As training hours wrapped up Aug. 19, Rick Violette sits in his office in the middle of Barn 19 just off the three-quarter-pole gap of the main track at Saratoga Race Course. (Editor’s note: Originally published in Aug. 24 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
Stable staffers rake the paths that wind through the grass area outside the shedrow, keeping everything neat and tidy, stools are washed and stacked next to the sprayed down wash pad, polos wrapped and awaiting their next ride. Stall guards hang with matching crisscrossed black and light blue runners above as horses gaze out at sets from other barns going to and returning from the main track.
The Morning Line kitchen bustles with activity, tourists and horsemen grabbing a coffee or tea to get through the morning.
Violette’s Saratoga string is dispersed with 22 horses in Barn 19, eight in neighboring barn 16 and an ever-changing number across the street at the harness track. The stable is winless from 13 starts through the first 28 days of the meeting, but has two seconds and three thirds. Three of the placings have come in graded stakes.
“We tend to like most of our horses,” Violette said. “If they try, we like them.”
Violette’s background is in the hunter/jumper world and he started training Thoroughbreds more than 30 years ago. In addition to his duties at the barn and the races, Violette has served as president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association since 2008.
Violette hosted The Special’s Shayna Tiller for a stroll through his two barns on the main track.
Olive Branch: Ralph Evans’ 2-year-old Speightstown filly gazed out of her corner stall, watching horses return to their barns following morning workouts. She finished fifth in Grade 3 Schuylerville July 22 and third in Grade 2 Adirondack Aug. 19. “Little tiny. She did (run well). Just buried on the inside, we never got clear. She settled, and broke really well. Jose (Ortiz) rode really well, third in a graded race is important for fillies, especially with her pedigree. It’s too close to come back and do the Spinaway, I think the Frizette could certainly be part of the plan. I’m going to breeze her on the grass because she has some turf pedigree and give that a shot, kind of follow her lead. Miss cutie pie.”
Bea Bea: The petite gray City Zip filly, seventh in a maiden-claimer Aug. 11 and a 2014 Fasig-Tipton October graduate, stood with her head behind the hanging Jolly Ball, twisting her neck for attention as the trainer approached. “I own half of her (with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners). She’s a 3-year-old. She ran earlier in the meet and was a little disappointing. We’ll try her again before we leave. Little princess.”
Kathy’s Humor: New York-bred 4-year-old Justenuffhumor filly finished seventh in Aug. 7 allowance, following a second in a similar allowance at Belmont June 16. “She tied up on us in her last race. She was disappointing but fortunately it was only that. Actually, she’s going to breeze soon and we’ll see where we are. We’re right on the cusp, if things go perfectly she will (make another start at the meet).”
Random Walk: Also owned by Evans and a Fasig-Tipton July 2015 graduate, the son of Super Saver finished second in Grade 3 Sanford Stakes July 23. “This is a nice horse, broke his maiden first time out very impressively at Belmont, and then was second in the Sanford opening weekend. He isn’t very big and he’s grown. He was tiny. Hopefully he’ll make the Hopeful.”
Diversify: A $150,000 buy at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred sale, 3-year-old Bellamy Road gelding extended his neck and nudged his trainer for some attention. “This is a colt owned by WinStar. He won his first time out going a mile (at Belmont July 14) and hopefully he’ll run by the end of the meet here. He broke his maiden right before we came up here, he ran very fast and looks like he’s a nice horse. Very kind, likes attention.”
Deuces High: My Meadowview Farm’s homebred Noble Causeway colt finished seventh in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes July 23. “He won his first time out going a mile-and-a-sixteenth and we had him in the New York Derby and probably were too aggressive with him. We’ll come back down to earth and put him in an a-other-than (he’s entered Friday). He and Samraat are owned by Len Riggio (My Meadowview Farm), who’s the CEO of Barnes & Noble.”
Jo’s Bold Cat: Stretching and twisting for pats, James Nolan’s homebred son of Courageous Cat finished second in a July 29 maiden race. “New York-bred 2-year-old got beat a lip opening week here his first time out. He’s doing great. He’ll run back. Pretty cool horse, came to us a little scatter-brained and he’s actually kind of a different horse now.”
Samraat: A veteran of the 2014 spring classics, My Meadowview Farm homebred son of Noble Causeway finished second in Grade 3 Westchester May 7, fourth in Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational June 11 and second in Grade 2 Suburban July 9. “Just breezed a mile actually, he went great. A mile in (1:41.44) and went very, very well. We’re planning on running him in the Woodward. He got beat a lip in the Suburban, Effinex beat him literally a lip. He’s a pretty cool horse. Won the Withers and the Gotham as a 3-year-old and had some physical issues that we gave him quite a bit of time off for. He’s come back and he’s a neat horse.”
Pocket Player: A $40,000 buy at last year’s Fasig Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale, son of Afleet Alex breezed a half in :50.22 Saturday. Violette reached to stroke the colt’s head and he snapped at him. “Oh, didn’t train you hard enough today? He’s a bit of a punk (in a good way). He went a half-mile this morning with Muselet.”
Muselet: Unraced 3-year-old daughter of Flatter has breezed five times at Saratoga, including Saturday’s half-mile with Pocket Player. “She’s a Flatter filly that hasn’t run yet. A muselet, I didn’t know what that was. So I called the owner and it’s the wire cap of a cork in a champagne bottle. We’re trying to make it; she just went a half-mile this morning. Without it being goose bumps it was good, hopefully we’ll make a race by the end of the meet.”
Upstart: The 4-year-old Flatter ridgling exits back-to-back thirds in Grade 1 Metropolitan and Whitney. Purchased at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale here, the dark bay sticks just the tip of his tongue out as he extends his muzzle, seeking a pat on the face. “He will take a finger, be careful. He lulls you into a stupor. He’s doing great, we’re probably going to skip the Woodward with him and go to the Kelso. He is a goofball – he all of a sudden just stares at nothing in the air and stares away. He’ll be in the starting gate and there’ll be horses flying out of it and he’s just looking up there, oblivious to it.”
Made In Detroit: Second in the Woodhaven Stakes last year, 4-year-old Arch gelding finished sixth in an allowance-optional last Friday. “He ran hard, very difficult race. He ended up on the lead and probably was a little too fast early. But he’s a very cool horse, got beat a head at Laurel in his previous start. Pretty cool, very hard-trying horse.”
Ryder Road: My Meadowview Farm’s homebred Bellamy Road colt whinnied as Violette entered the barn, nodding and biting at his Jolly Ball until he got attention. Unraced colt breezed 5 furlongs from the gate in 1:01.87 Friday. “He’ll run up here. He’s doing well, broke out of the gate yesterday and he was a little bit slow, needs another try at it.”
Sky Gesture: “Hello?” Violette said as he leaned in the stall. The gray Tiznow filly, a My Meadowview homebred, turned around to greet the visitors. “She’s actually ready to run. She has some quality; I like her. She has some serious ability, so we’ll find out.”
Core Portfolio: The Haynesfield colt, twice a Fasig-Tipton graduate, finished sixth in his last two state-bred allowance starts at Belmont June 9 and Saratoga Aug. 1. The chestnut nodded and nudged Violette, lipping his hand as he made a fist. “He’ll run by the end of the meet here. He’s won a couple of races and has been to a couple of racetracks he wasn’t too fond of. So we’ll give him another chance.”