Champions 2010: Novice Hurdler All Together

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By Sean Clancy

Alan Goldberg and Jack Fisher make good business partners. When the New Jersey-based flat trainer has inventory to sell, the Maryland-based jump trainer buys it. No haggling over price, no dithering over quality.

“I buy what he tells me to buy,” Fisher said.

So far, the relationship has yielded steeplechase stakes winners Tricky Me and Seer, maiden winner Straight To It and 2010 novice champion All Together.

A son of the great stallion, Danzig, All Together was a plodder for Jayeff B Stable and Goldberg, able to tick off 13-second furlongs for as long as you asked.

“He was steady,” Goldberg said. “Just steady.”

That trait doesn’t get you much on the flat, well, certainly not stakes victories that Goldberg and his owners want. In steeplechasing, that ability gets you a novice championship.

“I thought he was a solid 35-, 40-thousand dollar claiming horse at the end of the year,” Goldberg said. “We got a little bit more, with a chance to make a little bit more if he won a stake, which he did, which was great. It’s good for the mare too, it still shows up as earnings.”

The mare, Unify, produced Grade I hurdle winner Arcadius as well; the brothers’ 2010 seasons infused $219,500 onto her pedigree page.

Owned by Andre Brewster and Sheila Williams, All Together won two races from seven starts, earning $80,000 in purses (a Monmouth flat win added another $15,000), to lead all novices – horses who started the year as maidens. Rivals Nationbuilder and Easy Red won more money, but they broke their maidens before 2010. All Together clinched the championship with a dominant victory in the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle, a $75,000 novice stakes at Callaway Gardens Nov. 6. Just as Goldberg said, All Together went 2 1/4 miles in 3:55.8 – 18 furlongs at a steady 13.1-second clip.

For Goldberg, All Together won three consecutive turf starts ($40,000 maiden claimer, starter and a first-level allowance) in the summer of 2009 but by the end of the year, he was out of conditions and Goldberg was nearly out of options. He could put him away and wait for spring turf or call his man Fisher. Like Jim Cramer’s nirvana – Goldberg called and Fisher bought.

The big bay gelding made his debut at Nashville, finishing sixth, 36 lengths behind Call You In Ten. Fisher has changed his approach with maidens in recent years; allowing for a run or two as education. In his second start, All Together still needed the experience, hanging left and making a jumping error before finishing fourth at Fair Hill at the end of May.

The boot was on the floor, it simply needed polish.

All Together broke through with an impressive maiden tally at Penn National, losing his position midway through the race and then regaining it with a four-wide move for the final half-mile. He won easily and looked like a serious contender for the rich purses at Saratoga.

Sent off the favorite in his first start there Aug. 12, All Together wound up the tomato in the sandwich, bobbling badly when clipping heels of a leading horse and losing both hind shoes when a trailing horse clipped his heels. Jockey Xavier Aizpuru pulled him up. Fisher, wishfully, ran him back in the final week and he pulled up again.

“He got hurt in the first race and I was hoping it wasn’t there so we tried him again,” Fisher said.

That’s when the trainer called his veterinarians.

Dr. James Kenney and Dr. Cooper Williams stormed in like Batman and Robin to fix the problem.

On Sept. 9, a week after the second poor performance at Saratoga, Kenney diagnosed a sprained back caused by the rough trip. Rest wouldn’t fix the problem, the sprain caused inflammation and pain in the lower lumbar vertebraes, thus forcing All Together to not use the joint properly (if at all) and nullifying any talent or ability.

“I palpated his back and went over him physically, he had really painful low lumbars and some miscellaneous things but the issue was a sprung left sacroiliac and really, really sore lumbars. I recommended Cooper injecting the SI and the lumbars, that’s what turned him around, Cooper’s (injection) was the silver bullet,” Kenney said. “They’re so sore, they can’t get themselves better, they don’t have the strength to train and to put on muscle to protect themselves and protect the back. You need to do something to get them to use themselves properly and train properly.”

Williams learned a new technique about three years ago where he can guide the needle by seeing it through an ultrasound, injecting steroids to treat the inflammation of the joint and help lessen the pain. Yeah, silver bullet for a steeplechase horse.

“From above, you can ultrasound-guide the needles down to the joints and treat them directly, it seemed to really hit the nail on the head for him,” Williams said. “It’s amazing how many steeplechase horses have problems in this area, if you think about what they do for a living, it’s an area that takes a lot of wear and tear. Before it was a sort of no-man’s land, now we have access to that area and we can deal with the problems that occur there.”

Kenney and Williams told Fisher it would take two or three weeks for the muscle spasms to alleviate and for All Together to improve.

Sixteen days after Kenney diagnosed All Together, Fisher wheeled him back for the flat race at Monmouth.

“I thought he was good but I wanted to be sure at Monmouth,” Fisher said. “I didn’t want to be guessing.”

Suddenly All Together was all together. Showing the form that produced two wins at Monmouth the summer before, All Together stalked the pace set by Preemptive Strike and drew off to win by a facile 2 lengths.

Twenty-four days after Monmouth and four days before Far Hills, Kenney did a follow-up examination.

“He was incredibly better,” Kenney said.

And – 18 days later – a champion.