2016 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with Barclay Tagg

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Ever meticulous and attentive to detail, trainer Barclay Tagg runs a tight ship. Last week at his barn on the main track after training, grooms bathe horses, pick hooves, apply Bowie Mud, ice legs and scrub stall mats. Tagg picks rogue pieces of straw from stall doors as he makes his way down the barn aisle. Almost every horse leaves their hay to greet him, begging for scratches with pricked ears and cheerful expressions. (Editor’s note: Originally published in Aug. 8 issue of The Saratoga Special.) 

“Nothing big and fancy, but we do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Tagg says about his operation.

Tagg is easy to spot tailing his horses back and forth to the track in the mornings, binoculars in hand. The former steeplechase jockey has career earnings of more than $56 million, having trained the popular Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, and Grade 1 winners Tale Of Ekati and Jersey Town among others.

After his final set Thursday morning, Tagg emerged from his office with a list of detailed notes on every horse in his barn and went stall to stall with The Special’s Annise Montplaisir.

Avail Ekati: Unraced 2-year-old Tale Of Ekati colt who went to $500,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. The colt reaches his dark bay head over the webbing, hoping for a pat. Tagg obliges. “None of them are nasty. I don’t like nasty people or nasty horses. He’s a nice 2-year-old, he belongs to Mr. (Charles) Fipke. We’re kind of high on him, and he’s a full-brother to Tale Of S’avall.”

Im The Captain Now: Unraced 2-year-old colt cost $15,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale. He’s got a large teddy bear hanging from the side of his stall. “He’s a horse I bought for some people out in Chicago, really, really nice people. He’s by Trappe Shot who’s a son of Tapit. That’s the closest I could get to Tapit. Remember the movie where the Somalian pirates take over the ship? And when they took the ship over he said, ‘Where’s the captain?’ and they said ‘He’s the captain.’ And he walked up to him and said ‘I’m the captain now.’ So that’s where they got the name.”

Flattermefabulous: Four-year-old Flatter filly is entered in today’s fifth race. “She belongs to Jack Knowlton’s syndicate Sackatoga Stable. She’s 4 and she’s a nice allowance filly on the turf. She’s not great, but she’s nice. Aren’t you?” Tagg reaches over to scratch the filly’s forehead as he talks. “She says ‘You’re criticizing me.’ “

Tale Of Mist: The 3-year-old half-brother to Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist munches hay at the back of his stall the day before finishing third in a maiden race. “He’s a very nice horse. He’s run well, he just hasn’t won yet.”

Hello Dearie: Bonner Young’s homebred 2-year-old filly by Giant’s Causeway out of Grade 1 winner Bit Of Whimsy. “She’s a very nice big filly. She’s a full-sister to a Grade 2 winner called Caroline Thomas, and she’s out of a mare who won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Keeneland. We got her in a little early. I’m kind of glad. I’d rather have her with me.”

Raging Town: Two-year-old filly by Jersey Town out of Grade 1 winner Raging Fever. A groom is picking her hooves and slapping on pieces of paper with wads of brown mud. “It’s called Bowie mud, it’s very high in bentonite,” Tagg says, referring to the mineral that will draw soreness and moisture from one thing to another. “We do it routinely with every horse every day. It’s been used with horses for thousands of years. We’re very, very high on her. She ran a good second the first time out (July 2), and it was just because she attended the pace too much, she was never allowed to relax.”

Risky Town: “He’s another 2-year-old, he’s by Jersey Town out of a mare called Risky Agenda, and he’ll be ready to run at the end of the meet. He’s a big guy. I trained Jersey Town, he’s a Grade 1 winner, and Mr. Fipke made him a stallion.”

Say It Aint Frosty: Unraced New York-bred 2-year-old colt by Frost Giant. “He’s a horse a guy just sent to me. He’s a new guy, new horse. We’re going to try him on the grass. He’s a beautiful big horse, a beautiful mover.”

Tale Of S’avall: A 3-year-old graded stakes-placed colt by Tale of Ekati. He ran third in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park July 9. “He won here last year, broke his maiden here. He was third in the (Dwyer) a few weeks ago and he’s going to run back in the King’s Bishop.”

Frosty Gal: By Frost Giant, Frosty Gal sold for $80,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. “She’ll run again the end of the meet. She didn’t run very well her first time out.”

Tale Of Fancy: The 4-year-old colt by Tale of Ekati craned his neck over his stall, trying to bite playfully. “I told her all you guys are nice, so stop it,” Tagg told the colt. “He’s had four wins and a third in his last five starts. He’s going to run on the turf. And you’d better win,” Tagg said to the colt. “Be careful, he’s quick. But he’s not mean or nasty.”

Highland Sky: The 3-year-old Sky Mesa colt finished second in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby last month. “He just got beat that far,” Tagg said, holding up his hands to show the neck margin. “He’s going to run back in the Saranac. He’s a lovely, lovely, lovely horse.”

Realm: The 3-year-old Haynesfield gelding sold for $75,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale. “He broke his maiden here first time out last summer. Then he had some problems. I gave him a lot of time off. He’s a really nice horse. I bought him in partners with a friend of mine, Eric Dattner. He was one of the first people in the Funny Cide syndicate, I got him to go in with Jack (Knowlton), but then he just wanted to have some horses on his own.” A groom in the stall rubbed alcohol onto the gelding’s legs. He pointed at a nearby grooming box containing horse cookies. Realm lipped it gently.

Homespun Hero: A 3-year-old colt by Hard Spun who was fourth in a 6-furlong allowance on the dirt here July 24. “This is a horse I bought for another really nice guy (owner William Ferrone), and he won right off the bat. He’s won two races. He was fourth here the first week and he’s going to run again at the end of the meet. He tries hard.”

Royal Ekati: The 3-year-old colt by Tale Of Ekati out of Sovereignoftheseas sold for $180,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred sale. “This is a horse we spent a good deal of money on, and he’ll run again near the end of the meet. Stop that now, stop it. Be nice,” Tagg said as the colt playfully nipped at his hand.

Tale Of Silence: A 2-year-old colt by Tale Of The Cat out of Japanese-bred Silence Beauty. “He’s actually a full-brother to Tale of Ekati. This guy is just getting started. No biting,” Tagg said as the colt searched him for snacks. “They all love their treats around here. I come back at night to check on them at 9 o’clock and they always stick their heads out to get rubbed. You like that don’t you?” Tagg said as he scratched the colt’s forehead.

Verve’s Tale: A 3-year-old filly by Tale Of Ekati out of Verve. “She’s a full-sister to Tale Of Verve, who Dallas Stewart won an allowance race with the other day.”

Speighty Girl: An unraced 2-year-old chestnut filly. “She’s a full-sister to Jersey Town. She’s by Speightstown out of (graded stakes winner) Jersey Girl.

Tale For Ruby: A 3-year-old filly by Tale of Ekati who won a 7-furlong maiden here July 27.  “She’s one of Mr. Fipke’s also. She’s only run three times and last week she broke her maiden just stormed around there. She’s got just minor problems, but you have to go very slowly with her. She and Verve’s Tale are his two 3-year-old fillies. They’ve both taken a long time, but they’ve both got some talent. When they put it all together they’ll be really good.”

Kitzys Rocket: Colorful stuffed animals bordered the door of the 4-year-old filly’s stall, a fluffy pink and green snake fastened just below the yoke in the screen. “This is the neatest filly, I love this filly. These are brand new people, they moved down from Canada to Ocala, kind of retired and wanted to get into the horse business. They bought this filly out of the newspaper ads for $8,000. She’s won (more than) $165,000. She used to stall walk all the time, she was just crazy in the stall. The people brought all the other things, but the first time we did it we put one big teddy bear on each side of her, that’s all we had. We tried everything and couldn’t solve it. So we hung a teddy bear from each side of that yoke. And she walked up to those two teddy bears, and she got up there sideways and leaned her ear against this one and her nose against that one and has been good ever since, no more stall walking. And those two bears are gone now.”

My Sweet Girl: The 4-year-old daughter of Bernardini and Bit Of Whimsy finished off the board in Saturday’s De La Rose after winning a stakes at Belmont one start earlier. “This is Bonner’s good filly. They’re not easy up here.”

Speighgal: A 2-year-old filly by Speightstown out of Pomarine, purchased for $80,000 from the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall yearling sale. “She’s by Speightstown. I bought her for a nice guy, and she’ll be ready in about a month.”