Florida Derby: Complete Transcript Winning Connections

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4/2/2016
10:31 pm EDT

THE MODERATOR:  First of all, congratulations to the connections of Nyquist.  Give them a hand.  We're going to turn the questions over right away so these guys can go and celebrate a little bit more.  Congratulations to all of you guys.  Start with your questions.

Q.  Mario, you went right to the front.  Was that the plan or was that a good break?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  It was ever the plan.  It was ever the plan.  I got a lot of plans for this race, it just depends upon the break.  It depends how the other horses were going to be acting.  Coming out of the gate, I break so clean and so fast, so I just had to take the lead.

Q.  What was going through your mind in the home stretch?  You seemed to go pretty wide.  Was it because the inside was too wet?  Why did you take it out that way?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  I see the gray horse coming to my side, you know, so I mean, I'm running the race and I know I had to get confident, so if he was going to pass me he had to pass me running and wide.

Q.  Doug, your comments on just winning; obviously it was promoted as a matchup, your horse against Mohaymen, not just to win that match but just the race in general?

DOUG O'NEILL:  It's such a team effort and it's something that, like Paul said, I had a little reservation maybe a month or so ago because Mohaymen, in his own backyard, do we really want to do something like that, but we all very quickly all got on the same page, and I don't know, it's one of those I think we just had a very lucky trip.  Mario broke great, did a great job of riding and everything just went right.  This whole trip, other than being delayed one day everything went right.  So many things can go wrong in this business.  Nyquist travelled well, looked well.  Leandro Mora, my main guy here, who's at the barn like 24 hours a day, seven days a week, don't tell the labor law that, but Leandro basically sees to the horse and the whole crew, so it's a credit to the whole team of how we came over and how we looked and how we ran.

Q.  Did the weather today either make you more confident or more concerned?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  When it rained, we were happy.  Before the race really got going, we thought, oh, maybe the track is going to dry out.  So I had Doug's son Daniel do a rain dance and then it started pouring.

DOUG O'NEILL:  He's pretty good.  He's got some American Indian in him.

Q.  So you were happy with the wet track?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  Absolutely.

Q.  Has he trained on that?  Have you had him on a wet track ever?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  He seems like, obviously, we're high as a kite right now.  But he seems like you can run him just about in anything.  He's trained on synthetic, and so no, he doesn't seem like the footing really bothers him.  Johnny Garcia, his daily exercise rider, commented the one day that he galloped here that the track was much more tight than Santa Anita, so he felt like he was really ready to run on a tight track after training on a Santa Anita track that's got a little cushion in the morning and maybe he was legged up pretty good, but you never know.  Going a mile‑and‑an‑eighth, only his second time out as a three year old, we'd be lying if we all didn't say we were optimistic, but you never know, and he exceeded our expectations for sure.

Q.  How much did he have left in the tank?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  Well, I let all the media to say that.  They're pretty accurate with him.  I think it's one more sixteenth.  In my mind it's an unbelievable horse.  I think the distance don't bother him, but I guess his pedigree says so ‑‑ according to the media says otherwise, but hey, he keeps proving people wrong.

Q.  Doug, how do you feel he's positioned for the Kentucky Derby?

DOUG O'NEILL:  I feel really good.  This is something that we drew up thinking two preps before the Derby was going to leave him with a lot of real fresh legs and he's got a lot of miles underneath him in the morning, and we thought we'd have an afternoon fresh horse going into the Derby with two preps.  Right now I feel extremely happy, and of course, like all the horses, you got to keep him injury free, and he's got the mindset of a champion, so now it's just to the whole crew and the racing gods to keep him injury free.

Q.  Doug, how big was the respect factor?  I think you alluded to it a little bit at the draw.  Did you almost feel ‑‑ disrespected might be the wrong word, but ‑‑

DOUG O'NEILL:  I think you're looking at four guys up here that are all blue collar and weren't born on third base.  I think we enjoyed being the underdog and enjoyed being under the radar, flying under the radar, and we all kept saying, we just want to keep flying.  Who cares what people are saying.  We just want to keep him going and be happy with where we are.  So yeah, he ran this afternoon like he's been showing us in the morning, but you never know until they do it.

Q.  Mr. Reddam, you were perceived as taking a pretty big gamble by coming here.  Now that it's paid off, so to speak, how do you feel about it?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  I feel good.  (Laughter).

Q.  $2.6 million good?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  Well, you know, you only got the bonus if you won, right, so we wouldn't have come unless we had certainly a decent chance.  We didn't know at the end of last year that Mohaymen was going to be such a big horse on the radar, and my feeling was, well, gee, if you're afraid to go run against someone, how do you really think you have a Derby horse?  We just stuck to our plan, and I thought if we get beat, we get beat, but we can't be afraid.  If you're afraid in the business, you're not going anywhere.

Q.  Paul, talk about going through this experience, just what it's like to be in this position now.

J. PAUL REDDAM:  Well, now I feel like the heat is going to be turned up on us because we're likely to be the favorite or a favorite certainly.  We just have to all keep our feet on the ground, and there's a lot more wood to chop.  I think having been through it once before is really good for the team and what's rare here is that we actually are a team, and you're looking at exactly the same guys who went on the road with I'll Have Another.  When you go deeper into Doug's crew, it's basically the same crew top to bottom, and that experience has got to be helpful.

Q.  Doug, did you feel that today offers some encouragement about getting (inaudible)?

DOUG O'NEILL:  I think so, and I thought the Breeder's Cup race kind of showed us a lot of optimism that he would get a mile and a quarter.  He's got speed, gait speed, he's got class, he's got stamina.  He's got Mario, Derby‑winning Mario.  I feel today was another step forward in the huge challenge of trying to get a mile and a quarter in a 20‑horse field.  So that in itself has been extremely challenging, but I feel really good right now, obviously.

Q.  Mario, you used that speed today and Doug just alluded to a 20‑horse field.  Do you see where he'll be prominent in all things being equal early in the Derby?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  You know, the Derby is like a little bit more than a month forward, so he can do it all.  You know, like if you guys watch his races he can go to the lead.  He showed it today.  But he can wait, as well.  You watch his race on the Breeder's Cup race.  For him I have to wait until race day, look at the competition, and then we're going to figure out a plan.

Q.  Mr. Reddam, Kentucky farms are getting more anxious than ever to stake claims to potential stallions.  What is your inclination, have you had to fight off a lot of phone calls?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  This horse is going to stand at Darley when his racing career is done.  Done deal.

Q.  Do you envision him racing beyond his three‑year‑old?  We just lost American Pharoah.

J. PAUL REDDAM:  That's a question for the Darley folks.  I mean, I do, but what they say, who the hell knows?

Q.  What's the arrangement you have with them?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  It's kind of open‑ended.

Q.  Doug, just two starts this year; do you feel you're bringing a pretty fresh horse?

DOUG O'NEILL:  I do think we are, and we're so blessed in Southern California with the weather, and this horse trains strong every day.  We've done a lot of mile works with him, and you know, I feel proud of the whole team that today when he hit that 7/8 pole he didn't confuse it for the 3/8 like some of the earlier races maybe where he got a little too keen early.  So I think mentally and even in the paddock, he was so good with all the people, had a great turnaround out here.  We didn't school him once, didn't want to tease him.  This is the first time he's ever seen the paddock, and he was just ears pricked, checking everything out, and he's a very special horse.

Q.  Was this an easier race than the San Vicente?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  I wouldn't say like no race is easy.  After it's all done, I mean, you can go look at the replay and say, you know, it looked pretty easy, but going to the races, there are no easy races.

Q.  Doug, at the quarter pole what did you foresee was going to happen?  Did you think you saw ‑‑ do you think Mohaymen ran his race today?

DOUG O'NEILL:  There was a split second there when you came so far, you did a little Angel Cordero there.  You came so far off the rail, I thought someone is going to scream up the inside and beat all of us, beat the two of us.  But Mario knew what he had, he knew where the gray horse was coming, and he just stuck to his lane and instead of dropping down to the inside, he maintained his position.  But there was a split second there where I was worried someone might come up on the inside of us, but again, Mario knew what he had.  And then it looked ‑‑ I haven't seen a replay yet ‑‑ but it looked like he was just playing around the last eighth of a mile.  He switched leads, looking around, looked like he was showboating a little bit.  But yeah, that was great.

Q.  Doug, what has changed now that horses can win with only two races under their belt as three‑year‑olds, can go into the Derby?

DOUG O'NEILL:  Well, I think with this horse, he had five really strong races as a two year old, so he had a really good foundation, an old‑school foundation, and then we had the option of starting early on at Santa Anita and racing him monthly until the big dance, but we just chose, he had such a great campaign, why not have two starts, and again, if anyone has seen most of our horses train, they do a lot in the morning, so we're very confident that he had enough gallops and stamina works that were equivalent to races that even though he's only going to show two races leading up to the Derby, as long as he stays injury‑free, he's got a lot of miles in him in the morning, but in the afternoon he's fresh and ready to compete.

Q.  Doug, just to reiterate, at the top of the lane you were more concerned about competition on the inside?

DOUG O'NEILL:  Correct.

Q.  Than you were on the outside?

DOUG O'NEILL:  Correct.  It looked like Mohaymen wasn't handling the track well.  He was looming.  He was making that move, and I did say, God, don't let him jump on you, Mario.  I thought he might jump on you or something.  I'm just being honest with you.  But Mario knew what he had, knew where he was, knew where the gray guy was, and he wasn't going to let Mohaymen jump on him.  Yeah, just a great ride on a great horse.

Q.  When are you going to shift to Kentucky and when will you be at the barn?

DOUG O'NEILL:  Tomorrow.  Well, actually we're going back to California, and ‑‑

LEANDRO MORA:  He's supposed to leave by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow by plane, and the team is going to split, but it's just for a few days, and other than that we are all going to get together in a couple of weeks.

Q.  Doug, everything at Keeneland or are you going to Churchill?

DOUG O'NEILL:  Paul and Zillah pay the bills, but are you okay with going to Keeneland?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  Yeah, I love Keeneland, and Leandro and I have talked about this.  Just the training track synthetic course is such a blessing.  I mean, as long as he stays healthy and doesn't get sick on us, he can train on a daily basis.  We love the Keeneland option, and that's our goal.

Q.  This was kind of a funky track today; the fact that he was able to handle it, was there any concern going in and how much relief coming out?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  Well, Mario rode Gomo, which we were asking her to do a lot off a layoff, and coming off ankle surgery which was successful and she was doing great.  But Mario did comment that the track seemed a little tiring, so hearing that, I was like, oh, it's not a problem, and then we both walked away from each other, and it was like, oh, shit, that's not good news.  But I think as it dried out, you saw the fractions and times begin to be a little faster.  I think the track was good for him today.

Was it different than the Gomo race?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  Yeah, it was.

J. PAUL REDDAM:  What was different about it?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  It was a little bit tighter.

J. PAUL REDDAM:  So Daniel's rain dance worked.

Q.  Doug, how long did it take you to get over the disappointment of (inaudible)?

DOUG O'NEILL:  Until last weekend I think we finally got over it.  Paul can answer that.  No, it is ‑‑ well, actually Paul is the king ‑‑ well, he's got a Ph.D. in psychology, so ‑‑ am I saying that right?

J. PAUL REDDAM:  Philosophy.

DOUG O'NEILL:  Right church, wrong pew, but you're the king of not getting too high and trying to stay even keel ‑‑

J. PAUL REDDAM:  I'm pretty high right now.

DOUG O'NEILL:  But we were so high going into New York, and Paul and Zillah rented us this amazing house and the whole team just had the greatest time in the world, and then when that little tendon issue reared up, it was like, oh, God, so it deflated a lot of balloons of excitement.  But no, we quickly got over it and just celebrated what I'll Have Another brought us to.  We learned so much, and like Paul said, to have Leandro, I'm so blessed ‑‑ we've got the whole team.  It's incredible, we've got the whole team still together.  That in itself is a huge win, to have the whole crew still with us.

Q.  Mario, you're the only one who's ever ridden this horse.  Has there been any time in any race where you went, uh‑oh?

MARIO GUTIERREZ:  No, I have so much confidence in him.  I've been lucky enough to start working with him since he was a two year old, so I mean, I really feel that I know him a lot, so like he gives me the confidence, and I really believe in him a lot.  I just have confidence in him, and I guess we click.  Like I said, no race is an easy race, but I always believe in what he got.

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