The Dutrow Projects
Add Patrick Reynolds to an ever-growing list. Reynolds, the original trainer of Big Brown, stands on the sidelines as Rick Dutrow prepares the would-be champion for a historic run at the Belmont Stakes. You may recall a similar fate a year ago for Helen Pitts, who trained the Preakness champion Curlin to open his career before a private sale sent the would-be stable star packing.
But this column is not going where you think it is.
No, we're not here to lament the losses of Pitts and Reynolds and play the "what if" card from racing's sob-story deck. In fact, the ever-growing list that Reynolds has joined isn't about Triple Crown race winners who changed addresses, but rather trainers who have seen their one-time stable reps blossom in the shedrow of Rick Dutrow.
To say that Dutrow's most important career successes have been complete resurrection projects would be a stretch in most cases. Many of the newcomers had shown promise, and slick-moving owners with vast checkbooks swooped in at opportune times. But there's absolutely no disputing that Big Brown's trainer has been down this road before, picking up a live horse and taking him or her to astronomical levels.
Movin' On Up
Dutrow has trained a total of nine Grade 1 stakes winners in his career, with Big Brown the latest and Carson Hollow's 2002 victory in the Prioress at Belmont the first. Of those nine Grade 1 winners, an astounding eight of them began their careers with other trainers. Only Carson Hollow developed into a Grade 1 winner exclusively under Dutrow's tutelage.
Sis City, winner of the 2005 Ashland, was claimed from the Steve Asmussen barn at Saratoga in her third lifetime start. Outside of Carson Hollow and Sis City, the other seven Dutrow ascendants to Grade 1 glory came via private purchase or trainer change. The list includes the likes of Big Brown and 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, who was just 2-for-8 for trainer Tony Reinstedler prior to moving day. Also toss in a few eventual Breeders' Cup champions, Kip Deville (Mike Neatherlin) and Silver Train (George Mikhalides), who had 14 combined lifetime starts and no graded stakes wins before Dutrow's touch.
A detailed look at all the Grade 1 winners for Dutrow is included at the bottom of this column.
Who Are These Guys?
The Dutrow projects almost universally seem to do it without pedigree. Big Brown hails from an un-ballyhooed family led by sire Boundary, whose 11 seasons prior to being pensioned in 2005 were topped by sprinter Pomeroy. Boundary was exclusively a sprinter, and Big Brown's successes at 1-1/4 miles and 1-3/16 miles certainly aren't attributable to his gene pool.
Meanwhile, Dutrow's BC Mile winner Kip Deville, an Oklahoma-bred, is by little-known stallion Kipling. Sis City was by Slew City Slew, whose breeding portfolio pretty much begins and ends with Lava Man.
And here's a five-spot if you can name the sire of G1 DeFrancis Dash and G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Benny the Bull. Stop it: you didn't get Lucky Lionel. Who? Exactly.
Others from the Pick-Up Game
Below the cusp of the Grade 1 winners, Dutrow also has enjoyed graded-stakes success with a host of other pick-ups. Take, for instance, Offlee Wild, winner of the G2 Massachusetts Handicap and a one-time member of the barn of respected Midwestern old-timer T.V. Smith.
Then there's his elite sprint mare Oprah Winney, G2 winner of the Barbara Fritchie Handicap and an original cast member with the Anthony Ferraro barn at Calder. Want more? Graded-stakes winner Thunder Blitz re-found glory in his final two starts after moving from Joe Orseno and Bobby Frankel to Dutrow's shedrow, going out a graded stakes winner in his final career start after seemingly falling off form.
Day One Dandies
To his credit, Dutrow has crafted the entire career of G2 Meadowlands Cup and G2 Godolphin Mile winner Diamond Stripes, as well as G2 Pennsylvania Derby winner Love of Money. Those victories, paired with the graded-stakes successes of Carson Hollow, mark the top-rung victories achieved by horses Dutrow has trained from day one of their racing careers.
Explaining The Phenomenon
The Dutrow family long has been in the horse buying and selling business. It's the mentality taught by Dickie Dutrow to his sons, Rick and Tony. Dickie Dutrow was a dominant trainer in the mid-Atlantic who moved stock in and out of the barn in great numbers. He won what was then a North American record 352 races in 1975.
Rick Dutrow himself made his first impressions in the game through the claiming box; so he cut his teeth as a horseman with new acquisitions on a regular basis. It's also well-known that most of Dutrow's owners through the years have been players in the buy-and-sell game, not those with split-railed breeding farms or front-row seats at the yearling sales. The stock a trainer gets is directly in relation to the kind of owners he or she may have.
The two explanations above answer the question as to why Dutrow has come to train these types of horses in his barn. But they do not explain how he so often has moved his runners from the ranks of decent or promising to superstar. That's a pandora's box with more questions than answers.
Skeptics will cite Dutrow's past run-ins with medication infractions, and/or his recent, open admission that he gives his horses the steroid Winstrol on a monthly basis, not for any other reason, he says, than it's legal to do so.
Whether or not you believe Rick Dutrow develops these new horses to his barn through superior horsemanship or better medicine, or a combination of both, it's impossible to overlook the fact that every Grade 1 winner he's had since Carson Hollow in 2002 had started his or her career in another barn.
Dutrow's Career Grade 1 Winners
Benny The Bull
Former trainer: Jeff Talley
Status when he arrived in barn: 4-8 lifetime; won $125,000 Prairie Meadows Sprint with 108 Beyer and 111 Beyer in previous allowance win; never tried graded stakes yet. Picked up in July of 4-year-old year.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2007 DeFrancis Dash, 2008 Golden Shaheen
Current status: active.
Former trainer: Patrick Reynolds
Status when he arrived in barn: 1-1 lifetime; won Saratoga maiden special weight race on the turf by 11-1/4 lengths with 90 Beyer.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2008 Florida Derby, 2008 Kentucky Derby, 2008 Preakness
Current status: active.
Former trainer: none.
Status when she arrived in barn: with Dutrow throughout, winning first four starts en route to 10: 6-3-0 career. Also a G2, G3 winner.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2002 Prioress, the first Grade 1 win of the trainer's career.
Current status: died due to complications from colic surgery after her racing career had ended.
Former trainer: Michael Neatherlin
Status when he arrived in barn: 4-8 lifetime, including 2 listed stakes in Texas. 9th, beaten 15-1/2 lengths by Lawyer Ron in G3 Rebel, only graded try. Picked up in June of 3-year-old year.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2007 Kilroe Mile, 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile, 2008 Maker's Mark Mile.
Current status: active.
Former trainer: Tony Reinstedler
Status when he arrived in barn: 2-8 lifetime with 0-3 mark in stakes races, registering 100 Beyer, career-best, in Churchill allowance win. Beaten 27 lengths in 2 career graded stakes tries. Picked up in August of 3-year-old year.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2005 Donn, 2005 Stephen Foster, 2005 Woodward, 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic.
Current status: After entering stud at Lane's End, he died in 2006 after slipping and falling, suffering an untreatable leg fracture. He had 115 mares in foal prior to his passing.
Former trainer: Steve Asmussen
Status when she arrived in barn: 0-2 prior to $50,000 claiming race win in which Dutrow claimed her. Picked up in August of her 2-year-old season.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2005 Ashland.
Current status: broodmare for Stonerside Farm; first foal arrived 4/24/08, a colt by Distorted Humor.
Former trainer: George Mikhalides
Status when he arrived in barn: 1-6 lifetime, finishing 4th by 13-1/2 lengths in only career stakes try in Champagne at age two, never topping 85 Beyer. Picked up in May of 3-year-old season.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2005 Breeders' Cup Sprint, 2006 Met Mile.
Current status: retired, entered stud in 2007 at Vinery.
Former trainer: Ralph Ziadie
Status when he arrived in barn: 3-14 and winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful as age 2. Lost last 10 stakes tries prior to Dutrow move. Picked up in November of 4-year-old year. (Also bounced back to Ziadie for two unsuccessful Florida starts during winter of '05-'06.)
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2007 Carter.
Current status: retired, entered stud in 2008 at Hurricane Hall.
Wonder Lady Anne L.
Former trainer: Tim Ritvo
Status when he arrived in barn: 1-3 lifetime, exiting a third-start maiden breaker at Calder by 9 lengths. Picked up in June of her 2-year-old season.
Grade 1 wins with Dutrow: 2006 Coaching Club of America Oaks
Current status: retired in early 2007 to catch that spring's breeding season and delivered a Giant's Causeway foal this year.
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