Page 1


This Pletcher-trainee may be a longshot, but his story will make him the favorite.


The story behind the photo of California Chrome and Arrogate that went viral, and more!


May 2017


Thoroughbred Today Publisher

Everything Equestrian, LLC. Wilmington, DE. Editor-In-Chief Claudia L. Ruiz

I don’t remember what time my alarm went off the morning after the Pegasus World Cup, but I do remember not wanting to get out of bed. It was a cold, rainy morning; gloomy to the point that it was perfect for the occasion. When I got to Gulfstream Park, I walked over to California Chrome’s barn, said hello to familiar faces and admired the horse that single-handedly made me fall in love with the sport as he snacked on his hay. Frank Taylor was in the shedrow, chatting on the phone, when I overheard him mention that Chrome would be flying out of Palm Beach International Airport. For the entire month of January I had wanted so badly to secure a spot on Chrome’s Tex Sutton flight to Kentucky, I guess part of me was still determined to make it happen. My mission that morning was simple: get some b-roll video of Arrogate and see Chrome off. Long story short, I was told the wrong departure times and missed Chrome when he left. I sat in my car for a good 10 minutes, sulking, before deciding to drive to the airport. GPS said it was 50 minutes away, if I went 85mph on the highway, I was certain I would catch his trailer. It wasn’t until I was 10 minutes out from PBI that I realized how crazy I was being. How the heck was I going to find the plane, and if I found it, how was I going to get close enough to make it worthwhile? I almost turned around, but something told me to keep going. When I got there, I followed signs that led to the cargo hangars and made it onto a narrow road that ran alongside the tarmac. Just as I was starting to lose hope, I spotted what resembled a trailer in the distance. The closer I got, the bigger the smile grew on my face. Not only did I find Chrome, I found Arrogate and the rest of the Pegasus horses in their trailers, all lined up waiting to drive into the hangar. I walked up to a minivan that pulled up close by and introduced myself... it was the Tex Sutton flight crew! Next thing you know I’m on the plane, standing in between two of the greatest racehorses, getting a picture taken that would later be shared with thousands of people around the world via social media, and all because I didn’t let a little discouragement derail my focus; because I kept going; because I didn’t give up. It was an experience I will never forget, and one I hope will inspire you to keep reaching for your dreams, no matter how wild they may be. A big thank you to Tex Sutton and the flight crew for the memory of a lifetime.

Managing Editor Lauren Lima

Cover Photography Arron Haggart Eclipse Sportswire

Contributing Writers Ciara Austin, Ciara Bowen, Ryan Dickey, Amy Nesse, Delaney Witbrod

Photographers Laura Battles, Ciara Bowen, Adam Coglianese, Ryan Dickey, Alex Evers, Arron Haggart, Eric Kalet, Lauren King, Robert Mauhar, Justin Manning, Scott Serio, Delaney Witbrod

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Editor-In-Chief Thoroughbred Today


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Thoroughbred Today Magazine

Contents A Horse Named Patch // 5 - 6 His story reminds us that attitude is everything in life

After The Roses // 7 - 12


Find out how three Kentucky Derby Champs are living out retirement


Host a Derby Party // 13 - 14 Throw an epic Kentucky Derby party at home in five easy steps

Prep Highlights // 15 - 20 Photo highlights of KY Derby preps with comments by Claudia L. Ruiz, and a mini-feature on Paradise Woods (19)

Getting to Know // 22 Classic Empire, a profile of the Kentucky Derby favorite sired by Pioneerof the Nile

Silver Charm // 23 - 25 Bob Baffert and Gary Stevens recall Silver Charm’s Derby win and Triple Crown bid


Triple Crown Tribute // 28 80-years ago, War Admiral became racing’s fourth Triple Crown winner

OTTB Spotlight // 29 A gelding with no future as a racehorse finds his place in the sport

19 Thoroughbred Today


Photo: Arron Haggart/Eclipse Sportswire


Thoroughbred Today

A Horse named

PATCH By: Claudia L. Ruiz

When life gives you lemons,


make lemonade...

hroughout the course of life, you are bound to encounter adversity that will challenge who you are and how you see the world. You cannot change the inevitable, but you can choose how you react to it and the attitude you take towards it. Meet Patch: a three-year-old son of Union Rags and Windyindy, by A.P. Indy, bred and owned by Calumet Farm. Patch, pictured on the left with trainer Todd Pletcher at Palm Beach Downs, lost his left eye when he was just two-years-old. But he never let that get in the way of living his life, and on April 1, he secured himself a spot in this year’s Kentucky Derby by finishing second to Girvin in the Gr.2 Louisiana Derby. It all started one morning, last June, when Pletcher arrived at the barn and found the colt with his left eye closed, tearing heavily. Veterinarian Bill Yarbrough was called out to examine the eye and found no scrapes or scratches, or any signs of trauma. He applied ointment and administered anti-inflammatories. When the eye did not respond, a fluorescein eye stain was performed to rule out foreign bodies and possible damage to the cornea. “Essentially, what he had was inflammation of the globe of the eye,” Pletcher said, adding that the stain returned no real answers. The globe of the eye, or bulbus oculi, is the eyeball apart from its appendages. A hollow structure, it is composed of a wall enclosing a cavity filled with fluid with three coats: the sclera, choroid, and the retina. Patch was treated at the barn for one week with no success before being admitted to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Saratoga Springs, NY, where further, more aggressive treatment was attempted. Over the course of yet another week, veterinarians tried everything, but in the end were unable to save his eye. Travis Tull, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, performed the surgery, and after two days of recovering, Patch was sent to Pletcher’s father’s training facility in Ocala, FL. “I sent him to Ocala to give him some time to adjust and to see how he adapted to training with just one eye.” A couple of weeks later, Pletcher received a call from his father with some good news. Patch was seemingly unfazed, as if nothing had hap-

pened, and was training very well. By early September 2016, just two-and-a-half months after surgery, the bay colt rejoined Pletcher’s stable and resumed normal training at Palm Beach Downs. Four months later, he finished second in his debut race, and one month after that returned to break his maiden by 1 ¾ lengths at Gulfstream Park with jockey John Velazquez. “At the time, it was heartbreaking for me to watch him lose the eye,” Pletcher said. “Most of the time this sort of thing will happen to a horse before training is started. By the time they get to the track, they’re pretty used to it. It’s much harder for a twoyear-old, halfway into training, to adjust.” However, Patch continued to work like a total professional; you would never think he was missing an eye from watching him on the track or in the barn. Even Velazquez was impressed by how quickly he adapted. “I worked against him one morning before his first race. I was on another horse and had him tight on the rail, but it didn’t bother him and he ended up beating me. He hasn’t let losing his eye affect him.” This is not the first time Todd Pletcher has had a horse of this type in the Kentucky Derby. Blind in his left eye, which was atrophied, but still in place, Pollard’s Vision ran in the Derby of 2004. But, unlike Patch, he lost his sight when he was much younger and had lived with it for pretty much his whole life. In an interesting twist, the Union Rags colt had yet to be named at the time that he developed the ailment in his left eye. Calumet Farm was aware of it, but at that point the outlook was still hopeful. He was named Patch before he lost his eye. You can count his starts on one hand and still have fingers to spare, but this is a horse that does not mind running in tight quarters, and coming off a maiden win finished second to the top ranked horse on the Derby leaderboard. “I really think his mindset is the reason behind everything he has accomplished. His willingness, intelligence and calm nature; he is just such a remarkable horse.” – Todd Pletcher Like him on the track or not, Patch’s ability to overcome adversity is admirable. Not only does it humanize him, it also goes to show how far the right attitude will take you in life. Thoroughbred Today


After The Roses They donned the garland of roses and stamped their name on an elite list. But where do Kentucky Derby Champions go after it is all said and done? Find out where they are today. By: Delaney Witbrod


mong the list of Kentucky Derby winners stands the most recent: a dark bay colt with no distinguishable markings. Named after Detroit Red Wings’ star forward, Nyquist (Uncle Mo - Seeking Gabrielle) was foaled March 10, 2013. Trained by Doug O’Neill, he became the eighth undefeated Derby winner and the second horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile - Kentucky Derby double. He retired in late September 2016 after 11 career starts that resulted in a record 8-0-1 and earnings of $5,189,200. If you are planning a visit to Lexington, stop by Darley’s Jonabell Farm for a chance to say hello to the one and only, four-legged Nyquist. Of all the farms in Kentucky, there are few more beautiful than Jonabell. Founded in 1954 by John and Jessica Bell, the land on which the farm stands can be traced back to American Revolutionary War veteran Colonel Abraham Bowman. In 2001, the Bell’s sold the farm to HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and today it is part of a global Thoroughbred breeding operation. Located on Bowman Mill Road, just six minutes from Blue Grass Airport, Jonabell keeps a professional, yet friendly atmosphere all the way from the entry gate to the farthest stable. The 800-acre location is refined and elegant, much like the stallions they keep and athletes they produce. Jonabell Farm gives visitors a look at international breeding and racing operations through Darley’s vast reach and powerful influence. Nyquist, who is now a resident on the farm, underwent colic surgery in December and is looking better with each day, thanks to the caring hands of Jonabell’s team. During breeding season, the colt starts his day with a hearty breakfast before heading off to the breeding shed for his first of three possible coverings (or dates, if you will), and is turned out in his paddock for fresh air and exercise in between sessions. When his work is done, he heads inside for an early dinner and calls it a day. His schedule is rather consistent and only changes on tour days when he gets to greet visitors. As one of the most popular stallions on the roster, fans are known to bring him offerings; one fan even brought him a carrot cake with his picture on it for his birthday. Darren Fox, the Sales Manager at Darley, describes Nyquist as a very intelligent horse and the ultimate professional in everything that he does. “He’s a real gentleman, a pleasure to be around, and is generally laid back.” His physical appearance, run in the Kentucky Derby and his sire


Thoroughbred Today

Photo: Alex Evers / Eclipse Sportswire

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Eric Kalet

Uncle Mo are just a few of the factors that make him one of the most sought after first season sires in 2017. “What he accomplished in the Derby was incredible. Watching the replay takes us back to that special moment, one we will not forget,” Fox remarked. The 2016 Derby winner currently stands for $40,000 S&N. Close by, another familiar face can be found on the same farm. In the kingdom of horse racing stands an animal like no other: 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. The big chestnut son of Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) and Dalicia (GER) was foaled in Kentucky on March 20, 2008, and three-years later won the Derby as a 21-1 longshot. Two years after, he went on to capture the 2013 Dubai World Cup, becoming the first Kentucky Derby winner to win a Grade 1 at the age of five. A versatile runner, achieving Grade 1 wins on dirt, turf, and synthetic, Animal Kingdom retired in 2013 with a record of 5-5-0 in 12 starts and earnings totaling $8,387,500. He currently stands at Darley for $30,000 S&N. Much like Nyquist, Animal Kingdom enjoys an early breakfast before his coverings, spends much of the day outside and then heads in for dinner. Towering at approximately 16.2h, he is solidly conformed and has a tough demeanor. But don’t let that fool you; he is a gentle giant with fans who stop by to admire him in person. Barbara Lively, a fan who recently paid a visit to Jonabell, was approached by the chestnut while standing outside his paddock. “He came over to the gate and stood for a photo with me,” she said. “I walked away with tears in my eyes. No other stallion has affected me that much.” Approximately 28-miles northeast of Jonabell Farm resides another recent Kentucky Derby winner at one of racing’s most historical farms. Located on Winchester Road in Paris, KY, Claiborne Farm was established in 1910 by Arthur B. Hancock. More than 80 champions have been born on the farm and 22 members of the National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame were either born or raised at Claiborne. The farm is as welcoming as it is beautiful, and the horses in their care are treated like royalty. Visitors can expect a unique experience that


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Eclipse Sportswire

includes walking the shed rows, up-close meet-and-greets with world renowned stallions, and a walk through the farm’s acclaimed cemetery, where legends such as Gallant Fox, Nasrullah and Secretariat lay to rest. 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb was born on February 24, 2010, and today is enjoying retirement at Claiborne Farm, where he stands for $25,000 S&N. The son of Malibu Moon and Lady Liberty (by Unbridled) lost his first three starts before winning his next five, which include the Gr.2 Fountain of Youth, Gr.1 Florida Derby and the Gr.1 Kentucky Derby, where he rallied to win by 2 ½ lengths over Golden Soul and Revolutionary. He ran four more races, but to no avail and retired to Claiborne at the end of 2013, his record being 5-0-3 in 12 starts and $2,612,516 in earnings. Fast-forward to present day and Orb is living the life of a king. His daily schedule includes a lot of paddock time and a 1PM grooming session to keep up his stud muffin good looks – hey, it ain’t easy being such a stud, but someone’s got to do it! A dignified son of Malibu Moon, Orb keeps his handlers on their toes, sharing the same personality as his sire: strong-willed, fiery, and a force to be reckoned with. However, the bay stallion can be persuaded away from his land shark, biting tendencies with a plentiful offering of peppermints. Electra Boone, a family friend of the Claiborne’s, says he also enjoys playing games, “Orb likes to make a snack out of his lip chain and revels in playing tug-a-war with his groom.” He is the first horse that visitors meet when touring the farm, and his quirky personality, along with career accomplishments, make him quite the attraction. If you are ever in the area, stop by Claiborne Farm to meet the stallion in person and to get a feel for what life is like after the roses.

Get a visual of what life on the farm is like at Jonabell and Claiborne, turn to page 11-12 to view photos.

After The Roses

Remembering his days on the track, Orb takes a run in his paddock. (Photo courtesy: Claiborne Farm)

Heading in for the day, Animal Kingdom enjoys sunset at Jonabell. (Photo courtesy: Darley America)


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Inside the stallion barn at Jonabell Farm. (Photo courtesy: Darley America)

Straight out of a fairytale, Orb’s barn on the farm. (Photo courtesy: Claiborne Farm)

Thoroughbred Today



STEPS to Host a Derby Party By: Ciara Austin

The Kentucky Derby is always a cause for celebration! For the last 143 years, racing fans and sport spectators alike look forward to the first Saturday in May: an afternoon of southern-inspired food and drinks, show-stopping style, and most importantly, incredible Thoroughbred racing. Can’t actually be at Churchill Downs for the big day? Throw an epic, at-home Kentucky Derby party in five easy steps:


Roses / Décor First and foremost, red roses are the official flower of the Kentucky Derby and its most recognized symbol. Set the mood by adding fresh or silk roses around your event space for a nice, traditional touch. Then, get creative with the rest of your décor. From horseshoes to jockey helmets, visit your local party supply shop or order themed supplies like cups and plates online. The more you commit to the décor, the more you will feel like you are right there in the action!


Mint Juleps

No Kentucky Derby party is complete without bourbon; but more specifically, the Derby’s signature Mint Julep! This simple yet delightfully powerful cocktail is comprised of 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon, ½ oz. simple syrup, crushed ice and garnishes of fresh mint sprigs. Create a do-it-yourself Mint Julep Station and let your guests mix their own. This cocktail is always a hit, so prepare a pitcher (or two) in advance. Non-alcoholic Option: Stay on theme with a pitcher of southern “Sweet Tea,” or refreshing raspberry lemonade.


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Dress Code Aside from the horses, the Kentucky Derby is about making a fashion statement. Make sure your guests look like a million bucks by sending invitations that enforce Derby attire, especially fedoras, bow ties, big hats and fancy dresses. Bring out the best of spring fashion with bold patterns and pastel colors. Have fun with it and take plenty of photos! Side Note: Make sure to have a few extra hats and accessories available for guests needing to add a little swagger.


Keep Guests Busy The best parties are the ones with a variety of activities for party-goers to take part in at their leisure. Set up a photo booth – people love them – with homemade props made out of construction paper or felt, grab a hat and some sunglasses and take some photos! Get the whole party involved by having a betting pool game where participating guests pay a specific amount (example: $5) and have each guest pick a Derby contender’s name out of a hat. The guest who draws the winning Derby horse gets to keep the entire pot. It’s a fun, easy way to get your guests invested in a horse they may not have thought of otherwise and also make a few extra bucks.


Know the Contenders!

You will need to keep up with the action, so make sure to lock the TV on NBC and NBCSN’s streaming, all day Derby coverage. Whether you play for fun or for profit, you want your guests to have a stake in the big race. Educate your guests by having a “cheat sheet” that shares a bit of information about each of the horses running. Do you have a friend who is a whiz at handicapping? Have them share their racing insights with the party and show guests how to make a bet! The Kentucky Derby is “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” make them count!

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Photo: Justin Manning/Eclipse Sportswire

15 Thoroughbred Today







E| PG. 2 2


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Cutthroat Closer Breaking from the outermost post at Gulfstream Park – a post that is dreaded by sane Thoroughbred trainers – in the Gr.I Florida Derby, Gunnevera missed the break, got into a tussle with the rail, was third-to-last at the three-quarter call and still managed to finish third. He may not have a perfect record, but what he does have is cutthroat, closing speed. In a Derby that is loaded with early pace, the Antonio Sano-trainee may have an advantage. He can run, but can he stay out of trouble in a 20-horse race that is known for its traffic issues? He will need a lot of luck. Then again, so will every other horse. Lauren King/Coglianese Photo


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Derby Preps

Rounding out the turn for home, Irish War Cry (yellow cap) challenges Battalion Runner (green cap) to a duel down the stretch in the Gr.II Wood Memorial | Robert Mauhar/Coglianese Photo

Ears pricked forward and focused on the wire, Gormley and Victor Espinoza (teal cap) take the lead from Battle of Midway (red cap) in the Gr.I Santa Anita Derby | Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

Thoroughbred Today


PARADISE WOODS The Kentucky Oaks contender sent from above to rekindle a friendship.


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he relationship between trainer Richard Mandella and owner Martin Wygod goes back to the 1970’s. In those days, Mandella was galloping horses at several farms near his hometown of Cherry Valley, CA, and had a reputation for being a really good hand. That’s when prominent New York trainer Victor J. “Lefty” Nickerson found him and convinced him to work for him out east. Mandella worked under Nickerson for a couple of years and was introduced to Martin Wygod, who was one of Nickerson’s bigger clients. Getting to know each other quite well, the two formed a friendship.

A few years ago, Sarkowsky’s health started to decline and he began selling off his horses, keeping a few to race until he passed in 2014. Mandella and Wygod remained cordial and frequently saw one another, though the relationship was not what it had once been.

In 1974, Mandella moved back to California and went out to train on his own. As he began to make a name for himself, owners started sending him horses, and among them was Wygod, whose River Edge Farm was in Solvang, CA. In working together, Wygod introduced Mandella to business partner Herman Sarkowsky, who had a handful of mares, but no farm.

In his will, Sarkowsky had left his horses to Wygod under two stipulations: that Mandella trained and that the horses run in Sarkowsky’s colors. Among those horses left to Wygod was a Union Rags filly that was still at the farm and Mandella really liked – Paradise Woods (pictured in the black and orange silks), the Gr.1 Santa Anita Oaks winner who left the field behind by 11 ¾ lengths.

Mandella and Wygod did well together, but their relationship was strained, and somewhere in the early nineties, they parted ways. Sarkowsky stayed, and he and the now Hall of Fame trainer went on to campaign 1993 Two-YearOld Champion Filly Phone Chatter, and multiple graded stakes winner Dixie Union, who won the Gr.1 Malibu and Gr.1 Haskell Invitational in 2000.

Today, Mandella and Wygod have rekindled their relationship and are once again enjoying the sport that originally led them to become friends. They head into the Kentucky Oaks with a talented filly in Paradise Woods, who runs in loving memory of their friend, Herman Sarkowsky.

Then one morning Wygod showed up at Mandella’s barn and said, “Dick, I need to talk to you in private.” The two went into the office, and when they came out, things began to change.

Written By: Claudia L. Ruiz

Photo By: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire


Thoroughbred Today


Getting to Know:

Classic Empire Love this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite, but don’t know much about him? No problem! French Jockey Julien Leparoux has the answers to your questions!

Q&A with Julien Leparoux Classic Empire (KY) Colt, foaled March 21, 2014 (Pioneerof the Nile - Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief)




16 hands



Earnings: Record: G1 Wins:

TT: What is it like to ride him? JL: “He is very smooth to ride. When I breeze him, he feels like he is going very slow, but he actually goes very fast. The good horses always feel like that. He has a very nice, long stride.”

$2,120,220 7 - 5 - 0 - 1 (as of 4/21/17) Arkansas Derby Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity


John C. Oxley


Mark Casse


Julien Leparoux

Favorite Treat:

Carrots & Peppermints

Miles Traveled:

8,285 mi (or 13,333.42 km) KY- NY - KY - CA - FL - AR - KY

Name in French:

TT: What is Classic Empire’s personality like? JL: “He is very kind in the barn and will let my son walk up to him in the shedrow. He is also a very smart horse, maybe too smart.”

Empire Classique

TT: What is his worst quality? JL: “He can be very stubborn. Sometimes when I ride him he won’t want to do what I ask and it can be very challenging to work with him when he is in that mentality.” TT: And his best quality? JL: “He is just very talented. Everything he does comes so natural. He can keep pace easily and is able to handle a lot of tricky situations in his races.” TT: How has he changed from his first race to the Arkansas Derby? JL: “I always thought he had a lot of potential. He broke his maiden going 4½ furlongs, so he has learned a lot since then. Now, going two-turn races is what he likes to do, he enjoys it a lot. He is still a baby, but he is very professional.”

(Pronounced: on-pier class-eek)

Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

TT: If you were to compare him to a human athlete, who would he be and why? JL: “Soccer player Marco Verratti, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain. He is young, very talented, and a natural, but he gets himself into trouble sometimes for no reason.”

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Photo: Delaney Witbrod


Thoroughbred Today


Silver Charm Two decades ago, he made his run under the twin spires to win the 123rd edition of the Kentucky Derby. Five weeks later, he found himself at Belmont Park with a chance to make history, an experience trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Gary Stevens recall vividly. By: Ryan Dickey


t was a time when tech-savvy business professionals were entering their colleagues’ contact information into their PalmPilot Personal Digital Assistants. Seinfeld and E.R. ruled the airwaves on NBC. Moviegoers flocked to see James Cameron’s epic Titanic. Hanson’s “MMMBop” was played on the radio more times than it probably should have. And twenty years ago, Silver Charm nearly became the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown – winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before being upset by Touch Gold in the Belmont Stakes. Eighteen years later, trainer Bob Baffert would stand triumphantly in the Belmont winner’s circle with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. But in 1997, his run with Bob and Beverly Lewis’ gray son of Silver Buck caught the attention of even the less-than-casual fans of horse racing. “We were very high on him going into his maiden race,” trainer Bob Baffert recalled. “I was really shocked when he got beat, but he came back and won his next race and then ran a great race in the Del Mar Futurity. I was going to take him to the Breeders’ Cup, but it turned out he wasn’t eligible, and that was fine. At the time, I knew he was going to be my Derby horse, so I just focused on getting him ready.” Silver Charm exited his two-year-old season with two wins in three starts and went on to beat Free House and seven others in his sophomore debut in the Grade 3 San Vicente at Santa Anita Park. “I remember he broke through the gate before the start,” Baffert said. “They don’t win when they do that. But he ran huge and won in a really fast time. I was just so impressed with him that day.” Five weeks later, Free House would turn the tables, besting Silver Charm in the Grade 2 San Felipe, setting up what would become one of the top rivalries of the late twentieth century.

In the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, Free House would come out on top once again. But, despite the loss, Baffert recalls the day as one of the most exciting of his career. “[D. Wayne] Lukas had a filly in there, Sharp Cat, who was really big and fast. Chris McCarron was on another horse that day and I had picked up Gary Stevens. I told him, ‘Whatever you do, don’t let the filly get away.’ I wish he hadn’t listened to me, because they went so fast it was ridiculous.” They ran the half in :45.15 and six-furlongs in a blistering 1:09.15. When they turned for home, Sharp Cat gave it up and Free House came on like he was going to win with ease. That’s when Silver Charm jumped back in and fought hard. He finished second to Free House by a head. “I’ve never been so excited getting beat in a race. I ran down there thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe what he just did. That’s when I knew we had a chance to win the Kentucky Derby.” And so, Silver Charm and Free House found themselves sharing the same gate one

month later – the gate of the 1997 Kentucky Derby. With jockey Gary Stevens up, the gates swung open, and the race put Silver Charm in position to become Baffert’s first Derby winner. Free House got out fast, and was quickly joined by the Grade 2 Toyota Bluegrass-winner and Grade 1 Florida Derby runner-up, Pulpit. Silver Charm was running fourth at first call, just a few lengths behind the leaders. While Pulpit and Free House tangled in an early pace duel, Silver Charm stayed just behind the two until the second turn. That’s when Stevens asked, and the colt made his move at the top of the stretch. The tenth furlong of the Kentucky Derby is where champions are made, and Silver Charm did not disappoint. The wire loomed and Silver Charm battled ferociously, holding off the late charge of Captain Bodgit. On May 3, 1997, Silver Charm and Gary Stevens stood tall in the winner’s circle in front of a

Above: Silver Charm, with jockey Chris Antley up, jogs back after running fourth in the 1999 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. The race marked the Baffert-trainee’s final career start. Photo courtesy: Laura Battles.

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grandstand that applauded their victory. They had won the 123rd running of America’s most prestigious horse race, and the first leg of the elusive Triple Crown. “It was like the greatest feeling I ever had in my life, like I was floating,” the now 64-yearold trainer recalled of the feeling he got when he won his first Derby. “It was an out-of-body experience, and the high was so high.” Two weeks later, all eyes were on Silver Charm at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland, where he would have to face rival Free House once again. At two wins apiece in their four meetings, the two would go head-tohead in the Preakness Stakes. The rivals got out of the gate and stalked pacesetter Cryp Too, who took the field of ten through the quarter in :22.87 and half in :46.86. Silver Charm and Free House ran stride for stride almost the entire race, and at the top of the lane, they were poised for yet another showdown. Noses apart as they galloped down the stretch, the two charged past Cryp Too. Fifty yards from the wire, running eyeball to eyeball, a photo was captured where Free House can be seen with his right eye locked on Silver Charm; a testament to how well aware they were of their rivalry. But the show was far from over. Captain Bodgit had made a move from the back of the pack to join the duo in late stretch and a photo finish was needed to determine the winner. Silver Charm had done it again, holding off Free House by a head and capturing the second leg of the Triple Crown. Captain Bodgit finished third, Touch Gold was fourth, and the final time was 1:54.84. Baffert had yet to come down from his high of winning the Kentucky Derby. Up until that moment, he was just enjoying the expe-


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rience and had no expectations of winning. When he won the Preakness, reality sunk in. “It’s like your whole life changes after winning that race. It’s not a game anymore; you have a shot to make history.” With a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed, 19 years earlier, Silver Charm was the even-money favorite at Belmont Park three weeks later. On June 7th, Baffert, the Arizona-native, found himself in New York for his first Belmont Stakes. “I did my homework to see how horses trained for it, but you can’t worry about the mile-and-a-half, they can either do it or they can’t. There was a lot of pressure on me, but even more on Gary Stevens.” When the gates opened, Silver Charm broke well and was third at first call behind pacesetter Touch Gold and Wild Rush. With three furlongs to go in his quest for immortality, the Florida-bred colt took the lead and hit the top of the stretch with Touch Gold and rival Free House. The stage was set for the Baffert-trainee to stake his claim in history, and he almost did. But he fell short, finishing second by just three-quarters of a length. “A sixteenth-of-a-mile to the finish line, I thought we were going to be the first Triple Crown winner in a longtime,” jockey Gary Stevens said in hindsight. “We were carrying the weight of America on us. Then here comes Touch Gold on the outside with Chris McCarron, who rode a brilliant race and nailed us on the money. I’ll never forget it. Probably the most bitter defeat of my career.”

Photo: Ryan Dickey

Silver Charm, the two-time Classic winner, went on to win seven more Graded Stakes in his career, including the Dubai World Cup in March of 1998. Following life on the track, he stood stud at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky before being purchased by the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association (JBBA) to stand in Japan. In 2007, while abroad, he was inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame. Two decades later, Bob Baffert recalls the experience in vivid detail, as if it were just yesterday. “He was just a big, strong, gallant horse. He walked up to the paddock like a saddle horse, never got excited about anything. And his owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, were such nice people. Bob loved the sport and always got so excited. When you have a really good horse, everybody gets together for the journey; our families got very close. That’s one of my favorite memories.” Now 23-years-young, Silver Charm resides at Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, KY, and is the main attraction at the retirement facility that was established to give ex-racehorses a place to call home once their glory days on the track and in the breeding shed are over.

Thoroughbred Today


80-Year Anniversary

The Great War Admiral By: Amy Nesse


orse racing’s fourth Triple Crown winner, the great War Admiral, was a son of the magnificent Man o’ War. Although nothing like his sire in size or appearance, the small, brown colt inherited his heart, fiery spirit, and incredible ability to overcome adversity. Owner Samuel D. Riddle, who also owned Man o’ War, saw War Admiral as a brilliant racehorse and was more confident in his abilities as a three-year-old than he was his sire. In 1920, due to his dislike of racing out west and his belief that three-year-olds should not run distance so early in the season, Riddle elected not to run Man o’ War in the Kentucky Derby. That belief changed 19-years later in the presence of War Admiral. After an impressive start to his three-year-old campaign, the son of Man o’ War and Brushup (by Sweep) targeted the Derby. Four days before the big race, trainer George Conway entered the colt in a 1 ¼ mile allowance race at Churchill Downs – a tactic we will likely never see again. But back in the day, it was normal, and War Admiral galloped to an easy win. He went off as the favorite in the 1937 Kentucky Derby and won in wire-to-wire fashion in one of the most thrilling Derby’s of the 1930’s. He won by 1 ¾ lengths in a final time of 2:03.20. Pompoon finished second. In the Preakness Stakes, he was victorious once again, but the win did not come as easy. After acting up at the start (as he was known to do), War Admiral was sent to the lead by jockey Charles “The Flying Dutchman” Kurtsinger. Flying Scot and Jewell Dorsett, the speed horses in the race, were then sent up to pressure him. When he shook them off, Pompoon moved up to challenge and the two du-

Photo: The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

eled down the stretch to the wire, War Admiral of 11 races with his toughest loss coming in the prevailing by a head in a final time of 1:58.40. Pimlico Special – famously referred to as The Then on June 5, 1937, War Admiral put on Great Match Race of 1938 – against Seabiscuit. the most incredible performance of his career To this day many will argue that War Admiral in the Belmont Stakes. The 4-5 favorite in a was the better racehorse, with a far superior refield of six, he was particularly cord. fractious, repeatedly breaking In 1939, the Admiral reHeight: through the barrier and holdcorded a lone start and victory ing back the race for more than before bowing out, retiring with 15.3h seven minutes. From the outera record 21 wins, 3 seconds most post, he stumbled leaving and 1 third in 26 career starts Color: the gate – striking the quarter and earnings totaling $273,240. Brown of his right front forefoot – and He went on to become North ran with a wound that bled proAmerica’s Leading Sire in 1945, Record: fusely. was inducted into the National 26 - 21 - 3 - 1 But nothing would stop him Museum of Racing’s Hall of that day. Not only did he endure Fame in 1958 and continued Earnings: the adversities, he went on to to influence the breed, being win by three lengths, displaying named Leading Broodmare Sire $273,240 fantastic athleticism and heart in 1962 and 1964. as he set a track record. It was Eighty long years ago, War not until he entered the winner’s circle that his Admiral’s name rolled off the tongues of horse jockey and trainer noticed the gash on his quar- racing fans all over the country. He was the ter and blood on his abdomen and legs. Still, horse to beat and a striking specimen to grace the Admiral stood tall and proud like a true sol- the racetrack. Today he rests at the Kentucky dier while fans gathered in admiration of his Horse Park in Lexington, KY, next to sire Man accomplishment. Sceneshifter finished second o’ War, and is visited by thousands each and that day, Pompoon settled for sixth. The final every year. time was 2:28.60. Later that year, War Admiral was named 1937 Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year. As a four-year-old, he won 9 Thoroughbred Today


Learning to Catch From no future as a racehorse to ponying the future Triple Crown winner, an Iowa-bred gelding finds his place in the sport.

Photos: Ciara Bowen

By: Ciara Bowen


ess Knox and John Garges are familiar faces at Oaklawn Park, fulfilling roles of pony rider and outrider respectively. The pair have a talented string of lead and catch horses they rotate for the meet, and like most people, they have their favorites in the barn. One such horse is Tenacious Buddy, a tall, dark bay Thoroughbred gelding whom they simply call Douglas. The 2011 son of Tenacious Allison, a daughter of Rock Hard Ten – who finished second to Smarty Jones in the 2004 Preakness Stakes – was bred in Iowa by J K Farm. He was purchased by Roger Anderson for $1,400 as a yearling at the 2012 Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association Fall Mixed Sale before going to trainer Doug Anderson. They took it easy with the gelding, who ran only once as a three-year-old and showed little promise on the track. “When looking to purchase a young catch horse, John usually looks for a bigger bodied running Quarter Horse or Appendix-bred that is looking to find a second career. But when we were told about Douglas, we went and looked at him and John said he’d be more than happy to give him a try,” said Knox. Due to their tendency to be harder keepers, Garges doesn’t often look at Thoroughbreds; he likes to give his mounts a few months off after the Oaklawn meet and prefers easier keepers. “There was just something about him that made him want to take a chance,” Knox said, 29

Thoroughbred Today

and Douglas has proven he can handle the turn- is always on a sugar high,” Garges said. He and out time. Knox can’t seem to help but smile while disHis connections only asked $500 for him, cussing the gelding. a price his current owners were “To make a true, honest happy to pay, and only a few catch horse, ex-racehorses are months after his single race, he really the only way to go,” they “Every horse was training to become a lead stated, adding that it applies to has its place and catch horse. Knox began both off-track Quarter Horses and can excel and Thoroughbreds. Each breed ponying on the gelding by August and said they knew then he offers their own attributes, but in different was going to be something ‘truly both will already be used to life aspects of life.” on the racetrack. “Your average special.’ Garges began outriding in riding horse really isn’t what you - John Garges, 2000 at Blue Ribbon Downs in need to be on for outriding.” Outrider Sallisaw, Oklahoma, and has Only a year after retirement ridden many horses – both good from racehorse life, Garges rode and bad. Out of all, he ranks Douglas on the busiest day of Douglas in the top five best catch horses he has the Oaklawn meet, a testament to his mount’s started and used for the job, due in large part to poise and composure. Alongside the large his eagerness to perform his job. crowd that came to see the track’s signature “Usually it takes about two years for a race, he watched American Pharoah soar home young catch horse to truly understand the job the undisputed winner in the Gr.1 Arkansas and be on alert. Douglas didn’t take that long Derby and then urged Douglas up to help slow to turn into the solid horse John likes to be on down the now-famous bay colt. at this track,” Knox explained. Oaklawn has “It just goes to show that every horse has a lot of traffic, which can be demanding and its place and can excel in different aspects of distracting, but offers an environment where life! Being able to say that I ponied the Triple catch horses can thrive. “We’ve tried to use him Crown and Grand Slam winner, it was truly an at Prairie Meadows, but with that track being honorable moment in my career as an outrider, much quieter it’s harder on him; he’s all about especially riding on an ex-racehorse!” action and is always on the go!” “Douglas is a very happy, full of life horse! He is always full of energy, a lot like a kid who

Always Dreaming and John Velazquez winning the Gr.1 Florida Derby Photo: Adam Coglianese

Thoroughbred Today May 2017  

Get to know 2017's three-year-old crop of Thoroughbreds through exclusive stories, profiles and photos.

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