Just as good horses make good trainers, writers need good stories. The challenges the Parbhoo family faced when many family members had their homes flooded by Hurricane Sandy just a few days before last year's Breeders' Cup and the family's subsequent victory against a deep Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) field is a remarkable tale. Their story, which I had the privilege to tell and which was honored recently with the Bill Leggett Award as the best Breeders' Cup magazine story of 2012, is reprinted below.
Survival and fear enveloped the family behind Shivananda Racing
four days before the small South Florida stable would revel in its
biggest win on racing's most prestigious stage.
Trainer Shivananda Parbhoo was on the phone with his daughter,
Lakshmi, who lives in Jersey City, N.J., where sustained 90 mph winds
from Hurricane Sandy caused widespread flooding, collapsed buildings,
and downed trees and power lines.
"The water was pouring in, and she didn't know how much more would
come inside," said Parbhoo. "We were shouting because we didn't want her
to leave; we didn't know if there were electric lines in the water
outside, but she said, 'Dad, I have to take a chance because if I stay
here, it might get worse.' "
Lakshmi carried her two children on her shoulders through four feet of water and out to safety.
Meanwhile, the family patriarch Bisnath Parboo, 73, was five houses
away dealing with a similar situation. The family was fortunate to see
all its members affected by the hurricane survive. Their blessings
didn't stop there.
On the other side of the country at Santa Anita Park, a 3-year-old
dark bay colt named Trinniberg, the pride of Shivananda Racing, would
give this family a powerful gift, a victory that will not only carry
them through the rebuilding that lies ahead but warm their hearts for a
The son of Teuflesberg turned in an absolutely beautiful
performance in the $1.5 million Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I)
Nov. 3 to give the Parbhoos the biggest victory in the history of their
family-owned stable and the first Breeders' Cup World Championships win
for the like-family jockey Willie Martinez.
"To be here racing against some of the toughest, best trainers in
this country, just to be on the same stage as them, is amazing," said
Shivananda Parbhoo, while celebrating the moment with a dozen family and
friends. Parbhoo recently assumed the title of stable trainer from his
father, Bisnath, though both of them collaborate on every decision.
Bisnath could not attend the Breeders' Cup because of the storm. "To my
father, I tell him: We did it."
Bisnath Parboo, whose name is spelled without an 'h' due to a
clerical error that occurred when he immigrated from the Caribbean
nation of Trinidad and Tobago in 1982, told his family a week before the
Sprint he had complete faith the horse would win despite the presence
of five grade I winners in the 14-horse field. One of those grade I
winners was Amazombie, the winner of last year's Sentient Jet Breeders'
Cup Sprint and the 2011 sprint champion. Mike Smith, the Breeders' Cup's
winningest jockey, would be aboard Amazombie for trainer and co-owner
"(My father) told me before the race we would get post position
nine, and the third time is the charm," Shivananda Parbhoo said. "We got
nine for the Kentucky Derby; we got nine for the King's Bishop. We had
faith in God and we did it."
The Parbhoos have been aiming high all year with Trinniberg, whose
name is a combination of Trinidad and Teuflesberg. After wiring the
Swale Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park and the Bay Shore Stakes (gr.
III) at Aqueduct Racetrack, both races at seven furlongs, the colt was
aimed for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), where he
finished a dismal 17th. The family regrouped and ran him back at seven
furlongs in the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) on the Belmont Stakes
(gr. I) undercard. Trinniberg wired the field again in a solid 1:22.26.
He would finish second in the grade III Carry Back Stakes by a neck at
the Parbhoos' home base at Calder Casino Race Course before throwing in a
clunker in Saratoga's Foxwoods King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I).
Trinniberg's performance in the King's Bishop troubled Shivananda
Parbhoo and his father. The colt had run in front in solid fractions of
:22.28 and :45.13 and had the lead midway down the stretch, then
disappeared to finish ninth. As it turned out, the colt had lost his
left hind shoe late in the race and was "off-balance, spinning his
wheels," according to Parbhoo.
While Trinniberg had an excuse in the King's Bishop, Parbhoo said
he heard from several people that he needed to change jockeys. He was
being told Martinez wasn't aggressive enough. But that was one change
Parbhoo was not making.
"I don't want a jockey who comes in and just test-rides the horse,"
he said. "We're small. Who is going to want to ride for Parbhoo? You
need someone who wants to come and wants to ride, not who just wants to
sit on the horse. We want someone who is part of the family. I will take
Willie anywhere. The jockey has not done anything wrong."
Then came the Gallant Bob Stakes Sept. 22 at Parx Racing,
Trinniberg's race prior to the Breeders' Cup Sprint. In this $300,000
listed stakes the colt sat off the pace, took the lead in the stretch,
then failed to win by a half-length. The calls to replace Martinez
became louder, but Parbhoo knew the problem was with Trinniberg, not
Parbhoo believed adding blinkers was the answer, but Martinez was skeptical.
"I am one of the ones who requested we take the blinkers off when
he was a 2-year-old," said Martinez. "We thought it would help him
relax. I was a little scared to go about it when he said he wanted to
put the blinkers back on."
The jockey said he had to trust that Shivananda--whom he refers to
by the nickname Ralph--had seen something in the horse he had not.
"I always thought he had a good kick from the eighth pole to the
wire but losing a little spark coming out of the gate in his last two
races," he said. "Ralph went to work on him, and he showed that spark
In the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Trinniberg faced a lot of potential
early speed from front-runners Sum of the Parts, winner of the Stoll
Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (gr. III); Poseidon's Warrior, winner of the
Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I); The Lumber Guy, winner of the
Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (gr. I); and a wildcard speedster named
Fast Bullet out of Bob Baffert's barn, who had started only twice in
When the gates opened, Sum of the Parts took the early lead,
followed closely by Trinniberg. They raced through stiff fractions of
:21.41 and :43.73. As Sum of the Parts passed the quarter pole,
Trinniberg passed Sum of the Parts. The winner took control of the front
heading into the top of the stretch where The Lumber Guy took a run at
him to no avail.
"I was watching the eventual winner and hoping when I got to him,
maybe I'll get to run him down at the quarter pole," said jockey John
Velazquez, who rode The Lumber Guy. "I got to him at the quarter pole,
and he opened up by another length. I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be a
tough one.' Sure enough, he ran a great race."
The Lumber Guy finished second by three-quarters of a length with
Smiling Tiger third another 21⁄4 lengths back. The final time was
Amazombie never advanced farther than fifth at any time in the race
and finished eighth. Smith said he had no explanation for the poor
"Absolutely nothing," he said when asked to explain what had
happened in the race. "That's what was mind-boggling. I had a great
trip, broke extremely well; great spot. For whatever reason, he is not
Amazombie had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Sprint
Championship (gr. I), his last race prior the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Spawr said he had expected the son of Northern Afleet to win the Sprint
Championship and had him tested after the race. He discovered a slightly
elevated white cell count and protein levels that were off. Spawr made
some adjustments and had said he felt the 6-year-old gelding was
mentally and physically back to his old self. Apparently something is
"I knew around the turn we were in trouble," Smith said. "He quit running, and it was like he didn't want to be here."
Trainer Jeff Bonde said he was pleased with Smiling Tiger's
third-place finish. The 5-year-old son of Hold That Tiger has been
lightly raced this year, having made only three starts between May 5 and
June 30. He had not raced in four months leading up to the Breeders'
"This is certainly a tough race to make a comeback in," Bonde said.
"I'm very proud of him. He ran great, despite it all. Ramon (Dominguez)
said he got a little tired at the end, but he still ran great."
While the Parbhoos' success has been relatively recent, Bisnath
Parboo had been a trainer in Trinidad before immigrating to the United
States 30 years ago. Shivananda said he remembers when he was 5 going to
the races with his father. After coming to the U.S., Bisnath Parboo
gave up training to focus on growing a trucking business in New York
City. Within five years, however, he took out his trainer's license and
began racing horses at Aqueduct. Eventually Shivananda moved the
trucking business and the stable to South Florida, where it is now based
at Calder Casino & Race Course. The stable has 19 horses in
"When you train at Calder and come to these lighter racetracks, the
horses really run," said Shivananda Parbhoo. "Calder is a strong track.
Heavy. If you can run at Calder and breeze in :47 and 1:00 and come
back and not drink water, you can run anywhere in the world. The track
(at Santa Anita) was deep. The way the track was playing yesterday and
today, I knew there was no way they could catch (Trinniberg)."
Trinniberg has been a surprise since the Parbhoos bought him for
$21,000 out of the 2011 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s April 2-year-olds in
training sale. Shivananda was making a delivery and stopped by the OBS
pavilion, not even realizing a sale was being held.
"We walked in at about 11 a.m. and were getting ready to walk out
when I saw this horse," he said. "We turned around and went back in and I
bought him. I didn't even have a catalog. I just liked his looks. He
has a great back-end. We went back to South Florida and I sent my worker
back to Ocala with a check the next day."
Trinniberg was bred in Kentucky by J M Stables. He is out of the
stakes-placed mare Bella Dorato, a daughter of Goldminers Gold. She has
produced two other winners, but Trinniberg is her only stakes winner. As
a yearling, Trinniberg had been sold by Beau Lane Bloodstock, as agent,
for $1,500 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale. He was
purchased by M & H Training and Sales, which sold him as a juvenile
The Parbhoos took two horses, Trinniberg and Giant Ryan, to the
2011 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs. The
experience was called a "sight-seeing" venture by Shivananda. Giant Ryan
finished eighth in the Sprint and Trinniberg finished seventh in the
Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. Sadly, Giant Ryan sustained
multiple fractures while competing in this year's True North Handicap
(gr. II) then later developed laminitis and had to be euthanized.
No one lost faith in Trinniberg after the 2011 Breeders' Cup, after the Kentucky Derby, or even after the King's Bishop.
"We always knew he was the dominant sprinter in his division,"
Martinez said. "We never lost faith. In the King's Bishop we were super
confident, but it happens in racing. I told Ralph, 'Let's get back to
work, get him back on track, and get him ready for this day,' and we
Shivananda Parbhoo now runs the stable but in name only. He said his father will always be 100% involved.
"We talk about everything," said Shivananda. "If I tell him something he doesn't like, he'll tell me."
One of those critical discussions was about putting blinkers back on Trinniberg. Bisnath had some reservations at first.
"He said, 'Do you know what kind of race you're going into? This is a big race,' " recalled Shivananda.
"I told him, 'Pops, don't worry. What do we have to lose? We came
from nowhere. Try it; maybe we get lucky,'" Shivananda told his father.
And so the family found themselves in the winner's circle on
racing's biggest day as the flood waters back in New Jersey recede. An
unwavering faith in Trinniberg, in Martinez, and in each other was
rewarded with their first championship victory and even more precious, a
chance to celebrate together safe and dry under the bright California