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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Dirt Mile: Caleb's Posse


Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs


8 Caleb's Posse 15.60 7.00 4.80
2 Shackleford   6.40 4.80
4 Tres Borrachos     10.80
9 Trappe Shot      

$2 Exacta: $112.80
$2 Trifecta: $2,220.80
$2 Superfecta: $10,170.20

Time: 1:34.59

Winning Owner: McNeill Stables LLC & Cheyenne Stables LLC (Don McNeill & Everett Dobson
Winning Breeder: Don C. McNeill
Winning Trainer: Donnie K. Von Hemel
Winning Jockey: Rajiv Maragh

Equibase chart

Donnie Von Hemel (trainer, Caleb’s Posse, 1st) – “You could see coming down the stretch that he had dead aim on the leader. The last sixteenth of a mile, we just got to celebrate. I think we got enough pace in the race, and he was just rolling down the lane. I was hoping for 45 and change, so I think that was key. It’s the biggest (victory of my career), no doubt; a million dollar race on Breeders’ Cup day.

“If my chest could swell any bigger, it probably wouldn’t fit here. I’m so proud of him, he’s such a neat little horse, and he comes to run on those one-turn races, man.

“You guys will have to decide, but I think you can probably make a case for champion sprinter this year. I look at this one-turn mile as a sprint. He’s got three great wins this year sprinting, in my opinion. I’m going to put him out there as a possibility.”

Rajiv Maragh (jockey, Caleb’s Posse, 1st) – “The trip was perfect; just what we hoped for. And when it came time for him, he fired really big. We’ve had luck taking this horse back and making one late run with him, so you stick with what’s successful. To win a race of this magnitude is special, really special.”

Dale Romans (trainer, Shackleford, 2nd) – “It was just like the Derby; I thought we had it won. It was tough for speed horses today. I’m not going to make any excuses. Caleb’s Posse ran big, and we ran big. There was a lot of pace up front and quality horses running fast. I was proud of him. I thought he ran super. He’s had a great year. He’s going to get a break now. He couldn’t have done anything more for us all year.”

Jesus Castanon (jockey, Shackleford, 2nd) – “I had a good trip and was able to sit off the leader (The Factor). When he gets next to a horse, he will fight them. I thought he ran a winning race. We opened up, but the winner, he just blew past me.”

Marty Jones (trainer, Tres Borrachos, 3rd) – “I was proud of him. He ran his heart out. He lost a bit of ground. But not wanting to rush him, we figured that would be the case. I don’t know if it cost him a placing, but we’re proud of his effort.”

Joel Rosario (jockey, Tres Borrachos, 3rd) – “Hey, third is better than fourth. He ran a nice race. The pace set up nice for us and we had a great trip.”

Kiaran McLaughlin (trainer, Trappe Shot, 4th) – “(Jockey) John (Velazquez) said he was pretty keen and wanted to show more pace than we wanted him to. He broke well and he was closer than we wanted. He got checked a little bit going into the turn, but he just flattened out the last part. The winner was very impressive.”

John Velazquez (trainer, Trappe Shot, 4th) – “He had a good run. He got a little bit closer to the pace than I wanted to. He made a little move, and then kind of flattened out down the lane.”


THE MODERATOR:  Rajiv Maragh, the winning rider, is joining us on the platform.  Left to right we do have obviously Rajiv Maragh; trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel; and owner Everett Dobson of Cheyenne Stables, who owns Caleb's Posse in partnership with Don McNeill and McNeill Stables.  Congratulations to all three of you.  I'll start with you, Everett.  I know you're close friends with Don, who couldn't be here today, battling health problems, leukemia.  Were you able to speak yet to Don and discuss the win, the very impressive win, we just witnessed?

            EVERETT DOBSON:  Not yet.  Don's son Ryan was with me in the Winner's Circle, and we tried to make a connection but couldn't get through.  I'm sure we'll have a long conversation with evening.

            THE MODERATOR:  And Caleb's Posse is named after Don's son Caleb, I believe?

            EVERETT DOBSON:  Yes, and he was here.  He was in the Winner's Circle with us.

            THE MODERATOR:  It was said that Mr. McNeill had basically decided to get out of the business, maybe disburse his holdings but wanted to continue on with you to own at least one horse.  That proved to be a great decision.  Why this horse?

            EVERETT DOBSON:  Well, the short answer is this horse showed a lot of talent early on.  You know, he's not the most physically imposing horse, but he always had that attitude that looked like he had some athleticism.  Certainly, when he was raised on our farm in Lexington, and when we saw him growing up, he just like he had the it factor.  Sure enough, that's what dreams are made of.

            THE MODERATOR:  Training Caleb's Posse is Donnie K. Von Hemel, no stranger to the Winner's Circle.  You're the all time winner at Remington Park.  This is Breeders' Cup number one for you with just three starters.

            The decision was made dirt mile or sprint.  You obviously chose correctly.  How did you arrive at the decision?

            DONNIE K. VON HEMEL:  Well, it was through discussions with Mr. McNeill and Mr. Dobson.  We'd have a conference call about once a week.  Really, when we won the King's Bishop and we knew the Breeders' Cup was a possibility, the Dirt Mile was the race that I was in favor of the most, and to get there, the Indiana Derby was what we chose to get there.

            With that in mind, we still wanted to keep our options open on how the fields were going to shape up in both races.  It turned out both races, I thought, were probably pretty evenly dispersed as far as the runners and all.  So we chose to stay with our original plan and going the Dirt Mile.

            THE MODERATOR:  Donnie, not to take anything away at all from Caleb's Posse, but when he goes two turns in either the Indiana Derby or the Iowa Derby, he seems like he's spinning his wheels.  He comes up flat for whatever reason.  And around one turn, he seems virtually not unbeatable.  Have you run into a horse like that who's kind of a tweener, so close, yet so different depending on the way he's spotted?

            DONNIE K. VON HEMEL:  Yeah, I had a few along the way that were similar in that respect.  A horse for Mr. McNeill years ago named little performer.  He was a 7/8 to 1 mile, one turn horse.  It's fitting, I guess, that that's the horse that popped in my mind and wore these colors and won several races for us also.

            Yeah, he is a unique horse in that regard.  He's a one turn horse, and I'm so glad he can do that very well.

            THE MODERATOR:  Wearing those colors today is Rajiv Maragh, who's celebrating his first Breeders' Cup victory.  Two things, Rajiv.  Number one, we heard you on television basically lay out the trip for Jerry Bailey on TV, and it worked out almost exactly as it came out of your mouth.  I don't know how often races play out like that, but this one certainly did.

            Also, on the overhead camera, it really showed just how much ground Caleb's Posse made up from the 3/16 pole to the wire.  You won by four, but at the 3/16 pole, were you confident that you were going to reel him in like that?

            RAJIV MARAGH:  Well, I really didn't want to make the lead too early and make too much of a move.  He narrowed the lead earlier than I expected.  He accelerated really fast, and he just kept on going.

            THE MODERATOR:  And did the race indeed play out in reality just the way you envisioned it in your mind?

            RAJIV MARAGH:  Yes, that worked out really well.  I was hoping to be seven or eight lengths off the lead comfortably, and he put me everywhere I hoped I would be without having to do it out of his way.  So it all worked out well.

            THE MODERATOR:  Donnie, we know two things about Caleb's Posse.  We know he doesn't lose when he goes one turn, and he doesn't lose when Rajiv Maragh rides him.  Could you comment on Rajiv?

            DONNIE K. VON HEMEL:  He's one of the best riders in America, in my opinion.  I think he does a great job.  You can see him competing in New York with all those guys.  He holds his own.

            Like I said, I think he's one of the best riders in America.  He's competing with the best riders in Belmont and holding his own.  He's one of those guys who has a way with horses.  In Caleb's case, he really runs for him.

            THE MODERATOR:  Questions.


            Q.  You had Rajiv Maragh riding for the first time in August, and Rajiv is 3 for 3 on Caleb's Posse.  What were the circumstances that dictated you were asking him to ride the first time?

            DONNIE K. VON HEMEL:  The circumstances were we were coming to Saratoga, and his agent gave me a call, and, in fact, his agent and my father go way back.  So there's a connection there.  In fact, I think his agent rode some winners for my father along the way, a long time ago.

            And he called to ask if we were interested in riding Rajiv, and I said, yeah, let me call Don and Everett, and we'll chat about it a little bit.  I gave him a little push.  I thought he was a good choice.  And turned out to be a lot of fun along the way.

            THE MODERATOR:  Rajiv, could you comment on the influence Jerry Bailey has been on your career to date?

            RAJIV MARAGH:  Well, Jerry's always been very instrumental in helping me learn a lot of things a lot faster than I would be able to learn on my own.  He's ridden so many great races in his career and had so much success.  He helps me to mature as a rider a lot faster than if I had to do it on my own because a lot of times you go out there and you make mistakes and you have to learn from your mistakes.

            I think one of the biggest things with him, he kind of gets me before I make that mistake.  He tells me like from his experience.  So I don't have to go by the rough road.  So it makes me learn faster.


            Q.  Donnie, can you talk about, after beating Uncle Mo, coming out of the Indiana Derby where Caleb's Posse was third and what you were thinking there against Wilburn and Shackleford and how this horse moved forward.  You kept him at Keeneland most of October until you brought him over at the end of October for work on this track.

            DONNIE K. VON HEMEL:  Like I said, we chose the Indiana Derby.  Of course, it was a two‑turn race with some very nice horses in there.  I think it was more a way to get to the Breeders' Cup than ‑‑ I mean, you're disappointed when you get beat.  Of course, Rajiv couldn't come ride that day because he had previous commitments in New York.  But I think it was a way to get to the Breeders' Cup.  I don't think we were terribly surprised with the way he ran that day.  That's been pretty much the way he's run those races.

            But it was part of getting him here, and I had some horses at Keeneland, so the travel demands were very, very light on the horse from Chicago to Indiana to Keeneland and then on over it to here.

            It was just ‑‑ it was one of those deals where everything has to work great.  Horse did his work when we wanted him to.  Was in the feed tub every day, just like you cleaned it up and was happy to go do his job.

            It really is ‑‑ to win these kinds of races, everything has to be just spot on at the time.  I think my crew at the barn, they helped make that happen.


            Q.  The horse has had a really good season so far, and the Eclipse awards are really open for the 3‑year‑old championships.  Is that on your guys' minds at all, or was that just something ‑‑ an after effect that you guys may be thinking about?

            DONNIE K. VON HEMEL:  Well, he does have a couple of Grade 1 wins.  I think there's probably other people that decide that.  I think you can make a case that way.  I think you might be able to make a stronger case as champion sprinter.  So hopefully, there will be some people that feel the same way I do.


            Q.  Mr. Dobson, when did you buy into this horse?  And can you talk a little bit about your relationship with the Von Hemels going back through the years.

            EVERETT DOBSON:  Yeah, I bought into the horse at the beginning of his 3‑year‑old year, the start of this year.  It was kind of a gentle urging and nudging from Don to do it because it was a nice horse and he was raised in my farm in Lexington.  So I was thrilled when he told me I was in, and we didn't even have to negotiate the price.

            I've known the Von Hemels ‑‑ gosh, I don't know ‑‑ more than a dozen years, since probably the late '90s.  I guess I've had a horse with Donnie, at least one horse and many years several horses, for better than 12 years and have a lot of respect for how he trains and couldn't be more pleased with how he treats the horses and how he gets them ready.  It's the perfect example of what Donnie Von Hemel can do to the right horse.


            Q.  Jockey Rajiv was talking about the help he's getting from Jerry Bailey.  On a personal note, an upcoming jockey in Florida, Aparna Battula, speaks very highly of Rajiv, and she tells me that he's entitled to all the help he's getting from Jerry Bailey.  So therefore, he's a class act.  Thank you.

         THE MODERATOR:  Rajiv, I didn't catch the name of the jockey Tom was referring to.   

RAJIV MARAGH:  She's an apprentice.  Her name is Aparna Battula.  She's actually here for the race.  She came in this morning, and she came over for the race.  That's great she was able to witness such a good race.

            THE MODERATOR:  So would it be fair to say that Jerry Bailey is serving as a mentor to you, and you are serving as a mentor to Aparna?

            RAJIV MARAGH:  He's definitely giving back to the game what it needs for the jockeys.  He's a lot of help, and it's great to have his advice on a lot of different things as a jockey.

            THE MODERATOR:  A very nice story in so many ways, powerful win by a race horse, sentimental win for the owners.  Nice story with you, Rajiv in taking care of the generation behind you, just like somebody has done so for you.  When we leave today, certainly Caleb's Posse has thrown his name quite forcefully into Eclipse awards talk.  Congratulations to all of did you Rajiv Maragh, Donnie K. Von Hemel, and Everett Dobson.  Great win today by Caleb's Posse.

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