An interview with:
J. PAUL REDDAM
DOUG F. O’NEILL
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined in the interview room by the winning owners of I'll Have Another, two thirds of the way to the Triple Crown. On the left, J. Paul Reddam. On the right, his wife, Zillah. Congratulations to both of you. As I mentioned earlier, we'll be joined later on by trainer Doug O'Neill and rider, Mario Gutierrez.
But to Paul and Zillah, tell us, please, first and foremost, your thoughts while watching the race.
J. PAUL REDDAM: Well, my first thought before the race was races never go like people think they'll go on paper. So I wasn't really surprised to see the horses stand across the track when they went by the grand stand the first time, because it just sounded too simple to say that Bodemeister would be on the lead and we'd be tracking him.
So going into the clubhouse turn, we were caught wide, and I said oh, oh, I don't like the way this is shaping up. And at the half-mile pole we were in the clear, cruising, and in a pretty good spot.
But the horse in the lead was running strong. I could see coming out of the turn that it was going to be a dog fight between I'll Have Another and Bodemeister. We had some ground to make up, and the other horse was not stopping. He ran a very brave, gigantic race. I wasn't sure that we would get there, but I knew that our horse had a lot of heart and a lot of fight. He had been in a dog fight in the Santa Anita Derby, which probably did him well.
We knew the stretch here was very long. Gary Stevens told me the other day that he super imposed Churchill on top of Pimlico, and the stretch was a little longer here, and I kept thinking I hope this stretch is that long. It wasn't really until about 20 yards from the wire that I thought we were going to win, so it was pretty thrilling.
Q. Paul and Zillah, your horse showed a lot of heart. But between the Derby and Preakness, a lot of thoughts and doubts were raised about your trainer and also your relatively unproven jockey, Mario Gutierrez. Would you comment about your trainer and jockey now that the Preakness is behind us with that added hindsight?
J. PAUL REDDAM: There may have been doubts about the trainer and the jockey, but the doubts were not expressed by me. I thought that Doug did a fantastic job preparing the horse, and I don't know how he managed to have such an active social life at the same time. But every time I turn on the TV or the radio, there he was.
I think he just really enjoyed the whole ride. Mario the same thing. I really commended him because to go from, I don't want to say an obscure track, but one that's not on the radar every day, and then to be thrust into the limelight and to be cool as he was yesterday; and before the race today, they were joking before getting a leg up. And I thought he's going to be okay.
These guys really, they deserve the win. Absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: Your thoughts, any or all of you, as much fun as it's been so far, you're now on the verge of the opportunity to make history. What thoughts do you see that engender in you now as you look three weeks ahead?
DENNIS O'NEILL: It's just kind of surreal. Going into today, I thought this horse was a really, really good horse going in. And I think after today, he's proven this is a great horse. He's really a great horse. I think going into that race, we'll have a fresh Union Rags and Dullahan ready for us.
But the way this horse runs, they're going to have a hard time catching him just the way he runs. I don't think anybody doubts he'll get the mile and a half. So we're excited. I can't wait to get to New York.
THE MODERATOR: Questions from down here or upstairs in the press box or Dennis O'Neill, Paul Reddam, or Zillah Reddam?
Q. Given the Preakness shorter distance, and the fact that the fractions were a little slower, was this race even more impressive than the Kentucky Derby?
J. PAUL REDDAM: I think there was a common feeling from what I read inside that the horse won the Derby because he got the perfect trip. And if he didn't get the perfect trip, he wouldn't have won. So it wasn't so much the horse as the way the race went.
I think today went at what I would call a reasonable pace. He didn't have trouble, but he was certainly wide in the first turn. He shows that he's the real deal. He's a real race horse. He gutted it out.
The other horse was not stopping. He had a bang up race. To come and catch him, how could you criticize that, really? The horse has done everything that we've asked of him this year, and he hasn't had the most respect. He's never been favored, and I think for those who follow the horse and bet on them, that will be pretty rewarding. I don't know if that will be the case next time after today's race.
Q. Dennis, you're such a key member of the team, assisting Doug and advising him all the way. Any plans developed yet as to I'll Have Another's travel plans to New York? It was noted that you came in very early to Baltimore.
DENNIS O'NEILL: We talked about it a little bit. I think we'll do the same thing. We'll go to New York in the next couple days, get in there early and get across the track. I think they'll probably both go home for four or five days, let this sink in and then head back to New York at the end of next week. That is kind of the tentative plan. We'll be ready.
Q. Did you get any offers on this horse after the Kentucky Derby? Any plans to sell him?
J. PAUL REDDAM: No, we've had no offers, and part of that would be that people wouldn't think I would sell the horse anyway, which I wouldn't. So it's very simple.
Q. Paul, given the unprecedented attention and pressure of the Triple Crown, how great an asset is it that so far Mario Gutierrez seems completely unflappable?
J. PAUL REDDAM: Well, that's obviously a key. I would think that if you win your first in your lifetime in April, then you win the Derby in May, the only time it would be unflappable is going into today's race. And I will tell you that Hugo's really loose. And I think Doug helped that out by joking around. And now the pressure will intensify and we're going to try to talk together.
Look, there are a lot of horses that have been in this position the last 15 years, and it didn't happen for them. So we're only two-thirds there, right? So we've got to be cool, including the chalk, and try to block everything out. When we get to the Belmont, just ride the race, and if it happens, it happens.
THE MODERATOR: We've now been joined second from our left by trainer Doug O'Neill. Doug, congratulations. Terrific performance today by I'll Have Another. First question, a lot was made about the lack of upper speed to go with Bodemeister. If you had a strategy going in, you didn't divulge it before the race. But did the apparent lack of speed alter your plans in any way at least in how you and Mario drew up the race in your minds?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: Well, you know, Paul Reddam had suggested that we watch replays, which we did yesterday. And I think Mario and I took away from that that Pimlico's very fair. And anyway you face it, it's still a long way. So they didn't want Bodemeister to get a super early lead.
We didn't want to gun our horse and take our horse out of his game either. So I think at the end of the day, Mario felt very comfortable and super confident in this horse and his ability to get the best run out of him. That's what he did. He just wrote it the way it unfolded.
He didn't have the greatest trips. He was kind of pushed wide on both turns he was pushed wide. But he kept him in the clear, and when called on, he finished.
Q. I think it would be fair to call you a people person, and you seem to handle the Derby to Preakness portion?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: No comment. I love it. Practice. Thank you.
Q. But going for a Triple Crown takes the whole worldwide media attention to a whole other level. Are you looking forward to these next three weeks knowing that it's going to be way, way more than you've experienced thus far?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: I am. I'm excited. I'm surrounded by so many fun people. Just having fun with them. That is kind of doing our thing around the barn. We work hard and take good care of the horses. When injuries come up, we just regroup, take care of them, and we just have a really good atmosphere in the barn. That helps us have time to keep everything very loose for me and the horses and the staff.
Q. Now joining us is jockey Mario Gutierrez. Mario, very well done. Take us, if you will, through the trip.
MARIO GUTIERREZ: Actually, in Canada, we were expecting it. It's not about me. We talked about it with Mr. Reddam and Mr. O'Neill. We wanted to stay a little closer to Bodemeister this time because he's an unbelievable horse and he runs a huge race.
But my horse had a tremendous kick in the end. It has been proven in the last three races, and he didn't disappoint today.
Q. It's been mentioned before you got here, Mario, how unflappable you are. Do you look forward to the pressure that will go with making history, potentially, in the Belmont Stakes?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: I want to put the pressure a little bit on the side. The horse deserves the credit. He earned it. He never got a lucky trip. He has proven himself in the run. I just want to prepare. I want to be on the same level as him. He's an amazing horse, and I'm happy to be riding him.
Q. You were sitting on the rail watching the race, what was going through your mind as it was taking place?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: Obviously, the paddock, it seems like you're in there for an eternity. I was just trying to distract Mario, which was pretty easy, because I think he was thinking other things too. So just trying to stay loose, like you said. Mario did mention if Bodemeister goes early, do you want me to press him? I said, Mario, you know the horse. Just ride him to the best of your ability, and he did just that.
I think Mario was trying to calm me down. I was trying to calm Mario down. And in the end, we were both pretty comfortable and relaxed and pretty confident.
Q. Can you talk about the horse's progress the last two weeks? Did he turn it on at some point or was he just all systems go the whole time?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: He came out of the Derby in great shape. His appetite has been unbelievable. His energy level has been high. His stride over this track, he had a couple days at Churchill where he didn't go over the track as good as some other days. But here he just really handled the track great every day. He just really thrived from the Derby.
Q. Doug, you've received a lot of media attention already, but it's about to increase tenfold. Are you ready for it?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: There is a good chance I might change my phone number. But it's one of those that I'm just so proud of this horse. Like Mario said, it's all about the horse. The horse is way up here. We take care of him. We love him, and it's all about the horse. Any attention on me, I just want to deflect and just focus on the Reddams and their horse and the Belmont.
Q. Mario, how much, if any, experience do you have at the mile-and-a-half distance; and how great a challenge will Belmont Park and that layout be for you?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: Well, it will be a first time for me. It will be the first time I'm going to New York, first time I'm going to be at the racetrack. It's not the first time I'm going to race a long race. In Vancouver we have monitor races where they're just running around the track like five times. It's pretty long. So it's my first time in New York and my first time on the racetrack.
Q. Did you feel at all going around the first turn that the other riders were trying to push you wide?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: Not really. I was expecting somebody to come with me and I tried to do that. I wanted to give my horse a clear trip too, and he just loves it. He just loves to run like that. I was more worried about the one in the front.
Q. What will the next week be for you? Where do you plan to ride? Do you expect to perhaps come into New York early to ride Belmont ahead of the Belmont Stakes?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: I think I'm going to go back to ride at Hollywood Park. It all depends on what Mr. Reddam and Doug O'Neill say. If they ask me to go with the horse, I will go with the horse because he deserves me to be with him. If that's what they want, I will go there.
Q. What were you thinking when you saw Creative Cause engage Bodemeister somewhat early in the race?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: I liked seeing that. I was hoping somebody would push him a little bit, but Mike Smith did a great job of throwing down the second quarter. I saw at 47 and change I was a little concerned, but Mario did a great job of keeping the horse in the clear and giving us a chance.
Q. Mario, Bodemeister was still in front at the 8th pole. At that point were you still confident you could wheel him in?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: I knew it was going to be a little bit of a tough race because it was going to be a little short. But I'll Have Another had a tremendous kick in the end. So I could feel my horse racing ground and everything was definitely the way.
So it's a great feeling when you're riding a horse that's giving you a hundred percent. It's a great feeling. He's an amazing horse.
Q. You had fun here in Baltimore, threw out the first pitch at Camden Yards. Do you anticipate doing a lot of the same stuff at Yankee Stadium and maybe Letterman in New York?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: I would love to. The great thing about having a horse like I'll Have Another, it opens up a lot of doors. You get to meet so many people who love horses and they love horse racing. Along the way if we can share a little bit of the backstage fun of it, and the excitement, and the beauty of it, I would like to do that.
I would love the opportunity to do cool things in New York if we can.
Q. Obviously, Doug, in New York you're going to have to answer a lot of the more controversial questions. Any apprehension about that?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: Not at all. We play it by the rules. It's all about the horse. Just going to focus on the horse. I think we've got a horse and a team that can, with a little bit of luck, have an unbelievable time in two weeks.
Q. Mario, how were you able to stay so loose prior to the Preakness, and are you confident you'll be able to keep that same level of looseness heading into the Belmont Stakes?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: First of all, the horse. Of course, I know the horse is a great horse. He makes me have a lot of confidence. You know, Mr. Reddam and Doug, I've got family coming from Veracruz. When they saw me out there, those are the people that helped me when I didn't have anything. These kind of people keep believing in me. They put so much confidence in me. It's just great to have those kind of people. I think I've been really lucky. I don't want them to go away. I want to keep them forever.
Q. Doug, your wife is known for being allergic to horses. Is she allergic to I'll Have Another?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: It's amazing. The large checks seem to keep her from itching and coughing.
Q. Doug, it's one thing to win two Triple Crown races. That's terrific in and of itself. However, to win two like you did with finishes like we saw in Louisville and here in Baltimore, can you put into words the emotions of something like that?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: Just absolutely exciting. It's what it's all about. Those are the kind of races you hate to lose those kind of races. But when you win those kind of races, you always feel like you have a chance the whole race. Then you're yelling at the top of your lungs. Then to see a horse in front at the wire, there is no better feeling. It's incredible.
Q. For the benefit of the media, they understood your plans tomorrow were to leave at 7:00. Is that still the case? When might you be available to talk to the media people tomorrow?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: We're leaving at 7:00 a.m.?
Q. That's what I was told. You know better than I do.
DOUG F. O'NEILL: Well, then -- I'm not leaving at 7:00. Yeah, we've talked about the horse going out tomorrow morning at 7:00. I think the worry was if we ship during the week, the traffic in New York will be crazy. So we talked about shipping early tomorrow morning.
If that's the case, I'll be there by 5:30 or 6:00, and we can go over all together in the morning and have coffee and breakfast burritos. The way they take care of you here, Mike will feed all of us. Right, Mike? No comment (laughing).
Q. Mario, you spent a lot of time yesterday with Doug studying the Preakness. Have you watched a lot of Belmont so far, or is that something you'll be doing in the next two weeks?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: Yeah, we did yesterday like the Kentucky Derby, we watched a little bit. But it was supposed to be between me and Doug watching the replays. Then we had a little bit of a crowd, so I went home to my hotel room and I just watched it by myself. I like to watch the stuff on my own so I can focus better.
But, yeah, that helped a lot because this is the first time for me. I know it's pressure. It's a way for me to learn how the race will be and just have an idea. It does help a lot.
Q. Doug and Dennis, is it fair to say somewhat lengthy video sessions with Mario, vis-a-vis the Belmont Stakes, is on the docket?
DOUG F. O'NEILL: Yeah, the other day we were talking to Richard Migliore who rode there. He said it's so big. You don't know the rider’s perspective. He mentioned walking the track. Mario might not like that. But he was talking about taking Mario out and walking around the track because you can get lost out there. It's so big. You think you're at the 3/8th pole, and you're at the 5/8th pole. So stuff like that. So I'm sure we will watch videos and get out there and get some experience.
Q. Dennis O'Neill, Doug O'Neill, Paul Reddam, Mario Gutierrez, all there is to say is two down and one to go. Good luck in three weeks at the Belmont Stakes.