He may have been retired, but Stanley Hough still had a few business interests in the Thoroughbred industry. So when his golf game started to slip, and then long-time mentee Hunter Rankin called with a new opportunity, Hough decided to wade back in.
For the past several years, Hough and Sagamore president Rankin have been carefully rebuilding the farm's breeding and racing program, and when it came time for their first 2-year-olds to hit the track last fall, the 71-year-old Hough started to get “the itch” once again.
“I just wanted to see the process through,” he explained. “I had gotten pretty good at doing nothing, but then, being around the horses isn't really a job for me.”
One of those special young horses was Global Campaign, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Bolt d'Oro sired by Curlin. A few niggling issues kept him from making his debut until this January, but the colt won both of his first two outings with ease.
Unfortunately, Global Campaign grabbed a quarter in the G2 Fountain of Youth last Saturday but still managed to finish fifth. He is off the Kentucky Derby trail, but Hough is excited for what the rest of the sophomore season will hold for the talented colt.
Also on Saturday, Hough saddled his first graded stakes winner since 2011 when 5-year-old Recruiting Ready won the G3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths.
“He's such a neat horse, we just truly love him,” said Hough. “We've always felt that he had a lot of ability, and he showed signs of being able to lay off the pace, so he could be ready for a big year.”
Talking to Hough about his success is a bit of a challenge because the veteran conditioner of 2,175 winners doesn't like to “toot his own horn,” according to Rankin.
“He's been like a second father to me, so it's really special to do this with someone I'm so close to,” Rankin said. “He's such a good horseman, so he deserves every bit of the success.”
Hough recalls his favorite horses in his first run of training were Proud Appeal and Irish Tower, the former a $37,000 purchase who would go on to win the G1 Blue Grass; Hough sold the colt before he ran in the Kentucky Derby. Irish Tower, meanwhile, won several graded stakes and finished second in the G1 Met Mile.
Other talented horses conditioned by Hough included G1 winning millionaire Request for Parole, G1 winner Spectacular Tide, and multiple graded stakes winners Tar Heel Mom and Meter Maid.
He might not be galloping or even riding the pony anymore, but with 20-year assistant Laz Cruz in the barn Hough is finding his way back to the winner's circle on a regular basis. From just nine starters in 2019, Hough has saddled four winners and three additional on-the-board finishers.
“I'm not really up on the new ideas, but the stuff with the horses, that hasn't really changed,” said Hough. “There's no secret – with good care and the right spot, horses tend to run good.
“The horses aren't spread out like they used to be, but there is still room for a good horse. You still can't just buy your way to success.”
As for his personal future, Hough isn't sure how long he'll be back in the training game, only that he's enjoying every moment of the Sagamore experience.
“I'd like to finish out this year, and then of course there's always the next crop coming up,” he said, trailing off. “Hopefully I'll be training at least another year or two.”
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