Ron Kirk had to take off his sportcoat in the Trustees’ Room. Soaked to the bone in sweat, Kirk apologized and draped his coat over the back of a chair. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and shook like a Labrador Retriever after a river swim.
Forgive the man, he was hot – and wound up.
That’s what breeding – and owning – a winner of the Grade II Saratoga Special will do for you.
Co-owners Michael Riordan and John Bates didn’t mind, neither did the NYRA brass. Nobody minds anything in the Trustees’ Room. It’s where winners go.
Run Away And Hide had just upped his record to 3-for-3. And he had done it the right way. The 2-year-old colt chilled in third, then clicked it on when jockey Robby Albarado asked. He wasn’t a typical 2-year-old buzzing 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga.
Not that Kirk was surprised.
He’s done being surprised by his homebred colt. Run Away And Hide had a ring to it, but Kirk should have named him Afterthought.
Kirk had two yearlings left from his breeding operation last year. He decided to sell both of them. He sold a Maria’s Mon colt for $150,000. Loved him, but sold him. And then failed to get the job done when it came to selling his yearling by City Zip, soon to be Run Away And Hide.
David Scanlon bought the yearling by Maria’s Mon. Kirk parted with trepidation and did what any good horse dealer does, he tried to buy a part of the whole he had just sold. He’s got to be Irish.
“It was a fair price but I liked him well enough that I asked if I could stay in for a leg,” Kirk said. “David had some other partners and politely said no.”
Enter Irishman Peter O’Callaghan who had bought Kirk’s farm in Lexington.
“Why don’t you send your City Zip colt to David Scanlon,” O’Callaghan said. “That way you can keep an eye on both of them.”
A few months go past and Scanlon calls Kirk. This is where it gets good.
“For me, it was truly out of sight, out of mind,” Kirk said. “Just after the beginning of the year, David calls me and leaves a message saying, ‘This horse of yours can really run.’ I call him back and we have about a 30-second conversation and I ask, ‘Which sale are you going to put him in?’ He said, ‘I didn’t think you were selling this horse?’ I said, ‘Which horse are you talking about, the Maria’s Mon, right?’ He said, ‘No, I’m talking about the one you still own.’ ”
Forgive a horse owner for being pessimistic, but in this game it’s bad news first and good news occasionally.
Scanlon continued to call Kirk with glowing reports about Run Away And Hide, who did things at Scanlon’s training center that only good horses do.
“But I don’t know David well enough to know if he’s just blowing smoke or whether this horse is the real deal,” Kirk said. “He finally talks me into sending him to Ronny Werner.”
Kirk has campaigned horses with Neil Drysdale, Bill Mott, Shug McGaughey, Tom Amoss, Michael Matz . . . and now Werner.
Scanlon convinced Kirk to utilize Werner. If he wanted to get to Keeneland, this the guy.
“Ronny calls me the first time he works and says, ‘Mr. Kirk, this horse has some quality,’ ” Kirk said. “About 10 days go by and he calls me again and says, ‘Can you come over for a work on Saturday?’ I had to go out of town so I asked, ‘What’s so special about this work?’ ”
Werner had some company lined up.
“He told me about a horse the McKathan Brothers had, who everybody thought was the fastest thing on the grounds,” Kirk said. “I couldn’t get there. That afternoon, I was talking to Mike Ryan and asked if he was at the works. He said, ‘I didn’t see it but I heard about it.’ ”
Run Away And Hide missed the break, spotted the fastest thing on the grounds 3 lengths and then put her away like winter clothes on the first of April.
“Another day or two,” Kirk said, “I see Scanlon and say, ‘I noticed you sold the $2 million sales-topper here, I saw you sold a $600,000 at Barretts. How did they compare to Run Away And Hide?’ He said, ‘How do you think I knew how fast he was?’ ”