Reaching for Roses: The Beginning of the Journey

December 28, 2011

Back Again

Well to say that it’s been awhile since my last post would be an understatement. After posting consistently for the past year and a half, I haven’t posted in more than three months. So before we start 2012, I wanted to update everyone on what’s been going on in my life.

Let’s start with Skype. Most of you know that Skype was purchased at the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $7,000. You might not know that she was purchased by connections from Puerto Rico and has been sent there to begin training. It’s not the best thing in the world and I would have much rather her gone to anAmerican outfit, but that’s the way it goes in a public auction. I can only control her reserve, but not who purchases her once the price goes beyond it. It took awhile for me to “make peace” with the situation, but I’m fine with it now. Hopefully she’ll be a big fish in a fairly small pond and can get herself some black type.

Puerto Rico’s racing falls under the jurisdiction of the Jockey Club so I’ll be able to follow her races. She has been named Score Classy by her new owners and has begun some light training. I found a man on Facebook who works with her in Puerto Rico and he sent me this picture of her. Technology is pretty cool, huh?

Now moving on to Faith…

I went to see Faith last week and she’s doing really well. She’s gotten big since I saw her last and has a striking resemblance to her older sister. I guess Sky really “stamps her foals.”

After taking a look at Faith, I went to the other side of the farm to see her mom, Sky. Sky is currently in foal to Stevie Wonderboy and is due to drop around the beginning of April. Stevie Wonderboy has had a pretty decent year as a freshman sire. He’s had a handful of winners and a couple of stakes winners with a crop smaller than many of the other sires at the top of the freshman list. Hopefully he will have continued success as his first crop of 2-year-olds turn three and begin running longer distances.

One more update on my animals…I added another chestnut filly to my life a couple of weeks ago. She’s just a tad smaller than the first two (and previously three) that I have in my life.

Her name is Lilly and she is a six-month-old dachshund. My girlfriend Amanda and I rescued her from an animal shelter in Louisville. She loves dogs and finally convinced me to get a pet that I wouldn’t ever have to sell haha. If you ask me why she is named Lilly, I would tell you that she is named after the flowers given to the winner of the Kentucky Oaks (yes, I know the flower is spelled lily). My girlfriend would tell you that she is named after Lilly Pulitzer, the designer. Oh well…it was a name we could both agree upon. She turned down Sara (for Saratoga), which I didn’t think was too bad. I didn’t even suggest Personal Ensign…didn’t think that would go over too well.

Moving on to my work at Churchill Downs…

I made it through the Fall Meet and it was a ton of fun. It really flew by, though, because it was non-stop action from start to finish. We began the meet with Stars of Tomorrow I and the Breeders’ Cup and ended things with a Thanksgiving weekend packed with stakes action. Hopefully some of you were able to read the Barn Notes I wrote at ChurchillDowns.com. If not, look for them in the Spring. My meet highlights included Royal Delta’s win in the Ladies’ Classic, St Nicholas Abbey’s dominating performance in the Turf and Gemologist’s win in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

I took last week and this week off for the holidays and start back after the New Year. I’m told that the craziness preparing for the Derby will begin as soon as I step in the office. I probably don’t have any idea what’s in store for me and maybe that’s a good thing. It’ll be a lot of early mornings and late nights, but it’ll be all worth it on May 5.

I apologize for not posting in a while and I promise to keep this blog more updated throughout 2012. Thanks for reading and have a fantastic New Year.

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April 12, 2011

Sky, Keeneland, and the 2YO Sale

Sky Bred Last Thursday

Sky was scheduled to be bred last Monday on April 4th; however, I was informed by my veterinarian the night before that she would not be ready. So I woke up extra early the next day and called Airdrie to cancel Sky’s appointment. I rescheduled for Thursday afternoon and was told on Wednesday that she would be ready to go.

After my morning classes on Thursday, I headed out to Airdrie to be there for the 2 o’clock breeding. At about 1:50 I got a call that the van with Sky was running a little late. Sky is incredibly protective of her foals, which is usually a good thing until you try to get her on a van and leave Faith behind. Needless to say, Sky was not the easiest horse in the world to load and so the van ran a little behind schedule. While I waited on the van to arrive, I took a couple of pictures with my phone. One of Stevie Wonderboy and one of the big man on campus at Airdrie, Indian Charlie.

The van made it to Airdrie around 2:15 and Sky was bred just a few minutes after that. Stevie was a professional and everything went smoothly. Sky then got back on the trailer without a problem and headed back to her home at The Croft, where she was happily reunited with Faith.

On Friday, I received word that Sky ovulated after the breeding. Now the waiting  begins. Sky will be checked 15 days post-cover for pregnancy. I should know if she is in foal by Easter weekend. Everyone keep their fingers crossed!

My Final College Scholarship Day

Last Friday was my last college scholarship day at Keeneland. College scholarship days are held once every meet and I attended all eight that were held during my time at UK. Unfortunately, while I went 8 for 8 in attendance, I went 0 for 8 in winning a scholarship. Although I didn’t win a scholarship, I still had a great time as always. I began my final college scholarship day by handing out flyers for TVG’s “The Late Double” show that will be filmed at Keeneland this Friday. Some people hate handing out flyers, but I had fun with it and distributed about 1,000 flyers in three hours.

After I finished working for TVG, I teamed up with the Keeneland “notes team” to get quotes from the connections after the Transylvania Stakes. My job was to interview the jockey of the 2nd place finisher, which happened to be Julien Leparoux. I always interview the connections of the losers, while Mike Battaglia interviews the winning connections. I actually joked with Julien the day before that he should hope that he doesn’t have to talk to me much this meet. It was very funny that my first interview of the meet was with Julien. He was not thrilled to see me, but he laughed it off.

Keeneland’s April 2YO in Training Sale

This afternoon I decided to head out to Keeneland for the April 2YO in training sale. I always enjoy the excitement of Thoroughbred auctions and I was also curious to take a look at the lone horse by Stevie Wonderboy in the sale, hip #48. The dark bay or brown filly out of Quanah County was consigned by Kirkwood Stables, agent, and sold for $70,000 to Side Management Ltd. Hopefully she turns out to be a nice runner and I wish all of her new connections the best of luck with her.

I stuck around for another couple of hours after the Stevie Wonderboy filly sold and wandered around the sales pavilion. It was a lot of fun to simply enjoy the excitement of the sale. I also got to speak with some of my friends in the industry that I do not get to see very often. After socializing a bit, I went to the dining area to eat a chicken salad sandwich from Turf Catering. I decided after eating the sandwich in about five minutes that Turf Catering will be catering my wedding. To my future wife: this is non-negotiable.

While trying to decide if I could eat another whole sandwich, I noticed trainer Mike Stidham sitting a few tables away. I needed to get some information from him about Willcox Inn for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes post position draw on Wednesday, and so I approached him. Mr. Stidham was one of the trainers that I wrote a short biography on for the Breeders’ Cup website and so we had spoken many times before. I got the information that I needed and then we began talking about other things. He was curious about how I got involved in horse racing, how crazy my parents are for naming me after a horse race, and what I wanted to do with my life. We even talked about the future of horse racing, breeder awards programs, and race day medications.

He probably had a lot more important things to attend to; however, he took some time to talk with me and I really appreciate it. I have had to talk to a lot of people in the Thoroughbred business over the last two years through working on the Breeders’ Cup Bio Book team and the Keeneland notes team. Very few, if any, have been as enjoyable to talk to as Mike Stidham. He’s never treated me with anything but great respect and kindness and has always made time to answer all of my questions. Cheers to you, Mike Stidham.

 

March 19, 2011

A Closer Look at Stevie Wonderboy. Part 2

A couple of days ago I gave some detailed information about the pedigree of Stevie Wonderboy. Today, I’ll take a look at his short, yet very successful racing career.

Stevie Wonderboy, who was bred by John Gunther, Tony Holmes, and Walter Zent, was born on March 27, 2003 in Kentucky. After failing to meet his reserve at the 2004 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Stevie Wonderboy would be sold for $100,000 at the 2005 Fasig-Tipton Calder selected two-year-olds in training sale.

Trained by Doug O’Neill and racing under the colors of Merv Griffin, Stevie Wonderboy made his career debut in a Maiden Special Weight at Hollywood Park on June 18, 2005. He steadied at the half-mile pole and ran hard to secure a second place finish to eventual multiple graded-stakes winner, What a Song. It would be the first of two times Stevie Wonderboy would be beaten by What a Song.

Stevie Wonderboy flashed enough talent in his debut that Doug O’Neill confidently entered him into the G3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship S. for his second start. He was a bit slow into stride, but ran well at the end to finish third behind What a Song and Bashert at odds of 4.20 to 1.

After running a decent third in a G3, Stevie Wonderboy was given a class break and entered into a Maiden Special Weight at Del Mar on August 6, 2005. He stalked the pace, took the lead nearing the stretch, and never looked back; cruising to a four-length victory as the 2/5 favorite.

Coming off a convincing victory in his last start, Stevie Wonderboy was favored in his next race: the G2 Del Mar Futurity. He did not disappoint and galloped home to a five-length victory for his first graded-stakes win. The race would serve as his final prep for the G1 Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Stevie Wonderboy broke from post 12 and had lots of trouble in the BC Juvenile. The Equibase chart of the race notes that he “checked at the start, clipped heels and stumbled along the backstretch, and raced far back for a half.” Once he settled down a bit, he quickly got back into the race and circled four wide entering the stretch. Stevie Wonderboy then finished very strong and the chart says he “charged to the front inside the sixteenth pole, then edged clear through the final fifty yards.” It was the biggest victory of Stevie Wonderboy’s career as he defeated a tough field that included Henny Hughes, First Samurai, and Brother Derek. The win gave Stevie Wonderboy a Grade 1 victory and secured his 2005 juvenile championship. Stevie Wonderboy’s exciting win in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (along with a post-race interview with the connections) may be viewed in the video below.

Following his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Stevie Wonderboy was given the rest of 2005 off. He returned to racing on January 14, 2006 in the G2 San Rafael S. at Santa Anita. He ran a decent race, but was unable to catch Brother Derek and finished second as the 3/5 favorite. The San Rafael would be Stevie Wonderboy’s final start.

Unfortunately, Stevie Wonderboy suffered an injury to his right front ankle while training in February of 2006. He was able to eventually return to training after several months off; however, he was soon put back on the shelf with a chip in the same ankle. The connections were hopeful that he would someday return to racing, but he would never make it back to the track and was retired in June of 2007.

Stevie Wonderboy finished with a record of 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third from 6 starts and career earnings of $1,058,940. I’m sure many were very disappointed that the juvenile champion was only able to make one more career start; however, Stevie Wonderboy retired as a champion, G1-winning millionaire. I’ll take a barn full of those!

November 8, 2010

Breeders’ Cup Wrap-Up and Some Pictures

I had an amazing time at the Breeders’ Cup this past weekend. It was definitely tough to see the big girl lose in the Classic; however, I’m happy that I got to see Zenyatta run in person, Goldikova win her third Breeders’ Cup Mile, and watch two days of non-stop, top quality racing. As an added bonus, my family lives in Louisville and I really enjoyed staying at my parents’ house for a couple of days. Since going away to college a few years ago, I haven’t gotten to see my parents as much as I would like and so it was great to spend some time at home.

To remind everyone, I worked as a spotter for ESPN on Friday and Saturday. Thanks to ESPN, I had the opportunity to follow, or spot, several of the best trainers in the industry over the weekend; including, Todd Pletcher, Roger Attfield, Jonathon Sheppard, Richard Dutrow, and Jean-Claude Rouget.

Working for ESPN over the weekend meant that I had an all-access pass throughout Churchill Downs. I was in the paddock before every Breeders’ Cup race and watched many of the races from the rail or the horsemen’s viewing area in the clubhouse. Having a “go anywhere I please” pass also helped me get some great pictures of the event. Here are a few of my favorites.

A friend of mine also took a couple of shots of me while working:

Hope that everyone else had a fantastic Breeders’ Cup weekend. I know it will be one that I’ll never forget.

November 4, 2010

Breeders’ Cup Bound

Tonight I will be traveling back home to Louisville for the Breeders’ Cup this weekend. I was lucky enough to obtain a job as a “spotter” with ESPN for the weekend. I “spotted” for NBC for the 2010 Kentucky Derby and I’m very fortunate to have the same job for the Breeders’ Cup. The job of a spotter is quite simple. Each spotter is given one person, or a group of people, to follow (usually “big name” trainers and owners). During the broadcast, the producer may want to get a shot of a particular owner and trainer and will radio the spotter to discover their location.

For the Derby, my assignment was Todd Pletcher and it was so exciting when Super Saver won. I will not find out my particular assignments for the Breeders’ Cup until tomorrow, but I’m hoping my assignment(s) wins a few races. Perhaps I could prove to be a good luck charm. Hey, whatever will land me a job come graduation :-).

I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures this weekend and post them on the blog. Stay tuned for that. Until then, everyone have a great Breeders’ Cup weekend!

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