HOW TO KEEP A SECRET’
Trainer Jamie Ness pulled up to his barn in a golf cart the other morning, just returned from watching a morning workout at the track.
“By the way, how did the big guy come back from Monday’s race?” a passenger in the cart wondered.
“He could run again tomorrow,” Ness responded. The turf is really easy on him.”
At that moment, Cory Jensen, Ness’s right-hand man and cousin, was approaching the barn door with Lookinforthesecret, the horse in question, at the end of a lead rope.
Lookinforthesecret made mincemeat of six rivals in the $50,000 Honor the Hero Turf Express on Monday, and now Ness’s biggest problem is finding races in which to keep him sharp for the Claiming Crown on Aug. 2.
The six-year-old son of Cimarron Secret had plenty left in the tank after the race, so it was comparable to, say, the tuneup fight that Oscar De La Hoya had recently as he continues sharpening up for a rematch with the Pretty Boy, Floyd Mayweather.
In other words, there was very little real danger of De La Hoya or Lookinforthesecret losing their most recent outings, but they were necessary just the same. And hey! The money wasn’t bad, either.
Jockey Daniel Centeno, a regular rider on the horse, flew in from Monmouth Park to ride the Secret on Monday and ran him hard enough only to win.
“Daniel didn’t ask him. He knew he had enough to win,” said Ness. “We saved him for another day.”
So, what’s next for the Secret?
“I don’t know,” Ness said. “He’s best when he races back in three weeks, and I don’t see anything for him here.”
Ness is considering a $50,000 race in Winnipeg on the dirt June 15 if he doesn’t find anything else in the meantime. “I’d rather keep him on the turf, though,” Ness said. “This part of the country there aren’t many 5/8-mile turf races. There’s a plethora of them on the East Coast.”
Ness is one of the few trainers you’ll find using a term like “plethora.” Then again, he was a public relations/journalism major at the University of South Dakota State.
Lookinforthesecret has earned more than a half million dollars in his career and has won 13 races and finished as runnerup five times in 19 starts under Ness, who claimed him for owner Balkrisna Sukharan of Blaine. The claiming price was a modest $12,500. Not bad, considering that he has returned about $489,000 to his connections since the purchase. Sukharan is a throwback to another era in racing, when family thoroughbred dynasties owned big spreads lined with miles of black fencing and passed on the glory from one generation to the next. That was before the coming of the corporations, the emphasis on making a quick buck with a good horse and the defacing of even revered institutions like the Kentucky Derby to include the name of a company that makes it’s money selling fast food to America’s hungry, on-the-go multitudes.
Sukharan has not bought into the corporate thinking. He turned down $250,000 for Lookinforthesecret the same day he got him for twelve-five, and he turned down $450,000 for Repenting. Sukharan reportedly is a rich man in spirit only, but his horses aren’t for sale, anyway. “This is my dream. I told Jamie I’m not going to sell,” he said.
Just inside the door at Ness’s barn is a three-year-old named Best Westerner, a full brother to the Secret.
You would think they were from entirely different bloodlines by their opposing personalities. The Secret is a laid back animal. “He’s real easy on himself,” said Ness. The brother?
“He’s the complete opposite. The village idiot,” Ness said.
Best Westerner is a three-year-old with a preference to go a route of ground and without the laid-back disposition of his brother. Jensen confirmed that the other morning when he cautioned a visitor to the barn about the horse. “He’s a biter,” said Jensen, displaying the very visible evidence on his upper arm. “This is more than a week old.”
Best Westerner is a talented horse, nonetheless. “He just has some growing up to do, yet. He needs to mature,” Ness said.
So does another three-year-old, tucked away in the back corner of the barn, the winner of a $100,000 race at Presque Isle Downs a couple of weeks ago, a $25,000 claim named Repenting.
Ness has very high hopes for this talented animal. “He’s still got some growing up to do,” he said. “He’s not quite there yet mentally, but I don’t think Lookinforthesecret wants any part of this one.” Repenting has won four in a row, 7/8ths is the longest he’s gone. “He’s screamin’ to go longer,” Ness said.
Meanwhile, Ness has the feed bills and the help to pay, so he’s heading to Assiniboia Downs this weekend with a filly named Polynesian Kitty he wants to run in a $50,000 stakes event. “That’s $52,500 in U.S. money,” he pointed out. That statement started a whole new conversation about the sagging dollar and how things used to be.
“It was just the opposite not that long ago. The dollar was worth more in Canada,” a bystander chimed in.
“Yeah, wasn’t it though,” Ness responded.
THOSE INCAS COULD PUT UP A BUILDING.
Luis Canchari has been in Shakopee from the very beginning, as a rider from 1985 until the track closed after the 1992 season, and most recently as a jockey agent, selling the services of riders he imports from his native Peru.
Luis was at one-time known as Louie the Glove and is sometimes still referred to simply as “The Glove.”
His latest find is 28-year-old rider Miguel Melendez, and Luis was selling him hard the other morning. “He could use a little press,” Luis said.
“He raced in Argentina, won a half-million dollar race there.”
The conversation shifted at that point to Canchari’s homeland and all its wonders.
Machu Picchu, the Incan metropolis in the Andes, was first up in the conversation.
Canchari exalted about the wonderful craftmanship of his ancestors and how they could build a city of stone without mortar that is still standing hundreds of years later, at an altitude of 7,000 feet nonetheless. He exuded praise and adoration for the tropical jungles.
Then his spiel shifted entirely to that of a travel agent.
“Life is short,” Canchari reminded. “Life is short. You are only here once. You need to see Machu Picchu and the jungles of Peru while you can. They are wonderful.”
Canchari has similar sentiments about all of his riders.
RIVERA READY TO RIDE
With the race about to start, Rivera’s horse, Our Valley Girl, flipped in the gate and he was pinned beneath her. “My horse she was right on top of me,” he recalled.
Rivera went about business as usual for the next day or so before visiting relatives from Puerto Rico, including his mother and father, encouraged him to get checked out.
“I went to the hospital and they took X-rays,” he said. “Nothing was broken. They told me not to ride horses for three days. I was lucky.”
Rivera suffered a bruised tailbone and a swollen knee and some swelling in his right eye.
He is named on six horses Friday and five on Saturday.
“I’m just a little sore now, but I’m doing OK,” he said. “I should be fine.”
Trainers Zach Armstrong and Ralph Mitchell arrived yesterday. They both were previously stabled at the recently ended Will Rogers Downs meet.
Trainer Owen McQuade arrived as well last evening. He already had horses on the grounds but brought an additional load for the summer.
Jockey Matthew McGowan has returned to his home state of Virginia.