It’s truly amazing how folks with common interests can connect and share ideas, thoughts, and passions through the use of the internet and social media.
Through this form of media I was blessed and fortunate enough to connect with a class individual: trainer Tim Ice. Tim and I hooked up recently to take a stroll through his well-kept stables on the back stretch at Arlington Park and later had a chance to share an in-depth conversation over the phone.
(Due to our choice of service providers, our call must have dropped about 100 times!! OK, well, maybe 8 or 9 but still! I’m surprised we even got to finish the conversation!)
For me, this was one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had. Being a racing fan since the age of 12 I have always wondered what happened behind the scenes of a race track. What do the trainers think about? How do trainers know when to enter a race? Do trainers have any suspicions? You catch my drift.
So here we are on Memorial Day, 2011. On a relatively hot day for us cold-blooded Minnesotans at Arlington Park my daughter Greer, her friend Melody, and I met up with Tim before his entry “Drumblare’s” 1 mile contest. After wishing him luck we walked from the paddock to the rail to get a close-up view of Tim’s competition. Tim’s Drumblare was beaten by 10 lengths in this $10,000 claimer yet finished second and after the race John Dooley had announced that Drumblare was claimed! Now I had always thought that after a claim was made there was some process or some other magic that occurred to transfer the horse to the new stable, but when we arrived at Tim’s stable that day after the race, there was an empty stall. Wow, it happens that quickly! (Mental note: if the kids are ever acting up, find out if they can be claimed.)
The time we spent in the stable after the race that day went by extremely quick!! Thirteen of the most muscular fit, and well-kept horses greeted us and begged for our attention. One in particular, a tall, gray horse named Set In Stone who sadly just yesteday was claimed away (below), greeted us with a smile and became the recipient of a generous amounts of peppermints!
Another, a filly named Madame Mistletoe, was one of the calmest and sweet horses I’ve ever been around. Any time we would walk by she would poke her head out of the stall, waiting to be petted. It was just surreal to be up close and personal with the featured runners. I will forever be grateful to Tim for that opportunity as it was my first time in the stable of real thoroughbred race horses. (Sure, I had been to a few stables of show horses when my daughter rode them, but to me this was a whole new experience.)
A few weeks later I thought I’d pick Tim’s brain and ask him a set of burning questions that I’ve always had about racing (in between the dropped calls, of course). It was immediately clear to me throughout the course of our conversation that in order to be a trainer in this sport, you must have passion, determination, and desire. See, growing up in Louisiana Tim started working with horses at a young age. Tim’s step-father Frank Rapp allowed him to work on his small 10-acre farm breeding and training horses. Tim carried his love for horses throughout high school to working in the starting gate, learning how to train horses from Keith Desormeaux, and finally running an operation of his own. Working the starting gate gave Tim a unique perspective on how horses react to being placed into the gate and he learned how the break from the gate can sometimes greatly affect the final outcome of a race.
As with any job or career days can be long and be filled with ups and downs. I asked Tim what the best and worst parts are of being a trainer. For obvious reasons the best part is winning!! Other than that the chance to be around the horses on a daily basis allows him to live his dream and fulfill his passion. On the other side, having to call his clients to deliver bad news such as having a sick horse or having an unplanned scratch from a race can make the job tough at times. When I asked about advice he would give to any new trainer in the industry, his passion for the sport showed again as his main suggestion is to never give up and to keep at it. Be confident.
In order to share more of the conversation, and answers to my burning questions I thought I would put this into an easy to read Q&A format. Listen, I have an MBA OK? I like short and sweet bullet points!! (I’m also good at going to meetings and making spreadsheets)
Q: I was curious to know who the hungriest horse he had ever trained was.
A: Tim said it is the horse I mentioned before, Set In Stone. Tim said the horse will eat anything and called him a “garbage disposal!”
Q: I also wanted to know what kind of horses are the easiest to work with and train.
A: Tim said he likes to work with horses that go out to the lead or sit just off of the pace. He likes multi-dimensional horses that don’t have to have everything go their way in order to win and don’t necessarily have to worry about the pace.
Q: I asked Tim if he had any special or race-day suspicions.
A: Tim said there is nothing in particular on race days, but he does NOT allow black cats in the barn and will not number a stall with #13. (Ironically enough, this was not one of the original interview questions. However a mere minutes before the interview while I was returning home from picking up my daughter from driving school, a black cat crossed the path of our car!)
Q: When asked about who he likes to work with in the industry in particular…
A: …Tim said that he likes to work with jockeys Kent Desormeaux, James Graham, Seth Martinez, and E.T. Baird (though he completely respects the work of all jockeys)!
I then was interested in learning about some of the top prospects in his stable. Tim is very high on a two year old colt named Pryce’s Posse who makes his debut today on Father’s Day and recently breezed a bullet workout in 46 4/5 seconds. He also likes an unnamed Johannesburg two year old colt who has been showing some promise.
Tim Ice is, in my opinion, a world class horseman that is not afraid to beat to his own drum and run his stables in a manner that he thinks is best regardless of what other trainers do with their horses. He is always looking to place his horses in the spots where they have the best opportunity to win. After all, that is the object of the game, right? I’m certainly happy that he has brought his contingent of horses to Arlington Park, a place he describes as “beautiful” and a place that has impressed him from top management all the way down. I personally thank Tim for all that he has shown and taught me and I am confident that we’ll see him in the winner’s circle of a big race in the near future.