BY JIM WELLS
The Hard Luck Boys, The Can’t Get a Break Bunch or, maybe, Is This Really Happening Stable…any of those nicknames might have fit perfectly the last couple of years.
“You got that right,” said Paul Strangis, a member of the ill-fated partnership without a name.
This year, there are seven involved instead of five so a name was at long last needed, and By- A- Nose Stable, somehow seems to fit. At wit’s end and beside themselves with doubt the last couple of years, the drought is finally over.
Race after race (they’ve forgotten how many) the group sat through one loss after another during the 2014 and 2015 racing seasons with the four horses they owned during that time. Race after race their horses came up empty.
“Sometimes we hoped that the horse we had running just wouldn’t finish last,” Strangis added.
Or sometimes simply finish the race.
“Everyone would come to the track, order dinner and then watch our horse lose,” said partner Tom Metzen, president of the local HBPA.
Two years and not a single visit to the winner’s circle for the group comprised of Strangis, Metzen and his wife Karen, Rick Lupient and Gary McCloud.
The only way to handle the disappointment was to shake their heads in disbelief.
“We had one horse that couldn’t lose when we claimed it,” McCloud said. “It couldn’t run a step after we got it.”
On and on it went.
“We claimed a horse last year that finished dead last every time he ran,” Metzen added.
My oh my. What’s a stable to do?
“We’ve been a stick together group and now it’s paying off,” McCloud added.
Here’s what happened:
Last winter at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Metzen and trainer Robertino Diodoro were having a conversation and an idea emerged. The group would restructure with Diodoro as their trainer and partner. Everyone would write a check, including a new group member, Leslie Miller, a Strangis acquaintance and former Minnesotan who lives in California. Diodoro would train, select and find appropriate races for the horses.
So he purchased three horses privately in California and claimed a fourth at Oaklawan Park in Arkansas.
“We didn’t lay eyes on a single one of them until they arrived at Canterbury,” Metzen added.
Dinner at Canterbury has come with a marvelous dessert this summer:
Four wins, a second and a third.
Four trips to the winner’s circle to work off the chocolate mousse.
The reasons for this turnaround are many and often at odds with one another.
“You know, luck is a factor in this game,” said Strangis. “And, maybe our expectations were too high in the past. We shouldn’t have been afraid of losing a horse in a claiming race and maybe not have run in allowance races. We aren’t afraid to lose a horse now. We’re into claimers. That’s who we are.”
And, of course, there is the trainer/partner, Diodoro. “He’s smart. He has an eye for horses,” said McCloud. “He’s a good trainer and he knows where to run them,” said Strangis. “All of the people we used previously are good trainers. This has just seemed to click for a number of reasons and luck is certainly one of them, too.”
The By-A-Nose Stable hopes to add a fifth win to the ledger in the eighth race on Friday night with Diablo Caballero in a mile claiming event. His chances?
“Well, it’s his first time stretching out, so we’ll see what happens,” said Diodoro. “I think he can go the distance. I guess we’ll find out.”
For the record, Warren’s Dixie Bell has run twice at Canterbury and has won twice. Diablo Caballero won in his previous local start and RedNBlack Attack won in his only previous start. Donalis’ Success, meanwhile, has a second and a third.
Although Diodoro is credited by his partners for smart placement of the stable’s horses and his keen eye for horseflesh, there isn’t any doubt about the smartest member of the partnership.
Hands down, it’s Leslie Miller. “Oh she’s the smartest for sure,” said McCloud. “She got in at just the right time.”
“All she does is get winner’s pictures in the mail,” added Metzen.
Maybe that’s the explanation.
By-A-Nose Stable started the year with a new member and a new name.
And a new outlook to go with it.