Todd Wyatt catapulted down the clubhouse stairs after Thursday’s first race, hugging friends like he just got home from the war. He came from the clouds, where he watched the race was anybody’s guess. Another trainer, watching a race in isolated agony.
Tears were welling.
“He’s some horse. He’s some horse. He’s some horse.”
Wyatt packed the horses, his wife and the kids and returned to Saratoga this summer. After years of toil for Jonathan Sheppard and Tom Voss, spanning decades, from Yaw to John’s Call, Wyatt stayed on the farm for the past couple of summers, shipping a few but basically watching Saratoga from afar . . . talk about isolated agony. This year, he returned, asking his owners to pony up for four stalls across Henning Road. He called me three days in a row about renting stalls, struggling with the signature on the check. Finally, I said, “Just do it. You need to get up there. Your horses belong. Your owners want them there. Get in the game.”
I think he was coming anyway, but Wyatt’s the kind of trainer who worries about the expense of a tube of Gastrogard while the horse’s owner charters a jet for the afternoon to see the horse canter. Down six strokes or up six strokes, he’s laying up, which will usually win you the tournament, but doesn’t always get the girl.
Wyatt and his wife Blair (he did get the girl) went for the pin, hammering his stakes in the ground, working every day and hoping for the best.
He got it.
He ran Brother Sy in an early jump race, he finished fourth, ran well, beaten by better horses. He brought Witor; he got loose, scraped himself up, missed all his races and finally had his first breeze Wednesday. He brought Share Out, entered him a two-other-than turf race, he finished third at a big price, not beaten far.
Somewhere along the line, Wyatt asked me what a certain jockey was doing at Saratoga. One of those guys who was barely riding, scraping along, down and out.
“What’s he doing at Saratoga?” he asked.
“He’s not doing any good, but maybe he picks up a stakes horse going out of town, or he meets a good client . . . what the hell, it’s Saratoga, where else would you want to be?” I said.
“Yeah, kind of like me. I guess he might ask the same thing, ‘What the hell’s Todd Wyatt doing at Saratoga?’ “
Not anymore. Wyatt made his third and final start at the meet in Thursday’s first race, sending out You The Man for an optional claimer over jumps. The 7-year-old son of Lear Fan hadn’t run since May 2010. Derailed by stomach issues, the two-time winner nearly made it back to the races a couple of times, but couldn’t keep it together. Wyatt coddled, worried, tinkered and finally got him back to Saratoga, three years since he upset the Jonathan Kiser.
The trainer engineered three breezes over the Oklahoma turf, riding the dark bay gelding himself from Henning Road to Shug’s gap, before handing him to three-time champion Paddy Young who teamed up with Blair aboard Share Out.
Three times, Wyatt would call me at the clocker’s stand to let me know they were working. I have a lot of jobs, but this one I have covered, each time, I had already alerted Bryan Walls in the stand.
“I’ve got a couple of jumpers, working five-eighths.”
“The three-minute lickers?”
“Yeah, the three-minute lickers.”
The first time Share Out dragged You The Man like he was streamer off the end of a Thanksgiving Day float. The next time, Wyatt changed it up and put You The Man in front, that worked better. The last time, he worked alone, one final prep before making his first start in two-plus years.
If you had read the trainer stats at the bottom of You The Man’s chart, it said Wyatt was 36 percent off +180 day layoffs. Do they have a stat for +838?
Owned by Marylander Bill Fossett’s Riders Up Farm, You The Man cruised through 2 1/16 miles in the optional claimer, arriving on time to score easily over Brave Prospect and Rainiero. Wyatt hugged his friends, asked my brother Joe and me to get in the picture and celebrated a win that made the summer.
“That was fun having you over there every time he was breezing, then talking about each one,” Wyatt said, at the end of the day Thursday.
I walked out of a cocktail party at the Reading Room and thought about all the horses I watched breeze over the past six weeks, how many I discounted, how many were discounted by the clockers, the watchers, the experts. You The Man was in there, discounted because of his three-minute-lick pace by most, but there was a do-it-yourself trainer who put his soul into those breezes, proving that risk and reward are allies in this business.
Yeah, some horse. Some meet.