Still decked out in the white-wrapped halter of a long ship, the chestnut horse paces the stall a little, munches some hay, checks out a visitor, begs for a mint, looks out the back window of his stall and then repeats the cycle – walk, munch, check, beg, look.
You can almost hear him take a deep breath and, if he could talk, clear his throat to tell a story.
“Man, you wouldn’t believe the trip I’ve been on . . . Where am I and how did I get here?”
Sprint star Mind Your Biscuits checked into the Fair Hill Training Center early Thursday morning, fresh off winning the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan March 31. The 5-year-old spent a week in Dubai, then flew to Chicago and vanned to Maryland where he will spend a few weeks at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center. Mind Your Biscuts and fellow sprint star X Y Jet (second in the Shaheen) are in a 16-stall round barn just a few steps from the facility’s main barn. One of the training center’s 17 barns, the therapy center includes a hyperbaric chamber and other services for equine athletes. The therapy center has hosted Orb, Paynter and plenty of others over the years. “Biscuits” and “Jet” fit right into the scene in the round barn, built recently to handle overflow during the therapy center’s busiest times.
There are bright, airy stalls, a breeze, plenty of company and a 100-acre view overlooking some turnout paddocks, a field, woods and a key section of the Orange Trail which last weekend hosted hundreds of mountain bikers for a 100K ride and on any given day can be traversed by all manner of users (human and animal).
Around 9 Thursday morning, Mind Your Biscuits had been hand-walked and trainer Chad Summers was prepping the decidedly less placid X Y Jet for a few laps of the barn. Trained by Jorge Navarro, X Y Jet pawed and shuffled while waiting his turn.
“Jet, stop, just stop,” Summers called to the gray. “OK, you’re going to go out in a minute. Relax.”
X Y Jet seemed to understand, at least for a bit, and Summers unwrapped a mint. Mind Your Biscuits got one too and the morning took a pause. They were a long way from the long stretch of Meydan and the Shaheen, where Mind Your Biscuits rallied from well back to catch X Y Jet a few feet from the finish. The New York-bred repeated in the Group 1, earned $1.27 million and gave Summers another magical moment.
“I’m just blessed to have him, he’s so cool,” the trainer said. “What are your wildest expectations when you buy a horse at a sale? You can’t say win in Dubai once let alone win there twice. He’s taken us around the world, to all these races and done so much.”
The son of Posse and the Toccet mare Jazzmane races for a partnership including the Summers family, M.E. Kisber, J Stable and Head of Plains Partners but Chad Summers has been the one constant in the horse’s 21 starts. Mind Your Biscuits lost all four starts at 2, then broke his maiden at Aqueduct in April of his 3-year-old season. The graph has pointed steadily upward since with a Grade 2 win in the Amsterdam in 2016 and Grade 1 wins in the 2016 Malibu, 2017 Golden Shaheen and now the 2018 Golden Shaheen. Along the way, Mind Your Biscuits won the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship last year, placed in the 2016 and 2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and Cigar Mile among others.
Monday, he won his second consecutive New York-bred Horse of the Year trophy and is the state’s all-time leading earner – passing Funny Cide – at more than $3.7 million.
“It’s surreal,” said Summers. “It’s been gravy since the Amsterdam when you think about it.”
In Dubai this year, Mind Your Biscuits nearly spilled the gravy as he and jockey Joel Rosario waited well off the pace and wide before unleashing a monster rally in the stretch. Over and over again, he appeared to have far too much ground to make up only to keep grinding and get up by a head as X Y Jet settled for second and Roy H finished third to complete an American trifecta.
Watching from ground level, Summers saw his horse’s shadow charging into the picture on the big screen and thought the same things everyone else thought – words to the effect of “well, he might not get there but he’s going to run OK; third would work; second would be nice; maybe, maybe, maybe.”
Hoping to minimize the effects of the travel and the race, Mind Your Biscuits followed a different plan after Dubai. Last year, he left as quickly as he could after the race and went to Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky for a five-week break. This year, he stayed in Dubai for a week and headed to Fair Hill. Summers hopes to make it to the Met Mile in June, and likes what he sees so far.
“We took pictures every day and if you compare it to last year he’s much better,” Summer said. “If you saw him last year at Taylor Made, you knew that he had run and been through something. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, he just looked like he’d lost weight and that he’d had a hard race. It has to take something out of them.”
The extra week in Dubai seemed to help Mind Your Biscuits, whose two-week (plus/minus) schedule at Fair Hill will include hand-walking and turnout time in a round pen and a small paddock. Summers plans on some hyperbaric sessions as well, all with an eye toward helping the recovery. The Met wasn’t an option last year, though Mind Your Biscuits returned in July and won the Belmont Sprint Championship.
“He just looks so much better than he did last year,” Summers said. “Everything I’ve read about it, being here is fantastic. He’ll go out tomorrow in the round pen for a couple days and we’ll graduate him to one of the small paddocks and let him be a horse for two weeks or so. He won’t be here that long.”
• • •
Hey Chad Summers, what is Mind Your Biscuit’s favorite thing to do when he’s not racing?
“He loves grass so a bomb could go off and he won’t look up if he’s outside grazing. But if he’s not grazing and he’s outside, forget about it.”