Foresight yields glory for Drosselmeyer
ELMONT, N.Y. -- They say hindsight is 20-20. Perhaps that's why postrace news conferences are such happy affairs, because all past decisions seem perfect when viewed in the light of a recent victory.
For WinStar Farm, the best decision was not to press Drosselmeyer toward graded earnings in an attempt to make the Kentucky Derby field. Coming off seven weeks of rest and a runner-up finish in the May 8 Dwyer Stakes here in New York instead, the son of Distorted Humor gave his owners their second Triple Crown Classic score this season in the Belmont Stakes after their runner Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby.
"We always believed in him so much," WinStar president and CEO Doug Cauthen said, grinning out from behind a microphone in the film room in the Belmont Park basement. "We did think this was the day that he would either put up or we'd have to quit making excuses for him. And he really put up, you know, he ran a super race. And it's pretty satisfying to see it happen."
For Bill Mott, the best decision was to put bar shoes on his runner's feet as a form of protection from the sandy surface at Belmont Park. The additional support likely prevented an issue from developing that could have prevented the victory Saturday. There's a reason he's a Hall of Fame trainer, no doubt.
"It's a great feeling, you know," Mott said of his first Classic victory, a smile never leaving his face. "And it's nice to be able to train good horses for good people that give you the opportunity to do this. I think it was just a matter of time with some of the good horses that I do get the opportunity to train, that it was going to happen. There's going to be some very fine memories about this day, no doubt."
For Mike Smith, the best decision came in the form of simple research, the time taken to look up past performances of a horse he'd never ridden. In the form of a nice clear trip similar to the colt's maiden win -- and a smooth rhythm obtained between horse and rider -- pure magic happened. It all came together.
"Billy said, 'I want you to think clear,'" said Smith, who now owns victories in the Kentucky Derby (2005, Giacomo), Preakness (1999, Prairie Bayou), and Belmont. "[He said], 'Remember if you're there at the quarter pole, you're there at the wire in the Belmont.' That's what we did and it worked out. Me and Billy come full circle; I've been riding so many years and to come to New York with him and finally win this race together, it's great."
Drosselmeyer, sent off at odds of 13-1, had never finished worse than fourth in eight lifetime starts. Still, he only owned that maiden score and an allowance victory. It took faith, guts and a little gambling to point him at this race. It took a decision that turned out to be the right one.
"Initially we talked about wheeling him back in the Arkansas Derby or the Blue Grass," Mott said. "It actually was [racing manager] Elliott Walden's idea; he said, 'What about the Dwyer and waiting for the Belmont?' I got a little nervous, I guess, when we ran in the Dwyer and it looked like the horse needed some [more] racing. He had been doing so well during the month of April and he could have run back in one of those other races, but as it worked out today, it's fine."
With a first Belmont winner for all the connections safe in the barn, it looks like everything worked out for the best. And that gives hope for the rest of the season, with more than one exciting race to come and two talented 3-year-old contenders in Drosselmeyer and Super Saver.
"It's been so gratifying today to have the opportunity with this horse to finally get to run the kind of race he's capable of," Walden said. "The rest of this year will play out the way it's supposed to. We won't try to manipulate anyway. We'll see what happens."
If the events of this Triple Crown season are worth judging by, it looks like the right decisions will come to them.
Claire Novak is an award-winning journalist whose coverage of the Thoroughbred industry appears in a variety of outlets, including The Blood-Horse magazine, the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) and NTRA.com. She lives in Lexington, Ky.
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• Duckworth: Departing up for challenge
• Ehalt: Seeking redemption
• Moran: Triple Crown should not be easy
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• West: Tradition steals Derby spotlight
• West: Calumet back in Derby spotlight
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• Novak: Victory starts on the backside