Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile
Saturday, November 2, 2019
- Robert P. Donaldson
- Irad Ortiz
- Juan Carlos Guerrero
THE MODERATOR: We’re thrilled to welcome in the winning connections of the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. The winner was Spun to Run. And we’re joined now by winning jockey Irad Ortiz and winning trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero and Robert Donaldson and the family.
Irad, I know you’re short on time. Could you tell us, you must have been amazed to be out there on your own. Tell us your thoughts down the backside.
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IRAD ORTIZ: To be honest, Juan Carlos told me, listen, run a great break and he’s ready. Just learn from him in the first and you can slow down a little bit on the backside.
I came out aggressive. I was too aggressive, to be honest. I go into the first turn trying to slow it down, but he didn’t want to come back. I probably sent it too much; now I’m trying to slow it down.
I don’t know how the time was, but I feel like I was going a little fast. And I keep fighting with him, but he don’t want to come back. Just let him be there. I can hold him no more; I just tried to relax and let him be. That was his pace. And he just keep going.
THE MODERATOR: When you have that choice, I think it’s really interesting, you have the choice of either letting him run as he would like, even though you know you’re going a little bit too fast, or trying to wrangle him, even though you’re going to fight him and he might not like that and respond well to it. How do you decide? How do you walk that fine line?
IRAD ORTIZ: I didn’t experience, the little experience before with horses like that. I don’t really — most of the horses you keep fighting with them and they don’t give you anything. So let me just leave it here and if I have something in the end, I am happy whatever he bring me, whatever he give me in the end.
So I can do anything, probably bring me to the quarter pole. So it worked out good because he just keep going, never slowed down. The middle of the second turn, he’s getting out a little bit, and I just can’t fight with him no more. I mean, I can’t fight him. Let him take the three, four, five, and we just keep going and going.
I have to say thanks to Carlos and the owner for letting me ride him, and the team of Carlos, (indiscernible). They do a great job on the training because he was ready today. I think today wasn’t riding — I was just a passenger, to be honest.
THE MODERATOR: Carlos, your first Grade 1 win, your first Breeders’ Cup win with the horse that gave you first Grader of 6 win, correct?
JUAN CARLOS GUERRERO: Yes, sir.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to you. Quite an achievement. What was going through your mind during the race?
JUAN CARLOS GUERRERO: I was out there by myself, me and the groom, and I saw Irad warming up really good, and I said: Get him out of there and let him run.
My other rider, they rode him before, Paco Lopez told me he think he was a mile horse. And I asked him, Why is he a miler horse? He says because you can break running and finish running with him. And my gut feeling, I always tell the same thing, but this horse, he’s very fast and he can finish fast.
So you let him get out there a length or two or even like second, but just let him run, he will finish. As long as you don’t fight him and let him do his thing, he’ll just keep going. He could keep going another eighth of a mile and he didn’t have a problem with it.
THE MODERATOR: Bob, you bought this horse for $64,000; he’s now earned you more than one and a half million. Tell us about the ride you’ve been on this year.
ROBERT DONALDSON: It’s been a hell of a ride. Irad Ortiz and Carlos know I’m a hands-on kind of owner, but I don’t tell Carlos what to do. I enjoy the game. And I like to know what’s going on, and Carlos and I get along good, and Lisa, and getting along with the trainer has a lot to do with the success of a horse.
THE MODERATOR: How did you come to be connected? Why is Carlos your trainer?
ROBERT DONALDSON: How did I select him as my trainer? I knew that he was doing well at Parx. And I know that Carlos can read a horse and really can get inside their head, and his team is really such an added plus. Jose, Jose, his exercise rider, Eli, his groom, those guys, really, and with Carlos, brought us here.
THE MODERATOR: You are a lifelong racing fan. Talk about going to the races as a teenager and now owning a horse in the Breeders’ Cup and winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
ROBERT DONALDSON: It’s a dream come true. My wife and I used to jump the fence at Garden State when we were 14, after sports. We had a chance to catch the eighth and the ninth. So we’d have to get home after the ninth and we’d turn on the radio to hear who won.
THE MODERATOR: You all were dating at 14?
ROBERT DONALDSON: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: How long have you been together.
ROBERT DONALDSON: Since we were 14.
THE MODERATOR: Carlos, you were fairly confident coming in today, the last race at Parx produced a huge figure, but you were maybe a little overlooked. Talk about your confidence coming into the race and then having it validated today.
JUAN CARLOS GUERRERO: I thought we were going to win, since he won the Derby, he was doing phenomenal. He was training unbelievable. I was working this horse, and he was galloping on 112 and change, 42 a mile on the heavy track.
So I know the horse has a lot of talent. Unfortunately, all the riders in these races, the Derby, went too slow, and my horse got pretty much — he got choked. So I was really upset because I know what I have, and it didn’t happen.
I don’t really like to run horses off this side this often, but this horse, the more you give, the more he wants. After the race I was so upset that when I saw 100,000 mile going against older, I was like — I told Bob, I said, Bob, let’s go win this race so we can show these people what this horse can really do.
And I just pretty much — we put — Mychel Sanchez was a great rider. And I said, Mychel, let him run, please, just let him run. And then he ran the 100 in Beyers, which I was not surprised.
And then I wasn’t thinking about running (indiscernible), to be honest. I was like — you know, I was telling people we might give him a little break, he’s been running hard, blah, blah, blah. But my groom is going, he’s kicking the walls, he’s jumping. And then my assistant is like, man, he’s bouncing in the shed. And then I’m like, okay.
And then I see my owner, and he says, What is this? I heard you want to give him a little time off. I said, Well, he’s been running hard. He says, Well, I know you’re the trainer, but do me a favor, just tell me what you see every morning training-wise. And I said okay.
So when we start training and I start seeing him, he’s like, Boss, he’s training better than ever. Boss, he’s doing this. Boss, he’s doing that. And a week later he said, We’re going to the Breeders’ Cup.
And so I just make sure that the horse stay healthy and happy. But he just came out of that race like — for a horse that runs 100 Beyer and comes back that good, I was amazed. I was amazed he could do that again. But hopefully we give him a little break.
THE MODERATOR: You make it sound easy, but I know it’s never easy to make it to a Breeders’ Cup, and especially to win one. Can you tell us about your path to the Breeders’ Cup today and your career?
JUAN CARLOS GUERRERO: What do you mean like?
THE MODERATOR: Just some background on your entire career as a trainer and how this ranks today.
JUAN CARLOS GUERRERO: I came from — I’m originally — I was born in Mexico City. Came to the country when I was 14 years old. And originally I came to this country to go to school, but it didn’t work out. So I went to work at the track when I was 14, at the old Monmouth Garden State. And I worked horses, and I lied about my age and I was able to work on the track.
But I was a hard worker. I was a groom for a while. And I always wanted to gallop horses. People said I was a little too heavy, so I bought my own horse and I learned how to gallop my own horse.
Then I wanted to learn how to shoe horses, and nobody would let me, so I learned on my own horses. And then I learn and want to do their own feet. So I did their own feet too.
So I did everything with my horses. I like to know everything about my horse. It’s not like I’m the best, but we get it done. And I’ve been blessed. I’ve got a great wife, and my kids are unbelievable. They always — they’re always with me.
We’ve been through hard times before, and I just thank God has given this to me because me and my wife and my kids, few years ago we went through a very hard time, because we were winning a lot of races and people didn’t understand. So that brought me a lot of problems.
But thank God we fought. We came back. And Bob was great to getting me this horse. And I don’t know, the story about how I got this horse, but I don’t know if you want to hear it but —
THE MODERATOR: Please.
JUAN CARLOS GUERRERO: I actually went to the sales with Mono, my main owners, Ten Strike Stables, with Marshall Gramm, and we went to the sale. He wanted me to learn about the sales. And I knew a little bit about how to buy horses but not quite. I trained.
So I went with Liz Crowe, Marshall Gramm, buys and sells horses for him. And he told me, Go with Liz and learn how to buy horses.
So I went with Liz. And we get there, and I’m getting out of the car, and Mr. Bob over here calls me, and he says, Do you like the horse in the fourth race? And I go, What? He goes, Yeah, you have a horse in the fourth race you like? I go, I don’t even know — I said, look — I said, I don’t know. I said, I’m at the sales right now. He said, Buy me a horse. I’m like, What? I wasn’t training at that time for him. So he says, Buy me a horse. I go, Bob, I don’t even train for you. He said, I don’t care. I want a horse.
So then I said, How much do you want to spend? He said 100,000. I said, Oh, that’s good. So I go, and I didn’t believe him. I went to the lady, and I said, How much Mr. Bob Donaldson have credit? He says, A hundred thousand. I was like, Whoa.
So I said okay. So by the time I got back, that filly sold. It was like 27. So I called him. I said, Bob, the filly sold already. I said, What do you want me to do? He said, Hold on, give me one minute.
So he went in the book. He calls me back and says, there’s a No. 50, Hard Spun. He says, I love Hard Spun. I said, Okay. I said, Bob, I didn’t do any work on this horse, like check him, breathing him, nothing, scope, nothing. He said, I don’t care. You have a good eye. I know you’ll figure it out. I said okay.
So he stayed on the phone. He said, When the horse comes in, let me know what you see. And I go, Okay. I’m on the phone and he comes walking in, and I go, Wow, Bob, he’s a good-looking — and I said — I don’t want to say what I said, but he goes, Buy him, buy him. I was like, okay.
Anyway, he starts selling, and I only had $70,000. Finally I said you know what? Don’t say nothing. I waited until everybody bid on it, and I was the only bid, and I said 64,000. I said 64. He didn’t know I bought him until a couple minutes later. He’s trying to get to me. And he don’t know.
So on the way back to the barn, which is way in back to check the horse, I’m thinking, I don’t know what I’m getting. I didn’t get myself into it.
But they brought the horse out, and the guy who sold it, he said, You stole this horse. I go, What? He goes, You stole this horse. I said, I didn’t even check him or nothing. He says, I’m telling you you stole this horse. And I think he was right.
THE MODERATOR: I would say so. And that’s how you buy a Breeders’ Cup, ladies and gentlemen. That’s it. I have a feeling there’s a lot more to this story, but we have to let you go.