Busting the Slump - by Eric Mitchell

Four races all looked promising on the March 7 card at Gulfstream Park for trainer Tom Albertrani.

Forgive him, however, if he seemed a bit guarded about his chances that morning, for Albertrani was in the midst of a serious slump. Since the start of the Gulfstream meet, Albertrani’s horses looked good and moved well in training. Opportunities appeared to be there for the taking in the afternoons, but he just couldn’t break through with a win.

He and his staff watched in frustration as the tally climbed. By Saturday his performance line for the meet read 0-11-5 from 59 starts.
“I really felt great about every race on Saturday,” Albertrani said. “I felt we had four good chances, but you could have said that about every day. You have four chances, and you hope for at least one win.”

In competitive sports, slumps can be insidious. They can raise doubts. Coaches and players may start changing things around hoping to break the spell and revive the mojo, but that wasn’t Albertrani’s strategy. Albertrani well understands horse racing’s fickle nature. He worked as an assistant trainer beginning in 1982 for Mark Casse, Bill Mott, and Saeed bin Suroor and has run his own stable since 2003. The best way to deal with a slump, he said, is to hold a steady course and not change what’s known to work.

“It is frustrating to say the least; the circumstances may not be working out for you, but you have to keep moving forward because eventually it is going to change.”

That is exactly what happened March 7 when Albertrani won three races, including the grade II Fasig-Tipton Swale Stakes, and finished second by three-quarters of a length in his fourth race of the day—actually, the race he felt offered the best chance to “break the ice.”
Not only did Albertrani get three victories, they were individually satisfying.

In a $45,000 maiden special weight, Albertrani started Ocean Telegraph for Godolphin Racing. The dark bay or brown homebred son of Street Cry had made three previous starts on the Gulfstream Park main track and fared no better than fifth. The March 7 race was the colt’s first start on the turf.

“It was a horse we had high hopes for, but three starts on the dirt weren’t quite getting him there,” Albertrani said. “First time on the turf, he ran huge and broke the course record.” Ocean Telegraph wired the 13⁄16-mile race in 1:53.52, lowering the previous mark by nearly half a second.

Three races later Albertrani was back on the turf course with Biz The Nurse in a $50,000 allowance optional claimer going 17⁄16 miles. Owned by John D’Amato, the 5-year-old group I-winning son of Oratorio was making his U.S. debut after having raced exclusively in Italy. Biz The Nurse and Javier Castellano bided their time toward the back of the 10-horse field for much of the race, then began eating into the gap behind the leaders heading into the second turn. They took the lead at the eighth pole and won driving by 13⁄4 lengths. Biz The Nurse earned a 111 Equibase Speed Rating in the race.

“The way he won that race was really exciting,” Albertrani said. “We are hoping to see bigger races out of him.”

Then came the Swale, in which Chalk Racing’s Ready for Rye was facing heavy favorite and grade I winner Daredevil.

“I was not expecting to see him win in that fashion,” Albertrani said of the son of City Zip, who took command of the race early and repelled a challenge by Daredevil in the stretch. He defeated Daredevil by 23⁄4 lengths.

Looking back, Albertrani doesn’t feel so bad about all those second-place finishes. Particularly when he looks back to last spring at Belmont Park where he ended the meet with 13 wins and 14 seconds.

“Those seconds turn out to be good because we went to Saratoga and won nine races the next month,” he said. “Sometimes you go on to the next meet and things start happening.”


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