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Larry Jones Bio
Ron: Welcome to BloodHorse.com’s Talking Horses podcast. Our guest this month is trainer Larry Jones who have until a couple of years ago, was known only to fans who followed his success in the Midwest. Since relocating his stable that is run by himself and his wife, Cindy, to Delaware Park in 2006, he has gained greater exposure.
This year, Larry is represented by two of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby; Friesan Fire and Old Fashioned. He also trains the 2008 3-year-old champion filly, Proud Spell, who won the Kentucky Oaks last year, and for each of the last two years he has had that finish second in the Derby – Hard Spun and Eight Belles.
First of all Larry, you’ve been a very popular guest and your appearance here has generated hundreds of questions. I have cut those down to about 20 to 25 and right up front, we’re going to talk about what’s been the most frequently asked question and that is your two Derby contenders.
So you can just tell us how they’re doing and what you’re plans are for them between now and the first Saturday of May?
Larry: Well, right now, Friesan Fire could very well has his last trip in the Louisiana Derby. He is to be training at Keeneland up until at least the week before the Derby. There is a possibility he could still run in the Bluegrass. We’re just trying to really take it on a day to day basis. He has had seven races since he has started. He’s got plenty of experience – I don’t see a reason why we would have to race in before the Derby but if he is touting us like he thinks he still got that many more races left in him, we would like to think three races, definitely are on his plan with the Triple Crown races. If we think he could work in the fourth one, and like what he’s wanting to do, we could run in the Bluegrass.
Old Fashioned, on the other hand, starts as a 2 year old. He has already won at the 1 1/8 mile distance that a lot of people think is a prerequisite for being able to win the Derby. He has had two starts this year already. Our intentions are to run in the Arkansas Derby and go to the Kentucky Derby from there. He is training well, looks like all systems are still go for him.
You know, we couldn’t be happier, both horses doing very well.
Ron: I guess the deciding factor on Friesan Fire whether or not he goes in the Bluegrass will be whether or not he’s acting like he just is really on his toes and needs to have a race?
Larry: Absolutely, yeah, that’s kind of what we’re doing. He is showing no signs of getting tired yet, each race keeps getting better. We think we’re at a situation where, you know, he could run a winning Derby race from right where he sits. His numbers are well and he looks like he’s setting on a big race – and that’s the thing whether we want to think his next race is going to be a very, very good race, you know, we would like for him to be that way for the Derby.
Old Fashioned after his slow finish in the Rebel and the Southwest, which I think has contributed to extremely fast paces in the race, but he definitely – he needs another prep. He is not exactly where we want him for the first Saturday of May. We think he’s a two race type of performance. And so if that’s the way it is, then the plans have come together perfectly and that’s what we had geared for him and we’re not having a change in the plan but just have all of them come together and work for him just like we had planned.
Ron: Well, one change you do have in store for Old Fashioned in the Arkansas Derby is a new jockey with Terry Thompson. You and Terry go way back and can you tell us what’s behind going to Terry in the Arkansas Derby?
Larry: Well, I mean, this one was Terry was the one that worked this horse– every race, every work before he ever made the first start. He was almost his regular jockey, the one who went to Aqueduct to run in the Remsen. Mr. Porter and I agreed to the fact that maybe we needed Ramon Dominguez on at Aqueduct. Ramon knows the track very well. He’s leading rider there by many, and the nice thing was is if I have Ramon on my horse, I don’t have to worry about him riding another horse and beating me. So, we got to kill two birds at one stone and needless to say he won, ran very well. So Ramon managed to keep them out.
Ramon is a little higher profile jockey than Terry and he’s ridden a few more large races, but we’re at Arkansas now and Ramon has ridden him twice there. He has done a good job in both races. But once again, Terry is the runaway leading rider at [inaudible 5:06] right now. The last time I looked, he’s about 15 in front of anyone. If there’s a groove in the track or if there is a blip in the track, apparently he knows exactly who it is and we want to take that advantage.
You know, this is a situation we want everything to be in our advantage to control it all the best we can. And so Terry for the Arkansas Derby will be on Old Fashioned.
Now that the ride is still up possibly for grabs between those two jockeys as to who would ride him in the Kentucky Derby. But as of right now, Terry does have him out in the Arkansas Derby. He has been working every work he had since the Remsen, Terry has been on for his work, so it’s not like he’s got to get reestablished with him; he’s been working for the races at Arkansas anyway. So now, he gets to take credit for it in the afternoon as well.
Ron: Moving right along to our next second most asked question, concerning your plans to retire at the end of this year, is this like full retirement or just a cutting back to where you would sell the small stable in the Midwest, but just not be as high profile and not have as many horses under your care?
Larry: Well that is for definite that is going to at least stay that, but I still plan for a full retirement from the training, my wife owns some horses that we’ll continue to race and my wife also has trainers license, I’m all for her if she wants to train them and I’m also supporting her, and if she would like for me to be her exercise rider, I would even try that. But my intentions are to call it quits at least for a very extended stay. I want to play with my grandkids and we’re going to do things that other grandparents and grandchildren get to do. If somebody wants to learn to play softball or baseball or whatever their sport, hopefully I could be there to watch and cheer and maybe help, I don’t know, but I do know this everyday at the barn all day long, has got to stop.
Ron: Will we be seeing you on the golf course?
Larry: That probably will not happen unless one of them kids really wants to play golf. I won’t be doing it for me.
Ron: This question comes from Jeanine Maroney – Did the breakdown of Eight Belles and all the controversy have anything to do with your decision to retire?
Larry: Well, no, not from what people would think it was, absolutely not. You know, needless to say it was one of the most enjoyable times of our career, but that is not why I decided to retire. It’s just the everyday pressures of running a business, especially at this magnitude. It seems like there was a time when I started that either you trained in Kentucky or maybe you trained in New York and Florida and would migrate back and forth from winter to summer, but anymore it seems like – you know, with these multi-multi- horse stables, you need to be racing the entire USA, and I didn’t learn to be the business manager or racing manager type of trainer. I like to do the work. I enjoy doing the work and I like to be hands on, and I just feel like I’m losing some communication between me and some of my horses when it strode out that much and it’s taking the enjoyment out of it from me. And then that’s the biggest thing more than all, and just the fact that I've been at it for 30 years of 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And it’s just that this old body has gotten tired and it needs some rest.
Ron: Another question related to Eight Belles – Do you think the industry – can the NTRA, et cetera could have done more to help with the publicity and everything that’s surrounding the Eight Belles situation as far as having mitigate negativity?
Larry: You know, I think they give me all the support that, you know, I keep in constant contact with them. They were supporting me whether it came out in public or not, and a lot of very good things have come. Of course needless to say, they have started these horseracing safety council, which a lot of those stuff – especially immediately after the Derby – I was involved in on, you know, just on suggestions that maybe things do change, not to change, wherever we had problems and maybe didn’t have problems and maybe some problems that’s just out of our control just because these things are athletes.
But they were very supportive, and I think they stepped up to the plate well. Lots of changes have been made, whether it was made from stricter yet medication rules or the abandonment of steroids. They have also gone in to make a shoe change in which maybe, my thinking is some of that may have even been overboard but it will resolve itself. I think some things that was changed will maybe go back to being the way it was before or closer to the way it was before. The main thing is the business put itself under a microscope to see what we could improve, what is out of our control and if it is within our control, we’ll try to find the most appropriate way of fixing it.
As I have said many times, the equine horseracing, the racing deal in general is a very good sport. It’s a very good sport. It was a good sport before Eight Belles got hurt. It’s going to be a better sport now. I mean, lots of things have changed as far as retirement for racehorses, finding more places for them to be placed.
If you look at the industry in the last 10 months now, it has changed greatly and for that, I’m thankful and glad to be a little bit a part of it.
Ron: Kind of like making lemonade out of lemons?
Larry: Well that’s sometimes what you’ve got to do. I definitely did not plan for the Eight Belles tragedy to happen by any means, never could have foreseen it happening, but it happened for a reason. It was a bad situation, but let’s see what we can do to make the best of a bad situation we could do.
Ron: This next question is from Bill Yates, it’s kind of related – Where do you stand on the creation of a governing body, or having a current organization such as the NTRA, which is already in place, to oversee racing? Do you think that is needed?
Larry: Well I do and maybe from a selfish standpoint of being as trainer. I wish all states had the same regulations and rules across state lines. If you’re going to play a basketball game in Arizona, or if you’re going to play it in New York – the size of the courts are the same, all the rules are the same, and you know when you go from one place to the other what you're thinking. But for horseracing, it’s not that way.
And you can be around, especially where I am in the Delaware area – with Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, all the rules are different somewhere throughout the rules, and it’s hard to keep up with what you can do where and what you need to do where. I definitely think that if we had a national commissioner in charge of all that, it would make everybody’s job a lot easier and uniformity; that’s what we’re looking for.
Ron: And actually enable you and other trainers, I guess, to do what to do best and that’s train horses rather than trying to keep up with all the paperwork and become experts on regulation.
Larry: [inaudible static on the line 12:13] one of the few, but I definitely feel like that needs to be done.
Ron: You have had two second place finishes in the Kentucky Derby in the last two years and now you have two very legitimate chances for this year. Do you pick horses out at the sales for your owners? And if so, what do you look for in an individual and what did you see in common between all your Derby contenders past and present?
Larry: I’ll be perfectly honest with you, every horse that I’ve had in the Kentucky Derby, I was not the one that had put them on the shortlist first. Actually, Hard Spun came to me as a 2 year old, already had been broken and just ready to start his training. Eight Belles, I was actually in on the selection process on her but she was, once again, already on a very shortlist, and all I did was in have to go in and put just a final okay on her and Old Fashioned. But they were very hight on the list anyway. If I had said no, it would have been a definite no, if they hadn’t taken them. I’m not really going to take the credit for selecting either one of those.
Friesan Fire was very similar to Hard Spun. He came to me as a 2 year old, [inaudible 14:27] and was very close to racing when I got him. I wish I could take credit for all of them, but I couldn’t. But I want to say that whenever I saw him – I mean, it was pretty easy to start telling, hey these are major horses, and it was sure easy to [inaudible 14:45]
Ron: So, it’s almost like you were the right guy in the right place at the right time?
Larry: I really was. I got to be the beneficiary of other people’s hard work and hopefully, I didn’t let them down – you know the ones that had selected him, hopefully I didn’t let them down and we were able to develop the horses to become who they were and the way that they should have been.
Ron: Our next question comes from Jane – Hi Larry, What's the deciding factor for you (or other trainers) when you're on the fence about running a filly in the Derby or the Oaks?
Larry: Eight Belles was a very unique situation. Our entire year was a unique situation last year because we got Proud Spell in the barn, and she was the second rank 2 year old in the nation in 2007. Actually, early in the 3 year old years she looked to be a primary filly. So we moved Eight Belles to Oaklawn and to make sure that her and Proud Spell would not be racing against each other, and through that time of year what you always are hoping for a 2 year old, and she developed tremendously. She matured, she started getting her race face on, very similar to the way Friesan Fire [inaudible 16:01] gotten here recently. You know, they started getting good at the right time.
Her numbers, you know, when we’re looking at the speed figure she was running, we’re looking and comparing her to the boys and it just looked like she was very fit, looking very well as far as talent went. Plus as Rick had made perfectly clear to me, if I wanted to run her in the Oaks, run her, but he felt as though I could win the Oaks with or without Eight Belles. He felt Proud Spell could run the Oaks without her, and if I felt that way and if I felt like she would fit in the Derby, that he was willing to run her in the Derby, and that is how it all came about.
Basically, it was a no pressure decision. I didn’t have a lot of pressure on me from the owner saying I’ve got to have this horse in the Derby, and we was able to make what I thought was a very pressure-free decision on being in those spots. It turned out that’s what I said to this day, I think it’s supposed to happen.
Ron: So really there are no hard and fast rules on this, that was just a thing that fell into place as far as all the situations?
Larry: It really was. Just like I said the boys, Big Brown had stepped up to run very large, but there wasn’t another 3-year-old boy in there that had done a lot more than what she had done. And it just looked like maybe the year to give it a try.
Ron: Going back to Friesan Fire and Old Fashioned here, Jessica Young from Idaho writes – What are their personalities like when they arrived, and how have they grown and developed mentally and physically since those first days?
Larry: Physically, both horses were very, very attractive horses. Old Fashioned was a little bit on the lighter side. He does not carry as much body flash that Friesan Fire does. Both horses are really good to be around in the barn. Old Fashioned, you would think he is a pony. He absolutely… he sleeps a large majority of the day. He just absolutely – his stall is his castle.
Friesan Fire, on the other hand, in the barn, is a little more fiery. If he hears a noise outside, he’ll let you know that there’s thing going on outside that’s not supposed to be going on.
But on the racetrack, they kind of change their attitudes a little. Friesian’s style is a little more laid back. He is a little easier horse to gallop. He goes out there and just hits a nice comfortable loop and goes around at the speed he likes.
Old Fashioned is starting to become that way, but he was more warmy head to try to gear down. Whatever you wanted to do, he always want to let you know there was more to do, that he had plenty left in the tank. So he was always trying to do more than he was supposed to [inaudible static line 19:06] gallop a mile and a half, he thought he wanted to gallop a mile and three quarters. You have to discuss your stopping deal. Both horses are lovely to be around. Neither one is a problem and they both seem [inaudible static line 19:21] We’re very happy.
Ron: The next one was from a 15 year old from Ireland named Majella – Hi, Mr. Jones! What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
Larry: That’s a hard one to answer. You know, winning the Eclipse Award last year, it got to rank to us – [inaudible 19:42] second in the Kentucky Derby the first time was very good.
We’ve been blessed. We’ve had some extremely high moments. When our first grade won in 2004 with Island Sand at Belmont Park, we remember thinking that if it never gets better than this, we’re okay, that our dreams had somewhat been answered. It’s been a glorious life. Hopefully, we still have high parts. You know, I’m sure if you could win in the Derby, I would think at that moment, it had to be the best day in history, but actually, we’ve been so blessed, we just had very, very numerous good days and it’s hard to just pick our one.
Ron: From Rosana Rivera – Of all the talented horses that you have trained which one or which ones presented the biggest challenge for you as a trainer? And who was the best in your opinion?
Larry: Well, once again, that’s a hard one to do. Eight Belles was one that, I say, we took a little work with. You know, needless to say, her career did not start off in shining fashion, although we felt like she was an extremely talented horse. She was one that just took a little while to learn her lesson. You know, you go back, we’ve had … of all the good horses, basically none of them were what you considered a real challenge, any of the ones that are nationally known. They’ve all had been pretty good and pretty nice to work with.
As most trainers, sometimes you get horses that never wound up amounting to much that just really did not want their career to be in racing so needless to say, those are challenges. But probably the most talented – right at this point, the horse that could just do things and just kind of freak you out in a way it was done was Hard Spun. I mean, he just absolutely, you know, his speed was amazing, and him being able to harness that speed and travel as far as he did and all, he was a true gutty performer – never not show up for the race. I never could say that when I took him over that he didn’t show up and give me his 100%. He will always be dear to me.
Once again, we've just been totally blessed and you'll never find a harder performer or harder trier than Proud Spell. I mean, she has not been the most talented horse we ever had, needless to say, she had plenty of talent, but she’s one of them that you better not put up eyeball to eyeball with her because she will find a way to beat you. She’s another one – she’s just a dear sweet, sweet girl to be around and what a joy she has been to train.
Ron: Our next question comes from a fellow trainer named David Carroll – Larry, when are you going to retire? You’re killing me.
Larry: David is a very good friend of mine. I guess, David – maybe, if I was to quit today, maybe, you know, I could finally win some of these horses and maybe he would still like me. David and I had been, you know, he had Denis of Cork while I had Eight Belles. This year, we’re looking at running in the Apple Blossom together with [inaudible 23:11] that is really good right now and we’re looking together with Proud Spell. So we have a friendly rivalry here.
He’s also one of the few trainers that gallops his own horses, and so we gallop every morning together and get to clown around and tease each other. Great horseman. David is a great horseman and I know he keeps asking me if he can talk me into retiring this week. I think he’s got ultimate plans for something.
Ron: Next question from Audrey Boslego – I'm a high school student aspiring to become a horse trainer. With the current economic situation, will there be less opportunities for me to get into the industry?
Larry: As I tell people, if that’s the good Lord has put the desire in your heart to want to do this. He will not give you a desire and not let you succeed if that’s what you really want to do. No one could have started to any closer to the bottom than I did; my very first horse is an $800 horse. My first stakes winner as an $800 yearling purchase in Kentucky. So it can be done. Hard work covers a lot of mistakes and just be faithful and keep pressing on and perseverance, although it’s tough, it pays off. So, yes, if that’s your desire –what is a bad economic time for some people, can also be an opportunity for others. So just take it from the opportunity side and take the ball and run and best of luck.
Ron: Next is from Marcia – I hear a lot of discussion about the fact that Old Fashioned does not have the breeding to go the classic distances, but is it not possible to train the "bottom" or stamina into a horse?
Larry: Yes and no. You can influence some of it, but when you start trying to over train with mileage and tougher training schedules, generally something else starts taking a toll. I found out that it’s still best to just train your horse and then hopeful run it at the appropriate distance. However, pedigree doesn’t tell it all. It doesn’t do it. Strike The Gold – if you look at him back before he won the Derby, they said he did not have the dosage to win the Derby.
We don’t feel that’s the case with Old Fashioned as well. I gallop him most days. I do know that after a mile and a half of gallop that we still have to discuss whether we’re going to stop or whether we’re going to train onwards. He’s never ever shown me any signs of limitation. So much of it is it goes too with the horses air – how much air can they get and how can they change that air into a fuel for the muscles. If you have a horse that’s got a very good heart – the large heart – of course Secretariat being a [inaudible 26:14] horse was not supposed to go a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half the way he did. But if they have extremely good airways, if they have extremely large heart and good muscle in the heart that can keep carrying that blood around and around, they will outrun and go farther than what their dosage and pedigree says it may.
We feel like that’s what we have with Old Fashioned. We know for a fact he’s got a large heart. We know for a fact that breathing has never been an issue, and he’s already won at a 1 1/8 mile as a 2 year old. He’s done so many things the other horses already haven’t done, I’m sure not fixing to say well his pedigree is not going to get him a mile and a quarter. They’re just going to have to prove it to me.
Ron: Who knows, he may outrun his pedigree on the first Saturday in May.
This is from Michael – First of all, I want to thank you for being a wonderful representative for thoroughbred racing. My question is if you weren't a trainer what would you have chosen as your profession?
Larry: I started out farming. That was my first thought whenever I got out of school, I figured I’d be a farmer forever. Economic times is bad at farming in the late 70s and early 80s and I always had the desire to be with horses and even work with horses. We had a [inaudible 27:38] operation and I used horses for that. And horses have always been in my background and in my blood, so this has seemed as a viable alternative at that point to bring money for the family farm and needless to say, it has turned out and worked well. But those are about the only two ambitions I’ve ever had. In some kind of way I was going to find a way to work with horses. There was the time I shod horses, and I’m not saying I was good at it, but I could have fed the family, if nothing else, just shoeing horses. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to make horses as part of my livelihood pretty much my entire life and it would definitely had to have been something with horses.
Ron: Next question – I would like to know of the emotional stamina that it demands of you to be in the highs and low lows of your profession.
Larry: That I don’t know. ? I think I’m running the low. I don’t know if I've gotten it much longer. ? My pedigree maybe leaning more towards the brilliant side instead of the stamina side. This is a tough game and my hats are off to Mr. Wayne [inaudible 28:49] who has been in the business at the highest profile for so long and all the trainers, and of course, Todd Fletcher and Steve Asmussen and the training – the super large stables, how they can continue on.
Steve and I have kind of a little joke between us that he was the winningest trainer in North America last year and by many, but in turn, he also lost more races than anybody in North America last year. So there’s always a flipside to the coin. After a while, it just starts wearing on you. We all have to be competitive if we’re going to really want to be in this game. I am that, as much as anything, you know, I am very competitive but still even when you’re doing your very best – I mean, and last year we were running I think at a 24-25% clip on the year, which means we were losing at 75-76% of the time. Those are draining. Those losses just drain you. I don’t know. Like I said, perseverance pays; you have to push on, but it’s tough sometimes and it will get to you.
Ron: The next question comes from Bill Hirsch – How much of a cowboy are you and how has being a cowboy helped you train thoroughbreds?
Larry: I don’t know. I’m about as much cowboy as you’re going to find anybody I think in this game. As I said, before I made my living, before I come into here was with horses and cows. I can still – I haven't roped in 30 years – I wasn’t great at it then, but I could catch a sick cow that needed doctoring and give it a shot. It just makes you learn animals. That, I think, has been an extreme help to me is that I think I understand animals. I think I know when they’re trying to tell me something, and I’ve learned to listen. Hopefully that’s where I have maybe if I have an advantage over anyone else, maybe a little bit is that I can relate to them. Like I said, life on the farm growing up with all kinds of animals; you have to learn to kind of speak their language. I’m not Dr. Doolittle, but I do understand a lot, but they try to tell you, and then I try to move from there.
Ron: George Thompson wants to know the make and model of your famous head gear?
Larry: I have no clue. Caliente is the helmet that I used. It’s been refurbished over the years, but I would say it was probably about 1980. It’s been with me pretty much ever since I started.
Ron: You haven’t lost it in that long of period of time?
Larry: Well, you know, I’m talking about this is just a galloping helmet. Now my hat – I have those cowboy hats, I've got numerous of those and they’ve been around for a long time too.
Ron: Wow, so you keep up with everything then?
Larry: Well I do, but you know I add to the cowboy hat collection. You know, whenever I’m around and I see one that looks like something I’d like to have, I’m not afraid to buy a hat. I don’t have 70 or 80 of them, but I’m pretty sure I can find 12 or 15 pretty quick.
Ron: But you don’t stick with one brand or style on that?
Larry: I really don’t. I’m sure most of them are Stetsons. Most of the hats I have are Stetsons, but I’m not opposed to buying an off brand if I really would see it and if it really fits well and it looks like it was for me, I’m not opposed to it, but most of mine are Stetsons.
Ron: Next one comes from Gus in Sydney, Australia – Aside from Friesan Fire, have you ever had a horse with an Aussie pedigree connection? And also, could Friesan Fire's early results be attributed to having Golden Slipper winner Bint Marscay's influence?
Larry: To be honest with you, this is probably the nearest thing to having Australian breeding that I’ve ever had. It’s close to have the pedigree. If I’ve had others, then it had to be that a generation further back. And to be honest with you, I have not done a lot of background in any pedigree. I mean I know what it is and I know that we’re getting a lot of stamina influence, especially from the second dam bag. It’s first dam from a very good [inaudible 33:29] while one winner in Australia, but taking from my stallion that it used to be here in North America. He’s back here now, the Heiress(ph) which is the horse that we all – we have to watch and race and a very good racehorse.
But needless to say, you know, we’re proud of the fact that he’s got a lot of stamina influence on the dam side, and coming from the Australian deal, he seems to be a very sound horse. We’re awful proud of the fact that there was a lot of thought put into his breeding and hopefully, it’s going to pay off [inaudible 34:03] decision making [inaudible 34:06]
Ron: Who are some of your role models inside the industry and why?
Larry: Needless to say the major influence when I first started and is I’ve never got to work with anyone per se as far as being an assistant, I wasn’t. Wayne Lucas was always kind of my hero from the standpoint that I used to race quarter horses and anyone to the thoroughbreds from the quarter horses. So, you know, I was always proud of that fact and, you know, somewhat followed him in what I thought his footsteps should be.
Well, ironically, Wayne and I have gotten to be pretty good buddies now. We’re at Oaklawn together, and he’s always been somewhat of my horseman idol, and we have a good time with it. Needless to say, [inaudible 34:58] that’s why we use them.
But I have been very fortunate in getting to meet some really good people in this game to kind of take a little something from all people. Probably the biggest influence, believe it or not, was a guy by the name of Jerry Knight that I was somewhat study with. He helped me a lot in my earlier years. A very, very knowledgeable horseman, and he kind of pointed me into the path that we use now, in which sometimes it’s not exactly the path the nature of most noted horsemen use, but we’re not afraid to kind of step outside the box.
You know when I started galloping horses the way I do, everybody kind of made fun of me in the fact that they thought we were letting them off everyday, but there was a reason why we wanted to do that. Jerry taught me so much about legs on horses and just the general maintenance and basically preventative measures to let me know when I’m getting in trouble before I ever get in trouble. So a very knowledgeable person, very thankful to have run into him.
There have been several others. I've run into a chiropractor that has helped me tremendously by the name of Bill Smith. That we were still learning about horses that helped me to, you know, figure out why and how I needed to do certain things, and the bigger thing was why we wanted to change and do things a different way. And then a fellow by the name of Bob Austin, an extremely good blacksmith in Kentucky. As I said I used to be a blacksmith and I found out now why I was having issues with horses, but I do believe entirely no foot, no horse, and he helped me get way, way more into the horseshoeing than I think some people are and I think they get yourself in trouble not knowing they’re in trouble.
We’ve been very fortunate and been very blessed and like I said, some of my very best help has not been other trainers per se. And then needless to say, my wife, she’s the one that, you know, if you really want to talk about good horse people and good animal people – I laugh and call her Ellie Mae in the flesh. She’s like Ellie Mae Clampett on the Beverly Hills. There’s not an animal that I’ve ever seen that didn’t take up with her. A very, very good horselady.
Hopefully we help each other, but she has really helped me on understanding horses and learning to somewhat talk with them. I don’t think my career would be where it is had she had not been not there pitching in silently and sometimes to me she wasn’t too silent, but she wasn’t getting a lot of the credit for what was going on, but major, major help to my career.
Ron: What criteria must a horse meet physically for you and what sort of system do you use to grade horses at the sales?
Larry: I had horses of all shapes and sizes and some of them is very good – some of them you just kind of fill out and everybody asks you when it was all over, why did you pick that one.
The very first horse that I went to the Breeders’ cup with in 2002 was the very small filly by the name of Ruby’s Reception. She was a Rubiano filly that [inaudible 38:31] was really getting looked over just because of her – I’m going to call it her pint size. She just was a very, very small filly. She somewhat won me over. Whenever I started really measuring her in going over [inaudible 38:45]. You know, I don’t think it’s any big secret that when I met [inaudible 38:48] especially ten years ago, everybody would laugh about the guy that had the stethoscope around his neck, acting like I guess I thought I was a veterinarian – a lot of people still call me Doc – but I would listen to them and I would listen to their hearts and listen to their breathing and try to figure out who maybe had the large lungs and the large heart. Even though the outside didn’t show it, we've been very fortunate picking out those horses. And some of them have come in great big bodies with maybe not the greatest of confirmation.
I can remember a filly by the name of Don’t Count Us Out that I dearly fell in love with whenever I put them [inaudible 39:34] I don’t know if you could keep from knocking her legs off when she would run. Fortunately, she never touched. She was very fast and a very nice horse, and for a $16,000 yearling, went on to be an exceptional buy.
We also bought the greatest stake winner by the name of Geisha for $12,000 and we just actually have been very fortunate. I bought Wildcat Bettie B for $42,000, the grade one winner. So we’ve been very fortunate and basically, the stethoscope kind of give it away to me. I found something different on them that a lot of other horses weren’t having, and so we took our chances, although confirmation was a little low, we knew their motors were right, and so we were willing to take a chance. And it’s paid off. I mean, we’ve been able to drag out of the sales some fairly inexpensive horses. We have Mary’s Meadow running right now – a $25,000 sales purchase – and she’s won two grade 3 and is still active and this could still be a good year for her. We’ve been very blessed.
Ron: So do you still go around with the sales with a stethoscope or have you turned it over to the professional vets now?
Larry: Whenever I go to the sales, and you can trust me, I’ve got it around my neck. [inaudible 41:03] that I think we bought for a fairly good deal. It’s the one I bought for my wife named Just Jenda, which was an RNA from the Lavin Bloodstock Agency. She was another one, that when I put the stethoscope on her, you just knew that you wanted this horse and she just won the grade 3 Honeybee, a race that Eight Belles won last year. She’s looking at the Fantasy and possibly start in the Kentucky Oaks.
So this could be another year that one’s hand has slipped away from other people, but I was able to be fortunate enough to – that whenever I looked at her and listened to her thought here’s a horse with great potential and that’s why we give her a try.
Now I’ve also bought horses I thought had great potential that didn’t make it, but at least I think it really improved our percentages immensely.
Ron: Last question from Barry – What needs to be done to get more wagering fans to the tracks?
Larry: If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t have to worry about what I was going to be doing during retirement, I could get hired on at a racetrack and my life could become a lot easier. I don’t know… there are few things that I think racetracks are maybe somewhat missing the boat on, and it’s just from observing other things. I don’t have a lot of time to go to other sporting events, but I was very fortunate to get to go to a little minor league baseball game a couple of years ago. I got to go throw out the first pitch because of Hard Spun and getting me some notoriety. I went to watch the Wilmington Blue Rocks play, and just kind of how much fun we had there. They had people in the stands that between innings that would come and do just certain things just to make you have a good time while you were there.
And I see the way the casinos do treat their patrons whenever they come in with all kinds of promotional deals – free drinks, smaller soft drinks, things like that. But you don’t notice the racetracks doing, and I think maybe people are getting accustomed to that. If they have the opportunity to go to a football game, baseball game or casino, they feel like they have been invited more to those then maybe they have been invited to a horserace.
Because the first thing you do when you go to a horserace – a lot of them now do not charge admission, which I’m glad they have kind of changed that, but you don’t have… you know they want so much money for racing forms, so much money for a program and a lot of places still to park – they want you to pay … and you feel like they’ve done maybe nickel and dime’d you to death before you get in there and are actually able to wager on a horserace. I think it’s changing, but I think they could possibly do better.
I see tracks like Oaklawn Park that still have a great fan base and needless to say, Keeneland and Saratoga is just awesome and they tell me Del Mar is the same way. But there’s a lot of racetracks, such as Belmont and places that I was really – whenever I got there and saw how few people attended the races there, it was really mind-boggling to me at just how … what the fan base doesn’t come out to watch the live horse racing.
We have a great sport. We have a very entertaining sport and one of the few sports you could actually bet on. How we can’t have fan attendance out the kazoo, I don’t know because I think it’s the greatest game played outdoors. But some kind of how it’s just not drawing them.
Canterbury Park – you can go up there on a weekend and so many young people at Canterbury Park, hollering and screaming and having a good time and just down the road at Prairie Meadows, you might have 200 people show up for a race. I just don’t understand the difference. I just think, you know, they just really need to try harder. I think we’ve gotten lazy and taken it for granted that they were going to come and we kind of roll out the red carpet to them a little bit and show them that we really do have interesting sport here and it’s great to be a part of.
Ron: Well, Larry, thank you very much for your time. I know you’re a busy man these days and I look forward to seeing you here in Keeneland down at Barn 12.
Larry: Thank you very much and we’ll be there as soon as we can get there.