you’re willing to take on Union Rags, not the same day but only one day later. Was it purely a matter of staying home, or was there any other reason to not go back to the site of your previous victory?
Bryan Sullivan: I think staying home was the driving force behind it. You know, it’s a million dollars; they’re both million dollar races. It’s a Grade I which had some weight as well, but at the end of the day, we figured, hey, our horse loves Gulfstream Park, we can just take a quick van ride down to Gulfstream as well and, you know, I had a great time at Louisiana. The folks there were great and I would have loved to have come back, but at the end of the day, to run out there, it’s a week commitment from our horse. We probably would have had to leave today or tomorrow and you don’t come back until the following Monday or Tuesday. So, when you’re—when you get down to this point, you kind of say to yourself, okay, we went to the Risen Star, we set out to do what we accomplished, get some graded earnings, mission accomplished there.
So now you’re trying to manage your horse two ways. You’re trying to manage him the best to get a win next time and also with the Kentucky Derby kind of in the background. You know, although it’s still far, you know, a far away, we think that this sets him up best for that, you know, and does anyone really want to run against Union Rags right now? You know, I don’t think anybody in the country does but, you know, our horse is really, really doing well right now and he’s getting better all the time and a mile and an eighth is going to be right up his alley. But none of these races are going to come up easy but, you know, we’re going to take a shot and we’re going to have some fun doing it, I can tell you that.
Danny Brewer: Is this a measuring stick of sorts for El Padrino?
Bryan Sullivan: I guess that’s a—yes, it’s a good question, a fair question. You know, our horse is somewhat of a lazy horse and he’s a very—I don’t know if you’ve seen him in person; he’s a very big horse, almost kind of like a Union Rags, very physically imposing horse, and he’s a kind of horse, the more you do with him, the better he is. And, you know, with that, he kind of runs to his competition and we just think that when we looked at how he came out of the race, not shipping (ph), maybe a shorter field and also, you know, taking on Union Rags, this was the best spot for him. Now, we’d love to win on Saturday. I don’t think we have to, but I think we got a big shot.
Danny Brewer: So, as long as you get the kind of effort you’re looking for, then it’s off to Louisville in the first Saturday in May?
Bryan Sullivan: Sure. I think if he runs a, you know, a good race and comes out of it in one piece, we’re going to be hopefully heading to Louisville shortly thereafter. But, you know, I don’t—we’re trying to win this race as well, so I don’t want to think that we’re not in there to try and win this race either.
Danny Brewer: Does the five weeks between the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby concern you at all?
Bryan Sullivan: No, that’s how I prefer—you prefer the five weeks. You know, we’d kicked around the Wood, we had kicked around some other options; you know, everything was in play, everything’s a mile and an eighth, none of the races are going to be easy, per se. I just think when you stacked up the pros and cons, just—we kept coming back to the Florida Derby.
Danny Brewer: I appreciate your time, and I wish you the best of luck.
Bryan Sullivan: Thank you. Appreciate that.
Operator: Thank you. The next question comes from Jim Freer of Miami Herald. Please go ahead.
Jim Freer: Bryan, how are you?
Bryan Sullivan: Good, Jim.
Jim Freer: I was one of the many people at Gulfstream the day your horse won the allowance on that rainy day. What were your thoughts looking back on the way that day shaped up? Were you concerned about it, and what did it mean, the fact that he ran so dominantly in the slop?
Bryan Sullivan: I don’t know if I was concerned about it. I mean, we’ve always thought a lot of him. I mean, we thought a lot of him when JJ had him on his farm – JJ being Todd’s father – and to be honest with you, I don’t know if I’ve ever been as disappointed as the way he ran in the Remson. The Remson was a really strange race. It was almost like a grass race that was run on the dirt; they kind of crawled, then they kind of sprinted home and El Padrino kind of just found himself on the rail, kind of fell asleep and didn’t really realize what was going on until it was too late. So, I think we kind of came into this year, you know, deep down knowing we had a good horse, but he really hadn’t, you know, put the numbers up there and really hadn’t put that race that said, wow. So, I mean, as soon as he crossed the finish line, I remember just turning to Todd and Kevin and just saying, okay, wow, here we are; you know, the light bulb finally went on. And, you know, Todd’s done a great job with him. You tinker with him just a few different things and—but, you know, we’re excited and everyone else is excited. But, yes, I mean that was a big, big race for him that he finally took that step and said, okay, here I am.
Jennie Rees: Hey, Bryan, we know that Kevin and his dad certainly been in the business. How about yourself? Did you grow up a racing fan, or was it meeting Kevin?
Bryan Sullivan: You know, I did not—the first race I probably went to was when (inaudible) ran in the Haskell, and I actually ended up, you know, married to Jim’s daughter, Courtney, so…
Jennie Rees: Right.
Bryan Sullivan: Yes, so I didn’t. I’m a very competitive person by nature. I was a big sports—you know, soccer and tennis in high school and college and things like that, so I think what I’m attracted to is the competition and the game and it’s so hard to get where we are right now that you really, really appreciate it. But to answer your question, no, but I am fully—and I’ve been kind of fully engaged in the game for the last 10 or 15 years. I actually worked at the Clinton Group, which is a hedge fund, before I did this full time, which is run by George Hall, so I knew George obviously (cross talking).
Jennie Rees: Okay, sure, yes.
Bryan Sullivan: So…
Jennie Rees: Was that a big jump, though, to give up a day job (cross talking), or is it similar, actually (cross talking)?
Bryan Sullivan: You know what? Someone told me you’re supposed to do what you love in life and this is what I truly love. It’s—believe me, it’s harder than anything I’ve ever done, but I get to stay home and work out of my house and travel to (inaudible) Kentucky and Florida for the sales but I get to be with my family a decent amount, which is important to me.
Jennie Rees: Yes. You had Ready’s Echo; that was through your (inaudible) into the Triple Crown. Can you talk about the difference (inaudible) that horse, he was kind of a long shot going into Belmont, versus having a horse who, you know, in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, was one of the favorites. What does that do, I mean, for—you know, I mean, you all form partnerships when you have a horse like that.
Bryan Sullivan: You know, it’s—you know, when you can’t buy it with money, it’s the greatest form of advertising and, like I said, we’re trying to capitalize on that but we’re also trying to say, hey, you know what? This is very, very tough to be where we are right now so let’s also try and enjoy it. That’s what we’re doing with our—with the nine investors that are part of this horse. But, you know, he’s a completely different horse than Ready’s Echo. Ready’s Echo was a, more of a late developing horse that we really just couldn’t figure out his optimal distance. You know, it took us a year and a half to really figure it out, but he seemed to be just a come from behind kind of seven eighths to a mile closer and we figured it out at four-year-old year. But, you know, I think this is a much ((inaudible)) animal than Ready’s Echo and he was a very good horse to us, but I mean, we’ve thought about—a lot of this horse since day one and it’s just—it’s really rewarding for myself, Todd and JJ to get to this point.
Jennie Rees: Are you looking forward actually to taking on Union Rags and seeing how you stack up with him?
Bryan Sullivan: You know, I am. I am. You know, happy to say I saw his work and I’ve been down in Florida for the last five or six weeks too with our horse so I’ve seen Union Rags in person, I’ve seen him train and I know what kind of horse he is, and believe me, he’s a very, very impressive horse. He’s—in my opinion, he should be undefeated. He ran a hell of a race in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, just kind of got to wandering in the stretch. But, you know, happy is excited, happy is saying, you know, is this the right move? But we’ve gone over it, you know, 10 different ways and this is—makes the most sense for our partnership for our horse, and that’s what we’re going to do.
Jennie Rees: Well, would it be a surprise if you beat him.
Bryan Sullivan: It would not.
Brian Zipse: Bryan, I’m just—Jennie asked about what this might mean to the partnership. I was wondering, have you received a lot more interest for people investing in the partnership since the success of El Padrino?
Bryan Sullivan: You know what? We’ve had a lot of inquiries and I think a lot of the current investors are really enthused, we haven’t got to a point where—we mainly buy yearlings. We’ll buy some two-year-olds. We bought some two weeks ago but that was for a small fund ((inaudible)). So we definitely have received a lot of kind of inquiries and things like that but it hasn’t come to the point where we said, hey, okay, we’re going to buy some more horses so let’s—who wants to write some checks? So, you know, for me, it’s—until they want to write a check, do I really know? But yes, I mean there’s, you know, there’s a lot more excitement and a lot more activity, per se, than there was six months ago.
Brian Zipse: Great. You mentioned that this is a different type of horse than Ready’s Echo and I think probably on a few different levels. What is this going to mean to you personally to bring a real legitimate contender to the Kentucky Derby?
Bryan Sullivan: You know, when it’s such a tough race to win, and I know that just because my father-in-law has raced two horses, More Than Ready and Scat Daddy, and we were there both times, and I know the best horse usually doesn’t win that race. But a horse like this, he’s so laid back, nothing bothers him, he has tactical speed and then when you ask him, he can come home in 23 seconds or what need you be. And to me, he’s just the type of horse, we’ve always said this since, you know, he was two years old on JJ’s farm, that the further the better, the further the better. He’s a big horse and I just think he’s got the mindset, the pedigree and all that stuff that, if I’m going to take a shot to say, hey, this is the horse I want to be in the Kentucky Derby with, it’s going to be this horse. I mean, if you look at his pedigree and the way he looks, I’ll probably never own a horse like this ever again.
Brian Zipse: Yes, it kind of gets into my last question. You mentioned earlier that you’re looking forward to the mile and eighth on Saturday. You think it might even be better as the distances get longer, even going on forward to the Belmont if we get that far?
Bryan Sullivan: Yes. He’s just got—he just can—he can run at that : 48 half like it’s nothing and then he can kick home, and if you look at his races, I mean we’re a length and a half away from being undefeated. I’m not saying that we should be undefeated, but if we ran a first time out going seven eighths just because we knew he was not going to be the horse to go out there and run a six furlong sprint race. So, if you look at the way he runs, he’s just got that tactical speed, he’s a fighter and I think that, you know, he’s—in my opinion, he’s one of the top horses in the country. Obviously, there are some other ones right there with him and Union Rags being the leader, but you know, like I think I’ve heard one or two people say, I don’t think I would trade spots with anybody right now.
Carol Holden: You mentioned you’ve had quite a few years experience now in racing with your father-in-law and now with these partnerships, so can you give me your absolute number one favorite thing about the partnerships, and then your number one least favorite thing about dealing with partnerships?
Bryan Sullivan: I think it’s when you win races like the Risen Star and things like that or you have a really good horse that you think is going to be exciting and it’s the first time he’s racing. When you get the partners together and you win together, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. When you can share the excitement of winning with other people, it just means the world because you go through it together. And a lot of my investors are family and friends and we’ve gotten some other ones, but they’ve been with me since the beginning so, you know, they’ve been through the good times and the bad times and it’s just—when you have a group of people like this – and we all know each other fairly well – it’s very, very exciting.
I think the toughest part of the partnership is trying to convince people to give me money to buy horses, you know, because it’s not IBM stock. It’s a tough sale and it’s been that way since the market turned in ’07 or ’08, but I think it’s turned a corner in the sense that the economy is better and we’re breeding less horses, so—but to me, the most fun is the racing and buying the horses. The hardest part would be to kind of find the money, so to speak.
Carol Holden: Is there a story behind the name of Let’s Go Stable?
Bryan Sullivan: Yes, there kind of is. One of our investors – Kevin’s actually one of his best friends – Rob Petitti is a former—actually the player in the NFL, played for the Cowboys and the Saints and the Rams and we were at the Derby and I think it was for Scat Daddy, and we were just trying to name—come up with a name for the company and we didn’t know really what to name it and we didn’t know where it would take us. And so many times, if you’re seeing sports, if you watch the NCA tournaments, if you watch any sport game, when you see slow motion, a competitor that’s very excited or cheering on his team, they always mouth ‘let’s go’. You know, you can see it; it’s everywhere. So, you know, that’s just been our rallying cry, so to speak, and we said, hey, let’s call it Let’s Go; I mean, you know, that’s what we’re here to do. And so that’s kind of where it came from and, you know, we—it’s what we started with and it’s what we are now and so it’s kind of a way to motivate each other.
Eric Wing: Bryan, since this is an election year, in the interest of equal time, I’d like to give you an opportunity to rebut Rosie Napravnik’s contention earlier on the call that El Padrino would have lost the Risen Star had he not bumped and/or leaned on Mark Valeski, or—you know what I mean, the other way around; Mark Valeski would have lost.
Bryan Sullivan: Yes, that’s a tough one. I mean, it’s a tough call. You know, it’s—I saw it. I’ve seen it plenty of times. I don’t think there was anything there that changed the race. I do know she made first contact and so I’m not going to get into it. I think, you know, I think they have a heck of a horse there. He ran a great race and I think he’s going to be very, very tough in the Louisiana Derby. But, you know, it’s her opinion and, you know, I think if we went around a few more times, I don’t think she was going to—you know, I don’t think we were going to lose. But, it is what it is.
Eric Wing: Very good. Well, Bryan, another exciting event coming up Saturday, obviously, with the Florida Derby. We wish you and Kevin and everybody associated with Let’s Go Stable and El Padrino the very best of luck on Saturday.
Bryan Sullivan: I appreciate that. Thanks for having me.
Eric Wing: Thank you. That’s Bryan Sullivan of Let’s Go Stable and his team, along with trainer, Todd Pletcher, will be sending out El Padrino, the Risen Star winner, in Saturday’s million dollar Grade I Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park. And again, that race will be live on the NBC Sports network, 5 to 6: 00 p.m. Eastern, Florida Derby and the Gulfstream Oaks both live on NBC Sports network.