Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Telling, winner of
Saratoga’s Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational the last two summers, was
traveling Friday when Metzi Hobby, wife of trainer Steve Hobby
but also groom, companion and chauffeur for the 7-year-old grass specialist,
was reached somewhere around Lafayette, Louisiana, on the journey from Hot
Springs, Arkansas to New Orleans.
Telling, an entire son of A.P. Indy out of a Deputy Minister
mare, will be a contestant in Saturday’s Grade III Fair Grounds
Handicap over the Stall-Wilson turf course as the designed prep for the
upcoming Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap on Louisiana
Derby Day March 26, the top grass test of the Crescent City Thoroughbred
Horse and driver had left Hot Springs about 5 a.m. after Steve Hobby
had trained him Thursday over the track at Oaklawn, Metzi Hobby
said. After Telling’s last published breeze – a half-mile in 49.40 on Monday –
what exactly did the horse do Thursday?
“I don’t really know,” Mrs. Hobby admitted. “Steve trained
him. I was cleaning his stall at the time, but the horse looked fine when Steve
brought him back to the barn and he is doing fine today.”
Owner Alex Lieblong, who keeps his private plane on
the grounds of his Conway, Arkansas, farm, often gasses up the plane
and flies to wherever Telling is running. He won’t be flying into New Orleans for
Saturday’s test but was quick to assess the owner-trainer relationship.
“We’re definitely a family operation,” Lieblong said, “and
it’s hard to separate Metzi from that horse. She just loves him and she’ll
saddle him Saturday.
“We all hope he runs well,” said Lieblong, “but I’m not
making this trip because I saw him train yesterday and we’ve got several other
horses working up here at Oaklawn tomorrow. I enjoy watching them work as much
as I do watching them run, and I’ve also found over the years that they don’t
disappoint you as much when they’re just working. If he runs well tomorrow,
I’ll try to make the trip next time.”
Trainer Steve Hobby can be just as self-effacing as the
rest of Telling’s extended family. When Telling won the 2009 Sword Dancer,
Hobby was asked by the upstate New York media
how the decision was made to run a horse based in Chicago in the Sword Dancer.
“It was the owner’s decision to run the horse up here,”
Hobby later related, when speaking of his Saratoga
interview after the Sword Dancer. “I was thinking of running him in the (Arlington’s Grade III)
Stars and Stripes Handicap. Then they asked me how I got the Saratoga-based
jockey I used to ride him that day and I had to tell them that the owner did
that, too. Finally, I didn’t want to dumb myself down too much, so I added:
‘But I did a real good job getting him ready!’”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will fly to New Orleans to ride
Telling on Saturday in the Fair Grounds ’Cap.