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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Trainer Talk Following Belmont Post Position Draw

6/4/2019

 

THE MODERATOR: Master Fencer was in training last week there, was in question of whether or not he was going to be able to run. How is he doing leading up to the race?

MITSUOKI NUMAMOTO - TRANSLATOR FOR TRAINER KOICHI TSUNODA: So after the Kentucky Derby, he's been doing well up to now so I'm really looking forward to seeing his racing at the Belmont Stakes.

THE MODERATOR: How do you feel about post No. 3.

MITSUOKI NUMAMOTO: Actually we prefer the get-go by the rail, so I'm so satisfied.

THE MODERATOR: Is Master Fencer doing well at Belmont and are you guys doing well at Belmont?

MITSUOKI NUMAMOTO: He's been doing great and he's so energized all the time.

THE MODERATOR: The Belmont Stakes, of course 12 furlongs, a quarter mile farther than the Derby. Are you hope the extra distance will be in his favor.

MITSUOKI NUMAMOTO: So a long race is better, and also he can fully utilize his ability with the 12 furlongs.

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to bring up four trainers, two of whom participated last year, and one of whom, see how long it takes before he says something provocative and that is Dale Romans, first, last and always. Dale Romans has Everfast. Everfast who finished second in the Preakness, has a very big price.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will be joining us once again. Todd, who has had enormous amount of success in the Belmont Stakes --

DALE ROMANS: Andy, before we get started --

THE MODERATOR: Yes, Dale. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt.

DALE ROMANS: I want to challenge you not to ask how our horses are doing and how are the posts.

I tell you right now: Our horses are doing great and I love Mark and Bill's post.

THE MODERATOR: It really doesn't matter what post you, right.

Sit as far away from Dale as you possibly can. I put you second so you had a choice.

DALE ROMANS: Todd made a feeble attempt at being mean last year. Didn't work well.

THE MODERATOR: I thought it was pretty good, actually.

Bill Mott, of course, who won the Derby with Country House and established as the morning line favorite. Pleased he came down from Saratoga to join us.

Mark Casse, represented by two horses, Sir Winston, but he has the Preakness winner, War of Will, who is the only horse who will be participating in all three Triple Crown races.

Thank you everybody for taking the time to come join us here, and since Dale has forbidden any questions about posts or your horses. Let's talk about the Kentucky Derby before we get on. You knew it was coming. You can't avoid it.

Bill, have you gotten over being embarrassed to have won the Kentucky Derby?

BILL MOTT: I'm getting used to it. I'm trying.

THE MODERATOR: The situation, I've heard, and some of us have heard each of you talk about the Derby. Is everybody comfortable, sort of, with the way it worked out in the Derby, the situation, now that everything has blown over, and anybody can feel free to take this. Which usually means you, Dale.

DALE ROMANS: I wasn't in it. But I think that it was handled properly. I think the stewards made the right call. I think there's rules that doesn't matter if you're the last race at accurate we duct on Wednesday or the Kentucky Derby.

You still have to go by the rules and you have a lot of people betting a lot of money. You have owners that have invested a lot of money, and the rules are you must keep a straight course and not impede another horse and that's the bottom line. Everyone has great empathy for everyone connected to the winner. No one wanted to see that agony of having to see the number take down.

But the rules are the rules.

THE MODERATOR: For you, Mark, because War of Will was so much involved in it, was going to the Preakness and winning, obviously it's exciting to win a race like that but was there also a sense of satisfaction of getting your horse to get a chance to show what he could do?

MARK CASSE: Yeah, I think the word is satisfaction. I think that's a good word. Revenge was mentioned. It wasn't about revenge. It was satisfaction. I think that's a good word.

I just wanted him to have a fair chance. That's all I wanted and I thought he got it, and he responded and did well with it.

There was no revenge.

THE MODERATOR: Heading towards the Belmont, were you always thinking that if things worked out, that War of Will was a horse that could compete in all three races?

MARK CASSE: He's an exceptional horse and he can handle a lot of things, and you know, for me, when we start the Derby, I'm hoping and planning on running in all three. We're fortunate. The Derby racetrack, with all the rain and everything, it was extremely hard on a lot of horses.

We were lucky -- believe me, on Sunday morning, a lot of people said to me, oh, are you disappointed. I was just happy he was still alive and that, you know, we didn't have the biggest catastrophe in horse racing history, so I was fine. I actually felt bad for Bill because I knew Bill was going to get a lot of trouble and have a lot of questions.

I felt terrible for Gary West. I still feel bad for him. I don't know that anybody truly knows how he feels. Here is a guy that's done this forever, and to think you've won the biggest race ever, and then have it taken away -- and I recently said and I mean it.

Next year, I want to win the Kentucky Derby, but if not, I'd like Gary West to win it. I just think he deserve to win it.

DALE ROMANS: I think only the late Peter Fuller knows how long he feels.

MARK CASSE: And that was a different scenario.

DALE ROMANS: Took him till the next day to realize he didn't win the Derby.

THE MODERATOR: Todd, do you feel you're happy in this Belmont to get a chance to run your horse on a fast track?

TODD PLETCHER: Yeah, with Spinoff, he actually got a really good trip, and he was not impacted by the incident at the quarter pull at all. He was already unfortunately backing up at that point.

But we shipped in late. We got there on Tuesday. Wednesday I thought he trained pretty well. Thursday, we had a sloppy track and it was like, I don't think he likes this.

I'm hoping that was the case, because the horse has trained to, me, consistently with some of the horses that we've run in the Belmont over the years that have performed well, and I'm hoping he catches a fast track and gets to prove how good he is or is not.

THE MODERATOR: In an 11-year span, you won three Belmonts and you were second three times, and a lot of times people will feel like you're running short-priced horses, but in these cases, I don't think any were short prices. You have a history of outrunning your odds in the Belmont.

TODD PLETCHER: We've been pretty fortunate to have horses that have run well, and we've taken a couple of nasty beats, too.

It's a race that we really cherish. It's home for us, and I think one of the advantages is most of our horses have trained five weeks at Belmont after the Derby, and in a rags to riches case, the oaks. It helps, and it's a race we really enjoy.

THE MODERATOR: Not much talk with Intrepid Heart after the Peter Pan whether his stumble at the start affected his final performance. Did you feel it was a contributing factor? Obviously didn't run badly but a bit of a disappointment as the favorites.

TODD PLETCHER: We were disappointed in the outcome of the race for sure because we felt going in he had a big chance to win.

One of the things Johnny and I talked about after his win at Keeneland was, still feel like the horse is very green. He's kind of clocking horses next to him. It's hard to make any equipment change off two wins, but you know, some will compromise his chances, a little bit of tactical position. But I don't think that's why he finished third. Flattened out a little bit. I really think this horse needs blinkers, he's so worried about what everybody else is doing instead of what he should be doing.

So he's had two good works with blinkers, and you kind of hate to make an equipment change in a mile-and-a-half race, but it seemed like in his works, he didn't get too aggressive. He was a little more focused, so I think we need to improve off the Peter Pan and that's why we decided to make the equipment change.

THE MODERATOR: Bill, a lot of people probably realize that Pharaoh won the Belmont and won the Breeders Cup Classic, and maybe some know A.P. Indy did it, but the only other horse to ever do it was Drosselmeyer, who won the Belmont and then the next year won the Breeders Cup Classic.

Do you see the Belmont important as a general race?

BILL MOTT: I think so. Any of the Triple Crown races are very important. You know, Belmont is sort of home for us now. It would be great to come back and do it again. I mean, it was exciting with Drosselmeyer. He was a bit of a price in the race that day, and it was a pretty good feeling to win it that day. I'd like to do it again if we could.

THE MODERATOR: And doing it with a horse that you trained --

BILL MOTT: Right, I really do enjoy training the families. Sometimes it's nice, you get in certain situations where you train the Dam and the Grand Dam, and occasionally, the Great Grand Dam, getting to this point.

But it does add a little something special and it's the -- Tacitus is the first foal out of Close Hatches. So it's nice to be around him and fun for that reason.

THE MODERATOR: He seemed to be one of the horses that did not get the best of trips in the Derby looking back on it. Do you wish you had -- obviously you ended up getting the win in the race but Tacitus maybe could have finished --

BILL MOTT: You know he had to alter course several times in the race. He never had to check. He never got stopped. Ate a lot of mud. Ate a lot of dirt. The track was like pea soup that day which was very disappointing.

You know, he was quite a ways back in the field and had to come through a lot of traffic. But you know, we offer no big excuses, other than, you know, he didn't -- it wasn't the cleanest trip, but you know, I can't give him a lot of excuses off of that. He was -- he was moving very well at the end of the race.

THE MODERATOR: I'll start with Dale, but I'm curious of everyone's position, the Belmont being a 12-furlong race, a mile and a half, it's an unusual race, other than the Brooklyn, running at 8:00 at the 13th race. Todd, you're in there, right? Do you feel that the mile-and-a-half distance is one of the reasons that you want to sort of take a shot at it because it's an unusual race and maybe it's an evening factor for long shots to have a better chance?

DALE ROMANS: It's obvious none of them have done it before and very few will do it again. So if you've got a horse -- and I've run in it several times, never won yet, been third a bunch. And I've changed the way I've brought them into it every time, and you just don't get a lot of opportunity to train to go a mile-and-a-half.

So this year, I followed Todd's pattern exactly.

THE MODERATOR: Anybody else want to weigh in on that, or not?

MARK CASSE: It's just a different race, you know. We used to always see, well, they are running at the end of the Kentucky Derby and they are going to love the Belmont. Doesn't work that way. I think speed is much tougher going a mile-and-a-half.

The key to it all I think is having a horse that will relax, because the course that's going to fight you early is going to be tired in the end. So that's the key. Nobody knows how they are going to do that until you actually run them.

DALE ROMANS: Woody Stephens always used to say there was a speed horse race, and misnomer would be a lot of horses run in the Derby and come back to the Belmont and by the time they get to April, they are all tired. It's just a grueling, tough race. I think it comes down to the horse's natural ability to get there, and you really don't know if they have it or not until you try them.

THE MODERATOR: Everfast improved dramatically in the Preakness. Is he a horse that can take another step forward?

DALE ROMANS: I think so. He's been an odd horse for me. He's like the little engine that could. He's never had a problem, never had a bad day, but thrown a couple really big races.

But I will say after the race on Derby Day, he started training a little more arrogant and acting a little more like a good horse. Even though he finished 5th, I thought it was a solid race for him. That's what made us take him to the Preakness. It just seems like his attitude changed, and it's continued coming into the Belmont.

THE MODERATOR: The Belmont Stakes is the end of the Triple Crown season and end of our first half of the season, does everybody start looking forward to Saratoga and the second half of the year when the Belmont is over?

TODD PLETCHER: The thing about this business is the day after the Belmont is over, you're on to something else, so it's the end of the Triple Crown series, but it's the beginning of the summer, and you know, the Travers isn't too far away, the Haskell is not too far away.

It's literally just moving on to the next step but it does seem like kind of the end of that five-week period, which I'm sure for a guy like Mark that's gone to all three events, there's a lot crammed into that.

MARK CASSE: Absolutely. It's grueling. I was thinking as soon as this is over, it's going to be a little peaceful for a little while. We don't get a lot of peace, so you have to defy peace, but five weeks of different cities and lots of questions, lots of interviews. Not complaining, because this is why we all do this. This is why we did this game, why we started it, and I know we're all proud to be here.

DALE ROMANS: Still have one question for Todd. How much did Dodge pay you for that national commercial?

TODD PLETCHER: Can't tell you.

DALE ROMANS: That was pretty impressive, I was laying in bed watching it. I want Dodge to know, I am cheaper. (Laughter)

THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, guys. We appreciate you joining us.

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