Post-race interview w/ Travers winner Keen Ice's owner Jerry Crawford
Post-race interview with Travers winner Keen Ice's owner
Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing:
THE MODERATOR: Now we're joined by Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, the Travers winner Keen Ice, and the rest of the connections, I'm sure, will be joining us shortly.
Jerry, congratulations to you. If you could just start by giving us your impressions of the race and what you were feeling there in that final furlong as you were charging down the track.
JERRY CRAWFORD: Thank you. First of all, I want to say a heartfelt thanks to Team Zayat for bringing American Pharaoh here today. The reason this is a great victory for us is because they were willing to be true sportsmen. They made this race as huge as it was, probably one of the biggest ever. So I'm grateful to them for being true sportsmen.
Our horse has gotten better every single race. He's been coming and coming and coming. You saw that in the Haskell, even though it was not his preferred distance. Today was a distance he likes a little better. I can't say I'm surprised by the outcome. Obviously, I'm pleased. I didn't think we were an even money shot or anything like that, but I thought we were going to run really well.
Dale Romans said he was ready, and he was right, and we had a good game plan. The horse has developed more front end speed as we've gone along, and we were able to put him in contention sooner today.
THE MODERATOR: Can you talk more about his campaign this year and the faith that you've had. This is actually his first win of the year. So talk about persevering through big efforts but without wins.
JERRY CRAWFORD: Yeah, we were 21st on the Derby eligible list for a long damn time before we finally got in. And then we decided to sit back and wait for the Belmont Stakes, and we finished third there. That was a good decision. Then prepped to come here.
The horse has not had a bad day in the last three months. He just wasn't mature enough to be competitive in the front end of the Triple Crown. But he's gotten more and more mature. All that happened today was just the natural progression in his ability and the quality of the racing he's been providing us.
So it seems to me there might be some eagerness by more than one party for a rematch in the Breeders Cup.
THE MODERATOR: You were able to put on a now five-time Travers winning jockey for this race. Let's talk about the trip and the benefit of getting a rider that has delivered in the Travers before and is the man up here in Saratoga.
JERRY CRAWFORD: My recollection is that he's 33 percent at 1 1/8 and longer, maybe 33.4, and nobody else has a number that starts with a 3. So I knew that we were in very, very good hands going this distance with him.
I have to give him credit. He had watched the film himself. I called Dale Romans very early this morning, and I said, I've been going over this and going over this and going over this, and I don't think today's the day where we drop back. We don't have to. Our horse has been sharper the last two races. We can put him into the race sooner.
Dale said, I've been thinking the same thing all night. I couldn't sleep. He said, you call Javier. In case this is a screw-up, I want it to be on you and not me.
So I called Javier and said, here's what we're thinking. And he said, I've been watching tape all morning. It's exactly the right thing to do, and it worked to perfection.
THE MODERATOR: Very good. We'll be joined by Dale and Javier shortly. In the meantime, do we have questions from the media?
Q. One semi-serious one. You said earlier this week, if this horse won, you were bringing him to Dairy House?
JERRY CRAWFORD: Why would you say that's only semi-serious? I think that's serious as a heart attack, which is what I'm going to have if I keep eating Dairy Haus ice cream.
We will immediately see what we can do to make that a safe and fun outing. We've been giving away free Keen Ice Donegal Racing ice cream cones to kids 12 and under the last couple of years. They're green and yellow, just in case you want to know, with green and yellow sprinkles. I recommend them to all of you. You can see we've had a couple.
Yeah, we'll be making an appearance at Dairy Haus. We just have to figure out how to do it safely for everyone.
Q. How happy were you to see Frosted up there engaging with American Pharaoh throughout the race?
JERRY CRAWFORD: Would have kissed him if I could have gotten close enough. No, I was thrilled. I thought somebody would go. I thought it would be Kent Desormeaux on Texas Red, but it was important.
Q. I apologize if you already said this. Right after the Haskell, you said you were really looking forward to this, almost as if you hoped that American Pharaoh would come to Saratoga. He's a Triple Crown winner now. (Indiscernible). Reflect back to then and taking him on and the satisfaction now.
JERRY CRAWFORD: You're exactly right. I was really, really hoping that the Zayats would bring American Pharaoh here. They showed what superb sportsmen they are by bringing him here. Dale Romans thought I needed to go in for a mental health checkup hoping that American Pharaoh would be here.
Look, our horse just has gotten better every single race, and there's no -- one of the interesting questions is going to be do we train up to the Breeders Cup, or do we race between now and the Breeders Cup? My gut instinct at this very moment is that we might train up, given the enormity of what we've put him through.
But I'm not surprised by him being able to get this done today at 1-1/4 mile. His trend line is pretty stony.
Q. As you watched the race, were you kind of processing the whole thing, or were you just kind of emotionally reacting?
JERRY CRAWFORD: I've taught myself to be very calm. I can assure you that my wife Linda makes up for it in spades with her reaction during the course of the race. But I don't think I uttered a peep.
I liked his action from the gate. I liked him -- I was a little nervous about how wide he got shoved, by the way, by my good friend Kent Desormeaux, in the first turn by Texas Red, but then he re-engaged, and I liked his position every step of the way from then on.
Q. Jerry, just talk about what it means for Donegal to win this prestigious -- getting to this race and then winning it. What does it mean for Donegal Racing?
JERRY CRAWFORD: It means a great deal. I think, in a lot of the surveys, people who pay attention to racing partnerships, we've been doing very well. When you look at dollars earned per start, which I think is probably the truest indication, we've been first most of the last year and a half or something like that.
So from that standpoint, it just validates what we know on the inside. Obviously, it's a pretty good commercial to the racing world. But we do one partnership a year. We don't syndicate individual horses. We do one partnership a year. We started off with a group of friends, and our growth has been very purposeful and deliberate and not huge leaps and bounds, and it will continue to be that way.
Donegal is just a dream come true. So many good friends, new friends and old friends, and we try and show them -- we always say that it's quality experiences with people we love. That's what it's been.
Q. And the partnership on Keen Ice specifically, can you explain a little bit about how many partners and how it works.
JERRY CRAWFORD: There were about 25 partners. That's Derby Dreams 7 -- 6. Thanks, partners. Derby Dreams 6. So we had eight horses in that partnership, and Keen Ice was one of them. So everybody owns the same percentage of every horse.
As opposed to most partnerships where you might invest in this horse and this horse and this horse, but then you miss the big horse. So everybody who is a partner two years ago owns part of Keen Ice. That's been, because I do this avocationally and not for a living, that's a luxury that we have.
My son Conor, who's just going to be so mad he wasn't here today. He's a second year law student at Virginia, and he helps me run it as well along with Conor Foley and Jim Hatchett. We've got a very good team of trainers. Obviously, Dale Romans might be the favorite at the moment.
Q. (No microphone)?
JERRY CRAWFORD: It's all sort of all for one and one for all.
Q. And the other thing you said you got more attention to the syndicate being third in the Belmont than any of your grade 1s. So what about this?
JERRY CRAWFORD: Good point. We won the Pacific Classic with Dullahan as a 3-year-old, and I thought that was pretty good actually. But I couldn't believe that, because of American Pharaoh, the third place in the Belmont and the second place in the Haskell garnered us far more public interest than any of our grade 1 wins, and we have quite a few of them.
So I'm not even ready to think about what today means. I'm just so grateful to the Zayats for bringing American Pharaoh here. They have stamped themselves forever as true sportsmen by being willing to do that. I can't say enough.
For them, obviously, I'm benefitting from their decision, but I think people have seen what kind of sportsmen they are as well.
Q. Jerry, I'm sorry if you were asked before, but is this at all bittersweet to see a horse like Pharaoh fall today?
JERRY CRAWFORD: I talked about Pharaoh several times before the race and since the race. I can't say enough for them as sportsmen for bringing him here.
Look, he ran in all three Triple Crown races. We only ran in two. They continue to fly him back and forth across the country. They've been true sportsmen. And it's because of them that we had this opportunity to put -- to stamp Donegal Racing indelibly on the map forever. If they're not here and we win this race, it's a great thing, we all talk, but really it's people in the sports and horse racing world that pay attention.
American Pharaoh has captured the nation's attention, maybe even part of the world's attention, and because of what he accomplished, now that spotlight radiates on us. To the extent you call 50,000 people booing me radiation.
Q. Jerry, just to talk a little bit more about the rest of the year. You said it's very possible that you could train up to the Breeders Cup, but if not, what would be on the radar? What kind of options do you have from here out?
JERRY CRAWFORD: A lot of us are from Des Moines. I suppose we could take him to Prairie Meadows. Probably we won't do that. Not this time. I'd be surprised if Dale wants to run him again between -- we've had a good strong campaign here.
He is a horse -- he's as sound as any horse we own, and I think that he's the kind of horse that benefits from regular racing. It took us a long time to get him in shape, which is why we were 21st on the Derby points list for so long. But he's just gotten better literally every single time. I can't wait to see what the numbers are today.
Q. Did you sense any vulnerability in Pharaoh coming into this race?
JERRY CRAWFORD: Only that they were asking a lot of him. If you're a buyer, watcher, or if you're a sheet watcher or a thoroughbred watcher, he had dug pretty deep in the quality chats.
They must be watching our replay.
There's a limit to how many superb efforts a horse can put on in a row. So from that standpoint, I think it was asking a lot of him today too.
THE MODERATOR: Jerry, congratulations. Thanks for coming down and joining us.
JERRY CRAWFORD: Just FYI, I think Dale went back to the barn with the horse. Just wanted to make sure he cooled down okay. But I'll leave that to all of you.
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Keen Ice photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese/Courtney Heeney