Archive for the People Category

Jun 2 2014

Meet Christophe Clement – A Truly Happy Man

Clement in Paddock at GP

On Saturday, June 7, Christophe Clement will start a horse named Tonalist in the Belmont Stakes.  A horse with only four starts, but considered by many to be the main threat to upset California Chrome’s pursuit of the Triple Crown.  Back in January, over the course of two days, I spent several hours with Christophe and his stable of horses at Payson Park, including Tonalist, who would break his maiden in convincing style at Gulfstream Park less than two weeks after my visit. The following is the original interview, in it’s entirety.

Every now and then you meet someone who is truly happy … truly.  And, when that happens, I find it inspiring.  For one, it inspires me to pursue those things in life that make me truly happy.  Secondly, to realize that happiness might not be as elusive as others would have you believe.  It’s out there.  It’s possible.  And if you listen closely, Christophe Clement is telling us how to find it.

After greeting us at his office, he offered my wife and me a tour of the grounds.  He explained that the best advice he ever got in the business was to bring his horses to Payson Park twenty years ago, and he’s been doing it ever since.

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May 25 2014

Meet Ben Colebrook – A Young Trainer With Some Fresh Ideas

Bel Colebrook and Dylan Davis

Ben Colebrook and Dylan Davis

On a recent trip to Kentucky, I had a chance to sit down with Ben Colebrook, a young head trainer in the Lexington, Kentucky area.  Ben was formerly an Assistant Trainer to Christophe Clement.  I was curious to learn what Ben took away from his experience with Christophe which spanned about 41/2 years.

Also, being a young guy, I was interested in his views about how to attract young people to follow the sport of horse racing.  His response to that question was entertaining, and made me rethink some of my viewpoints on the same subject.  So, without further adieu, meet Ben Colebrook.

Where are you from and how did you get started in horse racing?

I’m from central Kentucky. My dad was a farm manager and he trained horses. I came up breaking babies and working on the farm for my dad. Through college I galloped horses and worked the sales for some consignors and went to work for Bill Harrigan at Miacomet Farm breaking yearlings. From there I went to work for Fred Seitz, who was training horses; he owned a farm in Kentucky called Brookdale, but later on he decided to train, so I went to work for him for 3 ½ years. From there I went to work for Christophe Clement, starting in February of 2008, and I was with him until August of 2012, when I went out on my own.

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Apr 1 2014

Gary Stevens – You’re Only As Good As Your Last Ride

Gary Stevens and Mucho Macho Girl

Gary Stevens and Mucho Macho Girl

In Part 1 of our interview with Gary we discussed his relationship with his son, T.C. Stevens, who is presently a head trainer.  Click here to read Part 1 about how proud Gary Stevens is of his son and what he is presently doing.

In part 2 of our conversation, Gary talks about the young jockey Dylan Davis and his friendship with his dad, Robbie Davis. That leads into topics on jockey safety, pre-race preparations, and how he deals with the emotions of a roller coaster business. On the last subject, Gary shares his experiences during Breeders’ Cup 2013 … from the low of being disqualified in a $2 million dollar race to the high of winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Mucho Macho Man.

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Mar 26 2014

Meet Gary Stevens – A Very Proud Father

Gary Stevens and TC Stevens

Gary and T.C. Stevens

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Hall of Fame jockey, Gary Stevens.  Having met and interviewed his son, T.C. Stevens (a horse trainer) earlier this year, I wanted to learn more about the relationship between Gary and T.C. and specifically what Gary’s thoughts are on the different path that T.C. has chosen.  What I learned was, as with many father-and-son relationships, it wasn’t a linear path they followed to arrive at their current relationship.  There were impediments along the way.  The question was, could they turn those rocks into stepping stones?

I was impressed with your son’s controlled enthusiasm.  He can be enthusiastic and excitable, but at the same time very pragmatic.  Where does that come from?

He’s cultivated it on his own.  He’s super intelligent, and he has a very high IQ.  Where that came from I don’t know!  He is very passionate … he gets that from me, sometimes to the point of hurting yourself.  And he wears his heart on his sleeve, which he also gets from me.  What he’s thinking you usually hear.  However, he’s got the ability to shut himself down when it needs to be done.  That’s something that I don’t have so much.  I’m very proud of him, and what you’re describing is pure T.C.

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Mar 17 2014

Meet Michelle Nihei – A Smart and Caring Horse Trainer

Michelle Nihei GP

Michelle Nihei

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with head trainer Michelle Nihei (pronounced Nee-Hay).  In our conversation we covered a lot of ground; including her academic background prior to horse racing, the lessons she learned from working with Todd Pletcher for six years, the challenges facing a small barn, and several hot topics in the industry today. It was a lively discussion that I must admit headed in directions that I did not foresee.  But, at the conclusion, I learned that Michelle is someone that truly cares about her horses, the people in her stable, and the future of the horse racing industry.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Calgary, Alberta.  I went from the University of Saskatchewan, where I got my undergraduate and Master’s degree, to the University of Kentucky for my PhD (in Neuroscience). Read More >>

Mar 1 2014

Meet Dylan Davis – Loving Life

Dylan Davis Smiling

Dylan Davis

Dylan Davis is the son of Robbie Davis, a very successful jockey on the New York and California racing circuits for nearly two decades.  Dylan is currently an apprentice rider, riding full-time at Gulfstream Park.  During a recent visit to Gulfstream Park, I sat down with Dylan in the grandstand on a dark day of racing.  He explained how he initiated his own interest in riding, the mechanics of the apprentice system, and his special connection with the Wesley Ward stable.

During the discussion, several times Dylan became quite animated and demonstrated that special quality of youthful exuberance.  This young man is clearly excited about what he’s doing, and intent on working as hard as possible to keep the odds in his favor.

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Saratoga Springs and went to Saratoga High School.  When I was younger I was traveling with my dad though; at Saratoga in the summer, Spring and Fall at Belmont and Aqueduct, and in the winter here at Gulfstream.  And once he retired, we resided in Saratoga.

How deep in your bloodlines does horse racing go?
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Feb 24 2014

Meet Buzzy Tenney – Hard Working, Always Smiling

Buzzy Tenney Smiling

Buzzy Tenney

Buzzy Tenney is the long-time Assistant Trainer to Hall of Fame Head Trainer Shug McGaughey.  In 2013, he was a member of the team that won the Kentucky Derby with a horse named Orb.  If there is a friendlier person in all of horse racing … I can’t imagine it.

During a recent visit to the backside at Gulfstream Park, Buzzy sat down with me and shared his story.  From getting started in the business with no prior horse experience to winning his very first Kentucky Derby last year, Buzzy is a shining example of a hard-working horseman, who has learned his trade from the ground up and continues to practice it on a daily basis.

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Feb 14 2014

More on T.C. Stevens

T.C. Stevens at GP

T.C. Stevens

In Part 1 of our Meet T.C. Stevens article, T.C. explains that his horse racing bloodlines go very deep on both sides of his family tree. Not only is his dad (Gary Stevens) a jockey, but his mom’s side of the family is loaded with current and former jockeys and trainers. T.C. also introduced us to his wife, Jaime, who is his main “go-to” person in the stable … and told us the story about his first winner (Sultry Warrior) at 50-1 odds, who was the same horse that flipped over on him and broke T.C.’s leg on Day 2 of his head training career. Click here to read Part 1 about T.C. Stevens.

In Part 2, T.C. explains how he deals with the ups and downs of this business, shares some of his upcoming goals, and describes his “horse whisperer” abilities.

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Feb 10 2014

Meet T.C. Stevens – Famous Name, Different Tack

TC and Jaime Stevens

T.C. and Jaime Stevens

Tory (T.C.) Stevens is the son of Hall-of-Fame rider Gary Stevens.  But, unlike his dad, T.C. is trying to make his mark on the sport of Thoroughbred Horse Racing through different means … as a head trainer.

He launched his racing stable on March 28, 2013 and two days later his leg was broken while riding one of his two horses in training.  That might deter some new trainers, but as I learned from my visit with T.C. at Gulfstream Park, this young man does not discourage easily – a necessary quality for surviving in a very challenging profession.

During my visit at Gulfstream Park, T.C. introduced me to his horses, and then he offered me the lone chair in his office while he pulled up a pail.  We had the following conversation.

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Jan 31 2014

More on Larry Collmus

Larry Collmus in Booth

In Part 1 of our interview with Larry, we discussed his preparation for races, how he got interested in the job of track announcer, and how calling races for television differs from the job of being a track announcer. Click here to read Part 1 on Larry Collmus.

In Part 2, we discuss some of the particular things he looks for when calling a race, his favorite horses, his hiring by NBC Sports, and one of his all-time favorite race calls by someone other than himself. Read More >>