Stress on the Derby Trail

We’ve already seen some stress and low tolerance building in the camp of one of the leading Kentucky Derby hopefuls.

Following the Seahawks – Forty Niners game, we saw what can happen when the media probes a star player at a time when his emotions are still running high and the adrenaline is still flowing. There is no down time to gather one’s composure. It is, “What are you feeling right now?” The public wants to know.

Many horse trainers, like athletes, require a fair amount of space and are not receptive to inquisition every time their top Derby contender walks the shed instead of galloping or gallops instead of working. The media and the public have a right to know up to a point, but must realize that the world they are attempting to penetrate is far removed from the outside world. In many ways, an NFL locker room is like a trainer’s barn.

No one but a trainer and his immediate staff can claim to know what it’s like to wake up every morning hoping there is no phone call from the barn or begin work at 4:30 to 5:30 in the morning, seven days a week. Once you arrive, you hope the groom of one of your star horses (or any horse for that matter) doesn’t have bad news for you, like his horse rapped himself overnight, cast himself in his stall, did not clean up his dinner from the night before, has a fever, is coughing, is acting colicky.

Then, once you get past that, you feel your horses’ ankles, hoping they feel cold, tight, and smooth, especially your big Derby horse. Any bump, any hot spot could mean the end of your Derby dream, as well as the dream of the owner, who you then have to call to relay the bad news before the media finds out.

With Twitter and Facebook, the word of any setback, no matter how minor, can leak out and be posted within a matter of minutes. Then the owner reads it and wants to know how come he or she wasn’t told before it became public knowledge.

It is a rare person who can go through this every morning without feeling the pressure and occasionally getting stressed out.

The relationship between trainers and the media during the months of January to May should be kept simple. Everyone wants to get the story out first that a top Derby horse has a setback, no matter how minor, and was forced to miss a work. To the media, it has always been some kind of badge of honor to break a story, regardless of how it will affect the connections of the horse. After all, that is what the media does, and has always done. It’s the nature of the beast, even though most reporters have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, what the inner workings of a stable entails, and just how personally involved the trainer and his help get to these horses and how special they become. Speaking ill of one of their horses – how he has no class, no speed, or no heart – is like speaking ill of one of their family members. “Knock me, but don’t knock my horse” is the philosophy of every stable.

The media has its job to do, and that is informing the public of any important developments in a prompt and accurate manner. Trainers, however, often do not see or appreciate that. Their entire world is so confined and so wrapped up in one barn or one horse or one owner, they have a tendency to keep a lid on what goes on in that world, which they often try to protect from outside invaders..

There is no right or wrong when two opposite worlds collide – worlds that can serve one another at times, but conflict at other times. Simply put, when things are going well, everything connects. When things are not going well, the media can become the enemy.

This is horse racing, especially on the Derby trail where so much is at stake and where a trainer and owner can fall off the trail after strutting happily along just minutes before.

Most trainers embark on the Derby trail with only one horse, creating even more pressure. Some have two or even three, at least giving them something to fall back on. And then you have Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert, who in many ways, with their arsenal of Derby horses every year, prove how tough it is to win the Derby, and in some years, just make it there.

Last winter, Baffert, who has won three Derbys and whose strength is getting horses to Churchill on the first Saturday in May, had a barnful of potential Derby horses – Flashback, Power Broker, War Academy, Code West, Tiz the Truth, Shakin it Up, Belvin, Super Ninety Nine, Govenor Charlie, Curly Top, Carving, and Title Contender. None of them made it to the Derby, as Baffert was forced to watch from the sidelines. Even for a Derby guru like Baffert, there are no guarantees on the Derby trail, which proves perilous year after year.

Pletcher, on the other hand, managed to get five extremely talented horses to the Derby starting gate – Revolutionary, Verrazano, Palace Malice, Overanalyze, and Charming Kitten. They finished 3rd, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 14th. The last time Pletcher saddled five in the Derby, all finished out of the money. We know about the ones that make it, and five is an exceptional feat in itself, but forget about the ones that don’t – in Pletcher’s case last year, the top-ranked Violence, 2-year-old champ Shanghai Bobby, Delhomme, Capo Bastone, Winning Cause, Abraham, Doherty, and Forty Tales. 

Until someone can feel firsthand the pressures Derby trainers go through on a daily basis, they should not be critical if they catch a trainer in a bad mood or being elusive, or trying to protect the sanctuary that is their barn.

On the other hand, trainers must realize that a reporter also has a job to do and faces deadlines, and many stake their reputation on not looking totally foolish with their prognostications, even though they are merely guessing, just like everyone else. But it is difficult to even give an educated guess when one is deprived of important information. Racing is a humbling game and, as the saying goes, “There is nothing like a horse to make a person feel like an ass.”

With a bit of consideration for the other’s job, trainers and reporters can get along just fine. A trainer can bend the truth once in a while, as long as they don’t break it. A reporter can report the truth, as long as they don’t invent it.

If a trainer is fortunate enough to win the Derby and attain the immortality that comes with it, remember, it is the praiseful words of the media that enhance your horse’s reputation and provide all-important advertising material for years to come.

(These words to live by are presented by the Derby Dozen, which kicks off next week.)

48 Comments

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Equitable

Thank you Steve. You have helped put things in proper perspective for all parties and for us, the fans, too. It's a hard road to hoe and your words of wisdom should be heeded by all who love the sport. May the first Saturday in May remain the greatest two minutes, period.

23 Jan 2014 5:41 PM
BadSaddle

Case of fine TB Moreno,probably injured in BC Classic (went from front at 1/2 to last by 20). No comment from trainer Guillot, no works since. Reporters AWOL ?

23 Jan 2014 6:43 PM
John from Baltimore

These trainers need to be like the connections of Wise Dan and pay no attention to the media types who want to tell them how to manage there horse.  They didn't listen to the reporters who wanted them to go off on a tangent and tell them what do,you know.  They won three eclipse awards.

23 Jan 2014 7:47 PM
txhorsefan

Well said, Steve!!  What a great way to start out this year's Derby trail by setting straight the expectations between such important participants as the trainers and the reporters who in the best interest of the sport should be always working together, but I understand it doesn't always happen that way.  Thanks so much!

23 Jan 2014 8:23 PM
Lmaris

Just an aside, many farmers and ranchers work the same hours and have similar stresses with no hope for a "big horse" or big payday.  Yes, a trainer's life is no walk in the park, but others work as hard and as long.  If one thinks of the media, and the fans including handicappers they inform as their customers (for without them there would be no big payday) it might put things in more perspective.

23 Jan 2014 8:39 PM
Joltman

Guys like Baffert, Lucas and Pletcher thrive on the pressure.  Like the athletes themselves the live to be put to the test and to excel.

23 Jan 2014 10:04 PM
Racingfan

Well said!!

23 Jan 2014 10:05 PM
LINDA MARIE

PERFECTLY SAID STEVE ...PERFECT.

23 Jan 2014 10:14 PM
Tiz Herself

Thanks Steve! It is always so easy to be critical in the handling of a horse on the outside looking in. Have nothing but respect for what trainers face day in and day out. The pressures that each one faces day in and day out from owners. Would love to be a fly on the wall and see a day in lives of trainers like Pletcher, Baffert, Shug, Mott, etc.

Anything can and will happen - Here's to wishing everyone and their horses a safe journey to the Derby - 100 days away!

23 Jan 2014 10:38 PM
Paula Higgins

Yes, it is a fine balance between competing needs Steve. Well said. But if trainers and owners want to create a larger fan base, they need to open up a bit. Unless you are purely a bettor and you don't care about anything except who won, getting to know the horses and their back stories is important. Mucho Macho Man is a case in point. The public is interested in him because he has longevity, he's a gutsy horse and because of his

connection's back story. Trainers have a job to do, but part of it is about accessibility if at all possible. John Sherriffs, Dottie Ingordo, and Jerry and Ann Moss

got that and kept the public involved. When Rachel Alexandra was critically ill, Barbara Banke kept the public informed. The same with Barbaro's connections but with a much sadder outcome. Racing media/writers keep us connected to the racing world. So, there is a mutuality between trainers/owners and writers that needs to be respected.

23 Jan 2014 11:41 PM
Coldfacts

A very thought provoking essay. I gather that neither trainers nor the media are at fault. Respect and appreciation for respective professions can go long way in either minimizing or eliminating stressors.

Each time I read one of your provocative blogs I commit to memory the most provocative and impactful quotes.

“Trainers can bend the truth once in a while, as long as they don’t break it.  Reporters can report the truth, as long as they don’t invent it.”

Wow! A rather generous allowance.

Do trainers bend the truth sometimes?

Did Mr. Lukas bend the truth when he said he would not trade places with anyone regarding his colt Dublin who never won another race thereafter?

Was Mr. McLaughlin bending the truth when he recently made a similar statement regarding Cairo Prince?

Was Bob Baffert bending the truth when he classified Flashback as a freak? The colt has not won since.

I often wonder when such statement are made if trainers are b bending the truth or just delusional. I would think the latter and not the former to be the case.

Do reporters invent the truth sometimes?

Did reporters invent the truth in 2013 when both Verrazano and Flashback were classified as wonder horses?

Did reporters invent the truth when Uncle Mo was classified as the next Secretariat?

The media is far more egregious in the truth bending and invention department. In fact, the media is more delusional than trainers. Every year impressive performances are twisted into what they are not resulting in a particular horse being anointed the next great one and watched like hawk. The desire for information on the anointed one is aggressively perused much to the annoyance of the barn housing said horse.  

If the media would take a more measured approach in its assessment of performances and desist from overhyping horses, there would be no need for the aggressive pursuit of information. No aggressive pursuit of information no conflict.

24 Jan 2014 12:19 AM
Lava'sStilltheMan

I always appreciate the trainers who comment with some candor and I understand those who play it closer to the vest.  Sometimes it is like reading tea leaves, which is part of what makes this game fun.  I know pros like Mr. Haskin are sensitive to the trainers at times of anguish.  Others are not so professional.  I cringe when some get immediately intrusive when a horse is seriously injured or even worse, breaks down fatally like when Points Off  The Bench broke down just prior to the Breeder's Cup.  Tim Yakteen and his team handled that with such class.  My heart went out to him, the horse and the rest of his team.  We must always remember it is a game for us, the fan, but it is so much more to those who give their blood, sweat and tears to the sport.

24 Jan 2014 2:17 AM
Bloodline Bob

Well put Steve, I agree 100%. As a former elected official who had to deal with the media sometimes, I know exactly what you mean.

24 Jan 2014 7:27 AM
smarie

Working with horses is a way of life where you never stop learning. Each new horse brings a new set of lessons; not just for the trainer but for everyone involved with the animal. Each horse, every race brings hopes and dreams to the forefront. When these are dashed for whatever reason, it must be incredibly difficult to speak of it let alone to a stranger with a microphone. I don't think that most horsemen come with media savvy skills. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert readily come to my mind as exceptions, and Kathy Ritvo has proven herself to be warm and generous with the press. Many others are usually gracious and accommodating too, but it can't always be easy. Reporters doing their jobs can be invasive and aggressive and sometimes insensitive. But they are trying to get a story and so it goes. There has been a love/hate relationship between the media and those they pursue for many years. I don't see that changing anytime soon. I hope that these people will try to remember that they all are trying to make a living and that showing each other respect and courtesy goes a long way.

You wrote another well said article, Mr. Haskin.

24 Jan 2014 12:38 PM
MemoriesofPuchi

Pay attention people. Steve gets people to talk because they respect and admire him, and he operates with courtesy.

You're talking about human beings and often in moments of intense emotions. Years, months, and $$$$ are invested in less than two minutes. In a very short space of time hopes and dreams are dashed for most, there's only one winner.

Time it wrong, in the aim to be the first to the kill . . . and you might be told to f ... off (Guy Harwood, trainer of Dancing Brave, after the Breeders' Cup Turf 1986, to the NBC representative) or be lucky enough to have owners looking for you for interviews if you've exercised pre-race courtesies (Breeders' Cup Classic 1987).

Joe Hirsch had those skills. Look at the doors that are opened for Barbara Livingston too.

24 Jan 2014 12:47 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Phoebe, I appreciate the kind words. Not a lot of responses, so I'm thinking many people can't relate to it. I think right now everyone is more interested in the horses on the Derby trail than my philosophical ramblings :). Well, it is indeed time to focus on the horses.

24 Jan 2014 2:59 PM
Windolin

I Steve, I appreciate your comments. Give you an example. A lot of bloggers

on other sites I frequent do not care for Todd Pletcher. After watching the Eclipse Awards, I came to my own conclusions about him and found him to be a caring and humble person. This industry is not an easy one..so many people to please and a bunch of fanatic fans looking for information about their favorite breeds. The way I look at it..no one has to tell us anything, so I am grateful for what they do share. There are a lot of hateful comments that float around about everyone and even the horses. I for one am glad you screen your site and block the trash talk.

24 Jan 2014 3:38 PM
casey

Excellent article and very thought provoking.

For those who commented about trainers needing to be more transparent, many times the trainer won't allow the public to "visit" with a particular horse, as that horse doesn't like to have a lot of people milling about. THat alone can stress a top-ranked horse.  Fans must learn that there IS a balance between unlimited visiting on the backside and their favorite horse.  

Also, owners play a HUGE part in allowing fans to have access to their horses.  When Paynter was ill, the Zayats were very public with his ups and downs, garnering a whole new batch of racing fans.  Having been given the privilege of photographing Paynter both on the track and on the backside by both the Zayats and Baffert, I always chose to ask if a particular day was okay to visit.  Again, trainers must look after the well-being of their charges and that might mean being told "no".  

If you are a fan, and an owner signs you onto the backside, do NOT leave your escort and go to other barns. That is a liability, and that owner is responsible.  If you are given the courtesy of being signed into the backside by an employee of a specific barn, be courteous enough to ASK if you can pet a particular horse, give treats etc.  And, don't EVER go near a stall with a detention sign on it.  Respect the trainer as trying to do what is best for his owners, his horses and the fans.  After all, do you want unannounced visitors traipsing through your house?

As to the media asking questions of trainers, I agree that they want to "break the story", but as with everything, moderation is key.  Sometimes you just get lucky to get that incredible reaction, and at other times, you get to show the, ah, rather tasteless side of certain athletes

24 Jan 2014 6:48 PM
robinm

It looks like the stress may already be getting to Mr. Hollendorfer.  He is sure not being very forthcoming where his 2 yr old champ is concerned.

24 Jan 2014 9:14 PM
KY VET

As a professional handicapper, and horse owner, its hard to understand how ignorant most people in this game are......ALMOST ALL HORSES HAVE PROBLEMS! You want trainers to disclose what? breaking news! HORSES CAN'T TALK!....People always think trainers know whats wrong or to what extent something is wrong..........LAME HORSES WIN EVERY DAY.......my best horse has a chip.....very common thing......horses have bowed tendons, and win........a trainer doesnt really know how long a tendon, or ankle or knee will last, that has a problem..........or why a horse is off his feed.....why do you think I"LL

have another was raced, trained so light going into the derby? he had problems......so the trainer should report those? he still won....if

hollendolfer enters the horse, then thats all you need to know......he's a hall of famer........

24 Jan 2014 10:27 PM
Alex'sBigFan

This is a great article Steve.  Yes, a trainer's job has got to be at an extremely high stress level.  They and the owners must ride a gamut and a roller coaster of emotions at any given time, as an injury or illness can happen at any turn.  The highs and lows of the job have got to be tremendous given the responsibility of overseeing each animal.  They, the trainers, are their own CEO's I would imagine, they run the corporation and must not only care for the animals but run the show.  The hardest part must be dealing with and cajoling the owners on a daily basis.  I wonder how many trainers' cell phones are ringing all night with questions or ideas from owners.  To quote Mr. Pletcher, it is a very "labor intensive" thing going on behind the scenes every day in the barns.  The level of caregiving that is needed is very high. There was a video somewhere, maybe on DRF, of Mr. Pletcher and some behind the scenes footage a few months back.

I understand the world inside the barn is far removed from the world outside so to speak and a level of privacy may be wanted from time to time.  But at the same token the public is betting on this or these animals and have some rights to know what is going on.  With all the medication violations, apparently we know nothing.  But this opens up that discussion we all had back when Uncle Mo was ill.  Are we entitled to full disclosure?

Good luck to all Holy Bull runners!  C'mon Dr. D. the Holy Bull isn't the Holy Bull without a "Holy Cow" from you on Monday!!!!!!

25 Jan 2014 12:25 AM
Rammer

Todd Pletcher loves speed horses. He doesn't develop many deep closers like Doug O'Neill or Shug or other top trainers do. So he wins the early stakes but not the Kentucky Derby, as Churchill Downs is a deep, tiring track that favors closers going a mile and a quarter. I rolled the wheelbarrow on closers ORB, I'll Have Another, Barbaro, Monarchos, Fusaichi Pegasus, Silver Charm, etc.  I'm still in awe of Big Brown's win. Wanted to go with him but I got scared off by his outside post position...

25 Jan 2014 1:56 AM
Sarah from Sac

Thank you for writing this, Mr. Haskin. I can't directly relate, as I am neither a member of the press nor a horseman, but I always have respected your empathy for all sides whenever you write an article or a blog. I've never commented, but I've read your writing since I started becoming really interested in racing in 2009, and it's a reason your blog has always been my favorite: I know I'll get to read something written thoughtfully and with sensitivity to the emotions and high stakes experienced every day by those involved in the industry.

25 Jan 2014 9:50 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you very much, Sarah. I really appreciate your kind words.

25 Jan 2014 10:18 AM
Bill Rinker

Thanks again for another great blog Steve. I started to weigh in on this yesterday but decided not to, however after reading the responces, here is my take. I have some experience of working life in the barn area. Every one as we know has their own stressors associated with the game to deal with, some more demanding and complicated than others. In a perfect world we should always try to be respectful and considerate. In regard to this I find your statement, "the media and the public have a right to know up to a point" the focal point of our blog. The point of how much information divulged on a situation is generally constrained by the capabilities of the individual in control and the circumstances surrounding it. Within these boundries our personal levels of tolerance and intellect may lead us to some sense of understanding, if only we can remove ourselves from the hightened emotions we May fall into. I can fully appreciate the limited access that some trainners ascribe to. In my mind there is little doubt that horses have an understanding of the pulse that surrounds them, and it is very important to keep things in their life, (and that includes every one who is a part of it) on even an even keel.  

25 Jan 2014 10:28 AM
lawrence vaccarelli

listen up my fellow horse racing fans....all you need to know is when you see the entries with his name in there ,...he's ready. shared beliefs trainer has stopped on more horses that lesser trainers would have continued and ruined...jerry is not going to squeeze it dry for the sake of it...all will be fine..leave the man alone

25 Jan 2014 12:00 PM
superdog

KY Vet, you made an excellent and accurate comment, about thoroughbred racing in general. As a former owner I can tell racing fans first hand, what a difficult job a professional trainer has.  His first priority is the horse. The owners usually are second or third, for a good reason.  Most do not appreciate what is involved in the day to day business of operating a racing stable.  Steve Haskins laid it out perfectly and honestly.  Great article, Mr.Haskins, I manage to learn something new with each read.  Good stuff.  John Nicoletti, Naples, Florida

25 Jan 2014 12:34 PM
KateW

It's the nature of the beast...the web. Changed the print scape and whetted the curiousity of information hungry fans. The beast has no regard for perspective, just the clock. Rumors feed the beast. I have known racing entities that start their own rumors and then jump in to clarify them. Net gain is two mentions instead of one. And I'm not saying that it's right but transparency usually stunts the beast's ugly every time.

25 Jan 2014 1:05 PM
El Kabong

Wow. Love to see this. I think these moments are a treasure. What's too bad is when people try to draw conclusions about the players or trainers from these moments. Instead of being grateful for the view through the window of truth about the game and the industry, people make the mistake of examining the players, the trainers that bring us these moments. There are things we'll never know about high stakes games or races without moments like this. Don't kill the messengers, and that goes for both sides, media and players.  Anyone under extreme pressure or emotion at the wrong moment, can be that person. Be grateful for the nugget of reality you've just been handed, a window of perception that sheds light on something normally hidden. In the Godfather, Michael tells Sonny and Tom Hagen, it's nothing personal, it's just business, when he's planning to avenge his Father's attempted murder.  In reality, we all know it's both. Media moments like this prove it. It's the public who must not make it personal.

25 Jan 2014 1:12 PM
Paula Higgins

KY Vet, you are a handicapper but we need more than handicappers to keep this sport alive. No kidding. That means being accessible within reason. It doesn't mean that because someone is a Hall of Fame trainer they don't have some responsibility to keep their horse on the radar. This is a sport who's profile is fading because we have moved out of the era when horses were part of every day life or within memory. We need to keep it alive and that means getting the non-handicappers to the gates by making it exciting for the average viewer. That means getting the fans behind "the team" (horse, owner, trainer). Not every horse is Secretariat, Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra and not every trainer is John Shirreffs. But people who are smart, like Jerry and Ann Moss, the Zayats, Barbara Banke, the Reeves, Penny Chenery, etc. will keep their horse in the public eye one way or another. It doesn't mean that horses who don't love company, or who are having significant health issues, need to be available to the public. But it's really helpful if the trainer is available, within reason. Think outside the box. There are lots of ways to raise a horse's profile. As for people wandering around the stables, visits should be carefully monitored for a number of reasons. It is doable. But the last thing this sport needs are insular trainers or owners. As for Wise Dan, the "media types" raised the possibility of him running longer and on dirt. It would appear that the "media types" had an impact. Wise Dan's owner mentioned that possibility at the Eclipse Awards as something he would like to see happen as he accepted the HOTY statue. You have to take risks to get into the truly great category and I think they should do it. I think Wise Dan is up to the task.

25 Jan 2014 2:13 PM
KY VET

It is rediculous to think trainers are going to tell you what is wrong with their horses......horses break their legs every time they run.....tiny microfractures....sore shins are broken legs.......swelling after every race.......people keep making the same mistake...TRAINERS DONT KNOW! They dont always know whats wrong.......a horse might have a slight limp, or wont be eating, the trainer wont really know....get this concept.....they will see these signs, then give the horse extra time.......this is the game.....

25 Jan 2014 4:12 PM
Paula Higgins

I think some of us are talking apples and oranges. It isn't about the trainer needing space, time and privacy to take care of his/her horse. We all agree about that. My points are about raising the profile of the sport, to keep it viable. The media plays an enormous role to further that goal.

25 Jan 2014 4:38 PM
trackjack

Excellent article, Steve.  You have explained the tensions that go on, on both sides, on this trail.  You've made them real and human.  Thanks, and thanks to all those who contributed their perspective.

Looking forward to your Derby Dozen, Steve.  After watching Cairo Prince's Holy Bull, good luck separating the gray Prince and Honor Code.  Can't wait!

25 Jan 2014 7:22 PM
JayJay

Interesting article, although I think for some trainers, this applies not just during the derby trail but all the time and for some, they stress mostly on their potential derby starters.  I don't think we can group all trainers into one as having the horse as their priority.  I think in our generation, specially in the past decade, there are more and more owners who are in the game for a quick return...the syndicates which requires investors, not necessarily horse lovers.   I firmly believe there are two types of owners, the ones that wants to win the Derby for it's history and the ones that wants to win it to increase the horse's stud fee.

I think the difference between Baffert and Pletcher is the type of owners they train for.  I believe Baffert has more control as far as planning out his horses path to the derby, whereas Pletcher, because he gets so many of them has less control.  Less control not because he doesn't care but because of the type of owners that takes their horse to him.   Some owners likes to be more involved than they need to be (or should be).  I think Pletcher gets those types more than Baffert.  I'm curious whether Pletcher sometimes wish having a much smaller number of horses, where he can actually tend to each horse and actually train them himself instead of directing and giving instructions to his crew.

25 Jan 2014 11:03 PM
predict

H.D.Thoreau once said,"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth."

So it is Derby season once again, let the fun begin, whatever we hear, whatever we see, whatever we do, it all makes the experience what it is ; live, learn and enjoy, for if anything gets your blood racing, it is probably worth doing!

Thanks Steve for the introduction to this year's craziness; looking forward to your Derby Dozen, as always, you only make this journey more interesting.

25 Jan 2014 11:51 PM
Stage Door Ball

The Derby Trail is fascinating stuff every year.  The Derby itself is like the Masters in golf.  The kickoff to the serious action!

26 Jan 2014 9:34 AM
Old Timer

Totally well said/well written Steve. You have a way with words that is a real talent.

The nature of the Triple crown trail is such that all of us are always looking and hoping for the next winner of the Triple crown. The next super horse. Yet reality is that if we are lucky, we may see one every 25 or 30 years. It certainly colors the nature of your job and everyone who has to work in this industry.

Every year we get "Verrazano is the next super horse." or "Bellamy Road is the next super horse." "Arazi is unbelievable." etc. etc. I know that you have seen it again and again.

So perhaps our expectations are too high. The bottom line is this is a great time of the season and we should all sit back and enjoy the ride.

26 Jan 2014 11:07 AM
Old Old Cat

We had two interesting takes on the media voicing their opinions to the trainers.  In Wise Dan's case they ignored the media and kept him on grass, which was the good choice.  In the case of Princess of Sylmar, they followed the media lead and took their little princess all the way across the country to run a race they did not want, (at considerable expense), to run on another horse's home turf, to lose some of her presteige.  

As an aside, but on your topic, some of the San Francisco sports writers are sitting on a blockbuster news story about that game that they will not disclose out of cosideration for the principals involved.

26 Jan 2014 2:19 PM
Paula Higgins

I was never a major Todd Pletcher fan because I think he trains too many horses to be as hands on as I think horses need in a trainer. I am sure he has really capable people working with him, but if I had a horse, I would want them to go with a trainer with a smaller stable. Having said that, I thought he was the class of the Eclipse Awards with his comments about D. Wayne Lukas and when he accepted the Best Trainer Award. I had not seen that side of him. Only the side that said he didn't think Zenyatta should win HOTY in 2010 because she came in second to Blame. So, it was nice to see his warm and fuzzier side.

26 Jan 2014 3:31 PM
JayJay

Coldfacts :

" Do reporters invent the truth sometimes?

Did reporters invent the truth in 2013 when both Verrazano and Flashback were classified as wonder horses?

Did reporters invent the truth when Uncle Mo was classified as the next Secretariat?  "

Which reporter reported those ?  I think you're confusing responses to blogs with news articles.  I only read those types of comments from your dear old friend Ranagulzion and as far as I know, he's not with the media.   Reporters would never write any such comments without quoting someone, whether the quote is real or not is the question.  Writers can make those claims based on their opinion but reporting and writing are two different things.

Also, your comments about the 3 trainers, I'm not sure if they actually said those words.  But if they did, I would guess that they said it after a race where the horse won impressively, what trainer wouldn't get excited after seeing their horse win ?   You said you were an owner before, did you not feel excited after one of your horses win and thought the horse could be something special ?

Old old cat : I don't think Princess lost any prestige running in the Distaff.  People who liked her still like her, her fan base didn't diminish because of that one race.

With regards to your comment about the SF sportswriters, if this "news" about the game had, in any way, affected the outcome of the game, then I think it's the responsibility of the writers to put it out there.  They should not be privy to making a call to not disclose it out of consideration for anyone.   I'm only guessing but since you use the words "blockbuster news", to me, it seems like a big scandal type news.  Unless Kaepernick is planning on becoming the next "Bachelor" which could be blockbuster to some...

26 Jan 2014 7:15 PM
Davids

"even though most reporters have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, what the inner workings of a stable entails"

Steve, this quote from your article appears to me the main difference of reporting racing news prior the inception of the internet than now. One can only imagine the younger, more antagonistic, DWL responding to the present day reporting of his horses on the net.

The internet allows everyone to be an expert, with a voice, and I admire how trainers such as DWL, BB, TP et al, respond to 'question time' with politeness and curtesy. To save the enterprise everyone needs to change their behaviours - openness, flexibility, integrity, transparency is the 'modern' ethos.

26 Jan 2014 9:01 PM
Davids

predict, look no further than Sadler's Wells for your answer to large crops and poor vigor. Not that I am in favor of large crops per se but modern technologies in the breeding shed has allowed stallions to cover 3 or more times as many mares as they once did.

27 Jan 2014 1:08 AM
iceman92

will be looking forward to this years derby dozen. you helped me to get 2 of 3 in last years derby triple and i thank you.

27 Jan 2014 1:37 PM
Mike from Michigan

Thank you Steve for that excellent and informative article.  Really looking forward to the Derby Dozen again.  Having played, watched and been a fan of many sports in my life,  I do know one thing for certain.....winning the Triple Crown is THE most difficult sports accomplishment on the planet.  I wonder if we will ever see a Triple Crown Champion again in our lifetime?

27 Jan 2014 6:29 PM
JayJay

Mike From Michigan : I believe we will but not until 2016 when Z's babies starts running...

27 Jan 2014 10:55 PM
Linda in Texas

Where are Deacon, Dr. D and Slew?

28 Jan 2014 10:42 AM
Coldfacts

JayJay,

My bad. Not Wonder Hores but rather Super Horse Potential!

28 Jan 2014 11:36 AM
Bill Two

The problem with this country is that it's free and people are raised to believe they can think critically and ask any question and receive an immediate truthful response.  Of course, we know better than that.  In reality, we know we don't even get the privilege of asking a question, much less receiving an answer.  We expect the press to be ever critical even if that means loss of access.  We complain and get paranoid when answers aren't immediately forthcoming. Conspiracy theories abound.  The game is fixed, etc. etc.  Sometimes a little common sense and good manners will elicit information. The other day Kiaren McLaughlin said that he was worried about Cairo Prince possibly being knocked out by the rigors of the Holy Bull Stakes.  I was amazed at his candor and wondered why he would open the door to a whole line of questioning which I assumed he would rather not have to deal with. Was the stress of the Triple Crown trail already getting to him?  Maybe he believes in a preemptive strategy?  Whatever, I find his candor refreshing, but that statement will linger in my mind for a while, particularly if the horse misses a workout or a race leading to the Derby.

28 Jan 2014 1:33 PM

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