Steve Haskin Podcast - Listen Now!

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Transcript

This is Ron Mitchell of BloodHorse.com's Talkin' Horses online podcast.  This month, we've got Steve Haskin, who is going to wrap up the Triple Crown for us.  Steve is an authority on Triple Crown and all things racing and as we all know from the Blood Horse, his work is very good.  He's online and in the regular magazine.

Steve, first of all, there was no Triple Crown winner this year, but we had a lot of good stories.  There was a Derby/Belmont for WinStar, the first ever in those races.  Bill Mot got his first Classic.  There was a cook turned Preakness winning jockey, but there was no Triple Crown. 

First of all, why don't you sum up for us how you viewed this year's three races?

 

Steve:  Well, I think they were interesting for what we had.  It's unfortunate that we didn't have the Derby winner or the Preakness winner going in the Belmont Stakes but listen, those things happen in some years, so you just have to make the best of it and like you said, we've had some great human interest stories.  I think we saw some pretty good horses throughout the Triple Crown.  How good they are, we don't know, that's still to be determined, but great individual performances.  We had three of the greatest trainers in the sport right now winning the three Triple Crown races.  I mean, all in all, I think it was a pretty interesting Triple Crown and great betting races.

Ron:  Speaking of the performances, one question here and it's not limited to the winners of those three races, but what in your opinion were the best performances from this year's Triple Crown trail, both equine and human?

 

Steve:  Well, let's see - I'd have to say #1 is Eskendereya and #2 is Eskendereya Certainly were the two top equine performances (this year) were the Fountain of Youth and the Wood Memorial. I think he showed in those two races that he was heads above everybody else and looked like he had a legitimate shot of winning the Triple Crown.  Certainly, he could have gotten through the Derby on that messy track, but obviously that we'll never know.

I think Lookin At Lucky's performance in the Rebel was a fantastic race.  I mean he had every right to lose that race.  He got stopped badly and kind of came around horses and wore down a really good horse in Noble's Promise, so I'd have to rank that right up there.

Speaking of Lookin At Lucky, top human performance right up there would have to be Martin Garcia.  Lookin At Lucky had some tough breaks with Garrett Gomez and when you replace Garrett Gomez, you had better replace him with somebody better because Garrett Gomez, as we know, is one of the best riders in the game. Bob Baffert had the nerve to take Gomez off and put on Martin Garcia, who had very little experience in the Triple Crown other than to ride Conveyance in the Derby, and he gave Lookin At Lucky an absolutely flawless ride and I think that has to be ranked right up there with certainly one of the best performances.  He came right back at Belmont, a track in which he has never ridden at before, pulled off a 41-1 upset in the Acorn Stakes and then gave Game on Dude an excellent ride in the Belmont for Baffert. They were right there at the 16th pole and was only beaten a couple of lengths, finishing fourth.  All in all, I think we saw the emergence of a star.

Ron:  How do you think based on how well Garcia did in his first appearance that maybe Triple Crown experience is overrated?

 

Steve:  Well, I wouldn't want to think so because the Belmont is such a quirky track with those big turns, but everything just seemed to go against the norm here. Again you have that great performance by Garcia and then you had Mike Smith riding Drosselmeyer like you wouldn't normally want to ride a horse in the Belmont Stakes by just keeping him wide the whole way and losing a lot of ground going into that far turn;. That usually spells death for a horse coming out of that turn and it usually leaves them with their tongue hanging and he just kept coming. So I'd have to think that Mike Smith probably knew that the better part of the track was on the outside because that's the only way he could get away with it.

Ron:  Well, Steve we do have a lot of questions from readers.

 

Steve:  That's not the end of it?  There's more?  J

Ron:  Yeah, believe me, a lot more.  It's not just Triple Crown, but it's a little bit of everything.  We got a potpourri of questions here, so let's get on with them. 

From someone named UC Lyndon - During the telecast of the Belmont, there was discussion about the idea of making changes, such as changing the length of time between each leg of the Triple Crown and limiting the number of horses in the Derby.  Would making changes just for the sake of having a Triple Crown winner lessen the competitive aspect?

 

Steve:  Well, I don't know about the competitive aspect; I know a lot of people have been talking about restructuring the Triple Crown.  A lot of people have suggested keeping the Derby at the first Saturday in May and then going to Memorial Day for the Preakness four weeks, then another four weeks to the Fourth of July for the Belmont.  I just don't see it. 

The Triple Crown is what it is.  You have to make it difficult.  You can't just keep spreading it out because (1) I'm not sure how short of an attention span the American public has.  I addressed this in my latest column -- the American public does not have a long  attention span.  When you get the casual racing fan and the mainstream America, I don't know if they're going to be able to maintain their interest in the Triple Crown for two months.  I just don't see it.  Plus, I think it's a lot harder for a horse to maintain its peak form for two months; a lot of things can go wrong during that time.

If you end the Triple Crown on the Fourth of July, really, how many people are going to give up what they normally do on Fourth of July?  People are at the beaches, they're picnicking, they're barbecuing, there are family get togethers. Even Memorial Day usually is spent with family activity, so I don't see that either. 

I mean there's a lot of reasons why I don't think you should spread it out, one being after the Belmont Stakes, every trainer is going to want to give their horse a rest, especially if they run in two or three legs of the Triple Crown.  What, do they come back from four weeks and run in the Haskell and the Jim Dandy?  That means the 3-year-old is  going to have to go through his entire year without having any kind of a break and then you're dealing with TV contracts on two of the biggest holidays.

As far as spreading it out like that, I just don't see it. What's the other part (of the question) about the Derby field?

 

Ron:  Right, just limiting the number of horses in the Derby, I guess, or decreasing the maximum number of horses allowed in the Derby.

Steve:  Well, to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I think the Derby definitely would have a better shot at being a fair race with 14 horses than it does now with 20. But my main concern was that of the owners, especially the newer owners, who come into the game with money.

You ask any owners what their goal is in racing and you can bet 95% of them will say it is to win the Kentucky Derby.  If you cut their chances of winning the Derby down by 30%, I have to wonder how many of them are going to be less interested in getting involved in this sport or even staying involved in the sport or even staying involved. 

There are going to be six owners every year who are not going to be happy when they're left out of the race because of a rule change.  The last horse this year needed $255,000 in graded earnings to get to the Derby which is unheard of.  How much is it going to require to get in if there are only 14 horses - $500,000?  That will mean an awful lot of good horses, deserving horses, are going to be left out each year.  A number of horses are going to get in based on two-year-old earnings like the Delta Jackpot and other big 2-year old purses. 

Would you rather have a horse in the Derby whose biggest claim to fame was winning the Delta Jackpot at two or the Norfolk Stakes on synthetic surfaces or a horse that just got beat by a nose by the Derby favorite in the Wood Memorial or Arkansas Derby or a horse who won a couple of graded stakes impressively like the Southwest and Rebel Stakes and then had a nightmare trip in the Arkansas Derby and failed to pick up enough earnings?   You know, these are all questions that have to be asked before you really implement something like that.

 

Ron:  ...and you run the risk of making it worse than it currently is, actually.

Steve:  Yeah, I mean on the surface, a horse has less chance of getting into trouble (with 14 starters).  That doesn't mean a horse is not going to get in trouble with 14.  We haven't had anything disastrous happen in the Derby during the running of the race.  We've had incidences, and you can have incidents in five horse fields. But again, on the surface it seems like an idea to make it a fairer race but for all the reasons I mentioned you have to think about before you do it.

 

Ron:  Let's veer off the Triple Crown trail here for a minute.  We got a question from Thaddeus Whoopie. Why do trainers' barns get hot given the quality of horses?  Many sports are streaky, i.e. betting streaks, hitting streaks and this may have something to do with neurological performance cycles but it's not clear to me why trainers should be streaky other than from a significant change in staff and/or other training techniques.  Do you have any thought on that?

Steve:  (Laughing) That's quite a statement.  Well, let's put it this way.  I don't know if it's the trainers that get streaky or the barn in general.  Horses don't change their routine or training methods that much that they would have a hot streak and then a cold streak.  They may change their routine and their methods for one or two particular horses but not the entire barn at the same time.

One of the reasons a barn can get hot, in my opinion, is that barns are contagious.  It's just a theory but horses are very sensitive to human vibes and when some of the horses get good, the vibes in the barn are positive and the other horses pick up on them.  Of course there's always the more obvious reasons why a barn full of horses will start showing dramatic improvement but you don't want me to get into specifics on that. Again, I don't think trainers get streaky.  I don't think they do anything different.  I just think it's an overall general feeling of what's happening in the barn at that time.

 

Ron:  But you do see some of these come in real cycles.  I mean it can be up for six months and then suddenly, you get on the skids for six months.

Steve:  Yeah, because a lot of trainers are on a certain schedule where their horses are going to peak at the same time.  It's not that they're doing anything different. But if Todd Pletcher is pointing his top 2-year-olds for Saratoga, for example, he's going to have a great meet and he's going to start winning everything. If cardedhe's preparing a lot of these horses, maybe keeping them back a little bit from the midpoints at the end of the Belmont meeting and so he's got all of his horses loaded for Saratoga. 

Well you know a lot of trainers do that on a much smaller scale at different racetracks but trainers look ahead.  They see what kind of races they want to win, what kind of horses they have and what kind of races that they're capable of winning.  They look at the schedule and they have their horses prepared for those races just like Linda Rice here at Saratoga.  They carded all of those six furlong sprint turf races, and she had a barn full of six furlong turf horses and what happened is that she dethroned Pletcher and Mott and all the top trainers and became the first female to win a Saratoga training title, doing it basically because her horses fit the conditions of the meet.

 

Ron:  Okay, so it gets back to the overall game plan and the business plan that a stable has and not necessarily the fact that they're not winning today doesn't mean that there's not something they're looking at down the road and pointing toward and that's when it's all going to peak.

Steve:  Right, exactly.  You can't keep horses in top peak condition all year.  You can't have them at the top of their game, so a lot of trainers will train their horses on the same kind of schedule to have them peak at the same time where the racing and the money matter most.

 

Ron:  Turn Back The Alarm wants to know - Can you name your five favorite racehorses of all time and say a few words about each.

Steve:  Oh boy, that's always a tough one.  Well, I would have to say Damascus for actually being my first favorite horse and getting me interested in horseracing and Arts and Letters, who came along the following year who actually kept my interest going.  I just loved that horse.  He was the horse I used to visit at Belmont Park the first time I really ever went to the backstretch and around that same period of time, Gallant Bloom, King Ranch filly who became my first favorite filly and still my favorite filly - so those three. 

More recently I would have to say Invasor because I absolutely loved visiting that horse at the barn, loved watching him run. He was just a winning machine and just the most amazing horse, personality-wise to be around.  Probably the smartest horse with the greatest eye I've ever seen. Because of him, it got me and my wife and my daughter to Uruguay.  I barely even knew where Uruguay was but because of writing about him I got to know people down there and they invited me, so it was personal on that level.  Tiznow I would have to say is one of my favorites too because his two races in the Breeders' Cup just got me as much excited as any race as I can imagine.  I loved the horses' connections. The trainer was a great, great guy--Jay Robbins--and I just loved everything about the horse.  I loved being around him and it gave me a lot of thrill. 

I mean there's a lot more.  His Majesty was another one of my early horses who I followed as a baby through Darby Dan because that was the farm that I used to visit all the time, so he was always special. 

Skip Away was certainly special because of my connections with the owner and trainer,  and Touch Gold who I picked out as a yearling before the sales and did a big feature on him and followed him throughout his career. 

Cigar brought me to Dubai covering his race.

I'm sure I'm leaving a lot of them out but just off the top of my head those would be my favorites.

 

Ron:  Okay.  I knew we couldn't keep it to just five; it probably could have been 500.

Steve:  I gave five and then an alternate list. 

 

Ron:  Right, right. Dennis wants to know - Steve, it was really nice to see Bill Mott capture his first Triple Crown race.  If there was a 12 horse field of this year's Triple Crown runners and they got to run over a fast track at a mile and a quarter, who do you think would win?

Steve:  Well, okay, obviously it's going to be another one of those big wide open betting races as every race has been so far, but I would have to say definitely Lookin At Lucky; he's the most consistent winner.  He never loses without a major excuse and you know what you're going to get from him every time he runs, which is 100%.  He even wins when he has a big excuse, like as I mentioned earlier, in the Rebel Stakes and he's a champion.  So you add all those things up and if I have to - if push comes to shove and I have to put my money on one horse, I couldn't look past Lookin At Lucky. 

 

Ron:  Right, and certainly could even go back to last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and see what he could do. 

Steve:  Exactly.  He should have won that race too - terrible post and terrible wide trip the whole way.  Like I said, he's just ultra consistent and game. He knows how to win and my money would have to be on him.

 

Ron:  Getting back to the best list; everybody likes to pick your brains on your best list.  The Deacon wants to know - With everything considered, who in your opinion are the five greatest racehorses of all time?

So the other question was your favorites and now this is going to be the five greatest horses of all time.

Steve:  That's another one that's tricky; I usually hate answering questions like that because it depends on what your criteria is.  Are you going by pure talent, by race record, or by accomplishments over a period of time.  I would have to say if you combine them all, the best horse I've seen at 2-3- and 4 was Spectacular Bid.  To me, he was the perfect thoroughbred, the perfect running machine.  He defeated top competition, he broke track and world records.  He carried weight.  He won with 130 pounds or more five times.  He raced all over the country. He won 26 of his 30 starts and in fact, he won 24 of his last 26 starts with the only two defeats coming at a mile and a half; one was when the safety pin lodged in his foot the morning of the Belmont. That almost cost him his foot because that foot got so bad that Doc Harthill had to come up and just puncture it and it just gushed like an oil well... he came close to losing that foot if it hadn't been treated.  So that was one loss.

The second was another mile and a half race where he finished a close second to Affirmed in the Jockey Club Gold Cup after getting sick and missing the race before the Woodward.  So he didn't even have his prep for it. 

Spectacular Bid was just an amazing horse.

 

Ron:  Probably the best horse to never have won a Triple Crown that should have and could have.

Steve:  Oh by far.  He still holds the world record  a for mile and a quarter.  And after Bid, I'd have to say in no particular order, you gotta' throw Secretariat in there, certainly Dr. Fager , who for one year (1968) may have been the greatest horse of all time.  What he did in 1968 was unlike anything I've ever seen.  Just an amazing, amazing horse - unlike any horse I've ever seen.  It was like somebody had taken a wild mustang and let him loose on a racetrack.  He just used to run with this wreckless abandon and just an unbelievable horse  and his weight carrying was unreal; as was Forego who would be also in my top five for all the things he did.  He was an absolute cripple and I don't know how he kept going year after year winning all these major races - the Marlboro Cup at 137 pounds, the Woodward at 135. And he could sprint. 

Here's a horse who won the two mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, when it was two miles, and was the champion sprinter the same year.  That would show you how great he was.

The final spot would be close between Damascus  and Citation - and I'm not just saying that because Damascus was my first favorite horse. Damascus was basically a horse that you had to see to appreciate because he had the most explosive run I've ever seen . There was his 3-year-old campaign, where he won 12 out of 16 and just absolutely destroyed horses like Buckpasser  and Dr. Fager. He had a terrific 4-year-old campaign, even though it was slowed by injury at the end.  Seattle Slew and Affirmed, obviously, are right there too.

I never saw Citation race but just looking at the films of him and the stuff that I've read about him, he probably was good as any horse in history up until the time he got hurt and missed an entire year.  But again, I'd have to limit it to the horses that I've seen because once you go back to Man O'War and Colin and those kind of horses, it's very hard to come up with a list, especially of five horses, but that's about the best I can narrow it down. 

 

Ron:  Someone who uses the username Mr. Ed (these people are pretty clever) - Is it true that you are a big Jay-Z fan and it was your idea to sing Empire State of Mind before the Belmont? 

Steve:  Hey listen, I don't have too many good things to say about ABC's telecast of the race, especially the way they showed the race but the best thing they did was cut that song off and go to a commercial.

 

Ron:  {laughing}

Steve:  I mean that was brutal.  I mean they got this little girl to come up there to sing it and it was ... It was just awful to have to listen to .  Of all people to  get to sing a song about the Belmont Stakes, I mean Jay-Z.  I was spawned on sidewalks of New York and even "New York, New York" was fine when they would  have some of the top singers like Linda Eder  come on and sing that song, it was powerful.  Why they changed it, I don't know.  I mean are t hey trying to make it a hipper crowd or hipper audience - I don't know. 

After what I heard and after the reaction, I would say it's time to dump that song.  And no, it was not my idea for them to do that.

 

Ron:  I don't know if it looked as bad in person as it did on television, but it was brutal.

Steve:  It sounded horrible in person because you couldn't hear ... you could only hear certain notes and those were the high notes and all you would hear were the same note  over and over again of shrieking.  Believe me, as bad as it was on TV, it was worse being there. 

 

Ron:  Do you think people were concentrating too much on that girl singing that song rather than giving NYRA credit for thinking outside the box and trying to come up with something new? 

Steve:  Yeah, probably.  Probably you have to give them credit for coming up with something new.  That doesn't mean their decision was a correct one, but I do give them credit for that.  They wanted to try something new, but t didn't work. Now I hope they go back and come up with something else. There are a lot of New York songs if you don't want to do "New York, New York" or  if you think Frank Sinatra is too much of an old fuddy duddy for today's hip crowd.  You  want to try something new and get the younger crowd more interested in the Belmont song or the New York song, or whatever you want to call it.  I will give him credit for stepping out of the box.

 

Ron:  Tara wants to know, well first of all, she compliments you on being a brilliant writer and she says she looks forward to your blogs and articles on Bloodhorse.com and in the magazine.  Her question is - If someone wanted to become a writer for the horseracing world, how would you recommend they get started?

Steve:  Well, first thanks to Tara for the kind words but I would have to say if you want to write about horseracing, it's like anything else, you have to have the passion for it and of course, you have to have some writing skills but don't go out there and try and be Ernest Hemingway.  You write from the heart, you know as much about your subject as possible and you learn how to tell a story.  I think telling a story is much more important than going out there and writing some Pulitzer Prize award winning piece.  Just go out there, talk to people, come up with different angles then just think and prepare your story that you're writing and just do all the leg work and be passionate and when you read it back, just say is this the kind of story that I would want to read if I was the reader?

Of course, you have to have some kind of education and/or experience.  You start off writing short things, maybe send them to  the Blood Horse for a Final Turn,  or you can send to any of the other trade publications.  Keep writing and sending them in until someone sees it and runs it and something clicks. 

We did that a few years ago.  Remember Nan Mooney sent in a final turn.  Nobody knew who she was; she turned out she was a terrific writer, wound up writing a terrific book on racing. 

Our latest intern, Kelsey Riley, didn't have a lot of experience writing but she had the knack for it and she sent some stuff in, Blood Horse used it and she wound up as an intern, and  now just got accepted via Darley Flying Start program. She's got a heck of a bright future.  So just keep writing and sending things in to different publications until it hits and you get discovered.

 

Ron:  Like they say, don't be afraid of rejection, just keep plugging and keep working at it.

Steve:  Oh definitely.  You're totally not going to catch on first time.  You're going to get a lot of people who are going to say that this is not for them so you write another one.  You just keep writing it until they either like it or they print it just to get rid of you.

 

Ron:  On a personal note, this next question from Barry and I don't think you should get too personal here - Not counting the horseracing industry, what do you enjoy doing the most?

Steve:  Oh boy well, not a lot.  I don't have any hobbies.  I'm happy to say my job is my hobby so I like to put all my attention to that.  I know it may sound corny but I would have to say that doing anything with wife and daughter, even if it's just going out to dinner, I just love being with them and doing things with them, so whether that sounds corny or not, that's basically it.

 

Ron:  Okay, what about, I don't know, kicking back late at night on the porch with a cup of brandy and a cigar and listening to opera?

Steve:  No, I don't drink brandy, I don't smoke cigars and I'm not big at kicking back.  I'd rather be at the computer seeing what's happening there or just maybe watching a little TV.  I really lead a very boring life, other than when I'm traveling for racing and going all over the world at these exotic places; it's one extreme or the other.  I'm either in Dubai or Uruguay or Paris for the Arc de Triomphe or just hanging around my house doing nothing, just working and that's what I enjoy doing, so I might as well do what I enjoy.

 

Ron:  Moving right along, Ingrid asks - I've noticed there seems to be a lot of fillies born so far this year.  It seems like every time you look up, you're seeing about a certain stallion having more and more fillies, does this mean that come the racing year 2012, 2013, we can be looking at the year of the filly that all the Triple Crown races will be dominated by fillies and Horse of the Year will be a filly. Also, do you think Zenyatta will match or surpass Peppers Pride's record of 19 consecutive races undefeated?

Steve:  Well, I don't think we're ever going to see a Triple Crown dominated by fillies but there certainly is a trend.  A lot of people were saying earlier this year that this is the year of the filly with Zenyatta and Rachel. No one could remember having two fillies of this magnitude in the same year and you add to that  Rags to Riches' win in the Belmont Stakes, Zarkava winning the Arc de Triomphe.

 

Ron:  Really 2009 was like the year of the filly because you did have a female Horse of Year and the Breeders' Cup Classic being won by a female.

Steve:  Right, I mean how many times would you get a filly winning the Breeders' Cup Classic and another filly being Horse of the Year.  So that just shows you how dominant the fillies were last year.  I don't know if they're going to be any more dominant than that in 2012 and 2013...  It's all cyclical. 

I'm going to see if I can get the years right on this but I believe it was a period from 1972 to, say, 1983 when fillies won 8 of the 12 runnings of the Arc de Triomphe.  That's like fillies winning 8 out of 12 Breeders' Cup Classics and I think we've had two fillies win since then, since 1983 so that's how things change. But in this country, I do think we're seeing an influx of great fillies and a lot of colts who basically can't match up to them.  Is it great for racing?  Yeah, I think it is great for racing, just look at the fan base that Zenyatta and Rachel have gotten over the last two years.  These aren't just fan clubs.

 

Ron:  Do you think we're really breeding bigger and better fillies or maybe if there's a mindset out there where we're seeing this because in the past maybe trainers and owners have been too timid to take their fillies and challenge them against males, maybe if they had, they would have seen that all along they could be more competitive.  It seems like there is a little bit more of a philosophy in Europe as you were just recounting with the Arc, it seems like over there, a lot more, they end up running their female horses against the male horses and they see that, you know, year after year, they're just as competitive.

Steve:  Yes.  Well, I think it's going to feed off itself because when you see Rags to Riches beat Curlin and then you have Rachel Alexandra  beating all the top 3-year-olds in the country and then you have Zenyatta beating the top old horses in the United States and in Europe.  I think when, you know, owners and trainers of fillies see that, they're going to have to say you know what, if these fillies can do it - you know, do I have a great filly?  I don't know but maybe the colts in the last few years haven't been as strong as they have been in the past... like is said, everything goes in cycles.  And I think we just had a period where we've got several really outstanding fillies and not a lot of outstanding colts. 

Now, this year, it will be interesting to see because you've got Quality Road and we're going to see what happens this weekend with Blame and Rail Trip.  We've got some really exciting colts coming up now.  Let's see what happens if Rachel Alexandra gets back to her winning ways this weekend and if Zenyatta continues her winning streak and if they wind up meeting these kind of horses, you know, I don't mean meeting some of the type of synthetic horses that Zenyatta beat last year or just the 3-year-olds that Rachel beat last year, you know, a solid group of older horses but not comparable to what we have this year, I don't think, at least.  But let's see what happens if they meet horses like Quality Road and Rail Trip and Blame, if they continue their winning ways because these are solid older horses.

I think it's going to make things very exciting if we can get those three older horses against these two fillies at some point at the end of the year hopefully in the Breeder's Cup Classic.

 

Ron:  While we're on the subject of these fillies both running this weekend, considering that reigning horse of the year is running against grade III horses and Zenyatta's putting her undefeated win streak on the line against grade I company - what does that say, if anything, about the respective horses and their owners or trainers at this point in the year?

Steve:  Well, you know, it's not what everybody was envisioning.  How  do you explain to the casual racing fan or even the non-racing fan, more so, why  Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are running on the same weekend and not against each other and running on opposite ends of the country.  Really, how do you explain that?

When they were supposed to run against each other, Rachel backed out.  I don't think she was actually ready that early in the year and I don't know what we're going to expect from Rachel.  I mean, she did not work for five months.  You don't see that. If  a horse is hurt, then they don't work for five months.  They don't just stand in their stall when they're perfectly sound for five months and not work and if she was hurt in some way, why not send her  to a farm and let her run around the paddock for a couple of months unless she had an injury that you didn't want to do that.  Nobody knows.  That's the problem.  We don't know what's coming out of that camp.  We didn't even know what race she was running in until a couple of days ago.

 

Ron:  Right.  Right.

Steve:  We really don't know what's happening.  As far as Zenyatta, you know, they said before the year that this is the year they want to show her off to the American public and have some fun with her.  So you know, they brought her to Oaklawn, which was great and now they're going to run her in the Vanity again, which is running twice and now they say they're going to run her at Del Mar in the Clement Hirsch which she has won twice.  That basically eliminates Saratoga and I was kind of hoping to see Zenyatta at Saratoga, which I think would have been fantastic, especially if she could have met Rachel Alexandra in a race like the Personal Ensign or some race at Saratoga.  The excitement is there. 

They're doing what they feel is best for their individual horse.  It's just unfortunate that we're not going to see Zenyatta at Saratoga.  It's unfortunate that we're still waiting to see these two fillies run against each other and hopefully it will happen later in the year.  Once Zenyatta gets through Delmar, they'll bring her east for Belmont Park, maybe for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, one of those two races and then the Breeders' Cup Classic.

I think if they could have fun with her at the end of the year, that will be fine because you can't keep taking a filly - any horse - and just keep shuttling them back and forth from one coast to the other coast.  A horse can only take so much.  Zenyatta, she can get highl strung at times.  She's a good feeling filly and so they probably figure, you know what, we'll keep her at home for the summer and then travel with her in the fall.  So we'll just have to have patience and wait for it.

As far as Rachel goes, let's just hope this is going to be a key race.  Let's just hope not in so much that she wins but let's hope that we see the Rachel Alexandra of last year.  We did not see that Rachel Alexandra in these first two performances and sometimes - listen, like I said before, when you're at work for five months, you've got to get their head back on straight, and she was doing things in those two races and in some of her workouts that she didn't do last year.  Though let's hope that she's progressing.  She's going in the right direction and we start seeing the Rachel from last year and then we can start getting excited again.

 

Ron:   Next, not so much a question but an idea is from Chris.  Chris writes - The stories that go with most racehorses are very compelling.  Why don't you work with PBS and start a program that is about the people of racing?  It would include horses and give a face and a profile that is positive for racing and hopefully change its image.  You can start with Skip Away or maybe Mrs. Dupont and Kelso.

By the way, Steve, speaking of Kelso, you didn't have him on any of your top lists there but -

Steve:  They only asked me for five.

 

Ron:  But you went ahead and gave us eight to ten either way...

Steve:  Hey, listen,  I wrote a book on Kelso, so he's certainly going to be in the top 10 but you know, they only asked for five and hey, listen, what can I tell you?  I left out a lot of great horses.

 

Ron:  What do you think about Chris's idea?

Steve:  Why don't I go to work with PBS?  I don't work for PBS and I don't know anyone at PBS but as far as the idea goes, I think it's an excellent idea.  I think PBS, if they were willing, would be a tremendous outlet for racing.  Basically, what Chris has to do was write to the NPRA.  They're the ones that are supposed to be marketing and publicizing the sport, everything has to start with them unless you know some outside marketing firms that would have an interest in it.

Now racing does have a couple of very good private marketers.  I don't want to mention names.  Hopefully, they're listening and they'll like the idea but, yes, racing, working with PBS would be fantastic.  Some are great documentaries... there was one documentary that appeared on PBS that was produced in Canada years ago called "Secretariat's Last Race" about this documentary on his start in the Canadian International.  That was one of the best racing documentaries I've ever seen. 

So if we can get PBS interested, we've got a lot of great filmmakers nowadays, I mean, just look at all the great documents we've had on racing.  We've got the John Henry movie that just came out that's looking for someone to market it and distribute it and do something with it.  I saw that movie, it was great.  Of course, "The First Saturday in May "was fantastic.  There had been others too. "Race to the Derby" which nobody even saw was a phenomenal documentary.  There are a lot of documentary makers out there and PBS is the way to go.  These people put up a lot of their own money and they want to see a little bit more return.

 

Ron:  Yeah, it is fairly interesting that you haven't seen more; let's say horseracing considering its history on PBS or even the History Channel for that matter. 

Moving on, Nancy says - Due to the economic downturn and difficulties facing racing across the board, do you think that breeders and owners will return to breeding racehorses that have stamina and soundness, i.e. good bone and speed rather than whisking them off to the breeding shed?  Will trainers use tried and true methods of the past for keeping horses in their charge sound and off drugs?

Steve:  Oh Nancy, if only this were a perfect world.  You know, as far as the speed goes, speed is the essence of horseracing, it always has been but we've infused our horses with so much of it, unfortunately, we're about to OD on it.  We've all but removed stamina from the blood of our horses and there were just too many quick-fix owners out there right now in the sport who don't have the patience to wait for longer races so they pay ridiculous amounts of money for speed and then they want to know why they don't have any horses left by the time they're three and four. 

Now as much as I'm not a proponent of synthetic surfaces, I thought at first maybe breeders and owners would want to concentrate more on grass and stamina horses in order to make the transition to the synthetics because there was so much money being offered on the synthetic surfaces like we saw in the 2009 Breeders' Cup and even last year.  You look at the 2009 Classic where the first two finishers were both grass horses from Europe and we had a lot of grass horses and more stamina horses than speed horses but all I know is if we don't do something now, there won't be any stamina left to put back into our horses.  I'm not sure there's that much left now if you look at all the great stamina influences in racing and all the little LeFabuleuxs and the Herbagers, they're disappearing, they're now back into the fifth, sixth generation. 

As far as talking about drugs, well you know, that's a topic that would take a long time to go into but just getting rid of this overload of drugs certainly is a necessary first step and we're only going to do that by having much stricter penalties.

 

Ron:  And along the same lines, we've got a question and observation here from Nick Regine who, discusses breeding the stamina out of the breed and he goes on to say, "I have attended racing in England and in Ireland and there seem to be more respect for the horse over there and that respect seems to be lacking here."

His conclusion is he wants to know how do  you see the sport of racing in the US 20 years from now.

Steve:  Well, first of all, yes, I mean as far as the respect, yeah I would have to agree with him.  Having been to Europe and seeing the relationship between the fans and the owners and the fans with the horses, there is a lot more respect but the game is different.  The fans don't get to see the horses the way our fans do.  You can go to the racetrack and watch a horse and go visit them in the barn.  As far as the seeing the sport 20 years from now, I don't know how I see the sport two years from now, never mind 20.  And as far as...you're looking at the gambling aspect of it, we let other forms of gambling pass us by and now we have to turn to them to help us survive mainly with the slots.  We need to have slots in New York, in California, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maryland, something has to be done there. 

As I mentioned before, we need stricter penalties for drug infractions and most important, we need people even if it's a single commissioner who actually know what they're doing, who can combine the key business and marketing minds with an astute knowledge of racing.  We need a rule maker for everyone in the sport and strict enforcement of those rules.  Any racetracks who don't like it, well, they can start looking for land developers.  We need to weed out the greedy racetrack owners, even at the expense of running at fewer tracks.

 

Ron:  Right, and you're not implying at all, racetrack owners are greedy just...

Steve:  No, it's done by now...

 

Ron:  It's already out there, you need to weed them out.

Steve:  Yeah, the thing is that racetracks and racetrack owners are entities unto themselves.  They live in their own little island and they're oblivious to what happens, so they're only interested in what happens on their island and not what's happening in the other islands where you want to get all these islands together to form one nation to go off on a tangent a bit.  But these racetracks can't just think of themselves.  They have to think of the sport as a whole and a lot of the racetrack owners aren't doing that.  So we need somebody to make up rules the way we have a football commissioner and baseball commissioner and listen, you don't think the owners of these football teams or baseball teams that wanted to do what they feel like it but there are rules.  And they've learned that they have to adhere to these rules and that's the same way with the racetrack owners.  If they want the sport to succeed the football has and the way a lot of other sports have...

 

Ron:  Everybody has to play by the rules.

Steve:  Sure, of course.

 

Ron:  Be it the owners, jockeys, trainers, or racetrack owners.

Steve:  Yeah, we need...everything's got to be uniform.  You know, uniform licensing...we have to have these owners and trainers going to the racetrack and not having to get a license for every single racetrack they go to.  I mean, the keyword is uniform.  Everything has got to be the same for everyone.  It's got to be one sport and not 50 different racetracks forming one sport.

 

Ron:  Steve, we can go back to the records of the trade publications from the 30s and 40s and see where people were talking about the need for uniformity on policies amongst states and where are we now.

Steve:  Sure.

 

Ron:  So what makes us think it's going to happen over the next two years, as you're saying, or the next 20 years as this writer suggests?

Steve:  I'm not saying it's going to happen; I just said I'd like to see it happen.  There's a big difference.  I mean right now, racing doesn't seem to be moving in the proper direction.  We have some vocal people.  We have like a Satish Sanan who's not afraid to come out and say things whether they're controversial or not, but he has the good of the sport in mind.  We have one person who is trying right now to get on the Breeders' Cup board, Jerry Jamgotchian, who a lot of people frown upon because they consider him a troublemaker but he's an idea man and he's got great ideas.  He's come up with a whole proposal for the Breeders' Cup, which I read and I thought most of the ideas he had were great.  Now let's see what the Breeders' Cup people do.

 

Ron:  It sounds like you're Jerry's campaign manager. 

Steve:  Listen, I really don't even know him, I haven't even met him, but  I know what he's done and I read his Breeders' Cup proposals and I know he's an idea man and what have you got to lose.  If after six months he starts getting on everybody's nerves, you boot him out, that's all, but give this idea man a chance.

 

Ron:  Yeah.  I mean after all, what we're doing right now isn't working too well, is it?

Steve:  No, it's not.

 

Ron:  Next question from Dr. Drinkingbaum - again, I don't know where these guys...

Steve:  Oh, Dr. D., sure I know him from my blog.

 

Ron:  So he writes, Steve, your writings sometimes bring tears to the eyes, sometimes it's tears of joy, sometimes because of a tragedy.  Other than a breakdown, my most devastating moment was Smarty Jones' loss in the Belmont.  Can you tell us yours?

Steve:  Oh boy.  Well, other than a breakdown?  Well, you know Smarty Jones would be right up there. Even though that I was happy for Birdstone and I was happy for Nick Zito, but the sport  was just absolutely clamoring that year for a Triple Crown winner.  I remember at the quarter pole when they came to the top of the stretch and Smarty Jones opened up three or four lengths and I turned around and the fans were already jumping and hugging and kissing each other and it was unbelievable.  The fact that everybody was let down the way they were and there were actually people crying, I found that pretty devastating.  I really did.  I mean it was just an emptiness inside that boy, this was it.  Undefeated horse would have been one of the greatest stories in racing history and even the owners going down on the track, Marylou Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, they weren't even in a good mood.  John said, "Oh no, this was bad.  We didn't want this."  Marylou almost looked like she had lost the race.  She was devastated because she was rooting for Smarty Jones. 

I would have to agree with Dr. D. that that was pretty devastating as far as the defeat, of course all defeats by horses that were my favorites.  I thought Cigar getting beat at Del Mar and not being able to break Citations' record was pretty devastating.  Again, those are the losses, you have to put up with those.

On the scale of Smarty Jones, I don't know I've seen anything bigger and only because of the fact that the fans was so disappointed and people that had come all over from Philadelphia and there were so many kids there.  I was at Philadelphia Park during those weekends when they galloped Smarty Jones and they had 10,000 people showed up and kids sitting on their father's shoulders with Smarty Jones hats and t-shirts.  The kids loved him, it was just a great story of the little horse that could, that survived this horrible injury when he was a baby and just the connections, so yeah... I'm getting myself all worked up just talking about it.

 

Ron:  Yeah and I'll tell you what, I mean anybody who was at the Belmont that day could just tell you how it went from what you were talking about, everybody already celebrating that win and just going ballistic and then a 120,000 people stunned silent.  You can hear pin drop as they crossed the finish line.

Steve:  Even Tom Durkin's voice, you know, you can hear it.  He jumped at this unbelievable crescendo and then at the end it's, "And Birdstone wins the Belmont...."  it's a voice of plummeted and you know what, watching the race over again and I know it sounds strange to say this but I actually felt sorry for Smarty Jones.  Looking at him, it's almost as if I'm envisioning him.  If you could think, if you put human tendencies into horses, saying "This is not supposed to happen.  I'm not supposed to lose.  I've never done this before," and he tried so hard.  People forget that he ran his third quarter in that race in :22 and four-fifths seconds.  Unheard of!  The three horses, he had to beat all ganged up on him, and he ran them all into the ground, all into the ground and when he hit the quarter poll, he ran them out on a quarter in the seventh fastest time for the Kentucky Derby. 

 

Ron:  Wow.

Steve:  The horse that beat him was the horse that Edgar Prada was riding for second.  That's why he won because he just sat back and let of all of those other three horses just do a number on Smarty Jones.  Obviously, he had a target on his back and it was unfortunate that it happened and that those riders had to ride that way but what are you going to do, time to move on, but that was a cruel day for all of those 120,000 people. 

We better stop talking about it now you're going to get me start crying.  

 

Ron:  Greg J wants to know - Do you know how Kip Deville is doing since your last update?

Steve:  Well, unfortunately, I do and I'm keeping my fingers cross.  I found that actually as of yesterday that Kip has taken a turn for the worse at the Rood & Riddle.  He was doing well and they discovered his foot was red hot, he was unable to stand on it, and the vet told Mike Iavarone that it looks like they're in trouble.  I'm just waiting to hear anything further but for all of you Kip Deville fans out there, right now it's not looking good.  I wish I had better report to give because everything was going so well, the vets were so amazed at this horse and its will to live and listen, we went through that with Barbaro. 

 

Ron:  Oh yeah.

Steve:  Barbaro was supposed to be released.  Remember how he was supposed to be released?

 

Ron:  Oh yeah.

Steve:  Just right after Christmas and everybody was looking forward to him and it was just unbelievable then all of a sudden...

 

Ron:  He even got out and ate some grass in a paddock.

Steve:  Yeah and he took... that's why laminitis is such a horrible thing.  It's just that you're never, never out of the woods and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed for Kip Deville and maybe another miracle will happen.

 

Ron:  Actually, Steve, we're going to close on that note.  Wish it could have been on a more uplifting note but it's been an interesting session with you.  I always enjoy it.  Maybe we should do this more often.  Maybe we should meet again here.

Thanks for insights on the Triple Crown and your best list and I'm sure you have more of those best lists where that came from.  I really thank you for your time.

Steve:  It's always a pleasure talking to you, Ron.  Take care.

 

25 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Dr Drunkinbum

Bravo. Hip hip hooray. For he's a jolly good fellow. I loved hearing about your favorite horses Steve even though your Invasor beat my Bernardini, a crushing loss for me. Bernardini was a nice WPS bet for me in The Preakness but I couldn't celebrate that win. I even felt guilty. It was like it was tainted money, and I blew that money fast because it didn't even feel right to have it. I'm remembering more about how I reacted to Smarty Jones loss in The Belmont. I was going crazy celebrating what seemed to be a certain win down the stretch after he dusted off the horses pressing him. Then it was "No, no, no no. Come on Smarty-Go !!!" Then collapsing to the floor devastated, then tears, and then a major tantrum that I could not believe was coming out of me. It was such a beautiful story as you said. Recovering from that awful injury, and the great stories of the connections. I loved that horse. And it was such a blow to racing too. But I got over it. It was just the loss of a race afterall. Smarty was still alive and well. That's what really counted.

10 Jun 2010 7:27 PM
Bob Z

I listened to Talking Horses.. really good... looking forward to the next one...

10 Jun 2010 10:10 PM
Katherine

Dr Drunkinbum

You just described my reaction to Smarty's Belmont. I just KNEW Smarty was the next ONE. I was depressed for bout a year every time I thought of what didn't happen.

Mary Lou Whitney was a most gracious winner and won my admiration that day.

10 Jun 2010 10:29 PM
The Deacon

I was wondering Steve if you were going to answer the questions given to you via a blog that were not answered on the podcast?

Thank You....

Great podcast............

11 Jun 2010 1:11 AM
weekendstorm

My most agonizing Belmont was Alysheba's

11 Jun 2010 3:10 AM
TripleCrownKaren

Steve,

LOVE the podcast and TOTALLY agree with you on the HORRIBLE song/singing for the BELMONT.

And HEY!....How about getting the ultimate NEW YORKER......BILLY JOEL & NEW YORK STATE OF MIND!

11 Jun 2010 8:38 AM
OldDog

I really enjoyed that, Steve.  Sometimes I get caught up the bickering that goes on in the blogs on BloodHorse and elsewhere, with armchair authorities second guessing horse trainers, owners, and anyone else actually connected to the sport. Listening to you, and reading your articles, always brings me back to the reasons I am such a fan of throughbred racing.  It's all about the horses, the stories of those who work with them, and the ever present hope and anticipation of witnessing greatness again.  Thanks for being my voice in the game.

11 Jun 2010 10:24 AM
Otherlyn

I will (again) be praying for our beloved KIP DE VILLE.  I hope many others will add the grace of heir faith for his healing.

You FOB Fren, O

11 Jun 2010 11:42 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Deacon

  That's a great idea. Maybe they can get the questions to him that weren't asked and he can answer some through an article and blog. I know that there were some great questions not asked.

Katherine

  I ended up having to block the race comepletely out of my mind. It was ruining me !!! Now I was dumb enough to bring it up again and have to go through it again. I think you have to have some masochism in you anyway to be in horse racing. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat is what it's all about. For the Belmont Stakes they need to warn people what song they're going to do.

11 Jun 2010 12:05 PM
txhorsefan

It's over?  You had to stop?  I sat here enthralled with every word as you answered the questions submitted and I still feel like it's not enough.  I'm not going to be greedy, though, so I will change my tune to one of gratefulness and appreciation for your sharing your experiences, your thoughts and emotions with us once again.  

I am so sorry to hear that Kip Deville is not doing so well in his battle with laminitis.  It is such a horrible, awful, despicable disease and has robbed us of so many great ones.  It strikes many loved pasture pets and companion horses as well, so it knows no boundaries.

Along the same lines as Dr. D's comment regarding Smarty's loss in the Belmont, which devastated so many, myself included...at least he was able to finish the race and retire.  Smarty Jones will always hold a special place in my heart because he is the one who captured me so completely that I finally realized there was more to racing than just those three special races in the spring, encouraging me to get more into it and learn more.  I'm learning all the time, but it's also due to your generosity in sharing the horses of the past that I missed out on - thank you!

11 Jun 2010 12:35 PM
Greg J.

Great Podcast Mr. Haskin...

I just wish it had ended with better news regarding Kip Deville, Thanks for taking my question regarding him, Fingers crossed for this brave colt,  Really hate that damn laminitis...

11 Jun 2010 12:54 PM
Cheryl Jones

Thanks for the great podcast.   My cousin still gets teary-eyed, recalling that day at Belmont.  His first trip for the Third Jewel, with his money on everyone's favorite, Smarty Jones.  We love the little guy as much today as then.   Also praying for Kip DeVille, and wish him good health and four good feet.   Get well, Handsome Kip.  

11 Jun 2010 1:28 PM
Steve Haskin

I greatly appreciate and thank anyone who sat through that whole thing. I'm sorry we couldnt get to all the questions.I just answered what they asked. I'd gladly answer all the rest, but havent heard back on that.

Sad to report Kip Deville was euthanized today. Story is up.

11 Jun 2010 4:40 PM
Wendy

I can't help it, every time I watch Smarty's Belmont, I still find myself rooting him on and hoping this time the tape will get it right and Birdstone will be a brave, lovely second a length or two back.  

11 Jun 2010 6:49 PM
tvnewsbadge

But what was that dig at Secretariat? It was a very odd comment.

11 Jun 2010 10:38 PM
Katherine

Steve,

Just finished listening to the complete web cast. You did it to me again, when you were talking about Smarty and how hard he ran in the Belmont it caused me to remember how someone felt so sorry for him because he was so rubber legged after the race. Tears again. Those *.!( jockeys that ganged up on him!!!

I'll always love him anyway and he'll always be a champ to me.

I really enjoyed listening to you, you've got a great perspective on all things racing. Thanks again.

11 Jun 2010 11:18 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I'm in trouble again. I think I'm going to change my memory so that Smarty actually won the Triple Crown. I'll have to keep my mouth and keyboard shut on the matter though. Woohoo !!!!!! Thanks for the idea Wendy. I'm OK now. Phew that was a close call. Birdstone almost got him. I don't think it's working. Darn it. Smarty ran his heart out. I too was upset when Cigar didn't break the record. I remember great relief when he tied it though. Cigar was another amazing story. A working man's horse. I think Steve is incredibly lucky to have seen so many greats in person. I was really getting into that podcast. I think I could have sat there for hours and hours. At first I was thinking it was going to be long, then I thought it was way, way too short.

12 Jun 2010 12:26 PM
Bonnie

Thanks Steve for all your insights!  I always learn something from you but the thing I like the best about what you have to say about racing is that you care about the horses.  This has to remain foremost in the business for it to survive and do well.

13 Jun 2010 3:55 PM
Nancy

I just want to express my sadness regarding Kip Deville's passing away due to the dreaded Laminitis.  He was a marvelous horse and will be missed, but not forgotten. Bravo Kip Deville!

13 Jun 2010 10:12 PM
Rachel

Smarty Jones was disappointing, I loved him (like everyone) from his second start on...in the context of "bad", devastating" et al...no way...there were a lot of devastating things that happened that year... a race where horses and jockeys came home safely was not a devastating day.

Now, the Tsunami of 2004 was devastating...

14 Jun 2010 9:01 AM
jlvssec

Steve, thank you for a wonderful podcast - I could listen to you talkin' horses for hours.

I was at Belmont for Smarty Jones and agree about how devestating that loss was. I was pretty sure he'd be caught because he never had a chance to relax and moved way too early, but it took an awfully long time for Birdstone to run him down. A very game performance - I just wish he hadn't been so keyed up down the backstretch.

14 Jun 2010 1:40 PM
Texohky

Steve, great podcast!  Too bad you couldn't answer all the questions...  including mine.  It's a simple one:  when Eskendereya was retired, it was reported that it was because of a "soft tissue injury."  Do you know what it was specifically?  Bowed tendon?  Ligament damage??  Thanks!!

14 Jun 2010 1:48 PM
Steve Haskin

When I saw this come up online I couldnt believe how long it was. I wat to thank everyone who managed to make it through the whole thing.

Texohky, they never specified, but I'm guessng the closest thing would be a bow.

15 Jun 2010 11:58 AM
Cris

I asked the question about working with PBS on a series of shows. You said contact someone in the NTRA so I did. Wow, I attempted to put it in a positive workable format. My reply was a curt they have a staff that is in contact with the media always seeking stories in the industry.

If they are getting paid someone should review what gets done around there for the money they are paid.

I am going directly to PBS and I will find someone. This is just not horse history, this is American history as well, someone has to be interested in it.

15 Jun 2010 1:16 PM
old timer

Steve- why no Kelso on the top 5?? Five time horse of the year, winning at all lengths up to two miles, turf and dirt, for so many years? I agree about the others except he would be #1 on my list. Which woiuld make it top 6, I guess!

16 Jun 2010 2:54 PM

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