Hurray for California Chrome! Congrats to the owners! They definitely had the recipe for success — oh yeah, even cookies. I’d love to have that recipe for horse cookies — they worked. But what really works for thoroughbreds is the hope and dreams of the owners. Horses are wonderful animals who are so intuitive. They know if they are loved and to show their love for their owners and trainers, they perform at their best.
We have a number of thoroughbreds and of course my favorite, Tonight at Eleven has proven my claim that there is a recipe for success. I always felt that Tonight at Eleven was special. Well, at least he has always been special to me. I believe he understands my love for him and although he shows mistrust toward others, he is always gentle with me. I believed in him, unlike our first trainer, who was somewhat apprehensive of him and his ability. We got lucky and changed trainers and now Drew Fulmer is our trainer.
I remember when we were going to change trainers. I read everything I could find about selecting a trainer and one article suggested having the horse interview the trainer. Well, that just wasn’t realistic. Some of the racing people already think I am a little nutty so asking for such an interview would have seemed absurd. When we first met Drew Fulmer, I was unsure if he was the right person for us. I thought he was arrogant and I just wasn’t sure if he would be easy to work with. I remember asking him if he would be afraid of Tonight at Eleven and he just laughed at me. I am not sure just what my reaction was, but it wasn’t that positive.
We decided to go with Drew and shortly thereafter I visited Tonight at Eleven at the barn. I immediately saw that he was really at ease and happy. I watched the interaction between Tonight at Eleven and our new trainer Drew and saw a genuine bond. We were lucky, we made the right connection. Over time, I have come to appreciate Drew’s ability as a trainer and know that my horses will always perform at their best for him. They may not always win and they may not be the best horses in the race, but they are always prepared and happy in their role as race horses.
Owners need to believe in their horses. Horses that are treated like winners can become winner, or will at least give their all.
The racing business is a difficult one at best. There are so many variables that can’t be controlled.
Riders can help or hinder. Good riders know how important it is to relate to their mounts. Horses can feel fear from uncomfortable riders and feel confidence from the riders who are comfortable with them. Trainers offer advice to the jockeys and hopefully they are on the same page before the race.
Of course being lucky has a lot to do with the game as well. There is the selection of the post position, which can change the racing plan. Track condition can make a difference as well. Some horses do well on dirt, others like the artificial surfaces and of course some are turf horses. Positioning during the race is essential. Some horses and jockeys do well on the rail, while others like to see the light of day from the outside. Some horses like California Chrome are front runners, while others prefer the challenge of coming from behind.
But being lucky and having a good ride is just part of the equation. Being prepared is the most important factor to me. Having a fit healthy horse is essential. I am happy to say that since Drew Fulmer has become our trainer, I feel confident that the horses are always at their best. Drew makes an effort of constantly evaluating the health and well being of the horses. Any health concerns are immediately and professionally resolved by him.
The day of the race is also important. I try to make a point of not going to the barn before a race. If I am going to visit, it will be a day or two before the race. The barn area is busy on race day and the trainer and grooms don’t need the interference of the owners. Furthermore, the horse is being prepared for the race and doesn’t need the distraction of an owner’s gaze or apprehension. As I said, horses are very intuitive and easily distracted. Just like any athlete, they need to concentrate on their task at hand to be mentally fit for the coming event.
I read that the owners of California Chrome were anxious to see their horse when they arrived in Kentucky, but realized that the horse expected them a day before the race with “cookies” and not before. It had been their routine and so they waited to see the horse. This is good horsemanship in my opinion. It is important to understand horses and realize that they are creatures of habit. Breaking from their routine, can be disastrous.
Our horses have just moved to Sunray Park in Farmington, NM. I can only hope that they will all enjoy the change of scenery, and I am sure they will enjoy the cooler air. Today is the last day of racing at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, AZ. That’s our home base. It is a great place for us to race, but now just too hot — today’s prediction is 100 degrees!
I hope you will follow our progress at Sunray Park. Anyway, if you find the recipe for California Chrome’s cookies, be sure to send it to me.