March into April is always an exciting time of the year for the barn. We had a very good end to the Fair Grounds meet with Son of a Birch breaking through his A Other Than condition on March 24, having previously finished second twice there before. So it was good to go out with a win, and a second win for the month of March when Saint Eros Girl won on March 21. The week before that in New York, Miss Bourbon and Colloquy went to Aqueduct and ran a very gutsy second and first. Miss Bourbon finally broke through her maiden rank against New York-bred fillies, and Colloquy is just one of those wonderful horses who wears his heart on his sleeve. He ran a gallant second and got claimed off us, so it was sad to see him go having had him in our shed row for a year and celebrating many victories at Belmont Park, Saratoga, and Aqueduct.

Cees Get Degrees backed up his February win with another win on March 29. This horse has been remarkably consistent after needing a lengthy amount of time following training. The patience for Rainbow’s End Racing is being rewarded with his second win off his enforced vacation.

With Fair Grounds now closed, it means everyone is back home and we begin to see the introduction of this year’s two-year-old division. It was great to have our first two-year-olds arrive at the end of March. We love having some of the earlier horses come in to get ready for their races, and we’ve had fillies by Volatile, Tapiture, and Central Banker as well as colts by Dialed In, Constitution, and Outwork who have already joined the division.

A couple of these two-year-olds look relatively precocious and we’re hoping some of them may be able to run towards the end of May, beginning of June. Going back to successes during the month of April, Midnight Trouble finally broke through his last condition and became an Open Horse. He’s been a little bit frustrating, this horse, since he’s the type who really enjoys getting in trouble in a race. If he sees too much fresh air early, he actually doesn’t run as hard as he does if he’s covered up until the last possible minute.

As a trainer, it’s often the way you look at condition books and months, one by one by one, and I did think when I saw the April book that we might struggle for winners, simply because we weren’t going to be having that many runners and very often some of these races are at the wrong distances, etc.

But a horse that deserves special mention is The Big Torpedo, who at the end of March finished a very good second to a nice horse of Todd Pletcher’s in an Allowance for New York-breds on the dirt. I’ve always felt that this horse was going to be a better horse when he got back on the grass, and it was a massive effort from him to come back at the end of April to run a very gallant second in the Woodhaven. This is a three-year-old Big Brown colt who has all of the races for the Stallion Series New York-breds, and as proved in the Woodhaven, open company, stakes caliber, on the turf as well.

Ez Roll ran an extremely pleasing third when he made his seasonal comeback to start his three-year-old career on April 28. I’m really looking forward to seeing him progress as the year goes on. He appears to be a colt with above average ability, and again, a New York-bred with plenty of conditions.

Some of the tougher things to take in this game are when clients decide not to take advantage of the information that is afforded to them while having horses in training. It was particularly disappointing to train a filly called Firing Fast for the whole of her training career, only to have her removed from our barn because the owners decided they didn’t want to run in a race that was suitable for her to win. I feel bad for the staff in my barn, and the fact that we have a win missing against our name because she was moved nine days before she ran in the same race I had selected for her. So, she won the race but under Rick Dutrow’s name instead of ours.

Ownership groups like this are simply not welcome in our barn again. It’s a sad part of the game that you can explain things to people before they send you horses and then they still choose to make ill informed decisions going forward. Yes, financially, it’s a minor inconvenience to me, but to those people who have worked hard on the horse and would have been financially rewarded, such as the assistants and the grooms, they miss out on a paycheck, and the barn misses out on a victory that was actually ours and not the Dutrow barn’s.

Moving on, May should begin to see a lot of the turf horses coming out and running. Obviously the weather is going to play a big part this year in turf racing and how much of it actually goes ahead. With the reconstruction of Belmont Park, Aqueduct is going to take the brunt of the racing for New York over the next two years, and so they’re going to have to manage and be careful with the turf courses in these early months. Spring showers means softer ground, and I envisage that we will lose several turf races moving forward.

So here’s hoping for a really dry May into June before we head up to Saratoga for what should be a wonderful meet. As the Belmont Stakes Festival moves up to Saratoga for the first time in its history, this sees the Belmont Stakes cut back to ten furlongs. But it should still be a wonderful racing festival, and I’m really looking forward to that as much as I am the new Belmont Park.

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