Thursday, March 01, 2012


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Turf ace Mr. O’Brien may have taken them to the Breeders’ Cup in 2004, but the most productive horse owners Robert “Willie” White and Lou Rehak likely ever had was Gin Talking.

Racing under their Skeedattle Associates banner, the daughter of Allen’s Prospect, purchased as a yearling for $40,000, wound up Maryland 2-year-old champion in 1999 and the state’s Horse of the Year in 2000. When she retired with an ankle problem, White and Rehak sent Gin Talking to sire Dixieland Band, and she produced a terrifically talented runner named Dixie Talking, who won the Grade 3 Cicada at Aqueduct Racetrack at odds of 27-1.

On Saturday, White and Rehak, best friends and business partners for more than 25 years, return to Aqueduct for the 60th running of the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes with a homebred son of Dixie Talking they believe has a chance to take them further than they’ve ever been before in racing – the Kentucky Derby.

Trained by Laurel Park-based veteran Hamilton Smith, Done Talking put four solid races under his belt as a 2-year-old before shipping to New York last November to try the Grade 2 Remsen, long a historical marker for quality runners.

Through a crawling pace – the first-half mile went in 49.97 seconds – Done Talking trailed in 10th place until the field straightened for home. Coming off the far turn, he launched a furious bid through the lane, rallying past horses on the outside to finish fourth, just one length behind winner O’Prado Again.

The Remsen looks like a key race, with third-place finisher El Padrino emerging to win a strong allowance race at Gulfstream Park and then the Grade 2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds. Fifth-place finisher Our Entourage also came back to win at Gulfstream Park.

Done Talking came down with equine colitis soon after the Remsen and needed a lot of time to recover. He has trained superbly, however, at Laurel for the Gotham, capping his preparation with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.20 over a deep track February 25.

“You train horses and you always think about trying to get something like this,” Smith said. “He’s still got a ways to go to prove he’s a Triple Crown horse, don’t get me wrong. But we all look for this kind, that’s for sure. I’ve always done better with fillies than I have with the colts. I’ve had quite a few fillies who have won Grade 2s. You train for breeders, and I’ve got one or two breeders that sell the colts and keep the fillies, so you wind up with more fillies.”

Done Talking could not have come along at a better time for his owners as Gin Talking died last year.

“Just before that, we sold Dixie Talking [at auction]; Fox Hill Farm bought her for $140,000,” White said. “We sold her because we had Gin Talking, and we have another sister to her, Smooth Talking. We just thought we’d take some chips off the table. If we knew we’d lose Gin Talking … but that’s just the business.”

Smith has never trained a horse on the Triple Crown trail, and Done Talking is 20-1 on the morning line in a race that features 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse Award winner Hansen. White and Rehak have no doubt, however, their colt is in capable hands.

“Hammy is a horseman,” White said. “He goes past trainer; there are trainers that get in the game that are all about the condition book and the next move to make from a financial standpoint, but he’s a horseman.”

Smith’s brother, Franklin, is president of the renowned Elloree Training Center in South Carolina and breaks all of the Skeedattle runners.

“He’s taking this very seriously,” White said of Hamilton Smith. “He’s done an excellent job with the horse, and we’re confident if anyone can get it done, he’ll get it done.”

Done Talking drew post position 11 in a 13-horse field, but White likes the spot because jockey David Cohen can drop take back, drop inside and save ground on the first turn.

“We’ve got to settle in behind the first flight and put ourselves in position to have a chance,” White said.

Smith, 67, is talking like an old hand at the prep race game.

“If he does well, he’ll go back into the [Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City] Wood [Memorial, on April 7] but he has to perform well here.”

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