Michelle Nevin leaned on a board inside her shedrow of Barn 73 on the Oklahoma Training Track Thursday morning as training hours wound down. The native of Tipperary, Ireland, grew up in racing and took out her license in America in 2013.
“I grew up surrounded by horses, my grandfather was a trainer, my dad was a jock,” said Nevin. “When I first came here I worked for Leo O’Brien, it was a great job and I had a lot of fun. I worked for a couple different people here, I worked for Rick Dutrow for a long time.”
Nevin earned her first Grade 1 victory with By The Moon in the 2014 Frizette, and trained Paulassilverlining to a third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. She won eight races at Saratoga last summer, including a score in the Grade 1 Ballerina with By The Moon. The daughter of Indian Charlie retired at the end of last year with $1,552,940 in earnings.
“My best filly was By The Moon, she’s just so awesome,” said Nevin. “It was so great to see her win another Grade 1, we were so happy. That was special. From the very beginning she just went right to work. The first time I ever started her was up here and she won first time out. She got bred to Arrogate.”
Nevin’s 2018 Saratoga string consists of 18 horses, with 30 more back at Belmont Park. She’s won five from 40 starts at the meet with 12 seconds and four thirds.
“We could do with a little bit of racing luck,” said Nevin. “They’ve been running really, really well so I’m not going to complain but we’ve had a lot of seconds. These horses, they think they’re pets. They’re all very sweet. They get candy every five minutes, cost me a fortune.”
A bag of peppermints in hand, Nevin walked down the shedrow last week with The Special’s Shayna Tiller to talk about the string. (Originally published in Aug. 26 edition of The Saratoga Special.)
Shady Shady Shady: The bay filly stood at the back of her stall, gazing out the window. Larry Goichman’s homebred 2-year-old daughter of Hat Trick broke her maiden by 4 3/4 lengths Friday. “She’s trying to spy and see what Jimmy Jerkens does. She’s a pretty chilled out filly, she’s pretty easy. She did great in her first start. She was very professional, closed really well.”
Hannah’s Smile: Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons Racing’s 3-year-old daughter of Perfect Soul finished second in an allowance at Belmont June 21. The dark bay tilted her head and stretched her neck towards her trainer. “Oh my god, are you pretty? She says, ‘Oh, I am.’ Hannah is an absolute barn favorite for everybody. She’s just the sweetest, kindest horse. She loves people, loves attention. She’s so straightforward. She could just train herself. She doesn’t need us. Unfortunately, she’s been very unlucky up here. Both times we tried to run her it has rained off the grass.”
Bel Cuore: William Schettine’s 2-year-old homebred daughter of Alpha finished second in a $50,000 maiden claimer Aug. 22. The bay filly stood at the front of her stall, politely accepting peppermints from Nevin. “This is Bel Cuore, who did a great job. We’re very proud of her. She ran great, we’re coming to the end of the meet so we’ll just freshen her back up and get her ready to fire at Belmont. She’s not huge but she’s not a munchkin either. She carries her weight well.”
Ascender: Goichman’s big bay daughter of Giant’s Causeway repeatedly bit at the jolly ball hanging from the outside of her stall. She broke her maiden in her second start at Belmont July 15. “The rain is ruining her life. We ran her at the end of Belmont. Johnny (Velazquez) rode her and gave her a great ride. She did really well. We were hoping to get a run in her up here but unfortunately the grass is not working out. She’s the boss of everything. She does whatever she wants, it is her way or the highway. She’s very spoiled. She’s a character, a very feisty girl.”
She’s A Black Belt: The 2-year-old bay daughter of Jimmy Creed stood in the middle of the stall, peering through the window separating her stall from Ascender. Jay Em Ess Stable’s filly was second in an Aug. 5 maiden. “Are you looking for Ascender? She’s not paying attention to you? She’s very sweet. Very straightforward, very easy to ride, easy to be around. She’ll run back hopefully we’ll get her on the grass. We tried to get on the grass already here and she ended up having to run on the dirt, she was second. It’ll be really nice to get her out on the turf and see what she can do.”
Mizzen Max: The grey dappled out filly towers over Nevin, nuzzling into her shoulder as the trainer kisses her nose. Owned and bred by Galen Ho’o, 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast finished second in Aug. 2 allowance. “This is another barn favorite. She’s so beautiful, everybody loves her. She is just the nicest filly to be around ever. I don’t think I’ve ever met a filly as sweet or as easy to train. She literally could go out and train herself, saddle herself. When she goes to the races she doesn’t put a foot out of place. She just stands, you saddle her. If you look up her form she’s there every single time. She finished second up here recently and she really, really ran hard. She did great, she got beat by Kiaran McLaughlin’s nice filly, which was a shame because she tried so hard. That filly didn’t even give you a chance to see her coming, did she girl? She put in such a big effort. We’ll freshen her up and run her back at Belmont. She’s so lovely. She doesn’t look like a filly, she’s built like a big tank.”
Chantry Flats: Jay Em Ess Stable purchased the son of The Factor for $180,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale. He finished fifth in a maiden Aug. 2.“He’s affectionately known as ‘Big Head.’ He hadn’t run in a really long time so I was really pleased. Just the last part he weakened, got a little tired. He put in a big effort to make such a big run off such a long layoff.”
Semper Paratus: The dark bay poked his head over the stall guard, begging for a treat. Reagan Jack Racing’s 2-year-old son of Flatter finished eighth in a turf maiden Friday. “This guy’s so cute. How cute is that face? He’s been unlucky, we tried to get him on the grass a couple times and the rain hasn’t cooperated. He’s so cute. He’s like a little chubster. He’s a chubby little guy but he’s been trying to do the right thing. He’s just really looking for the grass so hopefully we get lucky and he shows us he’s a turf horse. He’s all body, he should’ve been a wrestler.”
Bret’s Legacy: Jim Reichenberg’s and Bruno De Julio’s 2-year-old gelding was third in a maiden July 27 and is entered in Monday’s first race. The dark bay has a unique star and snip on his face. “It was his first start, I thought he ran really well. He’s a cool little guy. He’s by Boys At Tosconova and he looks just like his daddy. He’s getting ready to run back here soon. Hopefully he’ll do better this time around. He’s a little bit of a punk, just like his dad. He’s a little bit of a busy body. He wants to look at everything and play and give the riders a hard time. He’ll see a bee from a mile away. It’s all playfulness, there’s no badness to him.”
Fast Track Kathern: The bay filly playfully bit at a bee buzzing around her stall. Nevin and Paradise Farms claimed the daughter of Bullet Train off Ken and Sarah Ramsey for $35,000 July 29. “Mind your face Kathern, that bee’s going to get you. We claimed her here this meet. She ran like we were hoping so hopefully we got the right claim. We wanted to run her back here but unfortunately it rained, and she didn’t get to run. Poor Kathern. She said, ‘Oh and I was ready too.’ “
Forever Liesl: Kallenberg Farms’ 3-year-old Mineshaft filly was third in the Summer Colony Aug. 19. She’s already back at Belmont. “She did great. She kind of got a little bit of a wide trip, but she was really digging in at the end. The pace was a little bit on the slow side and she ran a little wide but I thought she did a good job to dig in running to the wire. Liesl is an absolute sweetheart to be around in the barn, but on the track she’s all business. She likes her pony and she just wants to be with him. Once she’s got her pony, she’s fine.”
Macagone: Mike Dubb’s and Little Red Feather Racing’s 7-year-old Artie Schiller gelding was second in an allowance Aug. 17. He’s won $551,561 in his career, including a win in the Danger’s Hour at Aqueduct in 2017. “He’s come out of his race in good shape. He’s another cool old guy. I thought he ran huge the other day, just another second. They’re running well and that’s all you can hope for.”
My Boy Tate: Nevin bred the 4-year-old son of Boys At Tosconova and races him in partnership with Little Red Feather Racing. He won five straight until finishing second in the Tale Of The Cat Aug. 10.“He’s a hard-working guy. He’s done really well this year. We gave him a little break, couldn’t really find a spot that I wanted to bring him back in so we ended up going in the deep end in an open stake. I thought he did really, really well. Another horse coming in off the layoff running with some nice horses. He put out a huge effort to get the second.”
Spectator: The daughter of Jimmy Creed won last year’s Grade 2 Sorrento at Del Mar for Phil D’Amato and entered training with Nevin this spring. She was sixth in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont and eighth in the Grade 1 Test Aug. 4. “We’ve decided to just back off on her and freshen her up. There’s a race in California for her so we sent her back for that. I’ve only had her for a month. She’s a nice filly. Unfortunately when she came from California she’d gotten sick so then it was just trying to regroup her.”