To listen to the podcast, click the PLAY button above.
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
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.
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?
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.
Steve we do have a lot of questions from readers.
not the end of it? There's more? J
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
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
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?
just limiting the number of horses in the Derby, I guess, or decreasing the
maximum number of horses allowed in the Derby.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
I knew we couldn't keep it to just five; it probably could have been
Steve: I gave five and then an alternate list.
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?
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.
and certainly could even go back to last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and see
what he could do.
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.
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
So the other question was your favorites and now this is
going to be the five greatest horses of all time.
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.
the best horse to never have won a Triple Crown that should have and could
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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
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 -
only asked me for five.
Ron: But you
went ahead and gave us eight to ten either way...
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?
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?
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
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
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.
and you're not implying at all, racetrack owners are greedy just...
it's done by now...
already out there, you need to weed them out.
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...
has to play by the rules.
Ron: Be it the
owners, jockeys, trainers, or racetrack owners.
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.
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
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.
I mean after all, what we're doing right now isn't working too well, is
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
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
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
We better stop talking about it now you're going to get me
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
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.