Anatomy of a Grade 1 Win
Putting horses in the best places to succeed means so much more than circling a date on a calendar and then training them to peak at the right time. You need to be flexible, nimble, and not be afraid to make a decision to deviate from the plan. I just wanted to share some thoughts about all the things that went into getting Ring Weekend to the winner’s circle on Saturday after the Kilroe Mile.
After a number of very good works at Palm Meadows (a few in company with Main Sequence), we were very close to calling an audible and running in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) on February 7. Graham felt staying on course for the Canadian Turf (G3) on February 21 was the best plan, as Ring could work two more times before the race.
Partner Rob Masiello and I watched him work lights out in company with Champion Main Sequence on February 16 at Palm Meadows.
We got probables for the Canadian about 10 days before race, and knew there was a good chance it would attract a full field. The Kilroe was in the back of our minds, but we wanted to stay home for Ring’s first start of the year.
The Gulfstream overnight came out on Wednesday, February 18. Winning from the far outside post in a field of 14 is a tough assignment -- almost impossible.
We talked to Graham the next morning about the situation and felt him out on the trip out West. The horse was nominated to the Kilroe and Graham felt very comfortable going to Santa Anita, especially considering he could work Ring two more times before the Kilroe. On top of that, Graham is already set up in California, his longtime assistant Alice Clapham has a string out there.
I also talked to Vinnie and Teresa Viola of St. Elias Stable, they are team players and completely supported the decision to ship Ring Weekend out for the Kilroe, despite having plans to bring a large group of people to the races on Saturday at Gulfstream. It's great to partner with people who understand the need to be nimble when it comes to managing horses, especially top notch ones like Ring Weekend.
The next day I had dinner in Florida with Mike Lakow, an old friend and director of racing at Santa Anita. Almost immediately we had a good sense who the probables were for the Kilroe. It looked like a tough field on paper, but there were no horses who figured to be even money. The one to beat was Summer Front. He’s a very, very nice horse but he had not won since January of last year.
We waited until Saturday morning to scratch from the Canadian in case there were a bunch of scratches or the race came off the turf. Neither happened. We told the Partners to get ready to head to Santa Anita.
The horse shipped out on Tuesday, February 24 and worked the following weekend with 2014 Eclipse Award winning apprentice Drayden Van Dyke aboard.
Graham had a long chat with young rider last weekend about being more patient on his horses. Motion said he stressed to him:
You'll never get in trouble for being too patient with any of my horses, you need to wait and then wait a bit longer before you pull the trigger on a horse like Ring Weekend. When you pull the trigger you are going to get a response from this horse.”
Van Dyke rode the horse perfectly and the rest is history.Many of the Partners, including Rob Masiello, St. Elias Stable, and jockey Van Dyke got their first grade one win.
How sweet it is, how sweet it is.