TurfTalk360 conversation: trainer Buff Bradley
TurfTalk360.com spoke with Churchill Downs-based trainer Buff Bradley before he left for New York to run two-time Woodford Reserve Turf Classic winner Divisidero in the $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan (G1) on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes undercard. Here’s what he had to say about Gunpowder Farms’ son of the Ramsey Farm stallion Kitten’s Joy and the Manhattan, for which Divisidero is the 4-1 co-second choice with Beach Patrol behind 3-1 favorite World Approval:
Compare winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic this time with last year’s victory on Kentucky Derby Day.
Last year it meant a lot just because it was his first Grade 1 win. This year I think it stamped him as coming back and been solid. He’s run some winning races and just had problems in the race not to be able to get there. You always want good horses to overcome that, but I think he’s back to where he belongs. Hopefully this next race will keep proving he’s solid. Coming into the Woodford this year, he seemed just mentally better to me, that he was really on it: Feeling good, bucking and playing.
This year we’ve also had to worry about him having to get a little hot in the paddock and the post parade. But in the paddock with 150,000 people around, he was great. I don’t know if he just likes the crowds and it gets him pumped up. But we did a lot of schooling with him in the gates and the paddock, even leading up to the race this year. Even more than in the past.
This means a lot. This is probably his last year of racing; I assume he’d go to stud after this year. So we’re going to make the most out of this year.
It does seem like turf sires are far better received at stud these days.
I think they’re coming along. Even in his 3-year-old year, I had the owners talked into running on the dirt at some point, because I really felt he could run on the dirt, just the way he worked on it. Definitely his style of running and his explosive kick is more conducive to turf racing. But I do believe he has enough ability to run on dirt, though we’ll never get a shot at it, I don’t think.
What was the whole Derby Day like for you? It started out so nasty and the track was so muddy when people walked over for their race. Then the sun comes out and he wins.
I’m still so high after our race that whoever wins the Derby, that’s great. That was the third year he won on Derby Day. You win on those big days, everybody in the world is watching, especially when you have the race right before the Derby. Everybody sees that because it’s leading up to the Derby. It’s on network TV. I’ve been very fortunate on Derby Day, and we’re really happy with that. And the way Divisidero did it this Derby Day, he really exploded down the lane, from last to first and everybody seeing the real Divisidero. I think that’s what he’s been looking for. Julien (Leparoux) did a great job. He fit him well. I’m sure my next jockey will, too, though, if they see that’s the way to ride him.” (That’s John Velazquez, with Leparoux riding World Approval in the Manhattan.)
What do you think is his best distance?
I don’t think distance is a big factor. Where we’ve got the Lemon Drop Kid on the bottom side, it shouldn’t limit him.
What other races after the Manhattan are you thinking about?
I told the owner (Tom Keithley) that I would love to run in the Arlington Million. It’s a prestigious race still, one of the first grass races that you ever read about or head about. It still comes up a great race every year. And we’re looking at the Breeders’ Cup Turf. I don’t think he has distance limitations. I think the Mile, you get in a lot more traffic. I think you can put yourself in a little better position in the Turf.
He won the Pennine Ridge at Belmont as a 3-year-old after taking the American Turf at Churchill Downs. Then he’s run into some problems over that course (finishing seventh in the 2015 Belmont Derby and fifth in last year’s Manhattan, both at 1 1/4 miles).
In the Manhattan last year, I think we had him too close. I think we let him run a little bit too early, and he likes to have that (late) kick. And we didn’t get beat but two, three lengths to Flintshire, the best horse in the country at that time. It wasn’t a horrible race, but we didn’t had our best race that day, either.
This is your first Grade 1 winner for an outside client, as you were an owner in both two-time champion Groupie Doll and Brass Hat. That’s got to be great for business, showing people you take outside horses.
People told me, even before I got this horse, that they didn’t know that I’m really into taking outside horses. Obviously I am, and really even more since my dad’s passing. I’ve really tried to reduce my size of the stable that way. I don’t need to be carrying all that. I’ve always tried to let people know it’s not just my horses. In fact, if it’s my horse, I’ll send it back to the farm if I can fill the stall with an owner’s horse.
(We caught up with Bradley Friday to get his take on the Manhattan field.)
World Approval is probably the one to beat. And you know Beach Patrol will probably be out there right in front, with World Approval laying right off of him. They know where I’ll be. It’s a good race. World Approval probably hasn’t been better than he is right now, the way he’s run his last few races, and Beach Patrol has run well. The horse from overseas, Time Test, is making his second start for Chad Brown. They said he had a rough trip, and that he’s legit, was running against decent horses in England. They’re going to make you run for $1 million.
Divisidero is doing super. He’s just really feeling good. We schooled him in the gate (Thursday at Belmont), and he had no problems. We went to the paddock, and he got a little warm, but probably was just pumped up a bit and he seemed to calm down toward the latter part of that. It was one of his better trips over to the paddock, though, so we were happy with that.