Abstraction Distraction

- -

Dave Carroll pulls the phone away from his ear and yells down the hall. “Aisling, you know the bridle Mom got for Abstraction? What’s that called? How do you spell that…?”

M. I. C. K. L. E. M.

Daughters can always spell better than fathers.

Owned by My Meadowview Farm, Abstraction meets 10 rivals in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs Saturday night. The Micklem Bridle has helped the 3-year-old son of Pulpit settle in the morning and reel off wins his two most recent starts. Based at Churchill Downs, Abstraction won the Federico Tesio at Pimlico at the end of April and returns as a 9-2 contender in Churchill’s $100,000 stakes for 3-year-olds.

Difficult to slow down in the morning, Abstraction was making life hard on his exercise rider (Carroll) when his wife Kim, who rides show horses, came home with the new bridle. The Micklem Bridle is a regular snaffle bit with a ring that attaches a nose band and a leather strap that runs under the chin. Billed as the first bridle to be designed from the inside out, it avoids pressure on the facial nerves, projecting cheek bones and upper jaw molar teeth (hey, I read it on the Internet). However it works, it’s worked on Abstraction.

“I have to give my wife credit for that. He can be a very difficult, very aggressive horse to handle, we were trying different things with him, especially after his first race, we’ve done a tremendous amount of schooling, behind horses, we tried a shadow roll, drop noseband, trying to get him to drop his head, he’ll get fighting you, firing his head back,” Carroll said. “My wife came up with this bridle, there’s a lot of stuff she comes in with that’s in the trunk in the garage, but I said, ‘We’ll try anything.’ You know what, he responded to it beautifully.”

The art of galloping horses is all about give and take and suddenly Carroll was giving and Abstraction was taking less.

“He’s so much easier to handle, when you take a little pull, he puts his head down instead of firing it up, you can give and take with him,” Carroll said. “He’s not as rank so much, but he’s just a horse who wants to go a stride too fast, wanting to get it on, in this bit, you take a little hold and he’s like, ‘OK. OK. Can I go now?’ And you’re like, ‘No.’ You can stop and start with him now.”

A homebred son of Pulpit, Abstraction made his career debut in February, finishing second while sprinting before stretching out to a nearly 10-length win in a March 13 maiden at Fair Grounds.

“He trained very well last year and he came up with a minor injury, it required some down time, he got 30 to 35 days off, which cost him running as a 2-year-old, the beauty of training for these people is they are very patient with their horses, they want to do the right thing,” Carroll said. “I was going to run him long first time but the way he was training, I didn’t want him to get aggressive and get tired so we sprinted him the first time, where they would go fast enough where he would relax and finish. In his second race, I would have been very disappointed if he got beat. He won as he trained.”

Abstraction skipped an allowance option and shipped to Pimlico for the Tesio six weeks later. Abstraction went to school that day.

Jockey Leandro Goncalves was forced to wait inside while the short field hemmed and hawed around him. Making just his third career start, Abstraction needed to keep his position on the rail but needed to wait as well. Learner’s permit on the Belt Parkway. One foot on the gas, one foot on the brake. Eventually, Abstraction worked his way out, drew off at will, winning impressively.

There was talk about the Preakness (more from onlookers than caretakers) but Carroll and My Meadowview kept a more conservative approach, taking nearly two months for a return.

“We felt like the race at Pimlico would tell us more about the horse, we felt like it was a good fit and a nice step in his progression,” Carroll said. “I thought we learned a lot about him, he can get boxed in and bounced around and he can handle it. He bullied his way out and got clear and galloped out strong. We were glad to clear that hurdle. I was very worried, I was very concerned watching. The last thing we wanted was for him to get a bad experience, having said that, in hindsight, he got two or three races worth out of that race.”

Good thing he had that bridle. Seen in show rings and cross-country courses, the Micklem Bridle hasn’t been used at the racetrack very often. Maybe ever.

“It’s an interesting bridle,” Carroll said. “The nose part drops further down than a figure eight. I’d never seen it before, but my wife and daughter say they use them a lot going cross country, for horses who get a little aggressive. I didn’t think it would work, then I said he’d figure it out, we don’t put it on every day. I was apprehensive about running him in it, but his last work before the race was great, Leandro said, ‘Man, that’s how I want him to handle.’ I loved the way he finished up. How good he is, nobody knows. Potentially, he’s a nice horse and hopefully he’ll keep improving.”