Tim Ice Podcast - Listen Now!

To listen to the podcast, click the PLAY button above.

Tim Ice Bio




Eric Mitchell (Exec. Editor, Digital Media):  We want to welcome Tim Ice to BloodHorse.com's Talkin' Horses.

Tim, are you doing okay this morning?

Tim:  I'm doing fantastic.  Thank you.

Mitchell:  Great.  A quick little introduction to Tim.  He is a native of East Liverpool, Ohio.  He has lived in Louisiana since the age of fifteen and got introduced to racing at an early age by his late stepfather, Frank Rapp.

I guess now it's all about Summer Bird.  We've got lots of great questions from the viewers of BloodHorse.com.

We'll start off with one we got from Lexington.  This question says, "What do you do to keep the momentum going?  I mean, you got off to such a fast start in your career.  You've already won a Classic.  Have you got any thoughts on how you keep it going or does it just seem to carry itself?"

Tim:  Well, the one thing that I've learned over the years is you still have to stay focused and continue doing the same things that you've done to get to where you're at.  As long as you don't change your routines, stay on the same course, and look at each individual as horses have their own different personalities, so you train each horse differently, but you stay focused and concentrate on one race at a time and don't look beyond that.

Mitchell:  I've got a comment here from Leslie.  She said, "Notice that Mine That Bird went out on the track, went for long slow exercises at Saratoga.  I was wondering to know, do you have some type of specific exercise or workout program that you use with Summer Bird to maintain his fitness between races or get him ready for longer routes?"

Tim:  Well, I mean, I've trained him the same from day one.  He goes and he gallops his mile and a half.  I'll give him a one mile jog before his mile and a half gallops.  It's a matter of keeping him happy on the track as well as back at the barn.  I think with him, it's just let him go out and give him as much time as he likes out there as far as his one mile jogs before we turn around and give him his mile and a half gallop.

Mitchell:  Does he pay attention a lot to what's going on around him?

Tim:  He is very keen as to his surroundings.  He is a very focused horse.  If he sees something, he'll dial in on it and look at it for 5-10 minutes, however long he can see it.  He dials in on something; he's a very focused horse.

Mitchell:  "How would you describe how Summer Bird has evolved?"  This is a question from Hannah from Texas.  She wants to know how Summer Bird has evolved since you got him through the Travers.

Tim:  When we first got him in January, he was a little light on the muscle tone.  He has changed dramatic. I've looked at his first couple of races all the way up to now, and he has gone from a boy to a man.  Each race, I feel like he is getting stronger.  His appearance definitely shows the maturity that he has developed over the past few months.

Mitchell:  So you think that you haven't seen the best of him yet.

Tim:  I really don't.  I think that with each race, he is getting a little bit more out of it.  Yeah, I don't know how much more improving he'll do.  If he stays where he is at right now, we're still in pretty good shape; I do see this colt improving.

Mitchell:  Have you all given any thought to next year; has there been any kind of commitment yet to whether he'll race at 4?

Tim:  He will.

Mitchell:  He will?  Okay, that's good for all us.  Super.  So looking down the road, what's the next step for the colt?

Tim:  The Jockey Club.

Mitchell:  Okay, looking at the Gold Cup?  Some owners have had some concerns about racing Breeders' Cup on the synthetic surface.  Do you share any of those same concerns?

Tim:  Well, I have mixed emotions about it, having that race two years in a row at Santa Anita doesn't seem quite fair but at the same time, there's nothing we can do about it.

The colt has nine works over that racetrack when he was out there from October to January, so it's not going to be a totally new surface for him.  It's always a different story about how they're going to handle in the afternoon, but at the same time, he has adapted well to every track that he has gone to.  It may take him a few days, but he adapts well to his surrounding.

Mitchell:  Question here from Reta who wanted to know about his feet.  She had heard some buzz about his feet requiring some additional attention.  Can you tell us anything about that?  Is there anything special you have to do with him?

Tim:  No, it's like any horse... his feet are fine.  I don't know where she heard it from, but there is nothing wrong with him obviously.  They certainly looked good to me when he won the Travers.

They're fine.  There is nothing special that I do to his feet.  There is nothing - no special shoes or anything like that.

Mitchell:  After the Belmont, I mean, can you share with us a little bit what it's like to suddenly find that you have a Belmont winner in your stable?

Tim:  That's a great feeling to look in your stable and see that you have a Classic winner that has just won the Belmont.  It was very exciting and it still is.  I think with each race, he just makes you that much more excited.

Mitchell:  Did your phone start ringing off the hook immediately?

Tim:  It rang pretty good and it still rings.  It's another one of those things where I have to stay focused on what I'm doing with him if I felt that I'm not doing my job.

Mitchell:  Question here from Skye wanting to know conformation-wise, do you see similarities between Summer Bird and Birdstone?

Tim:  No, I don't.

Mitchell:  How are they different?

Tim:  Well, first of all, one would be the size.  Summer Bird is about 16-1.  Birdstone I think was 15-3.  So there's definitely a size difference and I obviously wasn't around Birdstone, so I don't know how his conformation as far as the legs and that stuff goes, but my horse is very correct.  He's as correct as you would like to have a horse.

Mitchell:  You had mentioned the possibility of relocating away from Louisiana Downs.  I've got a question here from a Garner who wanted to know if you might have any suggestions for Louisiana Downs that might help them keep more successful trainers down at the track.

Tim:  Well, one is to improve the quality of racing.  It's hard to have a good horse there and the purses definitely hurt.  The purses there aren't very high and without saying a whole... I don't want to knock the place, I don't want to put it down or anything, but it's not a place that I feel like I can improve the quality of my barn by staying there, so I think first of all, Louisiana Downs needs to improve the quality of racing and offer more purse money.

Mitchell:  Do you have any ideas where you may relocate your barn to?

Tim:  At this point right now, I'm looking at a couple of different racetracks - we still have to make it through the winter - but looking at Belmont Park and looking at Monmouth Park as far as a couple of different racetracks up here on the East Coast.

Mitchell:  This is an interesting question from someone that said, "Following the Haskell, you reportedly ate at Chili's with the Jayaramans.  Where did you eat following the Travers win?"

Tim:  The Travers win, I ate at a place called Sergio's, a family style restaurant, Italian.  It was very good food.

Mitchell:  People want to know all kinds of stuff about you.

Tim:  Yeah.

Mitchell:  How did you get started in racing?  I know the bio here says that you got introduced from your late stepfather.  What was it that really hooked you on the sport?

Tim:  I think the more time I spent around them, I just fell in love with the sport of racing and horses and really developed a relationship to the sport as far as something that I felt very strong about and wanted to spend my life around horses.

Mitchell:  What was that first step?  Did you walk hots, did you work as a groom - did you do all that?

Tim:  I started out cleaning stalls, walking horses, moved up to grooming horses, and then obviously after I graduated high school, it wasn't six months out of high school when I took out my assistant trainer's license.  I started at the bottom, just cleaning stalls.

Mitchell:  That was all in Louisiana?

Tim:  Correct.

Mitchell:  Was that at Louisiana Downs?

Tim:  It was actually at a training center, it was Hurricane Bluff.  I wasn't of age to work on the racetrack at that point, so my stepfather - we had horses on the farm and of course,  that's how I was introduced into it, but I started for him cleaning stalls and moved my way up.

Mitchell:  Now I see that you worked for a time with Keith Desormeaux.  Is that what made the connection with Kent?

Tim:  Correct.  I was out in California from 1995 to 1999 doing the California circuit with Keith and obviously, built a relationship around him and around Kent.

Mitchell:  We had a couple of questions on people asking about how you got into your career.  If you had to offer any advice to someone who wanted to break into the training of thoroughbred horses, what would that be?

Tim:  Well, I think the first thing would be starting out at the bottom.  You know, Rome wasn't built in a day.  I think that your training career - you've got to work your way up where you can appreciate even the lowest part of the job which - I mean, nobody wants to go in and clean stalls every morning but I think that if you start your way on the bottom and work your way up, and each day you try to learn something new about the business and about the horses.  So I think if you're new into the business that you start off going and cleaning stalls, walking horses, and build your way up. 

It takes a lot of dedication.  You have to love horses.  You have to be able to come in to work every day and just appreciate the fact that you get to work around these incredible animals.

Mitchell:  Absolutely.  One question from Matt.  He says, "If your colt ends up winning the Gold Cup and the Classic, do you think he is the definitive Horse of the Year?"

Tim:  I'm not going to argue the fact that Rachel Alexandra is Horse of the Year.  For her to do what she has done, I think that - she'd beat me by six lengths and I think that she deserves Horse of the Year on what she has accomplished, so I'll be very happy to have the 3-Year-Old Colt of the Year.

Mitchell:  Take that honor any day, right?  Since we're talking about Rachel, what was your impression of her Woodward?

Tim:  I thought that she was a very, very game winner.  They pushed her four or five different times at different points in the race and for her to still outlast Macho Again showed a tremendous amount of heart and determination in her.  She is almost like an iron horse.  If you're a fan of racing and you can appreciate the sport, you'd have to love what she has done.

Mitchell:  We have a question here from someone in Ireland wanting to know if there was one particular person you could point to who helped you the most in getting established in the sport and teaching you what you needed to know.

Tim:  I couldn't point out one person.  I would have to say that each person that I've worked for and come up under has taught me one or two things about the sport that has helped me along.  It would be unfair for me to say one person, because really I've taken something from everybody that I've come up under and have even been around, whether I've worked for them or not.  So I think that I would have to mention all the names above, from my stepfather all the way to Keith to Cole Norman to Morris Nicks, and other people that are in the sport that I did come up under.  I couldn't just mention one name because I think it's just being in the sport long enough that each day you learn something and it just wouldn't be fair for me to say one person.

Mitchell:  How long have the Jayaramans had horses with you?

Tim:  They actually helped me get started.  I've been training for them for well over a year now.  They were with me when I first opened up my stable, so they were a big help into me getting the horses and for a while, they're the only ones who had horses with me, so I have a tremendous amount of appreciation for them in what they have done to help me get to where I am.

Mitchell:  That kind of makes the Belmont or this horse all the more special, I would guess, since you had some owners that were faithful to you and kept horses with you, that must have really been icing on the cake.

Tim:  It is.  To win these races for the Jayaramans has been great.  For them to help me get started in this and show the trust that they've put into me - when we first started out, we went through some really hard times.  The horses weren't running as well as they should have been when we first started, but they've come around from the first of the year.  I thought we had a really good meet at Oaklawn, and it just built from there.  So to win these races for them has been very special.

Mitchell:  How did you meet them?

Tim:  I met them when I was the assistant for Cole Norman who was training for them and was able to build sort of a little relationship with them when I was under Cole, and when I decided it was time for me to go out on my own, I called them up.  They hadn't had any horses at Louisiana Downs at the time, and I asked them if they were interested in having any more horses there, we met, and they started sending me horses.

Mitchell:  How many horses did they send you in that first round, if you will?

Tim:  When they first started, they sent me two and then about two or three weeks later, they sent me four.  By the end of the summer, I think I had eight to ten horses for them.

Mitchell:  What do you think happened in that Oaklawn meet?  You said things were tough there in the beginning.  You had a good Oaklawn meet.  Is there anything you can attribute that turnaround to?

Tim:  Well, most of the horses there when we came in were two-year-olds - some of them weren't really ready to run, but it was getting close then to the Louisiana Downs meet, so we kind of run them when they weren't ready, but I think that a lot of it has to do with some of those horses were wanting to run a little bit further and at the time, the races at Louisiana Downs were going short.  It's hard to get two-year-olds going long even at the end of the year at Louisiana Downs.  So I think it was just a matter of giving the horses enough time where we can have them ready to run.  By Oaklawn, we had them all set and ready to fire and they did.

Mitchell:  Then things kind of came together, the horses are maturing, they're learning more, you get at a track where you get a chance to run a little bit longer, so everything starts falling into place that way?

Tim:  Correct.

Mitchell:  Okay.  I've got a question here from Steve who says, "Horses spend a lot of time in their stalls.  What do you do to keep them happy?"

Tim:  Well, I get my horses out.  When they come back after the track, I let them go out and graze for 20 to 30 minutes, and then I get them back out in the afternoon.  Let them walk a little bit, let them go, take them back out and let them graze.  I try to keep them stress free as much as I can.  I mean, they're still spending 21 to 22 hours a day in the stall even when I can get them out, but I think that getting them out in the afternoon helps mentally.  It gets them out of the stall and they enjoy going out and grazing obviously.  So I try to do as much as possible to keep them happy.

Mitchell:  Well certainly grazing is what they do naturally, so it has got to help them mentally.

Tim:  Right.

Mitchell:  I've got a question here from Olivia.  She makes a general comment here about there has been a lot of talk about today's modern thoroughbred is not as durable as thoroughbreds of the past.  Do you have any sort of insights on working with horses over time?  Do you feel that horses aren't quite as durable as they used to be?

Tim:  I don't think that they are as durable.  I think that the pressures of training these horses to make these races kind of makes them fragile.  You look at some of the horses from a long time ago and they did run many more times than the horses today, but I think that the market right now as far as keeping horses around, the pressures of trying to get them to run, and the things that you're doing that some horses can't take as much pressure training as they did back then.  I wish I knew what they did back then when they were hanging around a little longer, but we're in the day that you try to nurse them along as much as you can and did everything that you can do to possibly expand the horse's career, but I wouldn't be able to say for sure why they don't hang around longer today than when they did back then, because I wasn't around.

It's unfortunate that the injuries happen to these horses.  Every time you see one that falls off of the Triple Crown trail or any of these big races, you feel bad for them, but the one thing that you have to keep in mind is that it could be you and I think that as far as - I don't think it has anything to do with horsemanship.  I think that there are a lot of great horsemen in today's era and I feel that it's different times.  I don't know as far as the racetracks go or anything like that, but that is a tough question.

Mitchell:  Certainly with year-round racing, that's just got to add to it.

Tim:  Right.  I mean, you look at all these horses, they don't get breaks.  You're trying to make every race every time, and you can't dance every dance.

Mitchell:  I have only a couple more questions for you.  You've been really terrific.  I appreciate again your time.

I got a question here from Donald Williams.  He says, "Horses come back and repeat their wins only 18% of the time." - I'm not sure about that statistic, but that's the statistic he threw out there - "As a trainer, how do you account for that?"

Tim:  I think it's the quality of horses that are around.  It doesn't make a division week if there's a different horse winning each different time they run together.  I think that it just shows you that there are a lot of quality horses out there on any given day that one of them could step up and win.  It's tough to keep a horse in peak form, but I think it's as much the competition as it is the fact that they - it's not that they're not competing or doing well, because I'll bet your dollar that 18% that you're looking at and saying what the percentage over that horse running second or third and it probably makes the statistic go higher, but I think it's competition that there's enough good horses that are running that any of them could win.

Mitchell:  A question here from Tanzkd wanting to know about any sort of personality quirks, anything about Summer Bird around the barn that you can share with us.

Tim:  He has a great personality.  He is very photogenic.  He loves his picture taken.  When he comes out in the afternoon, he'll stand and stare something down for 20 minutes, 30 minutes.  He is a great horse to be around and a horse that has a great mind.  He takes his naps during the day.  He takes care of himself pretty well.

Mitchell:  That's a great horse to have, one that's taking care of himself.

Tim:  Yes.

Mitchell:  Well, Tim, that's all the questions we have for you.  Again, thank you very much for your time.  I appreciate it.  Best of luck to you in the Gold Cup.

Tim:  Thank you.

Mitchell:  We'll be looking for you out at Santa Anita, too.

Tim:  I'll be out there.

Mitchell:  Tim, thanks again.

Tim:  All right, thank you.

Recent Posts

More Blogs