[image url="http://cdn.bloodhorse.com/images/content/talbertrani_large.jpg"]Tom Albertrani[/image]
A native New Yorker, Tom Albertrani was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 21, 1958. He made his foray to the racetrack at the tender age of 13 when he began walking hots and grooming for his uncle, trainer Jack Abatenarco, at Belmont Park. With a goal of becoming a jockey, Albertrani absorbed as much as he could while on the backstretch, and at age 18 he rode as an apprentice in New York and New Jersey.
At age 22, Albertrani returned to the backstretch, working as an assistant to top trainers, including a nine-year stint with Bill Mott. His career took a quantum leap in 1995 when he was hired as an assistant to Godolphin Racing trainer Saeed bin Suroor and relocated his family to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In that capacity, Albertrani was instrumental in the careers of such top Godolphin runners as Street Cry, Imperial Gesture, Sakhee, Fantastic Light, and Daylami.
As bin Suroor’s assistant, Albertrani traveled to the U.S. on a regular basis to oversee the Godolphin runners in the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships each year. In 1999, Godolphin’s Daylami won the Breeders’ Cup Turf on the same card that Artax, trained by Albertrani’s brother, Louis, won the Sprint.
In 2003, Albertrani returned to the U.S. as private trainer for the Maktoum family’s Darley Stable. Although he formed a public stable and took on other clients beginning in 2004, much of Albertrani’s success since then has come from horses his trains on behalf of Darley, Shadwell, and Gainsborough.
Ranked 19th by earnings among North American trainers through Aug. 7, Albertrani’s stable has earned more than $2.3 million. Chief among his current top horses is Bernardini, the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner who will likely be favored for the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes (gr. I).
Despite getting his classic winner ready for the “Midsummer Derby” while overseeing the training of his other horses, Albertrani is taking time from his busy schedule to join bloodhorse.com for a Talkin’ Horses chat.
I'm sure I speak for many when I ask the obvious question, but here goes. What were your feelings when Bernardini won the Preakness right after Barbaro broke down?
I was very excited to see Bernardini win, but I was also very reserved in showing a lot of excitement because you feel terrible after seeing a horse being pulled up with an injury, especially a horse like Barbaro.
There is a perception that the bigger horses go to the $1 Million Haskell, while the horses that aren't quite ready to compete with the big guys go to the Jim Dandy. Since you're very high on Bernardini, why didn't we see him in the Haskell? Could he have won the Travers off a shorter layoff, couldn't he?
I decided to use the Jim Dandy as a prep race for the Travers because I felt the added week would help Bernardini recover from the race in the event he had a hard race, but the way it turned out he did it very easy. I believe he could win the Travers after only three weeks, but I like to give my horses more time in between races.
You can't imagine how many new fans you have in Venezuela since the Preakness. I would like to know your opinion on our fellow Venezuelan, Javier Castellano. Best of luck now and always and keep shining as the great trainer you are!!!
Thank you. Javier is a very talented rider who will no doubt be among the leading riders here in New York. He used excellent judgment to ease Bernardini up the last furlong in the Jim Dandy and save his horse for the next race.
I am a big Deputy Glitters fan. He ran such a gutsy race in the Ohio Derby. What do you think happened in the Haskell? He seems to run better when he has had more time off between races. Do you agree?
I do agree that he runs well with time off between races, as do most of my horses. I like to space them out whenever possible. I don’t believe he liked being on the inside rail that day. The track was very deep inside, and he prefers a much firmer surface. You might see him better on the turf one day.
Based on your experience in working with horses here and in Dubai, why do you think the trip to the World Cup knocks out so many U.S. horses and delays their return to competition? Is it the dehydration?
Dehydration may be somewhat of a factor or maybe horses just get jet lagged as well as people do. I know I did. It’s a long journey to Dubai and back, to be done in such a short time, and I believe it can be very stressful on horses. We were successful with Street Cry returning to the States from Dubai to win the Stephen Foster, but we only had to fly one way after wintering in Dubai.
I have to say that I've absolutely fallen in love with Bernardini. When I saw him in the post-parade for the Withers, I was stunned. He's the most beautiful horse I've ever seen......and he just floats on the track. What kind of personality does Bernardini have? Is he an easy horse to handle? Also, do you think Bernardini can win the Eclipse award for best 3-year-old? Thanks for taking the time to Albertrani: our questions and good luck the rest of the year!
Thank you. Bernardini is a pleasure to be around with a great disposition. As far as personality goes, since the Preakness, I noticed he loves to pose for the cameras. I think he know he’s pretty special. Hopefully, with continued success he can win the Eclipse.
Thank you for answering our questions. What is the climate in Dubai like for racehorses? Is the heat a big change they have to be prepared for?
The weather in Dubai is very pleasant during the winter months. The racing season begins in November and ends in April before it gets too hot. The races are held during the evening, so it’s easier on the horses as well.
Pinellas Park, FL:
Tom, I wanted to know how does it feel to win one of the Triple Crown races with such a great horse as Bernardini (disregarding what happened to Barbaro)? I know the win was a bit overshadowed. I know it tore at my heart strings.
It is a huge accomplishment for me personally since I have only been back in the states training on my own for a short three years. It is also a great achievement for my hard-working staff.
Grass Valley, CA:
Daylami is one of my favorite horses of all time; what was it like to be around him?
Daylami was also one of my favorite horses to be around. He was a very kind horse to be around and ride. With his stunning grey coat, he was always easy to pick out among the other horses. It was a great thrill watching him win the Breeders' Cup Turf at Gulfstream Park.
Juno Beach, FL:
How did you like riding at Suffolk Downs?
You’re going back a long way. I didn’t know anyone would remember that I rode there. It was for a brief time, but I enjoyed riding there. I rode my first winner there as well. It was a stepping stone for me to get some experience riding before I returned to New York.
Hi! I'm 11 years old. I just love Bernardini, and I was wondering if you would send me a picture of him.
Thank you for being a fan. It’s on the way.
Comparing the Haskell with the Jim Dandy, I still think Bernardini had a much more effortless ride than Bluegrass Cat. How do you keep him so fresh without getting rusty?
Bernardini is on a training program which is galloping everyday and spacing his works, usually once a week.
Ozone Park, NY:
Great job with Bernardini and Glitters! We're curious to know who you think will be Bernardini's biggest threat if you decide to run him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year, and why?
If all goes well and we make it to the Breeders' Cup, I think Invasor would be a threat after watching his last two races.
Thanks for stopping by...it's great to see you get the chance to succeed. Would you say Bernardini is the best you ever have and one you'll never forget? Also, A.P. Indy has so many good offspring -- what makes this one so special?
I would have to say that Bernardini is the best horse I ever had a chance to be around, especially after winning the Preakness. That day will always be very memorable.
Hi, it's Peter from England. You seem pretty focused on Bernardini. How do you keep him in condition, knowing that he has to be in top shape and not overdone?
We have to make adjustments in his training which doesn’t happen very often. If he works fast one day, I will see that he goes a bit slower in the next work in order to keep him on top of his game.
About how many horses are in your stable now and how many different owners do you have? Do you want more horses or do you have a comfort level with the present number?
I currently have 35 horses in my stable with 10 different owners. 35 seems like a small number to me after being overseas dealing with a much larger amount.
I had the chance to see Deputy Glitters run at the Ohio Derby, and we appreciated you bringing him to Ohio to run in the Derby!! We enjoyed watching his victory. My question is: what are your future plans for Deputy Glitters and where do you see him going from the Haskell?
Deputy Glitters may have his next start in the Indiana Derby or Super Derby in Louisiana. I would like to see him win another Derby this year.
Mt. Gretna, PA:
Your work and training horses in the UAE must have been interesting. I wanted to ask about the horses’ diets in the UAE. Is the quality of available hay similar to the hay we have in the U.S.? Also, do the horses in the UAE receive figs as a dietary supplement?
Hay would be imported from Australia and America, as well as other countries to supply the demand for horses. Other types of feed similar to here would be produced in the UAE also. No figs!!
London, Great Britain:
Hello, Tom; very well done with the season so far. You've worked with a lot of high quality turf runners over the years, many of them through your association with Godolphin. I wondered which you considered to be the most talented and why?
The list would be too long to name them all, but a few that come to my mind right away would be Halling who had brilliant speed and always won the hard way, Mark Of Esteem who won the QE II at Ascot beating the very talented Bosra Sham, Daylami’s great victory in the Breeders' Cup, Swan with his double King George wins, Fantastic Light’s Breeders' Cup, and especially Dubai Millennium having only one defeat in his career and the way that he won the Dubai Cup was very impressive.
Hello Tom, Thanks for taking our questions. Since you have worked with some great European horses and now Bernardini, can you explain the differences between what makes a great horse for European racing and what makes a great horse for American racing? Is it all about conformation and build, or is it possible that some of their early training also predisposes them to one or the other? I'd appreciate any insight you could give on this.
I would think that pedigree would have a lot to do with it, if you’re looking to race them on the dirt. With my experience in the UK, there are many race courses that are all different, such as going up hill, down hill, clockwise, and counter clockwise. Conformation and build would contribute to how a horse performs on those types of tracks, plus how athletic they are as well. Most good horses can adapt to all conditions.
How do you know when you have a stakes quality horse? Is there a specific characteristic you look for when making the transition to stakes races? Thanks and good luck in the Travers!
Generally, after I have seen a horse begin working up to a half mile I notice how much or little talent they have. Some horses do improve with time and racing.
You have obviously worked with some very impressive horses in your career. How does Bernardini stack up against those horses and what are your plans for him following the Travers?
Bernardini is right at the top of my list along with some of the other top horses I had the opportunity be work with. Hopefully, we will go to the Jockey Club at Belmont after the Travers.
Marco Island, FL:
My question centers around a training technique (and handicapping) that seems to have good results and it is what is called "Turf to dirt." Why is it a Thoroughbred's performance seems to be improved in a switch of this nature? Or do you believe in this so called axiom at all?
It certainly worked for Cigar! It’s hard to explain why some horses prefer one or the other.
North Chicago, IL:
Hello, Tom. Question relating to training: Considering that racehorses are stabled most of the time, how do you feel about giving a horse about a week of R&R at a farm after each race? Maybe even a little swimming? I'm thinking that might help their mentality a little more and maybe even extend their current season by a race or two, instead of giving them a month or two off in the off season.
I would not want to do this in a short period of time. The changing of atmosphere may be more stressful to the horse in that type of program, but I would consider doing something like that for an extended time to give the horse a break from the track to freshen him or her up.
What do you remember most about Fantastic Light? What do you think made him the successful campaigner he was? Kindly quote incidents while answering these two questions. Thank You.
He had a great closing kick at the end of his races. He was an excellent traveler all over the globe. This was a great asset to have when shipping in order to help him perform well.
At what point did you realize Bernardini was going to be special? What attributes does he have that make him stand out from other horses?
Bernardini always showed signs of talent in his early days of training. He has an excellent conformation, and he is very light on his feet. After his second race, he began to mature and blossom physically. That was when I noticed he was going to be very special.
Congratulations on your great year; well deserved. As you were rather closely involved with Dubai Millennium--among my all-time favorites--I would appreciate whatever you might offer about this great horse's disposition and characteristics. Thank you, and best of luck in the Travers.
Dubai Millennium was also one of the best horses I had the opportunity to be around. He was very professional acting. He was easy to handle and had a good attitude toward everything. It’s too bad we will not see more of his offspring.
New York, NY:
I have been wondering about something for a few years. I notice that you are from Brooklyn. Seems to me that many top trainers over the years (such as Johnny Campo, Nick Zito, Bobby Frankel, Neil Howard, among others) have come from Brooklyn. Having been born in Brooklyn, I know that it's not exactly Bluegrass country. Something in the water?
It’s in the blood!! I think that we all probably came from a racing background through our ancestors starting at Gravesend Racetrack.
You successfully identified Bernardini as an exceptional horserace early on. So, who would be your potential Classic contenders next year?
I have’t gotten my full allotment of 2-year-olds so far this year, but I hope there’s another “Bernardini” in the group!!
I would like to thank everyone for their interest and support. Good luck at the races.