RED BRINGING FEVER AS BIG AS TEXAS
So, we all know it is better than three months to the most recognized Thoroughbred race in the world. But it’s never too early to start thinking about the Kentucky Derby because after all, it is the Kentucky Derby and the fever it brings is certainly something special. For one particular contender, the mercury is already on the rise.
Texas Red ran himself into major Kentucky Derby contention with a huge win in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Coming from last on the backstretch, this son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex maneuvered through a field of 12 other two-year olds and won by a widening 6 ½ lengths. So impressive was his stretch run, Red immediately infused his followers with a serious sense of optimism as they did the Texas two-step to the winner’s circle.
“I think when you win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile it’s automatic to start thinking Kentucky Derby,” says trainer Keith Desormeaux. “It is the race everybody knows about and no matter how much you say you are not going to think about it you cannot be immune to Derby fever. Nothing else is comparable to the Kentucky Derby. The quickest way to increase the value of a horse’s stock is to win the Derby. My job as a trainer is to help my clients by increasing the value of their horses. A win at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May is the ultimate for everybody.”
The dominating drive to the finish line in the Juvenile marked the second trip to the winner’s circle in five career starts for Texas Red. Having shown signs in previous starts with a second and third place finish in those runs as well, the sizeable colt was obviously on the upswing as he strode into the starting gate on November 1. In reality, however, Desormeaux and his group had no idea would take a talented field to the woodshed the way he did.
“If I had known with certainty he was going to run that way I would be retired right now,” jokes Desormeaux. “There had been clues along the way he was coming in right, but you can never know for sure what is going to happen, especially against that kind of field. I know there were some top horses that were not there, but it still was a very competitive field. He had showed enough talent for us to know he has a chance to be special and we feel with his size he is only going to get better with time.”
Texas Red left the starting gates as a 13-1 afterthought on Breeders’ Cup day, but now he is running towards the first Saturday in May as one of the horses to watch. Given some time off, Red is now back at the track working hard under the watchful eye of his conditioner. Bigger and stronger, a maturing colt with a closing kick as big as Jim Bowie’s knife hopes to continue cutting through the opening leg of the Triple Crown.
“The time off has helped him because his pedigree suggests the older he gets the better he will be,” says his Louisiana-bred trainer. “I like to develop a foundation of fitness and confidence and then let him use his style of running to be successful. I just want my horses to relax and I leave it up to the jockey to help them run their race.”
Desormeaux may have some advantage in the jockey department as his brother Kent is the rider of Texas Red. With three Kentucky Derby wins (1998, 2000, 2008) already in his saddle, the hall of fame rider certainly knows how to win on the biggest day beneath the twin spires. Even though Keith downplays the family thing in the Texas Red team, he is thankful to have one of the best riders in the game that happens to also be flesh and blood.
“Why would I want anyone other than my brother to ride Texas Red,” questions Keith. “I tell you some people are lucky and some people are good and he happens to be both. I think he was born with a golden horseshoe up his butt. Really though, his talent has made some of his luck. He just has that internal clock and gets his horses to move at the right time. We are very lucky to have him, but none of this is about us, it is about the horse.”
The Desormeaux brothers are not the only ones excited by the big-running Red. The Kentucky-bred that was purchased for a paltry $17,000 has an ownership group hotter than the coals at a Texas barbecue.
“I have found it to be very surprising how Kentucky Derby fever is dominating my life,” says owner Erich Brehm. It’s everything you think about. Your life revolves around it all and it is just fantastic. We couldn’t be happier right now with Texas Red. He seems to be doing great and has done everything we want him to do to this point. We just have to keep him headed in the right direction and keep the dream alive.”
Texas Red will likely get his three-year old season rolling on February 1 in the 7 furlong San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. Next up could be a trip to Louisiana and the Fair Grounds before perhaps finishing up with a final prep in California in the Santa Anita Derby. With all options open and a plethora of preps to choose from, Desormeaux has to make sure his horse has enough qualifying points to start in the Kentucky Derby. At this point, it is just about not letting the fever spike too early and keeping the mercury rising until that first Saturday in May.
“We have been focused on the Kentucky Derby since the Breeders’ Cup win,” says Brehm. “I can’t tell you how excited we are to have this opportunity.”