Haskin's Belmont Report: Billy, We Hardly Know Ya

Every several years, whenever a horse is attempting to sweep the Triple Crown, Billy Turner is summoned by the media to offer his take on the horse, the obstacles that stand in his way, and to reminisce about the great Seattle Slew, who under Turner’s guidance and expertise became racing’s only undefeated Triple Crown winner.

But there is something very wrong with this picture. If Turner, who is the only living Triple Crown-winning trainer, holds such a special place in history, accomplishing a feat never duplicated before or after, then why must he be dragged out of mothballs every once in a while like an old suit to be tried on and then put back in the closet?

Why has Turner been training in relative obscurity over the past several decades, eking out a living with only a handful of cheap horses?

Has Turner, now 72, forgotten how to train top-class stakes horses? He did after all train other talented horses in addition to Slew during his prime. Although Seattle Slew was a pure speed horse who was intent on getting the lead regardless of the pace and distance, Turner was able to get this impetuous colt to harness that speed and carry it a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. Even he had to ask himself after Slew had blazed seven furlongs in a track-record 1:20 3/5 in his 3-year-old debut, “How am I going to get this horse to go a mile and a half?”

Well, his steeplechase background paid off and he was able to turn in one of the great training jobs of all time. And this was at a time when steeplechase trainers for the most part remained in their own sport and didn’t venture into the flats. Turner’s success on the big stage opened the door for other trainers in steeplechasing and show jumping, such as eventual Kentucky Derby winners Michael Matz and Graham Motion.

But despite his steeplechase background, Turner’s success was not restricted to distance races. In fact, it’s just the opposite. His record in shorter races would more than satisfy the stallion-seeking owners of today who are attracted to speed. He did after all win the Met Mile, as well as the Carter, Withers, Jerome, Fall Highweight, Tom Fool, and Bold Ruler.

Yet even with Turner’s accomplishments and his place in history, not a single major owner has supported him by offering him any of their well-bred classic hopefuls, even though he is one of the few trainers in the country who has proven he knows what to do when he gets one. Has his handling of Seattle Slew simply faded through the cracks of history, surfacing only when a reporter asks him about a horse on the threshold of a Triple Crown sweep and what it was like back “in the old days” with Slew?

In 2011, Turner’s horses made only 55 starts, with 53 of them coming in maiden or claiming races. Of those 55 starts, only one time was his horse the favorite, and in 30 of them his horses were 10-1 or higher.

Doug O’Neill, in all his wisdom, has called to Turner for advice on how to handle the pressure-packed days that await him over the next 10 days.

“He really impressed me,” Turner said. “He asked me the questions I asked the people in Kentucky when I went for the Derby. He wanted to know the ins and outs of training on a mile and a half racetrack, if he can use the paddock in the morning, and my thoughts on the gate crew. He’s very astute and asked all the right questions. He’s taking this very seriously.”

Some people have questioned O’Neill’s decision not to work I’ll Have Another between the Preakness and the Belmont, especially considering the last three Triple Crown winners all had extensive works, including one at a mile. But Turner feels that should not be a concern at all.

“There’s a big difference between I’ll Have Another and Slew,” he said. “The reason I worked Slew the way I did wasn’t for fitness, it was for his exuberance. I wanted to take a little of the edge off him. The one thing I didn’t want was for him to go out there and run his first three-quarters in 1:09 and change. With I’ll Have Another, he’s the kind of horse you can do anything with. He has speed if you want him to use it, but he doesn’t have to. In Slew’s case, everything we did was on a day-to-day basis. We had to deal with the physical aspect of training and the mental aspect. So you can’t compare Slew and I’ll Have Another. They’re two totally different horses.”

Yep, Turner sure has forgotten how to train a horse. In an era of the megatrainer and stables of hundreds of horses, is there not a place for a legendary horseman like Turner? Is it conceivable that owners with huge numbers of horses, most of them purchased for big bucks at the sales, have no desire whatsoever to give a few of them to the only living Triple Crown-winning trainer and the only trainer to saddle an undefeated Triple Crown winner, especially considering that no trainer has been able to sweep the three races in 34 years?

It is every owner’s dream to win the Triple Crown and join that special fraternity that includes Penny Chenery, Patrice Wolfson, and Karen and Mickey Taylor and Jim and Sally Hill, not to mention names like Calumet Farm, Belair Stud, and King Ranch. So, here available to them is the only trainer alive who actually has proven he knows how to fulfill that dream, and no one is interested.

65 Comments

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Carry Back

Agree with you Steve. (especially as someone for whom Billy Turner trained a local champion)

More crucial if Mr. Turner is such a sought out statesman for racing by both industry and the media--and he is, why has he not yet been admitted to the Hall of Fame? He long should have been and definitely must be as soon as possible.

30 May 2012 4:56 PM
Wrensflight

Thank you for the excellent commentary, Steve. I think this exemplifies one of the flaws in human nature, and particularly in horse people, regardless of discipline. Too many horse people believe they know everything they need to know. The reluctance to consult with experts appears, to them (I believe), to be a deficiency in their own skill. It also seems that, as time passes and people grow older, the impression is that they are has-beens and are not knowledgable regarding current practices, even though current practices may not work as well as tried and true methods. Better to keep the classic folks in the game, whatever the game may be, as there is so much to be learned from them.

30 May 2012 5:21 PM
kincsem

I couldn't agree more. But racing horses is a purely emotional endeavor. Owners like to brag that they use the "best trainer in the business", and want to throw out a name like Pletcher, or Baffert to impress the listener who probably has only heard of either of those two trainers. It is a sport that is all about ego, as if owning a horse that runs faster than the others in a race somehow validates a human being as being better, or smarter. With this type of status symbol environment, is it any wonder that the obvious answer to hiring a Triple Crown trainer would be to invest some quality two years olds with someone who accomplished the task? Apparently, following the trend and losing your horses in a barn of 100+, just for the bragging rights are more important.

30 May 2012 5:26 PM
ksweatman9

Very nice, a thought provoking piece of writing. What a shame this horse savvy man has been overlooked. I'm sure he has much more to contribute to the sport if given the opportunity. On a different note, I see that the NYRA is going above and beyond to protect the integrity of the game. Since it's open season on O'Neill, I guess New York feels it's time to go into damage control mode. Afterall, no one wants a triple crown winner with a cloud of doubt over his head. Maybe the stakes barn should've been implemented from the start of the triple crown quest? You will have to win the Belmont without a milkshake or your nasal strips, "Red". Do you think you can do that? I'm thinking you can. When you're rich and famous IHA, oh, you are. Anyway, maybe you could change your name to something more elegant, like the movie stars do. Just a thought.

30 May 2012 5:32 PM
Freetex

It is certainly regrettable owners have not taken advantage of Mr. Turner's training skills and expertise.

You know what Steve, I think its a combination of owners wanting the flashy trainers and sadly, age.  Yes, age discrimination happens to the young and the old.  Its too bad because today's 70 is not like even 20 years ago.  People are living longer, healthier, and are way more active than past senior generations.  This is just my theory.  As I am moving up the age number ladder I have observed when others know how old you are they acknowledge your presence differently.  

However, I do believe the times are a-changing.  For example look at all the old rockers performing way into their sixties.  I believe the baby boomers will make a huge difference regarding age discrimination in the years to come.

Just saying.

30 May 2012 5:43 PM
lahubbar

Perhaps owners keep their eye on the younger, more current trainers as opposed to trainers Billy's age whose training techniques they may not feel are "with the times"? I don't claim to know anything about training a racehorse, but I could see how the Motions, Bafferts, Romans might be at the front of the mind because of recent successes. I don't know...

30 May 2012 5:48 PM
Gary Sexton

Thank you for this blog post, Steve.

30 May 2012 5:57 PM
Delrene

Thank you for bringing to the forefront an amazing article about an incredible trainer.  Of course I had read his name and am famliar with some of the background behind Seattle Slew.  I feel like I know him so much better.  I did visit Three Chimneysand have seen the statue of this amazing horse.  I'm impressed that Mr. O'Neill has sought his sage advice.  Always find so much heart in your articles.    

30 May 2012 6:01 PM
an ole railbird

i had the pleasure of being stalled in the same barn with mr billy turner, both before & after slew. & he stands way up the list,in my memories of "the best horseman ". i even galloped & worked a few horses for him. in my mind billy turner is a lot like messh tenney.( trainer of swaps). in modern times swaps & seattle slew would both have been gelded. because of bad behavior. both bt & mt. got these horses as colts& they were studdie & rank. they would bite you, kick kick you, run over you& then paw you as they went by. both men handled their stud horses as stud have to be handled in order to train them. they were both horsemn enough to know what they had in their horses as far as talent& they managed to harness their ability& win races. lots of big races .  it was only after their sucess, that their methods were questioned. the press & bleeding hearts of todays raceing would have not  allowed for the either swaps or seattle slew devoloped into the great horses that they were.   mr turner if i ever have a horse running in new york or anywhere you are training i will be glad to be your costumer. salute to you ,sir. you need a bunch of these young bucks that are training to clean your stalls. enough said . ill go back to being "an ole railbird".

30 May 2012 6:39 PM
Holysmoke

OK.  That's it.  You got to me.  I read what you write.  I enjoy it.  As a professional novelist (real name withheld for all sorts of reasons) I know you can write and I know you're writing at speed which in your case is the name of the game: journalism.  But this time you really got me.  This time there was so much heart and so much truth and so much concern about a horseman who should never be forgotten, never mind unused, I fell head over heels.  Mr. Haskins, I love you.  As for Mr. Turner, if I had a glorious horse to race, Mr. Billy Turner would be my first choice as trainer.

30 May 2012 6:49 PM
Paddy

I have been wondering for years why Billy Turner didn't have stakes horses in his barn. I've heard all kinds of rumours as to why (rumours being the racetrackers main mode of communication) but no facts. I'm glad to see you asking the same question, Steve. I wonder if anyone will come up with an answer.

Meanwhile, best of luck Mr Turner, I hope you find your next Derby winner. I'll be cheering all the way.

30 May 2012 6:52 PM
Rita

It is so sad to do a wonderful man like this. To me it is just another case of the younger people not knowing the history of the good never to be again, older ones.Older people have so much to offer in just about anything nowadays you can tell I'm one by that word oh well.So many are out of work and would love to help with different things. Everyone should try to make some good older friends.

30 May 2012 7:04 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Great article Steve, doesn't seem fair. All I can think of is it must be like any other industry or corporation, they phase out the older generation and think the neophytes are better.  Not always the case.  

Liked your article clarifying and explaining the Stakes Barn.  I think for the horses' sakes they should be left in their own barns they occupied at Belmont when they arrived.  It seems like a move to control and monitor veterinarian's actions.  Sounds like Fort Knox.

Got my designer dress last weekend, I'm dressing for a Coronation, nasal strips on IHA or not!!!

Lava Man has been busy at Belmont, he's trying to gather as much info as he can to mentor IHA there:

Lava Man:  "Hey, I ate dinner at Thirsty's barn last night, they got some gooooood food over there. Anyway, Thirsty says you can't take the first turn here too wide, if you do you'll end up way out at Yankee Stadium and Jeter will have to ride you back to the race!"

IHA:  "Can I wear my nasal strips?"

Lava Man:  "Nope, afraid not my boy.  But just pretend you have entered the Stakes Barn and smell cauliflower cooking, your nostrils will flare out ok." (from an old I Love Lucy episode)

IHA:  "What's up with this bunkhouse we have to live in for 3 days?  Is it like a slumber party before the race?"

Lava Man:  "In a way.  Just go along with it no matter if Alpha snores.  We're a long way from home and our beloved California and you are doing great.  In a couple of weeks you will be the hero of the world."

IHA:  "Ok, I will.  Did you ask Thirsty about the last turn."

Lava Man:  "Yep.  You time it just right, you watch 2005 Belmont tapes

over and over again of when Afleet Alex made his move.  You save your energy and go when Mario says to go.  And remember boy, it's quicksand out there."

IHA:  "I'll remember everything and I will try my best for my team and my fans and the world."

Good Luck to IHA and team O'Neill.

30 May 2012 7:08 PM
Mike Relva

STEVE

Great work and I toatally agree.

30 May 2012 7:15 PM
Katherine

Unbelievable.

30 May 2012 7:20 PM
Brown brother

Steve I am so glad you wrote this column because I feel the same way.  I have two cheap horses with Mr. Turner and have the highest respect for his horsemanship. I only wish I could afford to provide him with the well-bred or expensive horses he richly deserves. He managed to guide my home-bred ny bred to an open maiden victory last year, nusing him back from a partially bowed tendon and making my lone broodmare a winning producer with her first progeny. He is honest, still hard-working even at 72 and a pleasant gentleman. I feel lucky to have him train my horses.

30 May 2012 7:28 PM
KG1

Hi Steve,

I didn't even know Bill Turner was still training.  It seems crazy to me that a man with his experience wouldn't get people knocking on his door to train their horses.

It took a tremendous horse to get through The Triple undefeated.  Undoubtably the canny trainer had more that a bit to do with it.

His age shouldn't be a detriment either.  Woody Stephens the King of the Belmont...was still going in what? his eighties?

D Wayne Lucas is no spring chicken either and managed to get two winners on The Derby card.  

btw...Optimizer...

I don't think Lucas is just running hin in The Belmont for owner vanity.  What's your opinion?

I believe you did an article not so long ago with a listing of a slew of trainers with previous Triple credentials...that don't seem to get horses either.  If I'm not mistaken, some of them are training on the NY circuit.

Personally if I was lucky enough to be able to own runners, I would want them with a smaller operation rather than the factory barns.

On another note I was at Belmont on Monday.  What a bang up Met Mile!  Caleb's Posse closed like a freight train and Shackleford just dug in like a bulldog.  Not to mention that the race was run a whole second faster than 2 previous race at that distance earlier on the card! Buffum an allowance and Contested in The Acorn (G1).

Hope you got to see that one in person.

Take care

30 May 2012 7:35 PM
anita b

Steve,

 Thank you for this great article about Billy Turner. If I had horses---he would be a trainer I would want to train. I lost respect for Slew's owners when Billy wanted to give the horse a break and they said no. And took Slew away from him.

I am really pleased that Doug O Neil went to him for information and advice. Lets hope it pays off on June 9th. Thanks again Steve

30 May 2012 7:48 PM
Doodge

Steve, maybe this piece will turn some heads towards Billy Turner.  I hope so.

30 May 2012 7:52 PM
fuzzbert

Despite whatever differences the public, owners, and racing in general may have had (or still do) with Mr. Turner - the fact remains that he trained one of the greatest horses of all time and won the TC.  A feat only 9 others did before him.  Seems pretty stupid to me that no one - until now wants to listen to him.  I applaud Doug O'Neil for asking the questions.  Here's looking at #12.  GO TEAM O'NEIL!!!!

30 May 2012 8:16 PM
upset

If he doesn't have Belmont level horses these days, and gave a darn about winning, then he should move.

Not having stakes horses in your barn is no excuse for being 2 for 55 last year and 0 for 8 this year.

Run them where they belong even if it means moving to another circuit.

Show people you give a darn about winning, and aren't out to just charge them day rate, and you'll earn yourself better horses.

And don't allow yourself to be used in publicity stunts like that filly Notinrwildestdremz.

30 May 2012 8:26 PM
steve from st louis

I always wondered about Turner and guys like Jack Van Berg, champion trainers who showed up more times than not in claiming races later in their careers. I thought Turner had some personal problems that cost him the chance at top horses but to this day can't understand why Van Berg couldn't get better stock to race. It wasn't like Marion's son forgot his Nebraska roots.

30 May 2012 8:35 PM
Steve Haskin

Sorry for the backup. They were having some glitches with the Community Server.

30 May 2012 8:46 PM
skyfire

A really good trainer knows that horses are individuals,  and  trains him/her according to what that  horse needs.  Mr. Turner obviously knows how to do that, as apparently does Mr. O'Neill!!

There is more to training than knowing your horse --- there are people skills involved too.  I hope that Billy Turner gets a good horse soon - that horse would be given every chance to succeed, which is all an owner can ask for!!

30 May 2012 8:48 PM
El Kabong

Well done Steve.

ed?

Stories like  this  just add to the pure color of the sport. Being on the backside of any track is like being privy to great stories and history but being a part of your column is like being on the inside of many great moments in thoroughbred history, wherever they occur.

I had no idea Mr. Turner was still training. Where is he based ?

This is going to be a great race and I just can't wait.

30 May 2012 9:29 PM
slewcrew7778

Just a thought. I watched a brief interview with Turner on HRTV a few days ago. He spoke a little about the way the game has changed with a 'it is what it is' kind of tone in his voice that lacked approval of it.

I can't help but wonder if it's by choice, like 'ole railbird' (apparently?) that he does not participate at the highest level of the game. He's never seemed like one to me who has felt like he needed to prove anything to anybody. And he's absolutely right. Truly, the loss is not his !

30 May 2012 10:26 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, you are so right. I thought he was reitred and no longer training. The fact that he is still in the game and not getting quality horses is a sad commentary on the sport. If I am remembering correctly, he always wanted the best for Seattle Slew and came into conflict when he felt that the owners were over racing him. I am so glad Doug has asked him for his advice. I like Doug more and more and hope IHA does well. But the fact is, Seattle Slew was an incredibly special and great horse, and he had his equivalent in his trainer.

30 May 2012 11:01 PM
GPS

He didn't win the Triple Crown but Leroy Jolly is still wallowing around in obscurity also. What these two don't have is a big white smile, taylor made suits and Cartier sunglasses. Oh I forgot, a big line of BS.

31 May 2012 6:16 AM
BigRedForever

Karen & Mickey Taylor and Jim & Sally Hill's decision to remove Billy after Slew's ill-advised trip to California just 3 weeks after the Belmont torpedoed his career.  Running in the Grade 1 Swaps (@ a mile and a quarter) at Hollywood Park was the last thing Slew needed to do, and Billy made that perfectly clear, according to most insiders.  Their desire to blame someone other than the horse, or THEMSELVES, left only Billy as the scapegoat.  Slew went on the shelf for the winter and Billy went to the shelf forever, never one to make excuses.

The dynamic that existed between those owners and ultimately lead to the demise of their partnership was greed, and their own faults lead to the finger-pointing at Billy.

Was Billy without faults of his own? Of course not.  BUT, that event has dogged him ever since and the labels that their accusations caused probably made many fearful...so sad.  He deserved better then and he deserves better now.  Recognize him for what he accomplished. He still has so much to offer the sport.

31 May 2012 9:35 AM
Derby Dew

Steve,

Thanks for the shout out to Billy Turner.  This exceptional horseman is a class act.  I'll never forget the opportunity I had to briefly speak with him at Suffolk Downs when he brought a horse in (can't remember the name) to run in the Masscap.  Mr. Turner chose to watch the race on the grandstand apron, mingling with the common racing fans and comfortably sharing his thoughts on the race with the masses.  I sense that he is a very humble man who doesn't like to blow his own horn.  Sometimes, too much humility leads to obscurity.

Too bad, Billy Turner deserves much better.

31 May 2012 11:04 AM
LucyWG

I showed horses for many years.  I did all my own training and grooming and even taught a few kids and started a few horses.  I was pretty successful despite the fact I had a limited budget and no help.  Over the years I watched many trainers and I can tell you right now, some of those that were most popular were not the best and some of the best could barely make a living.  Owners want a certain sort of charisma and flash and someone who can put that on will frequently do better than he actually deserves. This has gotten worse over the years.

I have a feeling things are not always so different in horse racing. So, a really good horseman like Turner will be overlooked for someone with the ability to impress in all sorts of unimportant ways.  We live in a very superficial era.

  On a similar note, I saw trainers' reputations ruined when they had actually done nothing wrong and I saw really unethical, even cruel, trainers florish.  This, too, gets worse all the time.  

  Good luck to Billy Turner and good luck to I'll Have Another and his crew in the Belmont!

31 May 2012 12:45 PM
Fran Loszynski

To Alex's Big Fan

I'm glad you see the resemblance of IHA to Afleet Alex's stride. That kick in speed is the same he will need in the Belmont. Mario will just have to know when it should happen.

On another note Mr. Turner probably seemed to be obscure because he traveled to the Moon with Seattle Slew, you relish the moments and think how can this happen again. Some people need alot of time to realize it just may happen again. The love of a racehorse is a rare thing you never see that look again after they have taken your heart at the rail. I'm sure each feeling he had for Seattle Slew is his own private trophy. Many jockeys and trainers travel great distances to visit their best friend and remember "that day" again. Good Luck to IHA, Union Rags, Dullahan and I guess you just saw my Trifecta.

31 May 2012 1:39 PM
an ole railbird

superficial era.??? i kinda like that. racing horses in the superficial era. we could name a handicap "the superfacial era handicap". make it a invitional, & invite the most vain trainers, to enter horses. ill bet you wouldnt have any trouble filling that race. enough said. ill go back to being "an ole railbird"

31 May 2012 4:43 PM
deb

People go with fads. They forget what was great yesterday. Slew was a great horse and his trainer helped him attain his glory. Kudos to Mr. Turner for his ability to do what he did with Slew and the many others he has helped.

People just go with the newest thing, even in trainers. It is sad.

31 May 2012 5:34 PM
Linda in Texas

Ya'll are in luck, i submitted my post and it said 'error' and i think that is what the doctor told my parents when i was born! Upside down and backwards! Been going uphill my entire life.

Important things first. ABF, love your posts. Okay, woman to woman

what color is your Belmont Frock?

I was wearing a lilac blouse and skirt during the KD and did not

realize it was their color until Mr. Reddam was interviewed wearing his lilac tie that "their color" is purple/lilac.

I will be wearing it for the 3rd time. Just for The Belmont.

Steve, glad to read about your walk back with Mr. Turner. And to know that Mr. O'Neill has been in contact with him. I already mentioned that Doug uses old fashioned training steps. So none

better than Mr. Turner to know about those.

Has anyone inspected the inspectors who will be inspecting

at the 'stakes' barn? Wow, i don't remember things being this pristine and persnickety (rarely if ever get to use that word, fits the bill here.)

The time is creeping by. And my word, what about the loose horse on the track???, skimmed the boot of 'Another's' rider between the rail and 'Another'? That is close.

Thanks Steve. So glad you spoke with Mr. Turner and shared his thoughts with us. Knowledge not shared is lost forever and Mr. Turner knew his horse, he was right. And i still love Seattle Slew and all his progeny.  

31 May 2012 5:38 PM
Giddyup

Billy Turner is probably a good trainer but getting Slew to train was the equivalent of being handed keys to a turbo charged Ferrari. The horse was so naturally talented that he could have beat most competition with no training at all.

31 May 2012 7:02 PM
Paula Higgins

Giddyup, I don't agree at all that just anyone can train a great horse. How many good horses have been ruined by trainers who have pushed their horses too fast or too much? A bunch. People like John Shirreffs and Billy Turner are undervalued by some people in this business and it makes me really mad. Keeping a great horse healthy, happy and winning is no small feat no matter how great the horse.

31 May 2012 9:15 PM
Racingfan

Thanks for another great and timely article Steve!  We can always count on you!  I think it is very sad that owners are not giving him their very best horses to train because he has proven he knows how to do it very well.  If I had horses I would be thrilled to have him train for me! I love that fact that Doug talked to him.  I have been very happy with the "old school" type training and I think it was very wise to ask advice of someone who has accomplished the feat. It seems that Doug is making all the right moves.  I even feel a lot better now about the horse not working at all between the races because that is the one concern I have had since hearing the news.   On another note - does this "stakes barn" deal seems a little like overkill to anyone but me?  I don't remember ever reading about anything this severe before....?

31 May 2012 9:42 PM
Linda in Texas

Racingfan - Yes.

31 May 2012 10:09 PM
cigars

were is billy turner stabled at? i like to follow his horses. Is it NJ?

31 May 2012 10:23 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

Once again, a timely and laser accurate article.  

Why has Billy Turner been poison to horse owners after winning the Triple Crown.  It was the low class no nothings who he trained Seattle Slew for who bad mouthed him after he made them rich and famous.

And, I'm sure he's not had a major drug conviction so there is no possible way he can attract the same owners as a Todd Pletcher does who's horses run out of their skin and who is not, miraculously, the subject of the same microscopic ridicule by racing authorities as Doug O'Neil.

It's one of the reasons I'm no longer the racing fan I was thirty years ago or so.

31 May 2012 11:26 PM
Peg645

The following comments from above say it all - "too many horse people believe they know everything they need to know", and... "apparently, following the trend and losing your horses in a barn of 100+, just for the bragging rights are more important.It is a sport that is all about ego."

Exactly. While so many in racing must suffer fools gladly these days.

There is no one in racing who is more of a horseman than Bill Turner.

Thank you, Steve - my favorite turf writer, on my favorite trainer. I can hear his voice in the remarks above. I wish to hear it again on the Hall of Fame dais next year.  

31 May 2012 11:28 PM
slewcrew7778

No sympathy for Billy here. Only admiration. Like an old Jedi whose wisdom does not allow for compromise. "Ole Railbird', I suspect Mr. Turner may share your views, and prefers to be a spectator from the realm of obscurity rather than go with the flow !

31 May 2012 11:33 PM
Laura from RI

I saw SS in 77 & Affirmed in 78 @ Belmont and did it ever occur that Billy was "blackballed" by those selfish owners (and we know who they are)?

Billy Turner is an astute trainer who knows how to

bring a horse to his potential. It's too bad that more owners don't give enough credo to what has he has done, esp. the snobs @ who vote for trainers into NMHR. Billy, you're a GREAT TRAINER & always will be : )  

31 May 2012 11:34 PM
Needler in Virginia

We were lucky enough to meet both Slew and his monster son, Slew O' Gold, at Three Chimneys all the back in 1989; Slew had to be ridden every afternoon just to keep the edge off. He always was a Ferrari with one hell of an overdrive and needed the exercise just to remain sane.......at least that's what we were told by the stallion manager, and I'd bet the he's the one who knew! Clearly, Mr Turner knew his horse and managed him beautifully; why no one went to him after that magical year is a real mystery to me even now. Clearly, the big box trainers are the flavors of the month these days, but you don't see ANY of them doing what Mr Turner did. Take all the evidence, evaluate, put it in the blender and mix it up, RE-evaluate and you still get the same answer.......Laurin, Turner and Barrera knew how to win the Triple Crown; does anyone have an idea who might be able to fill their shoes these days???????????

Snarky, snarky, I know and apologize. (It's not that much of an apology!)

Cheers and VERY safe trips to the Reddam/O'Neill group. Take advice from those who know and it looks like you've found someone who does.

31 May 2012 11:35 PM
Greg R

There are so many trainers and would-be trainers that it must be difficult to stand out.  Seemingly, it helps to be garrulous, media-savvy and self-promoting and there's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't come naturally to everyone.  

Meanwhile, I'm glad to know what he thinks about IHA.

01 Jun 2012 12:11 AM
Greg R

By the way, I wouldn't care that IHA is not working during this three-week interval, but he didn't work between the first two races, either, did he?  So that means he will not have worked for roughly SIX weeks, since his work before the Derby.  Looking at it that way, no work in SIX weeks is a bit more disconcerting than no work in just three weeks.

01 Jun 2012 12:19 AM
Another Rosebud

Mr. Turner took two backyard homebreds from us, a couple of Connecticut yokels, and brought them to the winner's circle at Belmont.  Can he train top-class stakes horses?  Many other mainstream NYRA trainers would have LOL'd at our high hopes for horses that most would have thought suited for Suffolk or Finger Lakes.  He never tried to flim flam, smooth talk or eek any extra money.  The man's a quiet genius, a Howard Roark of horse trainers. I think he's ok with that.

01 Jun 2012 12:52 AM
Geronimo2123

Yes, Turner is a forgotten trainer. Great article. He also said they were doing things right with Big Brown, however. I still have his comments. What is he supposed to do? Tell Doug to change his training schedule?

Slew was the type of horse that you had to take the edge off of. Turner should go speak to the connections of Hansen because THAT HORSE needed at least two strong breezes before the Derby and he got one tepid drill. And we saw the result Derby day...

Billy forgets that the reason they worked horses twice back then (and they worked Big Red and Affirmed twice back then as well--Big Red ran two bullet 6f drills-between the Preakness and Belmont. Other trainers would run in a stakes race in between...because you wanted to keep the horse fit AND sharp. On his toes...When the elastic is pulled this tight, you need to keep tightening it until Belmont Saturday.

Yeah, I know, i know...training methods have changed. We haven't won a T/C since the 70s and those training schedules either, have we? And, the last 3 T/C winners used their speed early and held sway around the track wire to wire. You basically have to do that since there are no big late moves for T/c horses in the Belmont Stakes. They are always run down when they move and they are so sharp they fight the hold until the are moved early (ask The Bid's trainer or Smarty Jone's trainer about trying to keep the rating hold on their colt along the backstretch).

I do not think they worked Smarty either before the Belmont...I know IHA has the heart, talent and will to win this. And he is fit. Love his gallops. But, will he be razor sharp? Remember, he is the speed in this race (practically speaking). When the gate opens I predict IHA will be pulling like you have never seen him pulling before.

01 Jun 2012 1:06 AM
Cassandra.Says

I seem to recall Billy Turner had a part in the original purchase of Slew for $17,500, but it is not acknowledged on Slew's website. The website salutes Doug Peterson for training Slew to his greatest feats -- surely nothing but malice could omit going undefeated through the Triple Crown from the list of his greatest feats!

And Giddyup: While trainers and riders have learned it plays well to say "This horse makes it easy" there are many horses now and historically from whom we often see less than their best, many

a talented two-year-old who doesn't deliver, many a breakdown that was not really an "accident," many a fiery and precocious colt who is gelded to make him manageable. (See requiems for Dynaform and note how many gelded sons he has had win graded stakes.)

It won't be easy until they learn to talk.

01 Jun 2012 2:11 AM
JON R

I still don't undersand why Turner didn't get elected to the Hall of Fame the year he got Slew through the Triple Crown undefeated.  No one else had/has done that.  That should have been enough in '77 to get him there.  Had he been "more famous/established" at the time that would have done it.  I still get a bit unhinged when I think back to the owners of Slew running him back in a 1 1/4-mile race just three weeks after the Belmont.  I believe you addressed all that in your excellent story/article of Slew...and his death...and about how many times he was tranquilized for commercials after the Belmont, etc., and then again to fly to the West coast.  Slew was a bit of a basket case after all that.  That is perhaps the worst example of "managing a horse" one could ever imagine. Slew could have stayed undefeated for who knows how long had that not been done to him.

01 Jun 2012 9:08 AM
bohemiastable

A few years ago on this same blog I made a similar comment to the state of Jack Van Berg who IS in the HOF but has a record similar to Turner's over the last number of years--cheap horses, long shots, and poor percentage of winners--Mr Haskin did answer and said his personality or similar probably had something to do with it.

Well I appreciate Mr Turners work with Slew, Czaravich and others, I don't question his talent, trainer far better resumes are NOT in the HOF so I wouldn't go that far.

Tiznow's trainer, a horse that won back to back BC's never caught on as well.

01 Jun 2012 2:08 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Linda in Texas,

Thanks.  I answered you in Steve's next article about "Another Gallop" please read it over there.

I like your lilac outfit for IHA.

01 Jun 2012 4:39 PM
Linda in Texas

Another Rosebud, your posting hit me right in the middle of my heart and tip toed up to my eyes.

You are so right. Not every sows ear can become a silk purse. But i tend to think many can, do and will. I loved the story of your's. More power to them and you for having the faith in them. We cannot all be blue blooded hoopty do's and that includes people, dogs and especially horses.

01 Jun 2012 4:59 PM
Stellar Jayne

What trainers and owners under 50 yrs. of age don't know is that someone who has reached 60-70+ years, no matter their walk in life, still think intellectually as a 20 - 50 yr. old, has desires and aspirations as great as theirs!  One needs only to look across the human spectrum of life and fields of accomplishments to realize that the brain and desires do not turn-off at an arbitrary number.  Many changes have occurred in the breeding and training of thoroughbreds with much of it not for the better and basically done by a "younger generation" with overblown egos.

As one of the writers stated above and as has been reported elsewhere, Billy Turner was done wrong by the Taylor's.  The onus for Slew's failure belonged to them, not Turner.  Slew seemed to be a high testosterone horse just like Northern Dancer, but even that type of horse needs down time after several big races.

It is encouraging that O'Neill sought out Turner's advice, I haven't thought too highly of him - this was a plus on his ledger.

May the horse who is best on June 9th win and may they all come home healthy and sound!

01 Jun 2012 8:43 PM
Greg R

Yes, Geronimo, they did work Smarty Jones between Preakness and Belmont.  He worked seven furlongs in something like 1:27+, which should have taken the edge off, if that were possible, but it wasn't.

As for the need to go virtually wire to wire, that necessarily depends on the pace and shape of the race, which may determined by other horses in the race, not by IHA.  He just needs to be settled and comfortable, while staying in contention.  That might mean stalking or even running in mid-pack,if others are eager and set a bruising pace.  If he can set fractions on the lazy side of moderate, then leading would be fine, too.  Que sera, sera.  But they should never instruct the jockey to beat the field to the first turn at all costs.

02 Jun 2012 12:51 AM
Slew

Haven't read all the comments yet, but had to say, I love Billy Turner.  I keep an eye out for his runners in NY but see less and less each year.  It's too freakin' pathetic.  When I watched HRTV's 2 part special on Slew, Billy Turner impressed me most, and I felt that his comments were honest, and the most accurate description of events.  

I believe Billy Turner is a true horseman, and I will always be grateful for Slew.

Thank you Steve (at least you've never forgotten) and Billy, and Doug for seeking counsel from the man who knows how to get it done.

And to whomever spoke of how quick trainers are to geld a fractious horse, you're right.  But then, they did geld Kelso and it never mellowed him an inch.  There is simply a fiery independence and intelligence to some horses, that we can merely marvel at.  I love my wild things!

02 Jun 2012 10:36 AM
Slew

PS Linda in TX: " i think that is what the doctor told my parents when i was born! Upside down and backwards! Been going uphill my entire life."

Same here!  Guess we're 2 of a kind.

After 34 years, you would think Belmont would promote the opportunity to host a possible Triple Crown winner.  Instead, they continue to throw roadblocks in his way at every turn.  He was almost run over by a loose filly on Thurday.  Don't forget to wear your Breath Right strips to the Belmont, folks.  Show Belmont what you think of them.  

And WHY does no race track have a Seattle Slew stakes...especially Belmont, his home track?

02 Jun 2012 10:51 AM
Reeves

Steve, another great article!!

I'm sure Billy Turner has a keen interest in the success of I'll Have Another.  Do you know if Billy expressed any special interest in the stable pony?  Had to be very nostalgic.

02 Jun 2012 1:48 PM
Linda in Texas

Slew, well finally i find the connection. I thought it was due to the moniker you use to post. He is was and will always be my hero.

Seattle Slew no less no more and trained by the quiet man Mr. Billy Turner.  And next comes Skip Away, Kip Deville, Lava Man, Game on Dude, Paddy O'Prado and my neighbor state's Pepper's Pride, then Zenyatta and Rapid Redux who is now at Old Friend's. He will liven up the place with his young age and Michael Blowen says in his email to friends that the bad man Gulch is his best bud. Tell me there isn't love in racing.

Next week at this time there will be a Belmont Winner. I look forward to a clean, and i mean clean in every way from trainers to jockeys to horses, to gate loaders. I jinx no one.

Good Luck and a safe return to all and i truly mean that.

03 Jun 2012 1:02 PM
Pedro1874

Another wonderfully written article Steve - thanks again.  I would like to go against the flow and comment on Billy's present record (2 from 55 last season).  Surely two of a master trainer's many skills are in the placing of lower grade horses in races that they can win and also when to tell an owner that their particular horse will NEVER win so as to know that most of the horses in your barn are all potential winners albeit in maidens and claimers?

04 Jun 2012 7:43 AM
Thelwell Pony

I felt very sad when I first read this article. It's hard to see legends fade away. It's also hard to feel like they get exploited from time to time. The true majority of thoroughbreds running at any given time are horses of dubious "quality." Seattle Slew was one of them - $17500? That's STILL a pretty cheap horse today! The fact that they don't break any records or win national acclaim on a daily basis doesn't mean they give any less. Maybe training in relative anonymity is still satisfying to someone who has "been there, done that." Coaxing talent, even fleeting, out of B & C students can be rewarding. We should probably be thankful that someone with so much talent and horsemanship is looking out for horses at this level of the sport.

At any rate, I hope Mr. Turner billed Mr. O'Neill for the consult! If his advice was on the house, it was priceless.

04 Jun 2012 11:05 AM
hank

Racing gods sometime are very tough on people, Mr Turner has a differrent attitude than other trainers, he doesn't try to sell u the Brookyn Bridge for a dollar, and that is the key difference between being a small time has been or a big time succesfull trainer,Reason I say that is because you have to have big money to operate in these circles, profit and loss sheet doesn't come into play in these circles, just make sure you looked like you just came out of dry cleaners at all times Definetly for what ever reasons he got the short end of the stick, I find it truly hearwarming that Mr O'Neil was so humble in pursuing advice from this man.Sometimes sucess in lfe comes in different ways,

05 Jun 2012 10:08 AM
JoJo

Mr. Turner is a true horseman. His knowledge and experience is invaluable to pass along to the next generation of trainers. He is a kind and generous gentleman that deserves recognition and never to be forgotten for his accomplishments big and small. We are starting a campaign collecting names and signatures to nominate him to the Hall of Fame. Please contact 5R Racehorse Stables email: office@5Rstables.com if you agree.

20 Jun 2012 6:33 PM
Sean Kerr

Dear Upset

Your comment about Billy's day rate borders on slander. "

Show people you give a darn about winning, and aren't out to just charge them day rate, and you'll earn yourself better horses.

And don't allow yourself to be used in publicity stunts like that filly Notinrwildestdremz."

By the way, I am one of the owner's of Notinrwildestdremz. You absolutely have a right to your opinion.

My opinion is that you don't have the spine to stand by your words and that is why you hide like a coward behind your label "upset".  

Sincerely, Sean Kerr

14 Aug 2012 10:13 AM

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