Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 87

Not a bad day but still too wet to work horses. The filly in the first at Turfway ran well and won quite easily. Even cheap ones feel good right now. The other filly had a nightmare of a trip and just missed. That is more frustrating than if she simply were outrun. 

The plumbing wars at the farm appear to be diminishing in size and ferocity. The one positive about the recent wet weather is the grass is now green and starting to grow. It wont be long till we are mowing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 86

More rain, less training. The track was really muddy and we did little more than jog though some of the young horses schooled in the gate. The weekend looks pretty good and we will squeeze a bunch of workouts in and may even ship some to Keeneland on Sunday if the track at CDT doesn't dry out sufficiently. I understand the trials and tribulations of artificial surfaces but they make a trainers life much easier when the weather gets wet.

We have a couple of fillies in tomorrow night at Turfway. I can't wait for the meet to end. The end of Turfway means that Keeneland and spring are officially here. I doubt that we can spend another winter based in Kentucky unless some purse relief is coming. It is simply too hard to convince owners and even yourself to believe that it makes sense to run $40000 and $50000 horses for $10000 purses. Not to mention the missed training time, inclement weather and lack of a turf course for a stable with lots of grass pedigrees. While we had almost all unraced maidens going into this winter and really had to stay around here, next year I believe we will have a large presence somewhere south.

Indiana Downs condition book has come out and while the purse levels don't knock your socks off there are definitely some options that we will look to pursue. They have a new starter series on the turf with a total of $175000 in purses with each leg being worth $25000. We have an Indiana bred maiden filly who will find lots of available spots for better money than the competition probably deserves. They have also added a $100000 turf stake for three year old fillies and a $200000 grass stake for the colts and geldings.

It will be interesting to see where Arlington's purses are when their book is released considering that there is supposed to be some of the casino money included. Though I haven't heard whether or not the Supreme Court will refuse to hear the casino's appeal (which is very likely to happen according to legal experts), supposedly that is the only impediment between the money remaining in escrow and being released to the tracks. 

Day 85

Woke up to rain which means mud at the track and farm. Jogged everything at the track and work was pretty spotty at BEC. The rest of the week doesn't look that great either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 84

Maybe the last nice day of the week as rain is expected. Spent a good portion of the day at the farm, seeding and fertilizing the grass course, painting, filling in holes in the paddocks, supervising the front gate installation, etc. Training is easy compared to farm work!

Day 83

Slow day. Heard that Del Mar is thinking of eliminating Monday racing. That is an idea that has been a long time coming. For a track that can only fill eight races a day and is dealing with a limited pool of horses, six days of racing is just too much. Saratoga is the only track in the country that has the horseflesh, fan interest and setting to run six days a week. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day 82

Another day, another injured horse. Young horses are prone to issues but they are able to bounce back quicker than older ones. However it is still frustrating especially when they are training so well. Both horses ran well, the filly at Turfway just missed and the big gelding at FG had an eventful trip including jumping over a bare spot on the turf course and ran a good 4th. Good races are nice but we still need wins!

Day 81

Beautiful day in Kentucky. Cool and clear in the morning, heating up to 60 in the afternoon. Everyone seemed to come out of their works this week in good shape and we have two runners in tomorrow. Albin worked at Keeneland and went well. More condition books coming out this week which allows us to plan the next 6-7 weeks which is a rare opportunity since we mostly deal with 2 or 3 week time frames with condition books.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 80

Nice morning to train, sunny yet cool. The works went well though one of the nicer horses in the barn has a little swelling below the ankle that worries me some. Got a call from a major tv network producer that is interested in featuring the farm in a program they are doing. Sounds very interesting. Noticed how green central Kentucky is becoming driving home this afternoon. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 79

Well we got some rain last night but it was a little more than expected and the track was too muddy to work over. The rest of the day turned out nice. We have horses entered for Sunday at different locations and they are scheduled to go off 8 minutes apart which is nice. Both look live and we could certainly use the purse money, its been a rough winter. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 78

Ran third at Turfway in a race that I thought that we would win. A little disappointed and doing some second guessing of my training of the horse. Things really moving at the farm. Weather is great. Spent time seeding the grass course this afternoon. Supposed to get some light rain tonight which would be perfect. Really looking forward to having full use of the farm later this spring. Kind of like having a toy that you aren't allowed to play with. Funny being at Keeneland before most outfits have shipped in, very quiet.

Day 77

Had a horse that went to the clinic yesterday get released with no ill-effects. Moved four horses and TC to Keeneland barn 8. That barn was the first barn I was in when originally moved to Kentucky to train my own string. Sharing the barn with Michelle Niehi and Darrin Miller who are both very nice. The farm is coming along, working at a fevered pitch to get ready to open on April 2nd. Still a million things to do and it wont be 100% finished but the list is getting whittled down and the important tasks are getting done.

Day 76

Another slow day. Cherie is back from vacation and TC is getting set to head over to Keeneland and then on to Chicago for the Summer. First mare bred this year is in foal! One down, 7 to go. Jacques Sparrow gets a clean bill of health from Dr. Johnson. The mini on the farm finally foals a healthy baby.

Day 75

Not much happening. Really nice spring day. Noticed at the farm the grass is starting to get a little greener. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 74

Got to spend a rainy day at Turfway Park Our filly ran last, never picked up her feet. Have no idea why. Had to scratch Colonel Klink out of his race at the Fair Grounds due to the race being moved from the turf to the slop. Just a bad day all around. 

Day 73

We won a race at Turfway with a new horse in a bizarre mile an a half starter allowance race yesterday. Brought him back to the farm today to give him a reward of a few days in the grass. The local and state plumbing inspectors are still harassing me and being obstructionist in their desire to cause me trouble in opening the farm. I am not sure what I ever did wrong to these people but they are a disgrace to local and state government. During these troubled economic times it would behooved morons like this to work WITH people making significant contributions to the community in both tax revenues, jobs and residual effects. Instead they want to rule their fiefdoms like the insecure little men that they are. 

Day 72

It is always great when a horse exceeds your expectations, however minor the success may be. Trainers are always defensive in our thinking with horses mostly because we have all been so disappointed by horses who failed to live up to what we thought they should be. That being said I shouldn't get so excited about a work in 49 seconds for a low priced and relatively obscurely bred filly but I can't help it. I don't know why but I have always thought that Operetta Italiano was going to be a late blooming turf filly and she probably is. However her recent works have been very good and she has come to hand much quicker than I believed she would. Keeping my fingers crossed that it isn't a mirage.

Day 71

We were supposed to work some horses today but overnight rains turned the track into mud. The weather looks better for the rest of the week and it is windy which will help dry out the track. Went to the farm in the late morning and stopped by the Rea's to see how the two year olds were progressing. The reports are all good and three of the babies will be ready to come to the track next week. Of course we have no stalls at CDT for them to occupy and with two others ready to come in and some at the farm also close to ready to return we will have to send a division to Keeneland next week until Arlington opens. I don't mind having horses at Keeneland during the meet as it is easier to run from your own barn and nice to be able to train over the polytrack with certain horses. Plus it is always a fun meet and I am all Turfway'ed out.

Day 70

Cherie left yesterday for a weeks vacation in South Florida and everybody is pitching in to cover her many responsibilities.  Ryan Smith who doubles as a student at the University of Louisville as well as her job as an exercise rider for me is doing a good job in organizing the sets and checking legs as well as riding her horses . Ashley Gibson is handling the paper work and riding the pony. TC is doing his usual little bit of everything. Things are going well so far but I will be happy when Cherie returns.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 69

Early training can be challenging on the eyes. Because Louisville is so far West in the Eastern time zone, the sun doesnt come up at this time of the year until 7:45. That means that much of our training in now done in the dark because CDT doesn't have lights. I dont think the horses mind as much as the people! I cant see much until 7 when it is light enough to see the far side of the track.

Because our training schedules has been moved we have had to adjust our feeding schedule which always throws a couple horses off for a few days.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 68

Turfway cancelled today as there was a broken water main. They also announced purse cuts there this week though the purses are already so low the missing 5% wont amount to much. Thank God the Keeneland condition book came in the mail this week!

Today is the last day of afternoon training as we go back to early training on Monday morning. This probably fits my schedule a little better but the first hour and a half of training will be done in the dark which is tough. Since Louisville is about as far west in the eastern time zone as you can be, our morning light starts later and our days last longer than most places.

Day 67

Windy but warm. Watching some of the races around the country this afternoon I was surprised at how few horses I was really that familiar with. One of the side effects of this business becoming more of a business is that horses simply don't run as much as they used to. I am not talking about the regular run of the mill horse but the good horses who you follow as they campaign. The Santa Anita Handicap which has lost much of its luster because of the timing of the Dubai World Cup was really Einstein and a bunch of middling turf horses. This used to be the top handicap race in the first half of the year, filled with the best of the west and occasionally an eastern shipper like Broad Brush. If you go to youtube and watch some of the Big Caps from the 80's and early 90's you will see a lot of really good horses. Now if you don't have the form in front of you you may not know 1/2 the field.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Day 66

Really windy but warm. Everyone comes out of the works in good shape. Accountant tells me that we need money because all our seconds and thirds at Turfway don't amount to much because the purses suck. Tell me something I don't know! Major stud farm gets "confused" about a deal for a foal share. We will move on to a different farm that thinks a bit more clearly for that mare. Was looking over the sales results of the Fasig-Tipton two year old sale earlier in the week and can't help but think that this years yearling sales will be a buyers paradise. Pinhookers and commercial breeders are getting killed and either wont have massive bankrolls to buy horses or have any incentive to set unrealistic reserves. 

One of our owners claimed a horse via another trainer at an out of town track. We had been tracking this horse for awhile and I am looking forward to working with her. 

Day 65

Nice day to train horses for a change. We work a bunch and everything goes well. Really happy with the three two year olds that are already at the track. Rea Quarterhorses of Shelbyville does a great job at breaking our yearlings. Some of the more mature ones are sent to Ocala for training and the ones who need to mature are turned out after going to Rea's. The three that came in this week were a bit slow to come around but have done great since coming to CDT.

Day 64

Turfway today with Comeback. Not a very successful trip as he breaks poorly, ducks in on the first turn, moves wide on the second and hangs in the stretch.  Afterwards he acts as though he has never seen a van before and causes me to use much more energy to load him than I even knew I had. I did have a nice, quiet lunch of split pea soup and the winner, winner chicken dinner special in the sparsely populated Turfway clubhouse so all wasn't lost.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day 63

The weather is still cold but sunny and the forecast for the rest of the week is encouraging. We arent doing much special today as the track is very dry and dusty but it looks like we will be able to get our works in on Thursday. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Day 62

It is sunny but very cold today. The track is quite lumpy and is really only good for jogging. The weather looks like it will be much nicer towards the end of the week when temps are supposed to hit the 60's.

I haven't talked much about my assistants, Cherie Devaux and Thomas "TC" Stuckey, in the blog except for a passing mention. Both are not only valuable, hard working employees but friends as well. TC and I worked together for Allen Jerkens in the 90's in New York and when I had the chance to hire him in 2000 at Churchill, I didn't hesitate. He has taken strings of horses for me to Turfway, Tampa Bay, Fair Grounds, Keeneland and Arlington Park and always done well.  TC is an extremely hard worker who does a great job but also truly cares about the horses. He isn't afraid to do anything himself, often jumping in and putting on bandages or tacking up horses along with his regular assistant duties. He is willing to go without complaint wherever I need him and always tries his hardest.

Cherie Devaux is the daughter of one of the first trainers I worked for when I was a teenager in Saratoga. She has worked for me since I hired her as an exercise rider in Saratoga in the summer of 2004. Cherie has a great work ethic and natural instincts for horses and I more or less forced her to become an assistant. She is avery good rider which is an asset but also has a great feel for where the horses are fitness and soundness wise. She also brings to the barn organizational skills that I definitely lack. Like TC, Cherie also cares a great deal about the horses and her approach to her job is based on that. She handles much of the paperwork which I detest and is in charge of the employees which is a thankless job.

I wouldn't trade my assistants for anyones. Both will give me their honest opinions on issues even if it isn't what I want to hear. I have complete trust in both of them and know that I can rely on them to take care of things in my absence just as I would want it done. If my assistants weren't as good as they are it would be impossible for me to expand into other area's such as the bloodstock business and the launch of Bluegrass Equine Center. Being an assistant trainer is a tough job that demands long hours and dedication. I consider myself  blessed to have two of the best.

Day 61

MARCH!!!! It is still pretty cold but just the fact we are out of February is enough to celebrate. Our first group of two year olds hit the track for the first time. They all do well though none were really impressed by the resident goose colony that lives in the infield. Forgot to mention that Saturday was TC's birthday. The winner of today's 6th race at Aqueduct is trained by a former assistant of mine, Mike Tannuzzo. That was his first winner after a few months of trying and it was nice to see him break his maiden.