What was behind the decision to ship I Want Revenge home to California after initially announcing the decision to keep him in training here in New York?
We figured we had plenty of time, we had 4 weeks, and he’d probably be happier at home, and the weather is a lot nicer at home. I know I’m always happier in my own bed, so we just decided to go ahead and take him home.
I couldn’t ask him to be any better right now, actually.
How does I Want Revenge compare to some of the other 3-year-olds in your barn?
I hate to compare him to any of the other 3-year-olds, but at this stage of the game, I think this horse is probably the best shot I’ve ever had.
Were you worried the horse would be taken away from you when the owners began discussing a sale?
I was pretty much guaranteed that horse was not going to leave the barn at any point, during any type of sale, unless the horse was sold 100 percent.
Have you had promising horses taken away before?
Well, it happens all the time. You know, you get a horse that runs good numbers on the sheets, especially 3-year-olds, it happens. There’s not really anything you can do about it.
Do you see something different in I Want Revenge’s stride when he runs on dirt vs. synthetic?
His stride is a lot more fluent [on dirt], it seems like he strides further and carries his head a little higher. On synthetic, he kind of has a lot of knee action and carries his head really low. He just moves a lot more efficiently over the dirt.
Can you comment on Pioneerof the Nile? How good is he? Also, are you a poster child for what happens when horses get to the surface they prefer?
Well, it’s hard to say until you try and it’s hard to discredit Pioneerof the Nile right now, the only thing he hasn’t done is try dirt. We didn’t leave because we didn’t want to face him [again], we wanted to leave to get the dirt equation out of the picture.
I Want Revenge should have won the CashCall – Gomez basically won that race at ½ mile pole, he made a move forward when we were actually making a move backwards. He kind of got a jump on us and I think [otherwise] that was an equal opportunity and we might have won that race. I basically count [the CashCall] as a win and a learning experience and that was when we put the blinkers on.
I’m sure you weren’t surprised when he won the Gotham, but were you surprised at how he won it?
No, that’s what I tell everybody when you’re in the moment, it was like he was hooked up on the lead and you’re praying to God that he’s got more left and when he started to pull away it’s like, just hang on and hope nobody’s coming. I didn’t even realize how impressive the race was until I watched the replay.
Can he do it again in the same fashion as the Gotham?
I hope so – I mean we’re on the outer track, I’m sure that’s going to change things a little bit. I think there’s a little more honest speed in this race. We drew the rail, obviously we’re going to need some luck, but we’ve already secured our spot in the Derby so as long as we make moves forward and no moves backward, I think we’ll be happy.
Does I Want Revenge bring anything to the table that perhaps some of the other horses you’ve brought to Churchill have lacked?
Like I said, it’s hard to compare a lot of those horses who had already had a grueling schedule – and Buzzards Bay was probably the freshest horse I came with and he obviously ran the best. At this point, everything has just [fallen] into place with this horse. You know, we had 4 weeks from the Gotham to the Wood, 4 weeks now to the Derby and we’ve [taken] baby steps with this horse and it’s paid off.
Would you ship back to California before going to Churchill?
He’s going straight to Churchill from here.
Can you comment on Joe Talamo as the jockey?
I think Joe knows him well enough and you probably don’t need to give much instruction to him. He knows what kind of horse he’s got under him and he’s confident in him and I think it would be crazy to change right now.
How did Joe get the mount on I Want Revenge, does he ride most of your stock?
Well actually Joe picked the horse up in his maiden -- when he broke his maiden. Clinton Potts had been riding the horse and they had given a call to Bob Baffert and Joe was basically one of the only riders at top of the list that was open, so it was just by chance that we got Joe, but he sure fit him well.
Talamo is young – what would you say are the pros and cons about him as a rider?
He’s a good rider – he’s established himself well in California, which is hard to do. For a young guy I’ll tell you, he’s probably as good as you can get.
What will I Want Revenge’s routine been for the rest of the week?
Tomorrow morning he’ll jog a mile, then gallop a mile. The morning of the race, he’ll jog a mile, and that’ll be it.
He’s meeting Imperial Council again, how do you see the situation playing out with the pace?
My horse don’t need to be on the lead, he’ll rate and it looks like there’s enough honest speed that we could be sitting maybe 3rd or 4th, maybe a couple lengths off the pace, and hopefully, with a little luck, we can get clear running room when it’s time to go.
Can you comment on the rest of the field?
I haven’t even looked at the field, I’m not really not worried about it. I know I’m in the race, I’ve prepared my horse to run, and that’s what I’m going to do.
On Gato Go Win in the Bay Shore?
He’s a good, honest, little horse, not a lot of pedigree, but he is a good, honest, little horse. We thought we’d just bring him along and try him on dirt and see what happens.
Trainer Shug McGaughey on Gotham Stakes runner-up, Imperial Council:
How has the horse been training? Is he at Aqueduct now?
He’s at Aqueduct, he got there yesterday afternoon. Well, he’s trained well at Payson Park, he’s had two works since he ran [in the Gotham]…came out of them fine, shipped up here yesterday and seemed to get here fine. I galloped him a little this morning at Aqueduct, and off we go.
Can you comment on Edgar Prado being back in the irons on Saturday?
Edgar just had a commitment in the Santa Anita handicap when the Gotham came up, and Bob told me to try to get out of it, but they held him there, which is fine. And Edgar got sick, so he probably wouldn’t have worked out the best for me because he didn’t get to go anywhere and ride.
Rajiv Maragh I thought rode him fine, [Imperial Council] relaxed maybe a little bit more than [Rajiv] thought he would. We got back behind a pretty slow pace a little farther than we thought we would, but, you know, it all worked out fine. Edgar will give it a try Saturday – he’s ridden him three times, kind of knows him, and if something were to happen, if [Imperial Council] were to try to go to sleep on him a little bit, [Edgar] could gig him and keep him in the race.
Did I understand that the horse maybe has a tendency to fall asleep in a race a little bit?
Rajiv told me [Imperial Council] relaxed a little more than he thought he would the other day in the Gotham. That…could be accountable to being at the track and going into that first turn as soon as they did, and [the horse] might have gotten a little confused. But I think that’s why we got back by a little bit sooner than we planned. [Imperial Council] can do whatever he wants to –that allowance race there (2/14 at GP), Edgar said he came away from it running and he just set his hands back and he relaxed fine with him, and just as soon as he wanted to pick him up, [the horse] was there.
Can you comment on I Want Revenge in the Gotham?
He [I Want Revenge] obviously ran a very good race. I mean, when he shook off Kiaran’s horse [3rd place finisher Mr. Fantasy] a lot of times their heart gets big like that and obviously it did…You know [I Want Revenge] has speed, there’s a little speed in the race and I would think that we’d be right there or laying right in behind him and I wouldn’t even be all opposed to seeing a scenario where we’d be laying right off of him - to the outside of him. You know this race is a big race and we’ll just see if [I Want Revenge] runs it back or not.
Can you just comment on your thoughts about whether you’ll get the horse to Churchill Downs?
One thing about it is, if he finishes 3rd, he probably won’t have enough money, if there’s 20 horses in it, so that’ll probably take care of itself. But, you know, I mean, I want to win [the Kentucky Derby] as much as anybody else, but I’m not going to do it as…I’m just not putting him in there just to be saying I’ll be running in the Kentucky Derby. I’ve seen enough of that and probably even now, I think probably 12 horses belong, and probably 8 don’t belong with the way some of these big purses are around.
I think Imperial Council is a nice horse and if he’s not ready for the Derby, there are plenty of other races down the road that he can be ready for and we’ll see what happens later on in the year.
You know, when you’re wrong in the Derby, you can be really wrong, as we’ve all seen, and I don’t want to be wrong any more.
You had said a few years ago…that maybe sometimes taking a shot if your horse is bred for a mile and quarter and doing well, in that context that maybe you don’t have to be 6-5. This horse – he’s not going to be 6-5 in the Derby probably, but…[can you comment on that scenario]?
I would rather his PPs dictate him to be a lot lower price than a 20-1 shot. Nobody knows what the betting public’s going to do. Giacomo won one year at about 50-1, but there were races on there that showed possibly he shouldn’t have been 50-1. I’m just sitting here, and I’ve just sat and watched over the years for a long time and I know I’ve run some horses I probably shouldn’t have run, and I’ve only second guessed myself one time on one horse I didn’t run (Draw).
Like I say, I’m not just running just to be running. If he were to come running and finish third and get stopped at the 1/8 pole and come again, who’s to say I’m not going to still be in the running? But I think they’ll probably be 20 horses this year and, you know, $125 thousand of graded money ain’t going to get him in it.
You mentioned Giacomo, earlier – do you see any similarities to Giacomo? Pedigree, maybe closing style, being set up right, etc.?
There’s a lot to be said in that. Mike would ride Giacomo and I’d see him in Florida earlier in the winter and he told me he thought he was a nice horse. And I think [Imperial Council] is a nice horse, but he’s got to keep going forward. He can’t run up there and look like he’s going to win and be a backing up second or something and going into the race with a lot of confidence. I mean, like I say, if there’s a lot of things that can happen in the race that maybe would sway my mind, but they would have to happen.
When did you first get sense this horse could be a serious 3-year-old?
Well I was awfully impressed with his first race. He drew the 1 post in Saratoga and he ran good. And I know Barclay [Tagg, trainer] was talking about that he thought Hello Broadway was a good horse…but I thought we were better than him that day. We made the lead and just got a little bit green and [Hello Broadway] came back and beat us on the inside.
Then [Imperial Council] came back, broke his maiden really easy here [at Belmont], but I thought if he was going to be a decent 3-year-old, he’d need some time off then.
He’d lightened up a little bit and he had a shin [issue], and as I told them, I can’t run him in the Nashua…there wasn’t anything the matter with him, but, if you want him to be a decent horse, I think he’s going to need the time off. So we gave him a little time off, and took him to Payson Park and he trained well there. His [first race back] was good, and then he really, really trained well after that race. And that’s when I got to thinking that well, maybe I need to start finding a place…and get some sort of a pattern to see if he is a Derby-type horse so we’ve got him in a position to run.
The Gotham was back a little bit quicker than I wanted to run. But my options were, later on, the Tampa Bay Derby, but if I took him there I knew he would get beat because of that heavier track and all the other options were on Polytrack. I had nothing against the Polytrack, but if I ran him at Turfway in the Lane’s End or something and he ran 5th, I wouldn’t have if it was the Polytrack or he if wasn’t good enough.
So we kind of rushed him to the Gotham, thinking we’ll get that race into him and then we’ve got 4 weeks, and we’ll see how he handles the 4 weeks in between and then I think it’s 4 weeks to the Derby. We rushed a bit to the Gotham, but I think we’ve been able to have our time in between now.
Do you think the move from the inner track at Aqueduct to the main track in the Wood will help him at all?
I think so. I think he’ll handle these big turns, he’ll be able to get into his race a little going down the backside here. You know how the inner track can be, it can be a bit like a beltway. And [in the Gotham] the favorite [Mr. Fantasy] found itself 2 or 3 in the front at the quarter pole and we were back – I don’t know how far we spotted him, but we spotted him a pretty good ways and we got beat a pretty good ways [8/12 lengths by I Want Revenge], but, you know he didn’t have very far to go with a pretty comfortable lead.