Fellow Frenchman Julien Leparoux helped Rodolphe Brisset find a job in the United States, following the latter's short career as a jockey, now the trainer of Preakness contender Quip.
“We came here very young,” said Brisset, 34, “and we didn't have any family nearby. The whole (Bill) Mott team was such a family, and he helped me grow up while I was working for him. I think I could call him a father-figure… yes, I think that'd make him happy.”
He quickly became one of Mott's top assistant trainers, earning the opportunity to work with and ride some of the best horses in the game over a 10-year period. Brisset names Royal Delta, Flat Out, Tourist, Lea, Drosselmeyer, and Emollient as a few of his favorites.
One of Mott's owners, Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm, wanted to send a few horses to Keeneland in early 2017.
“He told me that he wanted to give me a string of horses at Keeneland, but that I might not keep all of them after the meet,” Brisset said. “It was an incredible opportunity, but I wanted to make sure I was ready. I figured I was only going to have one real shot at training, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it right.”
When Brisset officially hung out his shingle at the start of the Keeneland meeting in April, he and fiancé Brooke found themselves with 16 horses all on their own. They hired help as quickly as they could find reliable people, but Brisset recalls mucking “a lot of stalls” for the first two weeks.
Walden sent primarily 2-year-olds, including future Kentucky Derby winner Justify. Brisset remembered him as a straightforward, easy colt to work around. Another talented juvenile gave Brisset more trouble; Quip had his own ideas about training from the start.
“He was a horse who wants to be a little king,” Brisset told the New York Times. “He wanted to do a little too much. He thought, O.K., they want me to go, I'm going. We want you to go, but we want you to go smarter.”
The son of WinStar stalwart Distorted Humor, Quip earned enough points to make the main field for the Kentucky Derby. Brisset felt that he was not recovering quickly from a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby, and, along with Walden, make the decision to instead point for the Preakness Stakes.
“He's shown all the signs that he is back to his own self,” said Brisset. “The race in Arkansas and the trip was pretty hard on him.”
A horse on the Triple Crown trail might be enough to make some young trainers nervous, but Brisset is taking it all one day at a time. The experience with Grade 1-caliber horses across the country seems to have prepared him for the stress of dealing with the increased scrutiny, and Brisset has well-measured answers to most every question about Quip's future plans.
“This doesn't really change anything, because it isn't a one-year deal,” Brisset insists. “We let ourselves enjoy the win, but we got right up again the next morning and went back to work. You have to set your mind to be ready to go every day. It's hard to go up in this business, and it's easy to fall all the way down. We just focus on being there every day at five a.m., and doing what's right by the horses.”
Preakness History Gems
By Natalie Voss
Derby history gets explored extensively every spring as the Run For The Roses gets closer, but what about the Preakness? This year's race will be the 143rd running of the race, which has as rich a history as its more famous cousin.
A few tidbits of interest:
- Although it was first run two years before the Derby, the Preakness has not been held continuously. In 1890 it was run at Morris Park in the Bronx, N.Y. and at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island from 1894 to 1908. The reasons for moving the race are a little vague, but it seems during that period Pimlico and the Maryland Jockey Club fell on tough times and did not hold flat racing at the track for that period (although the Baltimore Sun discovered it did run jumpers and trotters for a time.) Interestingly, these 15 editions of the race were lost to history for a period of time and “rediscovered” in the late 1940s. The discovery of those race records seemed a notch in Maryland's favor, as its most famous race suddenly was only two runnings younger than the Derby, which has been run continuously since 1875. Two days after reporting the discovery, the Baltimore Sun ran an article based on an interview with jockey Roy Estep, who won the race in 1910 aboard Layminister. Estep said he had no memory of the race having been officially “moved” to New York and found the discovery puzzling.
- Everyone knows the three fillies who won the Derby, but can you name the five who won the Preakness (besides Rachel Alexandra in 2009)? The first was Flocarline in 1903, who took a Gravesend edition of the race, breaking the then-record for 1 mile 70 yards at 1:44 4/5.In 1906, Whimsical won the race as the favorite, having come to the Preakness off a disappointing finish in the Carter Handicap over the spring, and she did it by six lengths, which is one of the larger margins in Preakness history.Rhine Maiden, who took the race in 1915, the same year Regret became the first female Derby winner.Nellie Morse won the race in 1924 to the utter surprise of her owner, newspaper cartoonist Bud Fisher, who had misunderstood the date of the race and missed the event entirely. Fisher learned about his win after disembarking a steam ship in New York, thinking the race was the following afternoon. The press informed a simultaneously disappointed and thrilled Fisher about his win. The filly was not nominated to the Derby, which at that point fell after the Preakness in the calendar because according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, trainer Alex Gordon did not want to provide himself the temptation of overdoing her in case she turned out to be a decent runner.
- The Preakness doesn't have too many hometown heroes on its winners list. The last Maryland-based horse to win the race was Deputed Testamony in 1983. Deputed Testamony's win was somewhat dwarfed by one of the first national Lasix debates. At the time, Maryland permitted Lasix only in cases when a state veterinarian had observed a horse bleeding from the nose after a race or a work, while in Kentucky and California all that was required was a certificate from a licensed vet showing evidence of bleeding. Sports Illustrated published a feature article about the “Prescription Preakness” after trainers Jerry Fanning and D. Wayne Lukas took the commission to court over the rule. They won the legal argument barely 24 hours before post time, but they both lost the race.Before that, the last Maryland-based runner was Bee Bee Bee, who became one of the first standout runners for William S. Farish before he bought Lane's End Farm.
- Although the official flower of the Preakness is the Black-Eyed Susan, the winner probably won't be wearing any. The flowers on the blanket are actually Viking Poms, a type of chrysanthemums closely resembling Black-Eyed Susans (which are actually a type of coneflower). As with other coneflowers, Black-Eyed Susans generally don't bloom in the Mid-Atlantic area until summer and fall. The centers of the Viking Poms, which are characteristically brown, are painted to look black while they're sewn onto the green felt blanket.
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