It might be the best barn on the grounds. Tucked between, around and among shade trees and bordered by Union Avenue and Yaddo Gardens, John Kimmel’s Saratoga stable houses 30 horses in a courtyard of buildings including a house, a cottage and (depending how you count) four barns. (Originally published in Aug. 10 issue of The Saratoga Special)
It used to belong to Marion du Pont Scott, whose Montpelier Stable campaigned champions on the flat and over jumps. It used to have a tennis court. When Kimmel first moved in 25 or so years ago, he shared space with Neil Howard. Now, the former Saratoga training champion (1997) has the whole place.
Kimmel won a stakes with Mr. Buff Wednesday, and got handed the most-talked-about disqualification of the meet when Crystalle was demoted from a win Aug. 4. Thursday morning, he strolled the compound with The Special’s Joe Clancy – unsnapping webbings, stepping into stalls and talking about everything from equine conformation to the business of Thoroughbed racing to the small plastic chew rings on the runners at the front of each stall.
“We used to have balls and things for the horses, but now we just use these,” he said with a nod toward a set (think of something a baby would grasp and shake around only more durable). “They chew on them, spin them around, they all seem to like them.”
Mr. Buff: Chester and Mary Broman’s 5-year-old homebred dominated the Evan Shipman for his 10th lifetime win and could be headed to the Grade 1 Woodward. At his stall door, he checked out Kimmel more than the other way around. “He’s so cool to be around. He’s only lost one race at a mile-and-an-eighth around two turns and that’s when I sent him down to New Orleans in March. He was doing great, but that was the day every horse that figured ran up the track. Serengeti Empress got eased. War Of Will barely got out of the gate before everything went wrong. He didn’t run at all. The Woodward, that’s what I’m thinking. He earned his shot. You don’t get two-turn, mile-and-an-eighth races at Belmont.”
Pacific Gale: Just around the corner from Mr. Buff is the other big horse. Tobey Morton’s 4-year-old filly has placed in four graded stakes without winning one. Sixth in the Honorable Miss, she could come back in the Ballerina. A bay with a big blaze, she listened to Kimmel talk for a minute before pausing her meal to say hello. “She’s super friendly, she’s like a pet. She’s beaten a lot of Grade 1 horses, but they haven’t let her win a graded race yet. I thought she was in tip-top shape in the Honorable Miss and she tried to make an inside move. That was when we first became aware that the inside was very deep and pulling on horses because she made a run up there and got to the eighth pole and bogged down. She came back (Wednesday) and had a bullet work. She worked in :47 and change.”
Hospitality: Morton’s unraced 2-year-old Quality Road filly is on her way, including a three-eighths breeze in :36.73 Aug. 6. “She’s a big, typey filly and she’s really starting to come around. With the gate work we still need to do, she’s probably not going to make it to the races until Belmont.”
Harris Bay: Part of a big 2-year-old division in the barn, New York-bred Carpe Diem colt worked a half-mile in :48.77 Aug. 5 and continues to progress toward a debut. “He’s got a chance to make it here and the Carpe Diems are doing OK. He’s a pretty handsome horse. I notice that they have really typey bodies. They all have that really nice balance between their shoulder and their hip.”
Bronx Bomber: Twice a Fasig-Tiptn graduate, New York-bred 3-year-old son of Take Charge Indy won a maiden claimer at Aqueduct in March, added a starter in April and has placed in two first-level allowance races. “He’s a half-brother to Sean Avery, who was a Grade 1 winner. I tried him early in the meet and he was fifth on the grass. He going to run on the 21st.”
Whichwaytomalibu: Say it slow. Bred by the Bromans but purchased by Kimmel for Morton, the 2-year-old Malibu Moon colt finished fourth going 5 furlongs in his debut at Belmont. Half-brother to three stakes winners. “He just needs more ground. I bought him, but I’d much prefer to have them send them to me. It’s sad to see (some of the changes with the Broman stable), but the horses are running well, they’re still going, and they really breed nice horses.”
Mandatory: Morton’s 2-year-old American Pharoah-Chit Chatter colt is entitled to a nap. As Kimmel talked, the $400,000 Fasig-Tipton March purchase barely even glanced up from the snooze. “I think this is a really nice colt. He’s a half-brother to I’m A Chatterbox (a Grade 1 winner of $2.3 million). He’s a solid half-mile fit and ready to work from the gate. He’s got tremendous stamina. This is a nice horse. He’s the kind of horse that could show up in the classic races, that’s the kind of stamina he has.”
Majestic View: Two-year-old Majestic City colt belongs to Niall Brennan, and joined Kimmel’s string after not meeting his reserve. “He’s about half-mile fit. I don’t know if he’s going to make the meet, but he’s on target to run in September.”
Willing To Speed: Unadilla Stable’s 3-year-old finished third in Friday’s third race. The Will Take Charge colt graduated the maiden ranks last fall and came into Friday with four seconds. His left shoulder is sprinkled with white hair. “He’s a little bit of a hard-luck horse. He was second three times in a row in starter races and has just found some trouble. He’s in really good shape.”
Undefeated: Two-year-old Uncle Mo colt shows four recent works – one at Goldmark Farm in Florida and three in New York. He missed a little time when he cut his knee acting up in his stall, but Kimmel likes the progression. “This is one of my favorite 2-year-olds. He is a very, very nice horse. He was going to be on target to run here and we came back to the barn one morning at Belmont and his tie chain was in shreds, his halter was broken and he had a big cut on his knee. I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ It’s just about gone now. He worked :48 and change the other day just for fun. He ought to run all day too. When I bought him, he was still a little light and narrow and now he’s a bigger horse.”
Yankee Empire: Morton’s 2-year-old Cairo Prince colt cost $150,000 at the Fasig-Tipton March sale and has run twice – third at Belmont in June and sixth here last month. He had more trouble in a five-eighths, four-horse race at Belmont than you’ve ever seen in your life. He broke a step slow, he wanted to run up in there and (Joel) Rosario had his neck bowed trying to keep him from running over top of Chris Englehart’s horse. Everybody thought, ‘Well if he doesn’t get in trouble, next time will be good.’ I ran him here and he made this nice move around the turn, got to about the three-sixteenths pole and started to spin his wheels. I took him over to the turf the other day and he worked really, really big (:48.48 half-mile Aug. 2). Next Saturday, mile-and-sixteenth on the grass.”
Dynamite Kitten: Whisper Hill Farm’s gray 4-year-old was walking under those big trees after training. New York-bred daughter of Animal Kingdom has won twice and finished third here Aug. 1. “She’s been victimized by trip. She comes flying and finished third in her last race. The race before there’s no pace and she gets stopped. It’s always something.”
Crystalle: If she’s disappointed with the stewards, she didn’t show it Thursday. Morton’s Palace Malice 2-year-old won at 42-1 Aug. 4, only to be placed third for interference. Kimmel thinks the DQ was a raw deal, and also been told about the quality of his filly. He’ll mull his options, which include maiden races and graded stakes. “She didn’t do anything wrong. She went back to the track today for the first time since the race and she looked really good. Now what? Do I treat her like a winner, or do I go back to a maiden? She’s really kind, easy to train. There’s a Grade 1 race September 15 at Woodbine, the Natalma, which might not be that crazy. She’d probably love that big sweeping turn up there. She’s a good-minded horse too, she’d probably ship anywhere.”
Fractorzation: Unadilla Stable’s 2-year-old filly by The Factor has shown plenty of competitiveness in the morning and awaits a debut. “She’s tough and got a little substance to her. She gets up in the bridle. She’s a solid half-mile fit, she’s probably not going to make this meet but she’ll be soon thereafter. I do a lot of three-eighths breezes, especially when they come from off the farms and they tell you they’re half-a-mile fit. I go right back to three-eighths. I think the more three-eighths I do with them, and gradually, the less shins I’ve had.”
She’samericanmade: With her head sticking out the door, the American Pharoah 2-year-old looks like an older horse with size and maturity. She also showed a keen interest in chewing on a notebook. Owned by Matt and Kristen Esler, who recently bought a farm in Saratoga, the filly cost $150,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s May sale. She’s worked four times at Saratoga and is nearing her debut. “Big, two-turn horse. Her dam, Bonnie Blue Flag, finished second in the Test here (in 2010).”
Unprecedented: Another Fasig-Tipton Midlantic purchase ($220,000) for Morton, 2-year-old Bayern colt looks quick. “He’s going to run a week from Saturday. He’s really nice and does everything well. You would think these Bayerns would stay on too. The name of the mare is Pardonmecomingthru, and he’s by Bayern. That’s how Bayern won his Breeders’ Cup race, right?”
Bingolina: You can’t help but sing that name a little bit, right? A Morton homebred, the Tapizar 2-year-old filly has worked three times at Saratoga. “She’s fast, a New York-bred, and out of an Indian Charlie mare. They’re really turning out to be good mares.”
Unimpeachable: Yes, the stable features Unprecedented, Undefeated, Unimpeachable. Kimmel calls them “The Uns.” This one, a gelding by Constitution, just joined the squad. “The Constitutions are really doing well, and he’s a nice horse too.”
Miss Munnings: Morton’s 6-year-old mare has won three of four (with a second) this year and been third or better in 13 of 15 career starts. Check her out next time she runs, she’s got white spots left over from a skin condition she had as a foal. “I put her in the De La Rose and I was like, ‘This is a tough spot.’ She won her two-other-than the last time and we had to go in there against those horses. They should write a race for horses who have never run in a graded stakes. That’s a better condition. There were horses that were Grade 1-placed in there. I thought it was too tough and scratched. You want to help horses develop confidence, and she’s running so well we’ll look for another spot.”
Famished: Morton’s Uncle Mo colt cost $375,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic in May and makes his debut in Saturday’s fifth race, a monster maiden with runners from Pletcher, Brown, McLaughlin and Asmussen attracting the most attention. “I really, really like this horse. He’s a beautiful horse. Ciaran Dunne had him in the Miami sale and thought he was going to be his home-run horse. He went to the track a couple days and came back with some sort of hind-end issue and they scratched him. At the Maryland sale, he wasn’t all that tight. I liked him from the physical standpoint then and he’s really gotten even better looking. He’s dappled out, seems great. It’s a real tough spot but they’re going to know he’s in there unless for some reason he doesn’t want to do what we think he can do.”
Rye Humor: Three-year-old colt owned by Morton and Bourbon Lane Stable sold for $215,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale and was third behind future graded stakes winner Global Campaign in his debut at Gulfstream in January. Emerged with a minor issue, and spent some time at Goldmark Farm before rejoining Kimmel. “He’s cut out to be a pretty darn nice horse. He came back from the race with some lameness that took forever to figure out what it was. We sent him for a scintigraphy and he had a little spot on a high suspensory area. So I gave him some time off. He’s big and he’s strong and he’s got really good stamina.
Cisco: The stable pony is on the track daily with Kimmel’s assistant Loretta Lusteg, and might be the most valuable member of the team. “He was a racehorse. I don’t think he was very fast. He’s 17 now. He works hard and puts up with a lot. He probably wants a vacation.” As for his racing career, let’s just say there’s some gray area. They think his name is Phone In The Money, but they’re not sure and his tattoo number is unreadable. If so, he is indeed 17 and won twice for trainer Mike Hushion.