April 12, 2016 – NTRA National Media Teleconference
Guests (with horse, next start)
Bob Baffert, Trainer (Cupid, Arkansas Derby)
Ron Moquett, Trainer (Whitmore, Arkansas Derby)
Ken Ramsey, Owner-Breeder (Oscar Nominated, Kentucky Derby)
Click below to listen to the Teleconference. Transcript will be posted Wednesday.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, thanks everybody for joining us today on our national media teleconference. Today we’re previewing the final two road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series races, Saturday’s Arkansas Derby at Oak Lawn Park and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.
The Arkansas Derby is worth 170 points with 100 to the winner, while the Lexington is worth 17 points, 10 of those to the winner. Keeneland, I would like to mention, is one of the 23 race tracks accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, covering nearly all of the Grade 1 races in the US.
Note that the Kentucky Derby field is far from set. Consider if you would that if the Arkansas Derby came in with two longshots on top, followed by Dazzling Gem in third and Whitmore in fourth that will still give four horses the chance to vault into the Top 20. So really only those with 40 points or more can confidently say that they’re in the Kentucky Derby gate as of today.
Now later in this call we’re going to be joined by owner and breeder, Ken Ramsey. He’s in the Lexington with Pinson who although doesn’t have much of a shot of making the Derby field, Mr. Ramsey does have Oscar nominated the Spiral winner who is already safely in the derby gate with 50 points.
And before that we’re going to get to hear from the trainers of the leading Arkansas Derby contenders. Those are top two from last month’s Rebel Stakes, second was Whitmore, trained by Ron Moquett. And the winner of course was Cupid from the barn of our first guest, and that is Hall of Fame and Triple Crown winning trainer, Bob Baffert.
We should also mention that in addition to Cupid, Bob trains Mor Spirit, second in the Santa Anita Derby, and one of the more highly regarded 3-year-olds throughout this year, as well as Collected, who could have an outside shot of making the derby gate if he wanted to with a win in the Lexington on Saturday.
So now let’s check in with Bob Baffert. Bob, it’s Jim Mulvihill in Lexington. Thanks for joining us.
Bob Baffert: Thank you Jim and last time I saw you was the Super Bowl.
Jim Mulvihill: That’s absolutely correct. If a trainer wins the Triple Crown, they get a trip to the Super Bowl. That’s our new deal at the NTRA. That’s seems….
Bob Baffert: Right. Yesterday Cupid broke his maiden.
Jim Mulvihill: That’s exactly right. Well Bob, thanks for being here with us. You know, speaking of Cupid, let’s talk about the Arkansas Derby. You had this incredible run last year with American Pharaoh winning the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby to kick it off. Now Cupid’s on that same path. So if you can just tell us what you saw in Cupid’s Rebel win last month that most impressed you?
Bob Baffert: Well going in we were hoping he was going to run well. And you really don’t know how he’s going to ship. So he handled the ship well and everything.
And then he took a little step slow, rushed up, still made the lead. He kept running, almost hit the rail. And still managed to hold off that fast closing Whitmore.
So, you know, I think it showed us a different dimension. And he’s very fast. And beautiful long, striding horse.
And so we were like, I knew he was a nice horse, but he just showed us something different. So I was pretty happy with his run. And he’s come back. He’s worked well. He breezed today. He went an easy half mile. And he looks ready. Hopefully he’ll get another decent post.
Jim Mulvihill: Yes last time Martin really had to ride him to get the lead. Was that part of the game plan? Did you want him to go to the lead at all costs or?
Bob Baffert: Well he didn’t break. And at Oaklawn they load one at a time. So totally, they’re in the gate for over two minutes. So sometimes they can get in there and just get a little stale in there.
And he broke a little flat footed for some reason. And when he broke his maiden he broke well, but he’s never really broken really sharp. And he needs to get away from there and his speed is his weapon. So he needs to get in the race early.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Well Bob I’m going to step aside and (Nick) can check with the media and get some more questions from them.
Operator: Thank you. If you would like to ask a question, please signal by pressing Star 1 on your telephone keypad. If you are using a speakerphone, please make sure your mute function is turned off to allow your signal to reach our equipment.
Lynn Snearson: Are you training Cupid any differently than you had trained any of your other past Arkansas Derby winners coming into this race?
Bob Baffert: I guess they’re all different. I trained them differently. Pharaoh was trained differently, but a lot – this week and last week I had to work around the weather little bit here. So I worked him a little bit different patterns then I usually would work.
But, you don’t want him to get to light. First when you ship and you ship twice can be a little bit tougher on him. That’s what made Pharaoh such a great horse was.
They have a small window of greatness, where Pharaoh, he had a window all year long, which is very rare. But so far I haven’t seen him regress. If I thought I saw a little regress, I would have weighed in, you know, and just run him fresh into the Derby.
Or maybe I could have taken him to the Coolmore Lexington run and run him we’re getting ready to ship out tomorrow.
Lynn Snearso: Excellent. Are you coming, or is it just a Jimmy?
Bob Baffert: Just Jimmy. Jimmy will be there.
Lynn Snearson: Okay. Okay. And again, with the Arkansas Derby and all of the races in Arkansas, with the incredible success you’ve had, do you think that, you know, this horse is going to be carrying a lot of expectations on its back?
Bob Baffert: Well, anytime we ship – we are hoping to win. And we’re disappointed, or surprised, disappointed when we go. And so, you know, you still need racing luck.
All that we can do is just, you know, he’s doing well. He needs to run the same race that he did last time to be competitive. We just want to be competitive. And that they separate themselves, especially going a mile and an eighth, that’s when they start to separate themselves pretty well.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Ed McNamara at Newsday. Please go ahead.
Ed McNamara: I was wondering if you can sense a certain hangover effect after the Triple Crown finally got won and Pharaoh, what a sense of relief to millions of people.
It just seems to me that if that hadn’t happened there be more of a buzz about Nyquist who has done some amazing things. Would you agree that there’s maybe a hangover effect for this sport?
Bob Baffert: You know, I think what Pharaoh did, I think he created more interest in the sport. And I think it will be bigger. I think people are really following it now to see if they can watch another horse. And I think he brought a lot of new fans into the sport. And we’re sort of writing that wave.
And then Nyquist, he’s been perfect. And everybody’s thinking maybe we’re going to get another horse like that. So far the way he’s run, it’s exciting. Now for the competitor, it’s not so exciting, but it’s exciting to watch.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Danny Brewer at horseracingscoop.com. Please go ahead.
Danny Brewer: Hey Bob, it’s hillbilly time. Middle Tennessee, you got it man. Hey, what size shirt you wear? Large, right?
Bob Baffert: It depends.
Danny Brewer: There you go.
Bob Baffert: I think was a small – after the San Diego Derby I shrunk to about a small.
Danny Brewer: Well what about the mental growth of Cupid after the Rebel? Do you think – has he grown mentally since that? Because he looked like he raddled the green but ran strong.
Bob Baffert: Yes any of that. When he turned for home he sort of dug in a little bit. I think that turn comes up really sharp. And I think he just over probably turned a little bit there.
The crowd on the outside rail were yelling. Maybe he you saw that. But I don’t know.
It was probably a little bit of both. So I think the break is going to be really important. And we really got lucky last time that he was able to – he can’t be doing that. I mean, you know, he has to leave there with a feel.
Danny Brewer: Talk about Martin for just a second. And well I know he rides a lot for you. Talk about him as far as what he brings to the table.
Bob Baffert: Well he’s a very important part because he preps all these horses. He helps prep them. You know, he wears a radio. He knows how they feel. He knows what I expect. Or when we get one ready for a big race we sit down and we talk about what I’m looking for in this horse.
I’m looking for something like this. We need to sharpen him up or we need to go easy or whatever. So he knows the way I think and he knows my style. He’s a great little athlete, he was pretty excited today.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Tom Pedulla at America’s Best Racing. Please go ahead.
Tom Pedulla: Yes hey Bob. I wanted to ask if there was any kind of emotional letdown for you after you did finally win the Triple Crown. You know, did you have to work at all to get the competitive fires burning again?
Bob Baffert: What it was with retiring Pharaoh is that usually at the end of the year, they’re usually starting to tail off or whatever, and they go to the farm. But with him, I was giving up a horse that was just going to start getting better and better.
And we got so close to him. But – because he was a sweet horse. He’s a horse that I could share him with so many fans. Let them touch him and everything. But he’s the only horse I’ve ever been able to do that with because he was a kind, sweet, intelligent horse.
So we all fell in love with him. And to see him leave, it was sad because it’s like watching your child leave. You’re wondering is he sleeping at night. Is he going to be okay? Is he going to miss us? And so we went through about 60 days of pretty, I would say we were a little bit depressed about it, , not being able to know he was in the barn and go see him.
But at that the same time we have some great memories, from when my wife, Jill, and my kids that we got to be a part of it. And my kids will be able to tell their kids about that wonderful part of their life. They’ll always be remembered.
And so it was tough, you know, when he left. But now we’re always looking at those young 2-year-olds coming up. Just like now I’ve got my new 2-year-old coming out. We’re getting excited about them. So we always have our mind thinking about other things – about the future.
Tom Pedulla: Okay. And just if I may follow up. Would you say you’re as driven to win these Triple Crown races as when you started?
Bob Baffert: Well I think that when I first started I was just more into winning the Breeders’ Cup’s Sprint.. I thought that would be really great.
And then when I ran second with Cavalier in the Derby, which was just most – the most brutal loss of my career. That really, really got me going on the Kentucky Derby.
I think the Kentucky Derby that the classics are really – will keep us geared up and keep that competitive – those juices flowing if you can have a horse good enough to run in those races.
Really, you know, we work hard trying to get there. And so, you know, you get to the point where you were sort of expected to get there. But, you know, it’s not easy. It’s hard – so when you have a horse like Mor Spirit and Cupid that look like they’re going to be competitive, it’s like, it’s an honor to be saying hey, you know what? Maybe there’s a little hope, a little dream there
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Ron Flatter at RS in Australia. Please go ahead.
Ron Flatter: Bob let me just follow up at what Tom was going with in terms of American Pharaoh. Just bluntly put, do you regret not seeing him race at age 4?
Bob Baffert: Well not really it would have been – what he had accomplished, it was an incredible feat. And so it’s way too much pressure for – the economics of it, what he’s doing at Stallion, it’s like – it’s just way, you know, the insurance.
There is an economics part of it too. You can’t take a chance with these horses when they’ve been so much. And that’s why, you know, the Breeders’ Cup going into it I was a little bit- pretty sad about it.
You know, I knew he was going to run well, but we knew that was going to be it. But he went out the right way. And I’m glad he’s a stallion because, you know, I’d like to have him around to pet. But if he was a gelding he would have been great. Then, you know, we could have had him around, the rest of his life. I’d just keep him at the barn until he’s 25-years-old.
But he, you know, he needed to be rewarded, like he’s being rewarded right now. And what better way.
Ron Flatter: I want to ask you about Collected. He’s one of eight horses still on the derby trail theoretically that has won a prep race. And finds himself behind two maidens that one of which would be in the derby field right now.
Does Collected belong? And is there something wrong with the system when two maidens could be ahead of eight prep winners?
Bob Baffert: You know what? The point system is mainly for the owners they’re worried about points. I figure if your horse is good enough, you’re going to get the point.
But Collected actually running, he’ll run this week in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes. So he worked today. I like the way he worked. So he’ll be headed there. And we’ll see what he does.
I don’t know about a mile and a quarter for him. We’re not really sold on the idea of him running that far. But, if he were to run well there, the Preakness might be, you know, if we were thinking something, maybe the Preakness for him. But one race at a time. But we’re being realistic on here on distance on him.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Art Wilson at the Southern California Newspaper Group. Please go ahead.
Art Wilson: Hey Bob. You’ve always compared the road to the derby to March madness. And now we’ve kind of hit the final four, on the verge of the national championship game, the derby.
What’s your feelings right now? How do you feel about the national picture? Is it Nyquist and everybody else? Is it kind of a grab bag underneath him or what’s your feelings about it right now?
Bob Baffert: Well I think right now it’s Nyquist, definitely. He hasn’t done anything wrong at all. You know, he’s been handled great. He’s all race horse. We keep waiting for him that he’s not going to get the distance. But he’s so good that he just keeps on going.
The pedigree now in America, it’s so diluted now. Pedigree doesn’t really matter anymore. But it’s how good you are. So I think you have Nyquist and that you have a lot of horses underneath, it’s like going to be like the Masters.
You know, you’re going to need some luck. And so everything – there’s so much. I mean we have a 20 horse to deal with. There’s so many things that can go wrong. But you need a nice horse. So we still have a long way to go.
Art Wilson: And my second question. Could you kind of give us an update on two of your older stars, Dortmund and Hopportunity?
Bob Baffert: Yes, Hopportunity, he actually just went back to the track today from Dubai. He came back. Looks good. And then Dortmund, he’s still at the farm. And he’s going to come back probably next week.
Bob Baffert: He gives me the impression he was just getting burned out a little bit.
Art Wilson: Right. Would either of those be on the – either one of those horses be on the radar for the Gold Cup at Santa Anita or?
Bob Baffert: No not at all. No.
Art Wilson: No, okay.
Bob Baffert: I mean not Dortmund. Not Dortmund.
Art Wilson: Okay but maybe Hopportunity?
Bob Baffert: Maybe, yes. Maybe.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee. Please go ahead.
Debbie Arrington: Well, Cupid he was a late foal. And he seems to be developing a lot this spring. Do you see him growing up? And what kind of horse is he around the barn?
Bob Baffert: He was named right, Cupid. He’s got that little look to him. I’ve had Indianapolis, who is really fast. One turn, he was a sprinter.
And his little brother, Green Team, he’d run here. He looks totally different. He’s just a different – he’s just a horse that he’s shown that he’s definitely not a sprinter. You know, I ran him his first out, he’s not that quick. But he’s come around quickly in the last – since January.
And he’s really matured a lot. And he’s handling it. He can be a little bit of a handful because he’s like most Tapits, they can get a little bit excited. We’ve put a lot of work into him just to keep him focused and relaxed a little bit.
Debbie Arrington: And he looks like a pretty big horse. How big is he?
Bob Baffert: Yes he’s a tall horse. He’s not a small horse. He’s probably, I want to say he’s around 16, 2 maybe, 16, 1, 16, 2. But he’s a good size. Sort of a narrow horse. He’s not a real big wily horse. He’s narrow. So it’s easier on him.
Debbie Arrington: And how did Mor Spirit come out of the Santa Anita Derby?
Bob Baffert: He actually came out very well. He actually went back to the track. He didn’t run his race the track surface really threw whole race upside down.
And so we were wanted to be near the lead, but when the, you know, (Gary) said that everybody left there all in shock. They left there like their hair was on fire. And so he hung there in the middle.
The horse just came back, basically just passed Pirate horse at the end, the winner. Ran a great race. And so – but he looks great. It was disappointing, but we’ll move on. And, you know, he runs – he’s first or second every time, so you need that.
Debbie Arrington: And is the – you still going on to Kentucky with him?
Bob Baffert: Oh definitely. Oh yes.
Debbie Arrington: Good.
Bob Baffert: For what happened I don’t like to make excuses for my horses. But he didn’t get the trip we were hoping to get. But Gary, he came back with a lot of mud. And it went well. So he got a good schooling out of it.
You know, he still ran second. I don’t know if we would have beat the winner that day. That winner he is a freak. So nobody was going to beat him that day. So it’s just one of those days you have to be really good on that one day.
Debbie Arrington: Yes. And how has Mor Spirit matured this spring?
Bob Baffert: Well he’s a big horse. You know, I measured him yesterday. He’s like 16, big, strong horse. And tries, he doesn’t like mud. He’s, just really just runs all right in it.
He didn’t really like to go in there. But he still ran an incredible race. You know, he ran a good race.
Debbie Arrington: Considering those conditions, he did…
Bob Baffert: He’s a big, beautiful, black – he’s a beautiful horse.
Bob Baffert: And he’s silly a little bit. He’s funny. He’ gets a little spooky, the paint. He sees things and so, you know, when that mud hit him in the face, he did not like that at all, but he handled it. At least he took it.
You know, it looked like he wasn’t going to run anywhere. He looked like he was going to be out for it. And then he just kept moving right along. So I think it was better than it looked.
You know, we would have liked to have won it. We survived it. The horse came back great. So that’s the main thing.
Operator: Our next call comes from the line of Jonathan Litner at the Courier Journal. Please go ahead.
Jonathan Litner: Hi Bob. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I was wondering if you’ve gotten to thinking about shipping plans yet for Mor Spirit. When we could see him at Churchill Downs?
And then as far as Cupid, if you’d think you’d take him straight there after the Arkansas Derby assuming all goes well?
Bob Baffert: Yes the plan is after the Arkansas Derby they ship to Churchill. And Cupid will ship there and then Mor Spirit will ship next week after the next plane out, whenever that is. So he should be there probably the middle of next week.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Mike Kane of Thoroughbred Daily News. Please go ahead.
Mike Kane: Hi Bob. Could you – Michael Long-Peterson has been one of your owners for a few years now. Could you describe his enthusiasm? How he approaches the sport in the years that he’s been working with you?
Bob Baffert: Yes – he’s learning little by little. And he’s been very patient, very patient. And he was getting excited. You know, we were all a little bit disappointed the other day that he got beat.
We were hoping to win the San Anita Derby go into the Kentucky Derby is one of the big guns. And, it was a little bit disappointing for all of us. But, you know, I explained to him sometimes the mud, whatever. But,he understands that it’s tough, it’s a tough game.
, I just told him, you know, go to the Derby and enjoy yourself. And we still need a lot of luck, so.
Mike Kane: Is he your first European kind of owner? A guy that was born and raised in Europe? And if so, is he – does he – might he have a different approach to things than Americans that you’ve been dealing with through the years?
Bob Baffert: Well, I think he’s lived here in the states for a while. I don’t consider him like a foreigner. I mean he lives in Maryland, it doesn’t make any difference.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of (Tom Dersha) at Horse Race Insider. Please go ahead.
Tom Jicha: Bob, this is the second year in a row, and actually many years you’ve come to the Arkansas Derby. It’s three weeks out from the derby. That’s contrary to the way our trainers seem to be thinking now.
Doug O’Neill said he came to Florida to face ((inaudible)) because it was five weeks. I think there might have been a million other reasons. But if you could schedule the races, the derby preps, how far out would be your ideal?
Bob Baffert: I think three weeks is fine. I mean the ((inaudible)), the Blue Grass is three weeks. They change them because of some of these trainers feel, they feel like they need an extra week. I think it’s everybody has their own. But to me, really, I think three weeks is fine.
I mean I’ve seen the Derby run in two weeks out. It’s the sheet guys sort of tell them you don’t want to run a big number this close. Your horse is going to bounce. So they go by that. So I don’t really go by that.
Tom Jicha: And in fact, American Pharaoh wound up running four races in eight weeks as it were with the Triple Crown. Was he – he was none the worse for wear I take it?
Bob Baffert: No. If you have the right horse, he can handle it. He was a special horse. I’ve been training horses all my life. And, most of these horses, they’re getting better.
Like Real Quiet was getting better at that and then Charlie. You know, some horses they can’t handle that close of a window. Like Dortmund couldn’t. And a lot of horses, they’ve have a short window of being great.
And Pharaoh had a window that was open all year long. That’s what made him – that’s what separates him. That’s why he was so great. I’ve had a lot of horses that were just as fast as Pharaoh, but their window was only open for a few races.
Tom Jicha: Yes, and probably ((inaudible)). But if all goes well with Cupid, he’ll run four weeks – four races in eight weeks too.
Bob Baffert: Yes. I don’t have to train him that hard. You get a race under him, and you’re going a mile and a quarter. So, you know, it depends.
You know, they still have to be tough. First they have to be a very good horse and they have to be tough to be able to handle it. We just go race by race. I mean it was timing wise, with him, you know, that – we’ll probably still have time would help him. But we were in the situation where, you know, right now we’re just thinking Arkansas Derby.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Bob. Thanks as always for giving us so much time today. I tried not to root too hard for any individual trainers. But if you were to win another Triple Crown, I’d look forward to another Super Bowl in February.
Bob Baffert: I just want to win another Kentucky Derby.
Jim Mulvihill: Fair enough. Fair enough. All right, Bob, well thanks so much.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, thanks Bob. All right, always glad to be joined by Bob Baffert. He, of course, is a two-time winner of the Arkansas Derby with American Pharaoh last year of courses, but also Bodemeister in 2012.
Our next guest trained to the horse that ran second to American Pharaoh in the Arkansas Derby last year. That was Far Right. Last weekend Far Right been really loved the cut back to sprinting at Keeneland, but Far Right is also relevant to the road to the Triple Crown conversation because the weekend before that he was training with Whitmore, who is Ron’s Arkansas Derby contender, the Rebel runner up of course.
Ron Moquett, you’re on with Jim Mulvihill in Lexington. Thanks for being on with us.
Ron Moquett: Thank you very much for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: It’s our pleasure. We always appreciate the time. But you know, Whitmore’s Rebel was still impressive. When he made that move and then he swung wide into the stretch, you had to think you were a winner at that point, no?
Ron Moquett: Yes. I knew that we still have a very good horse in front of us who was able to control the pace after the first quarter. And it would be kind of hard if he had very much left in him. And he did. He ran well.
And, you know, Leader horse backed up. They both kept going forward, but he had more in his tank that day.
Jim Mulvihill: Indeed. And, you know, just to clarify for folks that are writing about the race this week, will Irad be back on him on Saturday?
Ron Moquett: Yes.
Jim Mulvihill: Okay, okay great. Now just a little bit of background. These are the same owners as Far Right, Bob LaPenta, Harry Rosenblum. But this time you’re a co-owner as well. So I’m hoping maybe you can give us a little bit of the background on how you three acquired this horse and how you came to be one of the partners.
Ron Moquett: Well I was the owner. We bought him from the breeder. Had an agent – a friend of mine – call me named (Jess). And he told me about him. And we went and checked him out and loved him and then tried to get the price to where we wanted it in.
The way he was, it wasn’t a very market friendly pedigree. And – but he was an outstanding individual. So I felt like I wanted to take a shot if I can get him for the right price. And it worked out for us. And hopefully it worked out for the breeder to because he’s got a, you know, greatest takes place towards hopefully getting to be a serious competitor for the Arkansas Derby.
Jim Mulvihill: Yes indeed. And, you know, looking at his past performances here, I just have to ask because I’m curious when I see this. But, you know, he was 15 to 1 when he made his debut and then he goes out there and wins by seven lengths. You know, coming into that race did you know what you had?
Ron Moquett: Yes, well you always think you do. If they bring their morning to the afternoon, you think, you know, the talent’s there. And you never know about the heart until you try them. But I knew if the heart was going to show up like the talent did in the morning, we were going to have a lot of fun.
And it was interesting, you know, we hang out at the trainers stand. And on a day like that everybody’s got a good horse. And on the maiden special weight day. And ((inaudible)) was there and he knows a good horse. And, you know, there’s a lot of people that had really nice horses in there.
And I felt confident about mine. And a couple other guys have been watching him train. I think (Red Dog Hartledge) made a little money betting on him. And, you know, it’s good that you ride every now and then.
Jim Mulvihill: Indeed. All right, well Ron I’m going to let the media ask some questions now. So I’ll turn it over to our operator, (Nick).
The first question is from the line of (Lynn Snearson) at Oak Lawn Park. Please go ahead.
Lynn Snearson: Hey Ron. Great to talk to you again. Do you think that maybe having home-field advantage, or I should say being stabled at Oak Lawn might give you a little home-field advantage? I mean not only do you have Cupid coming okay back, but now you’ve got Pletcher coming in and some other new shooters.
Ron Moquett: Well I would argue that this is actually Baffert’s home field advantage based on the recent results of all the big races. I live here and train here, so we’re not going to have to ship. But I think some of these guys that bring in these horses tend to, whether they’re stabled here or not, know how to get the win for the bigger races as a result of looking at their past performances.
Lynn Snearson: Thank you. How’s he training? How’s he doing? Good?
Ron Moquett: He’s a beast.
Lynn Snearson: Love it. So nobody’s scaring you off?
Ron Moquett: No. No ma’am. I’m excited about my horse. I’m excited about – for my partners and myself. And I’m excited to have a horse this nice in a race. It’s cool. So just want a good pull position and good trip. And let’s see who’s got the best horse.
Lynn Snearson: Yes. And with Harry, you know, being one of the owners, Arkansas guy. Love’s Oaklawn, you know, through and through. What do you think – what would it mean to win the Arkansas Derby for a guy like Harry Rosenblum?
Ron Moquett: Well, you know, between Southern Springs and Harry, all the Arkansas connections, it would be awesome. You know, I named this horse after a kid I went to high school with. And I’ve got – I’ll have kids that I have graduated high school with in the stands.
And, you know, all the people that’s been here to watch him run. And, you know, everybody that knows where I’m from, I’m sure we’d love to have a hometown horse win it.
You know, and be being selfish, I’d rather it be Whitmore, but there’s a lot of people that might want to ((inaudible)) horse or (James Fire)’s horse or, you know, the countless other people that are stabled here. But yes, for Harry and for everybody involved, I’m very happy that we’re in this opportunity. And hopefully we can bring it home.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of (Jenny Reese) at Horse Racing, a Radio Network. Please go ahead.
Jenny Ress: Thinking about (James) and (Donny K) made me think of a trainer that had told me before, maybe it was you, I can’t remember. But that they never seen a back side like Oaklawn that – as far as how competitive people are. But then the comradery among the horsemen is unlike any other track. If you could just sort of comment on that.
Ron Moquett: It’s – this is a different atmosphere. And I think when anybody comes to the grandstands, they see when you come in here, everyone wants to – they’ve got your back, they’re cheerfully.
And even though we’re a competitive group and we’re all chasing the same dollar, I think everyone wants you to win and to represent them, Oaklawn and the horsemen here as best you can.
And, you know, it’s pretty good to walk to the grandstand. And I will say it’s different to walk to the grandstands or to the backside the day after you win a race, a big race for sure, and see how many people there that were really rooting for you. And it’s different. It’s unique. And I’m proud that hopefully I can be a part of it.
Jennie Ress: Do you lose money after the race because of all the drinks you have to buy walking through the grandstand the next day?
Ron Moquett: Yes. You know what? It’s not so much the booze, but it is the, you know, you buy breakfast. You buy lunch. And it seems like it’s always whoever’s doing well, it’s their turn to buy. So it’s not always everything, you know, great. You guys by a lot of stuff.
Jennie Ress: Can you afford to win the Arkansas Derby?
Ron Moquett: Well they’ll need to hurry up and clear the deck.
Jennie Ress: Just talk about how you said he’s a beast. How is training coming into this race compared, or not, with coming into the Rebel?
Ron Moquett: Well he’s learning. He’s, you know, I don’t drill my horses as hard as a lot of the guys that, you know, that I compete against. And sometimes that bites me. But a lot of times I use a race to point to another race.
And whenever I know for a fact there’s going to be a race on April 16 and it’s my ultimate goal. Or a lot of times I’m guilty of not having every screw tightened because these aren’t machines, you know. You have to have them as ready as you can have them without over.
You know, there’s nobody sitting behind him that’s going to be the next Whitmore, you know, if I, you know, for these owners – for this ownership if I ask him too much. So I always try to have them as ready as I can and point to a race.
And I would say I have him exactly where I want him for this race. And it took the last race to do it.
Jennie Ress: You were proud of him in his last race, but you are also a bit frustrated that may be the middle fraction set a little soft in Cupid’s favor. How do you see this race shaping up differently perhaps? Or is there anything – or was it the fact that you needed the last race to get to this race that maybe could turn the tables?
Ron Moquett: Well I think our experience, and more importantly the jockey is going to get to know this horse. I mean it’s just kind of like sitting on a, you know, I’m a fan of this horse based on his talents and his will.
So when I say stuff like, you know, this horse is like sitting on a drag car. Well you ask him. You better be clear because he has got a move that is just ridiculous. So I think that this jockey, Mr. Ortiz, got some familiarity with him after that last race. And that should help us.
And, you know, hopefully there’s not 14 horses that you have to go around. Maybe instead of going nine wide, we’ll be able to go four wide. And that should make a difference, instead of being 12 back, going a mile and a sixteenth, maybe you can be six back on a mile and an eighth. And that could make a difference.
But, you know, this track has always favored speed. You know, it’s – a lot of trainers train for speed. And this track will always seem to play in their favor, especially on the bigger days it seems like it’s a tighter track. And it’s harder to run them down.
And so, you know, Mr. Baffert knows how to get the job done. And he’s – I promise you Cupid will come with his A game. And the other 12 or however many horses will be shooting at the same thing. We just have to – hopefully that expanse will help us in this race.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Danny Brewer at horseracingscoop.com. Please go ahead.
Danny Brewer: Hey Ron, what kind of competitor do you think Whitmore is?
Ron Moquett: I think that he’s a fierce competitor. I mean he argues with everything I asked him to do constantly. And I think that would carry over to the race.
Danny Brewer: All right. As far as the experience with Far Right on the derby trail going to ((inaudible)), has that helped you any this go around with this horse?
Ron Moquett: Yes. Yes, I think every day, you know, I’m not belittling the Arkansas or the Arkansas Derby or Kentucky Derby with Far Right. But every day if you get to do something the second time, you think, you know, next time I get a shot I’m going to do it a little bit like this or I’m going to do this.
You know, we have yesterday to prepare us for today. And I would think that would offer me, you know, some advantages and the experience. And I’m just going to try to use that. And, you know, thank goodness for the owners of Far Right and Far Right for getting me to that to have this experience. And hopefully it pushes Whitmore even further.
Danny Brewer: You talk about the huge moves that Whitmore possesses in the jockey horse. Is that where it’s going to be key with Ortiz on him as far as knowing when to push that button? Or is that something that Whitmore? What’s your thoughts on that?
Ron Moquett: I think they’ll both gain from the experience and from each other. I think Whitmore is going to be used to the way that Irad asks and Irad will be used to the way he has to ask.
It’s, you know, I believe that familiarity breeds success. And talent is really, really good. But I, you know, if anybody saw the NCAA national championship can see, you know, sometimes familiarity and teamwork is – overpowers the blue-chip recruits. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
What’s bad is when you look up and you see the blue-chip recruits with a lot of teamwork and familiarity.
Jim Mulvihill: All right Ron, I just wanted to ask for the benefit of the folks that maybe haven’t heard this story before. You mentioned that Whitmore is named for a high school friend. Can you just tell us what that gentleman’s full name is and what inspired you to name this horse after him?
Ron Moquett: I haven’t spoken to him for probably since I left Pocola, Oklahoma and high school. And whenever I got this horse for some reason, I decided that he was kind of a freak athlete. And he looked like everything he did was easy. And it looked like he was good at it.
And I thought to myself, well that reminds me of Wilbur Whitmore, was the young man’s name. He’s a natural athlete and a good guy. And he’s a – I was a friend of his and his brothers in high school.
So whenever I called him, and it was different because I haven’t spoken to him in probably, I don’t know, 10 or 12 years or whatever it was. And I asked him, I said hey, I want to name a horse after you. He goes, all right, you know, like he didn’t know what that meant really because he’s not that huge of a horse racer.
But I bet you this horse goes to the Kentucky Derby and I’m going to make you famous. And he started laughing. And I just think that it’s pretty cool that there is an actual possibility that this horse goes to the Kentucky Derby. And I hope Whitmore – I hope he makes, you know, Wilbur Whitmore proud.
Jim Mulvihill: And Wilbur Whitmore will be at the races on Saturday?
Ron Moquett: I hope so. I know a lot of our friends are, but I have not heard for sure that he was coming. So, but we’ll take care of him if he does. And I expect to hear from him that he is coming.
Jim Mulvihill: Very good. Amazing story. Well Ron, thanks for the time today. And good luck on the Arkansas Derby.
Ron Moquett: Thank you guys very much.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, that’s Ron Moquett, trainer of Whitmore. And let’s see, there is one other derby prep this Saturday. That is the Lexington at Keeneland. You know, just being honest, when you look at the leader board, it’s very difficult to see how any of the expected entrance could make it to the derby field except for possibly Swipe who could get to 22 points with a win and Collected who I think could get to 21.
Our final guest though already has a horse with a guaranteed spot in the derby, as well as a Lexington contender. Ken and Sara Ramsey won the Spiral Stake at Turfway. It was Oscar Nominated a couple of weekends ago. That was worth 50 road to the derby points.
And then the Lexington, they’re going to try Pinson, a two-turn maiden winner at fairgrounds last month, also from (Mike Maker). Ken Ramsey, it’s Jim Mulvihill, NTRA here. Thanks for being on with us again.
Ken Ramsey: Hey, we’re making the correction on Pinson. He…
Ken Ramsey: He will not be running the Lexington Stakes. We’re going to run him and Hint of Roses both back in the conditions they should be running in. So a Hint of Roses will be entered tomorrow in a mile and a sixteenth race. And Pinson will be entered a little later on in a non-winner A race at Keeneland. So neither one of those two are going into Lexington.
Jim Mulvihill: I see. Very good. Well then we appreciate that update. That clarifies the picture for us a little bit. Let’s talk about the derby horse then. I want to hear more about Oscar Nominated, you know, you certainly raised a lot of eyebrows by announcing that you were looking for an investor to help pay the supplemental Triple Crown nomination fee to get into the derby.
As I’m sure you expected would be the case. And then it was reported that you did find such an investor. So what can you tell us about that whole deal and how that’s transpired since the Spiral win?
Ken Ramsey: Well I did as a sporting gesture say look, if somebody wants to put out that $200,000 that I will split my earnings for the Triple Crown races 50/50. I did have a gentleman call back and accept it. So far as I know he’s still on board. But ire-regardless of whether he stays on board or doesn’t stay on board, the horse will be in the Kentucky Derby.
We got a chance to make a little history here. I go back a long ways. I’m 80 years old and I remember back when Hirsh Jacobs claimed Stymie. They claiming that Stymie is the greatest claim in history. So ((inaudible)) goes on to win the Derby. I guess that put me right in the history books with Hirsh Jacobs and Stymie.
But anyway, I think it could be my turn. Last year we had International Star who had more points than anybody for the derby. But he came up with a bad foot the morning of the derby. And then the year before that I had Vickers in Trouble, and he was unfortunate enough to draw the…
Ken Ramsey: Riding. So anyway, it could be my turn this year.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. And then just to clarify the deal with the supplemental fee. Is that – would that person be listed as a co-owner? Or that’s a separate investment just for the duration of the Triple Crown series?
Ken Ramsey: No. No. That would just be – no. No co-owner whatsoever. It would be strictly me and myself and all that. I probably will invite him to the Winner’s Circle if we win. And let him sit in the box and all that. But no, he would have no ownership interest whatsoever.
I’ll tell you, this – and I idolize the derby and after (knockwurst), you can’t knock an undefeated horse. To me, it’s not a stellar feel like it was last year. So it’s wide open. So I feel like I’m playing with house money. And we’ve got the stamina. I don’t think there’s going to be any distance limitations at all. This is a one run horse. There’s going to be plenty of speed in there.
He’s got ((inaudible)) on top and Theatrical) on the bottom. And Mr. Prospector is a second down star. So I really think it, you know, we could end up maybe 1, 2, 3 if things break just right for us. So I’m optimistic.
I talked to my trainer this morning, Mike Maker, and he said that ((inaudible)) he’s probably had 100 of them. This was the best ((inaudible)) he had had on the dirt. And he’s going to be working out Saturday morning over at the Sports Spectrum over in Louisville.
And we’re – we’re going to be in the derby with him if he cooperates and doesn’t hurt himself or something. He will be in there ire-regardless of supplemental fees or whatever.
Jim Mulvihill: Well none of us doubted that Mr. Ramsey. Let me check with (Nick) and we’ll see if any of the media have questions for you.
Danny Brewer: Hey, what has this sport brought to your life because obviously, you know, you’re heavily involved and you’ve been an icon for decades? What has this sport brought to your life?
Ken Ramsey: Well it’s brought a lot of joy, a lot of family reunion-type things, a lot of memories. Like I’ve got a grandson, Nolan now, who unfortunately I think he’s going to drop out and take a gap year out of the University of Louisville. But he actually wants to be a horse trainer.
So I’ve had him to races ever since he was a babe in arms. And all my grandchildren are really interested in the horses one way or the other, even the girls. So it’s kind of been a bonding factor for us.
And although the wife unfortunately suffered a debilitating stroke, she still enjoys it. And we get a big kick out of it. I’ve always been very competitive and that’s why in this case, you know, I know I’m not going to have the top 10 jockeys lined up and have to make a difficult decision which jockey to choose on this particular horse. But after analyzing it, I really think that he’s a contender, not a pretender.
Danny Brewer: And doesn’t that maybe make it a little more worthwhile as far as because of your optimism and the fact that, you know, you’re not right there beating your door down, but you’re still going to do it. That will make it even more rewarding, right?
Ken Ramsey: Well I’ll tell you what. It could be an investment instead of a wild gamble or a speculation because I do stand to stay in Kitten’s Joy. And if he should win this race or run first, second or third, and also it makes him eligible for the Preakness and Belmont. If he should, you know, run 1, 2, 3 in those races, it’s going to bring a lot of attention to my staying.
And so I think maybe it’s more of an investment than it is a total speculation. If I didn’t have desire, it would be a little bit questionable who I’d want to roll the dice for, you know, $225,000 which is the base it’s going to cost me to get in. But in this case money is not, you know, the only thing in life, so we’re going to do it.
I’ve already made some reservations. The grandkids are all coming. So buying misfortune, we’re going to be in the derby come the first Saturday in May.
Danny Brewer: What about the rollercoaster ride that this sport can provide and has provided for you?
Ken Ramsey: Well, as the old saying goes and it’s a cliché, the downs are really down like last year and International Star who had more points than anybody for the derby came up with the problem the morning of the derby. That was just devastating because I really thought I had a shot. It swept all three of the derby prep races down at the fairgrounds and won the derby down there very impressively.
And I really thought I had a shot, a really good post position. And then all of a sudden, you know, get slapped in the face the morning of the derby. So that’s about as low as it can get. And – but I suffered, not suffered but I enjoyed a really, really high up at Turfway Park when this horse won the Spiral Stakes.
As you know, we did not – I nominate eight horses for the Kentucky Derby. And I went and talked to all my trainers. I said who’s got a shot? Who’s improving? Who’s doing this and that? And we nominate eight for the derby.
And then at the final round up in March I said anybody needs, you know, pay $6000 to get anybody else in? And no, no, no, no, no. And then this horse, when it came back to Kentucky, it woke up. I don’t know if it was the cool air or what, but about four or five days past the deadline, Matt called me and he says hey, this (Kitten Joy) has really woke up.
I worked him against a couple of my good ones this morning and he just dusted them off. So I think we may have a shot. And I said well, we’ll go if we can get in. So at 23 to 1 I did bet him across the board. And I bet some for my grandkids and the people I was with. But I have to tell you the truth, I was – I wasn’t shocked, but I was surprised when Brian Hernandez moved him on the outside and he came on.
And I think my gosh, if he can get the lead, he’s (Kitten Joy), you know, do have a big kick on the tail end, he could get there. And then at the very end he surged and beat Todd Pletcher’s horse. So the smile on the wife’s face and the way she was smiling and going to the Winner’s Circle with all that wind blowing, I mean that’s what it’s all about. That makes it all worthwhile.
So the fun and the highs definitely outweigh the lows. And it’s nice to look down from the top of the mountain. I’ve been there a time or two. Never in the derby or the Preakness or the Belmont, but a few other big races. I know what it’s like up there. It’s rarified air.
Danny Brewer: Well you deserve it. Could Brian be taking him out in the derby do you think?
Ken Ramsey: We have not discussed that except just preliminarily. As I said, I don’t think the Top 10 jockeys out there are going to be clamoring to ride this horse. We have not made a decision yet. Not made a decision yet. I want to get somebody that I think, you know, is an up and coming jock that got some experience would be there.
Brian Davis a fine rider over there on the Spiral Stakes. And we’ve not taken him off, but we’ve not made a final decision either.
Danny Brewer: Mr. Ramsey, I appreciate your time. And I certainly do wish you the best of luck sir.
Ken Ramsey: Thank you very much. After the Arkansas Derby Saturday, I think the jockey’s pretty much be set. And we’ll see what’s available at that time and go from there.
Operator: Two more question. Next question comes from Paul Mazur at ChicagoNow.
Paul Mazur: Mr. Ramsey, I wanted to ask you about the Shining Copper, he drew post seven in Friday’s Makers 46 mile at Keeneland. How does he look before that race at Keeneland and talk also about what happened at Gulfstream in the Grade 1 ((inaudible)).
Ken Ramsey: Well as you know, he was what we call the rabbit. Over in England they call it a pacemaker for Big Blue Kitten last year. And Big Blue Kitten ended up setting a track record primarily because the pacemaker was in there.
So down in – down at Gulfstream, Louie Siez was riding and we got beat I think about a head or a neck by the jockey we have on now. We’ve got – here tomorrow we’ve got let’s see, who did we put on? The same jock…
Paul Mazur: It looks like you got Paco Lopez.
Ken Ramsey: Yes, Paco Lopez. Yes, he beat us down at Gulfstream. We got him riding tomorrow. So yes, we was going to put him back on but Todd Pletcher wanted him to ride his horse and since he’s ridden that horse every time we said okay, take off. You can go ahead and go back to Todd. So he went back to Todd.
So we’re going to try to beat the jockey with the jockey that beat us the last time down there. But the horse will probably be on the lead. I’ve not looked at the PPs to see what the speed is in there. But we think he’ll probably be okay.
Chad talked about he didn’t want to use him for rabbit anymore since I no longer own Big Blue Kitten. We think this horse could be a great one on his own. I considered taking him down to Barbados to try to win the Barbados Gold Cup the third time in a row, but I figured we had enough ammunition to do it. Came up short ran second down there. It’s kind of hard to win these races three times in a row, like the Louisiana Derby. I blew that one also.
We think this horse is a Grade 1 horse. Chad likes him. So we think we’ve got him in the right spot. We’ll see what happens out there on Friday.
Paul Mazur: All right, thank you Mr. Ramsey. And good luck on the Makers.
Ken Ramsey: Okay thank you. Makers 46.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Ron Flatter at RS in Australia. Please go ahead.
Ron Flatter: Mr. Ramsey, looking at the past performances of Oscar Nominated, he’s 2 for 4 as a favorite. But then you take him in on his first time at 23 to 1 and he wins the Spiral. Is this just a hard force to predict?
Ken Ramsey: Well he’s never been on the dirt. So that’s a big question mark, can he go on the dirt because he’s got the turf top and bottom. Now since we’ve had him he’s been very consistent. In other words, when Billy Mott had him last time for the 75, he won the four and a quarter. We came back and he only got beat a head the next time in the last race at Churchill Downs.
Then he ran second by neck again, closing down in the fairgrounds, a little stake race. And then come back and was pulling away in the Black Gold. So the horse is very consistent. And a lot of speed in the derby. I expect him to be closing down the stretch. So I don’t – in other words, he’s been in the (mud) five), second or third five out of seven.
And the first two times it was lucky that he wasn’t in the (mud) or else I wouldn’t own him because he ran forth both those times when Billy Mott had him.
Jim Mulvihill: All right Ken. It’s always a blast talking to you. We wish you luck on Friday in the Makers 46 mile with a really cool horse in Shining Copper. It’s a really neat to see him kind of stepping out on his own and making a name for himself.
But we’ll look forward to seeing you at Keeneland this weekend. And best of luck the entire meet. And we’ll see you at Churchill for the derby.
Ken Ramsey: Well Shining Copper is another one of those good claims that we picked up out there. So you got to take your hat off to Mike Maker and Chad Brown for developing him so I can claim him.
Jim Mulvihill: No question. You’ve got two of the best trainers in the country if not the world in those two.
Ken Ramsey: Absolutely. Thank you very much.
Jim Mulvihill: All right. Ken Ramsey everybody. My thanks to all of our guests, not just Mr. Ramsey but also Bob Baffert, Ron Moquett. We’ll be back in two weeks for our Kentucky Derby preview call.