On a damp, chilly Thursday morning at Pimlico, most Preakness contenders were being walked around the shed row wearing blankets emblazoned with their name, or perhaps their trainer's name. One was unique, however.
It's a bright blue and square wool blanket with white edges and big block letters emblazoned across the left side, and it is 33 years old. Trainer Blaine Wright is hopeful the treasured memories held in that old blue blanket will bring the colt wearing it, Anothertwistafate, a little extra luck this Saturday.
“My dad had a pretty good empire at Longacres in the 1980s and he always took real good care of his equipment and his blankets; he was real meticulous about everything,” explained Wright, 44. “A few years back he was cleaning out his old garage and he had all these 50-gallon army tubs — the metal kind — and he said, 'Here, take this stuff, some of that's my old stuff from racing and whatnot.'
“It went into my garage and I didn't touch it for a couple years. Finally, I was out there cleaning one day so I decided to just start filtering through all this. I come across these blankets. I was a racetrack rat when I was a kid, so I open it up and to me, that stuff's like gold. You know, it's your dad's stuff, the person you always look up to.”
Richard Wright, Blaine's father, started his racing career as a jockey but switched to training after 1972. Over the course of 33 years conditioning Thoroughbreds in the Pacific Northwest, the elder Wright saddled 963 winners.
His lone graded stakes triumph came in the 1982 Longacres Derby with a horse named Flying Judgement, and the winner's blanket from that race was also among his dad's possessions. Now repaired, the '82 blanket hangs in Blaine Wright's tack room at Golden Gate Fields as another source of luck.
The blanket draped over Anothertwistafate was another prize earned by one of his father's horses, Put Em Up, via his victory in the 1986 Longacres Juvenile Championship for the Breeders' Cup.
“That's what he was about, quality equipment and keep it in order,” Wright said of his father. “Now that I have my own barn, I've incorporated some of his stuff. I chose a couple blankets to bring to the barn. The second time we went to Zia Park this last year, with Anyportinastorm and Alliford Bay, I told my mom and sisters, 'Hey, I'm gonna bring one of dad's blankets, maybe it'll bring us some luck.' Then both of them won 100-granders, so now it travels with us… Really, it's just a part of our family, so that's why I use it.“
Wright grew up hoping to follow in his father's footsteps but not as a trainer. He'd wanted to be a jockey, so outgrowing those dreams left him in a bit of a tailspin after high school. Wright tried college for a short time, then worked odd jobs both on and off the racetrack for a few years.
In 1984 he took a position under his father, working his way up from groom to assistant trainer. In the early 2000s, Wright stepped away from the track life once again, though he kept in touch with the game with a job on the gate crew. In 2005, Wright made a commitment: He went all-in with the racing game.
“I took a job with Grant Forster at Emerald Downs, and that was a hell of a job,” he said. “He had all the best clients at the track at that time, and I kinda got right back in the game with a bunch of stakes horses. We had two pretty good solid years, and then I went out on my own after that. I figured it was time to move on. So now here we are, Maryland via the West Coast.”
Wright brings Anothertwistafate into the Preakness off a second-place finish in the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. This year, the 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy also ran second in the G3 Sunland Derby, and back in February he made a lot of noise with a seven-length triumph in the El Camino Real Derby.
That victory over Golden Gate's synthetic track led Wright to another milestone: purchasing jackets embroidered with the Wright stable name for his 30 employees between the Northern California track and Emerald Downs.
“I held out for a long time on getting barn jackets,” Wright said, laughing good-naturedly. “I always had a couple of my own, and one for my wife, and things like that, but they kept harping on me. 'We need jackets, we need jackets,' they said.
“We've had hats, shirts and stuff, but that's a little bit more of an investment to get barn jackets. At any rate, I said, 'Well, if he wins the El Camino I'll break down and do it.' So now we have jackets for both barns.”
One of those jackets didn't quite fit, and it belonged to a key member of Team Wright. Pepe, the gallop boy charged with piloting Anothertwistafate in his morning workouts, ordered a Large and found himself swimming in the coat.
“He's a bigger kid, but I didn't know they ran so large,” Wright said, smiling again. “He gave his to his dad, and I ordered him another one. That was alright with me.”
Approaching the Run for the Roses, Anothertwistafate didn't quite have enough points to make the 20-horse field. Rather than wait it out and try to draw in, Wright took the colt back to Golden Gate and focused his schedule on the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
The major work is now done, and Anothertwistafate will be the third choice on the morning line at 6-1 odds. He'll leave the Preakness starting gate from post 12 under top jockey Jose Ortiz.
“He used to be more of an aggressive horse, but as he's gotten into his route races he's really learned to settle and take everything in stride a little bit,” said Wright. “He's gonna have to (improve) in order to be good enough, but I'm glad we drew an outside post because I think our horse is more of a free-running horse, you know. He acts like he's ready to run again. We're just all hoping that he brings his A-game and that he can compete at this level.”
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