Satisfied, Breen begins to talk about his experience so far at Saratoga. The vibrant orange and pink hues of Kelly Breen, and George and Lori Hall are no strangers to the track, but this year it’s different. This year, the stalls in Barn 9, tucked in the back corner before Greentree, are occupied by seven of his best horses including 2011 Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, 2012 Long Branch winner My Adonis, and 2-year-olds Bern Identity and Mr. Hall’s Opus.
A 2-year-old daughter of Officer, Mr. Hall’s Opus was meant to kick off Breen’s Saratoga season on Opening Day in the Schuylerville but was scratched due to a fever. Disappointing? Yes. But that’s the game, and when one door closes another opens. Breaking his maiden last out by almost 14 lengths, Bern Identity is chomping at the bit behind door number two.
First time out he was second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths at Belmont by Wesley Ward’s Sweet Shirley Mae who finished fifth in Friday’s Schuylerville Stakes.
“Last time out when Bern Identity won at Belmont, he was a little bit of a handful and he was kicking at everybody,” said Breen as the handsome bay colt was standing nearby, oddly attentive to the conversation. “We had just finished putting the saddle on him and he looked back at me, and double barreled and came about three inches from really striking me.”
Despite unruly behavior in the paddock, Bern Identity’s second start was a complete romp.
Today he will have to face a tougher crowd in the Grade II Sanford Stakes, including Todd Pletcher’s Rose Junction and Wesley Ward’s Handsome Jack. Breen likes his chances.
“I think this Bern Identity will find out on Sunday how good he is,” said Breen, “I think he is an elite caliber horse.”
Based on a 4-1 morning line, Breen is not the only one who thinks his horse can get the job done. Rosie Napravnik is aboard.
As for Breen’s training methods, hands-on is an understatement. If he’s not galloping his horses, he’s on the pony. In fact, coming into Saratoga he was doing all of the riding himself, “I just finally got an exercise rider three days ago, I was galloping them up here until then,” he said. “If you really want to know how they are feeling going into the races, you really know when you’re on their back.”
Pedal to the metal, Breen is in the fast lane to success. What some trainers may take a lifetime to accomplish, Breen and the Halls have done so in a relatively short time. Earning their first win as partners in 2005, the trainer/owner combination had four wins, a second and a third out of eight starts to complete their initial season. In 2009, the Halls and Breen found themselves sitting on 23 babies, “We bought them in 2009, they were 2-year-olds in 2010, and we made all of our money in 2011,” Breen said. “We won two $1 million races that year.”
Over seven years, they have managed to win the Belmont Stakes, the Louisiana Derby, the Pegasus, the Skip Away, and maintain a 51 percent “in the money” record.
Only time will tell what the future holds for the team. Right now the immediate goal is to succeed at the Spa.
“If we don’t do any good here, I’ll pack up my bags and go back to Monmouth,” he said.
Longterm, he wants to add horses to the roster and wins to the record books.
It’s 10:30 in the morning and the chair is still sitting outside the office. The iPad has fallen twice, and the bucket as well, thanks to a curious colt (Bern Identity) in the first stall. The items on shedrow floor act as a reminder. Balance is important, but sometimes this game is all about change, chance and shaking things up a little bit.