The Eric Guillot Show

There seemed to be an inordinate number of people who were displeased with the result of the Aug. 2 Whitney Handicap, mainly due to the winning trainer Eric Guillot, who, to put it mildly, is not your typical trainer. Looking and sounding as if he had been plucked out of the swamps of the Bayou after years of wrestling gators, Guillot does not exactly fit in with the Pletchers, Motts, and Clements of the industry. Nor does he care to.

But it was only a matter of time before Guillot exposed himself for what he really is, and that is someone shrewder, smarter, and more compassionate than people give him credit for.  Since he intruded on the natural order of things in the world of Thoroughbred training, the only face he revealed, and how he was perceived, was that of a loud talking Cajun redneck who was more of a buffoon and a blowhard than competent horse trainer. But as it turns out, there is a lot more to Guillot, and it took a victory by Moreno in the $1,500,000 Whitney Handicap to bring that out.

To the media and rival trainers, words spilled from Guillot’s mouth like the gumbo he serves up outside his Saratoga barn each summer. Whether gorging oneself on gumbo or jambalaya or listening to a zydeco band, Guillot’s barn was the place to be 

But in the grand scheme of things, Guillot was not a trainer one took seriously. After all, this is a man who would stick pins in voodoo dolls of big-name opposing trainers. At least that’s what he wanted you to believe. He has a photo of Marylou Whitney tacked to a tree outside his barn, reading “I Love Moreno,” and a bizarre-looking equine version of voodoo figures hanging from one of the limbs. Last year, he accused Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Luis Saez of using an electrical device in the Travers Stakes, in which his gelding, Moreno, was beaten a nose by the Lukas-trained Will Take Charge.

But following Moreno’s wire-to-wire victory in the Whitney Aug. 2, the real Eric Guillot showed his face for the first time. The fun-loving harlequin poured out his heart on what was an emotionally draining day that saw him lose a maiden 2-year-old colt, Sir William Bruce, who it is believed suffered a fatal heart attack following the running of the fifth race.

Although the heartbreak of losing a horse he and Southern Equine Stables owner Mike Moreno raised from a baby will last for a while, the joy of winning the Whitney will last a lifetime.

“Man, I hated to lose that colt, but what a thrill to win the Whitney,” said Guillot, his shoes and pants speckled with dirt from running out on the track “to try to save my horse’s life.”

“I was crying when I lost him,” he added. “He was such a nice horse and that really shook me up. Man, you talk about highs and lows in this game; all within two hours. I walked around for a while and just tried to be by myself. I felt bad for my guys. We’re all a family and they work so hard. I called my help and told them to try to just focus on Moreno. Our luck has been pretty bad lately; we’ve been on a bad run, so maybe the Whitney will be the pendulum that starts swinging the other way. But I’ll mourn this colt’s loss for a while. We bred him and we have his full-brother. I try to have fun, but I take my horses seriously.

“I know I talk a lot of c--p, and everybody thinks I’m some goofball out here who doesn’t know what he’s doing, but I know what I’m doing. The bottom line is, my work ethic, my dedication, and my desire to be the best is second to none, and my crew is second to none. At 10 o’clock when everybody is done, my crew is just getting started. This is the kind of race we get up at 4:30 in the morning for. I want to thank my partner and friend Mike Moreno for believing in me for the past 15 years. He never watches over me. I can sleep in if I want. But at 4:30 when that alarm goes off there is something that burns inside me to get up and go out there and be successful.”

Moreno was also distraught over losing Sir William Bruce. “I was in tears,” he said. “We loved him, we raised him, and we had a lot of hope for him. I didn’t even go in the paddock for the Whitney. I couldn’t handle it I was so heartbroken.”

For Guillot, one of the big thrills of winning the Whitney was having the trophy presented by Marylou Whitney and winning the race that bears her family name. In the Trustees Room following the race, Guillot went up to Marylou and told her, “I appreciate everything you’ve ever done for horseracing. I’m in love with this game and always have been. I grew up with it. My great great great uncle owned a racetrack in 1840 in Louisiana, so it’s in my DNA and bloodlines.”

Guillot went over to the TV monitor in the back of the room to watch the replay and looked at his cell phone. “You don’t think people like me – 51 missed text messages.”

As the field was about to break, Guillot said. “2-1 he wins again.” In discussing Moreno’s trip, in which he led every step of the way under Junior Alvarado to defeat Itsmyluckyday and Will Take Charge, with the 3-5 favorite Palace Malice a well-beaten sixth, he said, “When I saw the :47 2/5 half and the 1:11 and change I was feeling pretty confident. I don’t know what happened to Palace Malice. He’s a very good horse, but I guess it just wasn’t his day. This time it was our turn. The farther they go the softer the fractions and the better he is. I was a little concerned when he broke a little flat-footed. Since he broke his maiden he hasn’t done much wrong. When we tried to do something different than what he is, then it backfires. The Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) he fractured a splint, so you have to throw that one out. The Met Mile wasn’t his game; too fast of a pace. Everything else he’s been right there.”

After turning back the brief challenge by Palace Malice, Moreno came home in :24 1/5 and :12 3/5 to defeat a game Itsmyluckyday by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:48.05 for the 1 1/8 miles.

Mike Moreno, who was convinced by Guillot to name his homebred son of Ghostzapper – Danceinthesunlight, by A.P. Indy after himself, seemed happier for his trainer than he was for himself or the horse.

“Eric is as good a horseman as there is out there,” Moreno said. “He’s colorful and most people don’t take the time to peel the onion and see what kind of person he really is. He’s very loyal and hard-working. When you meet him for the first time you think he’s loud, but that’s just him being him and being funny and enjoying life. It seems like everything he says is a joke, but he’s serious when it comes to his horses. I’ve believed in him for years. His philosophy, good or bad, like it or not, is that life is short and he wants to bring a little color, fun, and humor to the industry, as demented as it may be. He doesn’t mind being the target if people want to make him the target.

“He just wants to make me happy. I personally would rather finish third in a graded stakes race than win an allowance race that the horse may be eligible for, so we occasionally run horses in races in which they’re over their head. That’s what I want, and since I’m his only client, he’s willing to do that and doesn’t care how it affects his winning percentage. We’ve always had that understanding.”

Moreno decided to name the Ghostzapper colt after his family name after Guillot called him up before the colt’s first start and told him that he had as much talent as any horse he’d seen, and even though he was a head case and would take a while to come into his own, if he ever wants to name one after his last name this was the one with whom to give it a shot.

“Eric would never have a big stable with multiple clients, because it takes a person some time to get to know him and like him,” Moreno said. “We were friends before we were owner and trainer. Eric’s ex-wife worked for me and that’s how we met. For him, it’s all about good times, food, fun, friends, and family, but at the end of the day it doesn’t define him, believe it or not. If he hit the lottery tomorrow and had all the money in the world, he’d still be at the barn at 4:30 the next morning.”

After the race, Guillot had high expectations for dinner that night.

“Mike is going to buy me an eight-pound steroid lobster at Siros,” he said.

No worries. As Moreno says, “I take care of Eric and always will.”

26 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Brenda Kristoff

He sounds like a great guy - Being from southeast Texas we love our Cajun neighbors - They work hard, play hard, love to eat & you'll never meet nicer more sincere down to earth people - I loved seeing his Mary Lou pic & his voodoo hanging from the tree limb - I guess it worked on Sat (what really happened to Palice Malice ???) He sounds like a very deserving guy - Best of luck to him - I'd love to spend some time with him and Calvin together - Fun Times ....

06 Aug 2014 2:42 PM
teri107

Great article! Best to Moreno (horse) his namesake Mr. Moreno, and Mr. Eric Guillot.

06 Aug 2014 3:25 PM
Kimmons Mitchell

Haskin Great as Always! I Love the Ole Boy! I am from Mississippi and Appreciate our Cajun neighbors for What they are and Who they are. It is there Lifestyle to Let The Good Times Roll!!!  

06 Aug 2014 4:30 PM
Wulzen1

Got a chance to take a private tour of Southern Equine Farm @ Midway back in June. Fantastic people and I wish them the best.

06 Aug 2014 5:04 PM
smarie

People who were unfamiliar with Mr. Guillot were quite offended with his accusations against D.Wayne Lucas and Luis Saez after Will Take Charge defeated Moreno in the Travers Stakes last year. He made some very serious accusations which turned out to be false. People remember him for this. Hopefully after hearing him speak of his heartbreak after losing Sir William Bruce and listening to him speak about Moreno and about how he loves his horses, the buzzer incident will fade from everyone's memory. Yes, Mr. Guillot is a different personality from most trainers but diversity is a good thing IMO. As long as he remains true to his horses and does his best to care for them and keep them safe and healthy, I will wish him well. The horses are always the most important part of racing and Mr. Guillot seems to believe this.

I wish him continued success with Moreno and with all the horse's in his care.

06 Aug 2014 6:24 PM
Terlingua

On the right side of this blog in your Twitter feed you are mentioning not being on after the Travers show.  Are you speaking of  "And They're Off"  with you and Lenny?  Wow, that is one of the most amusing and informative video presentations anywhere on the web.  Say it isn't so?  I really look forward to your repartee with Lenny and will miss it if you are going to devote all your time to writing now.  Although that is the best use of your knowledge, talent and passion for the sport.  

06 Aug 2014 7:40 PM
Steve Haskin

Terlingua, thnks, but I'm afraid I was indeed referring to "And They're Off." The post Travers show will be the last and Lenny and I will bid our farewells. But don't be too upset, Lenny will return by himself at some point in the future with another variation of the show, which will include phone interviews with racing personalities.

06 Aug 2014 7:54 PM
BelmontBarb

Another lesson by Professore Haskin! Gracie!

Judging is a horrible mistake made on a daily basis - sometimes crude and forgivable but never forgettable. It seems to be viral and very disappointing to those that can not find the courage to accept that they are wrong.  It is also sad that those we admire for their expertise can show colors that are not "Winning Colors" ~ Mr Guillot is certainly true to himself and has the ability to express himself without barriers.  This is a good thing for the colorful world of racing especially now....honest emotions and an overall good performance by Moreno where most expected a tired and fragile Palace Malice to prevail.

Enjoy the gumbo and crawfish!  Eat hardy - the spice is exactly what we need in racing.

06 Aug 2014 8:43 PM
Lava'sStilltheMan

There is room for many eclectic characters in racing.  That is what makes it fun and a sport rather than merely a gaming enterprise.  As much as I respect Todd Pletcher's record, I enjoy rooting against him for his corporate style and canned responses. Guillot is a kick in the pants.  I wish him well.  He is as over the top as Richard Mandella is wryly understated.  Will miss Steve with Lenny.  They have good chemistry.

07 Aug 2014 12:09 AM
Brown brother

Wait a second, guillot made a false accusation about buzzer use and Moreno likes to run horses in stakes where they possibly don't belong but they're portrayed as colorful characters?  I love your columns Steve but success does not equal substance or goodness. There are more worthy subjects for your writing talent

07 Aug 2014 1:14 AM
Delrene

I met Eric Guillot at an Indian restaurant in Arcadia a few years back.  Very gracious and invited my friend and I to visit Champagne De Oro.  Somehow I guess he overheard me say how excited I was to watch her race.  I had no idea who he was other than her trainer and I said "how will we find you tomorrow morning at the racetrack."  No problem I'm the guy who is always in shorts and loud shirt!!!  Truly he was and we converged at 8:30 and he took us back and we got pictures.  I was totally thrilled and always will remember how nice it was to share Champagne de Oro.  He told us if she didn't do well in this race, she would retire and be a Mama .  I think she came in 4, and it was announced she was retired in the racing news.  I love his cajun patois ( my grandmother was born and raised in New Orleans)  No question he is colorful in his attire and language, but very dedicated to his horses and staff.  I have followed Moreno and was cheering him on.  Very happy for this great win and do look forward to seeing him at the Breeder's Cup.  Stay healthy and well.  Thanks for another terrific news piece.  

07 Aug 2014 1:21 AM
Amy Hurley

An interesting article, and I appreciate getting a different perspective.  But it's impossible to forget his scurillous and baseless accusations last year, which sullied the reputation of not only the other trainer and jockey, but horse racing as a whole.  And if he's such a fun-loving, happy-go-lucky type, it's hard to reconcile that image with someone who made very serious charges without, apparently, considering the repercussions.  When they were coming down the stretch in the Whitney, I thought to myself, "Anyone but Moreno, please!"  Nothing against the horse, but it's very hard to root for Moreno (the horse) or Guillot.  

07 Aug 2014 2:44 AM
wjfraz

I like Guillot.  He doesn't look nor act like a corporate executive and actually is having fun and shows it.  Those who disparage his enthusiasm should take a page from him and show folks this is a great game and not just a job.  Kudos to Moreno, Guillot and Mr. Moreno for the ride.  

07 Aug 2014 8:44 AM
Coldfacts

Below are two extracts from a submission I made regarding Moreno prior to the Whitney.

“Judging from his performances last year against the big two, I believe the Whitney sets up perfectly for him. He appears to be the genuine leader in the field and must be a stronger horse in 2014. I do not believe he will be caught if he is allowed to set fractions similar to those recorded in the Travers. Even if he is required to go faster on the lead I believe he will still be tough.”

“I wish he had a more accomplished trainer. However, some horses can train themselves.

While I included Moreno in my exotics along with the runner-up, I had reservations about the colt because of his trainer’s comments after the 2013 Travers. I found his comments iniquitous and I have not taken him seriously since.

Did I rush to judgment regarding this trainer? The answer to the question is a yes/no. Not only were his comments misplaced but he was also guilty mismanaging the racing schedule for Moreno.The removal of blinkers for in his last place finish the 2014 Met Mile is still puzzling.

The colt contested 2 races in months of January, April and July. The 2 in July were the Dwyer and Jim Dandy 21 day apart. He ran a cracker in JD to be beaten by < 3L. His effort in the Travers was even better as he left everything on the track that day. The Travers was his 10th start for the year. He finished a tired looking 2nd in the PA Derby in his 11th start but that did not deter his trainer from entering him in the BCC where be finished ahead of one horse and that was a misplaced turf horse.

I should have ignored his comments after the Travers as they were no more malicious than those uttered by Todd Pletcher after Dunkirk’s defeat by Quality Road in the 2009 FL Derby. Mr. Pletcher accused the track maintenance staff at Gulfstream Park of deliberately preparing a speed favoring tack and if he had known he would have gone elsewhere with Dunkirk. It is ironic that when he assumed the training of Quality Road and said recorded a NTR for the same distance at GP he was silent.

I do not mind colorful individual but I have a real problem with statements that are iniquitous and extreme. Many top trainers are guilty of extreme statements so I guess trainer Guillot should have been given a pass.

07 Aug 2014 11:57 AM
Windolin

Hi Steve, glad you are back. I was starting to experience withdrawal symptoms from my addiction to your posts.

As to this matter, I was not aware of all this controversy surrounding Mr. Gulliot, only that from the remarks I have read on other sites that there seems to be a number of people who do not care for him.

My first thoughts are for sympathy for the loss of the colt. What a roller coaster of emotions to have the mountain fall on you and then be on top of the mountain.

My next thoughts turn to an appreciation of Mr Guillot's being Cajun. I have had the pleasure of knowing several people from Louisiana and of Cajun ancestors and know that they love life, are deeply passionate and that under a rough, tough and brash exterior, there beats a heart of gold.

It is the personalities of the owners, trainers and horses that bring color to what would otherwise be a monotone color sport.

Lastly, I would challenge anyone who has never made a mistake or said something stupid or uttered words we later wish we could take back to please reveal yourselves. Would love to meet you!

I was disappointed that Palace lost the race, but was thankful he was ok and just seemed to be having a just not wanting to go to work day. I have been following him through Face Book friends that live in Aiken and he is just stunning and beautifully conditioned horse.

Moreno and his team are to be congratulated for a strong race. I for one love seeing these horses come back after an injury and proving themselves.

07 Aug 2014 12:32 PM
lshulman

You're really bucking to become #1, aren't you?

07 Aug 2014 12:55 PM
Steve Haskin

What, a Lenny Shulman sighting. That's as rare as seeing a yellow-bellied sapsucker in Brooklyn.

07 Aug 2014 2:25 PM
Old Timer

Not to deny any of what you have written, but accusations like the one he spouted after last year's Travers do a lot to hurt this sport.(as if it needs even more negative publicity). It was irresponsible and he showed a complete lack of class IMHO.

07 Aug 2014 2:44 PM
Linda in Texas

So those talking about Guillot are saying he is bad for horse racing because of what he said last year. This year he has two horses racing in separate races, one dropped dead on the track of a heart attack, a special colt that they raised from a foal and loved and had high hopes for named Sir William Bruce. The other won the Whitney, Moreno, named after the owner. Guillot was punished by the racing Gods in the loss of the colt. Two hours later his other horse is rewarded. I would like to think we can forgive the man,remembering that we all handle losses and wins differently, and Mr. Guillot is no different. He is from my sister state of Louisiana and those folks wear their hearts on their shirtsleeves, during the bad times and the good times. Have a little heart and forgive, especially if you have ever said something that you later regretted. I am sure he did eventually. Rest in Peace Sir William Bruce and congratulations to Mr. Moreno and Mr. Guillot and of course to Moreno.

And Thank you Steve, hope you are having a great time at Saratoga.  

07 Aug 2014 7:42 PM
Arch the phoneman

He's sure done a good job with Moreno.        Steve, as I've commented before, you and Lenny are my two favorite horse racing personalities. I like the way you both tell it like it is. Less Steve Haskin is not a good thing. I appreciate you both.

07 Aug 2014 11:17 PM
datflippinrabbit

I wonder what any of the other big race trainers Pletcher,Baffert and even Lucas would do if they were handed a photo of what looked like something in the opposing jockeys hand with a million dollar purse on the line?  

08 Aug 2014 10:11 AM
Paula Higgins

First, I can't believe there is not going to be a Steve and Lenny Show anymore?! I loved it and would laugh the whole way through it. You two are a riot together. Sometimes change is good but not this one, sigh.

Nice article Steve and I live in the south so I know exactly the kind of man Eric Guillot is and I love him! Loaded with personality and he has his heart on his sleeve. I wish him much continued success with Moreno. As for the incident regarding the buzzer, whether it was accurate or appropriate or not, I would not dwell on that for one minute. There are some things that are unforgivable, like animal/horse abuse, but this is not one of them. but Variety is the spice of life and Eric Guillot is certainly unique and a colorful character.

08 Aug 2014 5:27 PM
Davids

Steve, another fine piece of writing, and, as you wrote, people are quickly pigeon-holed into an 'image' these days which may be totally false. Life is so fleeting, while impressions are indelibly formed, via the internet.

I was truly saddened to read that you are leaving 'And They're Off,' your chats with DWL, BB, and the late RF, among others, were truly wonderful. When writers start posting reminiscences...  

09 Aug 2014 2:52 AM
Coldfacts

The statement below was extracted form a submission I to the Unlocking Winner Blog.

“With Mr. Pletcher's horses one can never tell when their performances will suddenly go in the opposite direction. If history repeats itself as it normally does with his horses, Palace Malice will not be one of the top contenders for the BCC.”

It would be interesting to see the views of contributors of regarding a Blog about regularity that Tood Pletcher trained horses suddenly and without explanation go MIA. As usual in his post-race comments regarding Palace Malice’s performance he had no immediate no explanation.

I keep a log of the Tood Pletcher trained horses that suddenly and without explanation go MIA. The list is extensive.

Mr. Pletcher has an exception record and has been a multiple Eclipse award winner trainer. Does this mean he gets a pass for the many occasions his overwhelming favorites flop in races when they are in peak form? Like At Ten. Princess OF Sylmar, Quality Road, Revolutionary are just a few in recent memory. The list is so extensive the betting public would not be aware unless it was keeping records.

The regularity of these occurrences certainly indicts Mr. Pletcher’s high octane program that appears to cause his charges to lose form when least expected.

No other trainer retires more horses each year after abbreviated racing careers. Of the 42 horses he nominated to the TC not one was available to contests either the Haskell or Jim Dandy. If his top 3YOs do not suddenly go MIA they sustained injuries. This cannot be due to bad luck but rather a reflection on his program.

Trainer Eric Guillot comments after the 2013 Travers were disgraceful and represented a violation of courtesy on many levels. I guess we all have negative sides. However, the negative side of Mr. Pletcher’s record has for too long gone undocumented and unreported.

09 Aug 2014 10:53 AM
Floridabred

Thank you, Steve Haskin for another informative and interesting article. I remember the "buzzer" accusation from last year, and I was shocked. However, I've learned there really are such devices. Will Take Charge likes to come from the back of the pack and swoop down to the wire to grab victories. Getting beat by a hard-charging last-second-to-the-wire horse like WTC could certainly make one wonder, I guess. Sad to hear of Mr. Moreno and Mr. Guilott's loss with their maiden colt. I love a good race, and if Moreno ran the best in a good race then he should have won. I am a big Palace Malice fan, did not get to watch the race and was so surprised PM placed sixth. Heard Johnny V. say "PM's mind just wasn't on the race". I would like to learn more about that. Hats off to Moreno, the stable, the trainer and the owner. Moreno is a familiar name and if he deserved the win, he got it and credit to him. My best to all of them.

Steve Haskin, I will miss you and Lenny Shulman relating and conversing on "And They're Off". When Lenny had some criticisms of Churchill Downs, and you (Steve) said "tune in next week to see if Lenny got his Churchill Downs credentials..." it was very entertaining.  

10 Aug 2014 7:05 PM
HannahWTC

One nice speech doesn't make a man. He is still a rude and obnoxious man with no filter. Making crazy accusations just because your horse lost and you can't accept it is intolerable in my book. It is easier to make a good impression when you win then when you lose. Everyone hated Coburn when he made his bold speech after the Belmont but people are willing to forgive Gulliot for one soft spoken speech?

12 Aug 2014 3:09 PM

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