Saturday, November 5, 2011
What a difference a year makes
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Last year I sat here just devastated, thinking my life was over. What a difference a year makes. The loss on Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic will always hurt, but winning this one with Drosselmeyer sure helps, it really does.
As soon as I found out I was riding Drosselmeyer, I kept praying about it. Like wow, this could really take the sting away. I was extremely excited. I had ridden him once, a win in the Belmont Stakes, and to get a chance to ride him back in the Classic, I don't know, I just got this good feeling as soon as I found out.
Then I was watching the TVG works and saw the way he was training, and everybody was talking about the way he was training out there. He was telling everybody going in that he was going to run big, and sure enough, he did.
I was telling Bill Mott, from the first jump out of the gate, I felt very confident. I know it's kind of hard to say when you're way back there in last, but it was kind of Zenyatta-like, as far as the ones that she won. He just felt confident. He was in a great rhythm. He was doing everything I asked him to do.
Going into the far turn, he took a deep breath, and I knew he was loaded again. Although we were far back, he was really happy. He was running well. He was getting there. He was doing everything I asked. Every time I'd move, he'd move. I felt confident that he was going to run big. It was just a matter of if I was good enough to get there.
I was able to even save ground going into the last turn. Once you get him moving, one of the big tricks with him is you don't want to tap on the brakes. Once you get him moving, he likes to keep on moving. Sometimes you forfeit a little ground, but it works for him. Like Bill said, he likes to run a mile and a half. So I went ahead and went wide so he thought it was a mile and a half. He gave me a real good turn of foot when I asked him to, and I just wanted to keep him going forward.
Everyone asked me what it felt like to beat Chantal, but I didn't know who it was in front of me at that point. All I knew was I was moving forward, and I wasn't going to stop pedaling until I hit the wire. It just happened to be her.
She should be very proud. Her horse ran great. She ran an awesome race, but what can I say? I was on Drosselmeyer today, and he was the best today, and now I feel very happy and content. I can't wait to celebrate.
Just to come back and have a day like I did today and to win the race that I got beat by a nose in last year, it's just amazing. Thank God.
* * *
When I got on Amazombie in the paddock today at Churchill Downs, he took a big, deep breath and was cool, calm and collected. He's a big, powerful horse. I think he actually broke out in front of the field, but then he settled. I was really sitting loaded. I cut the corner with him and then got out, and then I became concerned.
When this horse hits the front too soon, he tends to really wait. So I was trying not to hit it too soon but not let him idle at the same time. It worked out, although if you watch the replay, you'll see me have to get after him a little bit. Luckily, the wire was coming up. Once Force Freeze got up to his neck, he dug back in. I felt comfortable he wasn't going to pass me.
This is a great horse. He's pretty smart, man, he's brilliant. He's got a tremendous turn of foot. Trainer Bill Spawr's got him going so good right now. He's teaching him to do the right thing. Trust me, he's going to be around a long time, this guy.
His last race in the Ancient Title, he ran huge. Bill has done an amazing job getting this horse better and better and better. When he got back to Santa Anita, he ran the prep he needed to run. Today he just knocked it through the wall, really.
In 1994, I won the Breeders' Cup Sprint here at Churchill with Cherokee Run. I sat behind a ton of speed, then made my move in the stretch. Ironically, this race was very similar. You watch that Breeders' Cup race and this one; they're almost identical. I was able to cut the corner with Cherokee Run and get out the exact same way. It was a little shorter margin but pretty much the same strategy.
Another great thing to come out of this win was the opportunity to wear the logo for Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse. Every time I wear this logo in a Breeders' Cup race, Jeff Ruby donates $10,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund. The fund supports a lot of disabled riders; some are paraplegics and hurt in many different ways. They have families. They're not able to support their families, pay their bills. This does all of that. Jeff Ruby is the man that agreed to donate $10,000 every time. With my two other mounts, he donated a total of $30,000 to disabled riders.
Earlier in the day, I told Jerry Bailey I was coming for him. He holds the record for Breeders' Cup wins, and now we're tied. Number 15 was just as sweet as the first.
Winning races like this never gets old.