Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Saturday, November 2, 2019
- William Heiligbrodt
- Steven M. Asmussen
- Ricardo Santana Jr.
- Corinne Heiligbrodt
THE MODERATOR: Winners of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was Mitole. Joined by Ricardo Santana Jr., winning trainer Steve Asmussen, and the owners Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt. Congratulations to you all. Happy to see you. I guess, Ricardo, start with you. It’s nice to get the perspective of the rider. Tell us about your trip.
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RICARDO SANTANA, JR.: First I want to say thank you to the owners, and they put a lot of amazing work in this horse. She rode really good today. And they do a good job.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, I understand that you had talked before the race and decided you weren’t going to worry about Shancelot. Could you talk about the strategy going in.
STEVE ASMUSSEN: You’re concerned with everybody, but we thought the best thing for Mitole was, just Ricardo knows him so, is be comfortable. Not enough could be said about the job Scott Blasi and Angel did coming on out here early, making sure everything was right and eliminating all the variables that could keep us from being in this position.
Bill and Corinne being in racing as long as they have, it’s a difficult position to be in, especially with a horse that had done so much earlier in the year with the Met Mile being such an important and marquee race for this horse going forward. And for him to regroup from there and then to prove that he’s the fastest horse in the world today, just what an unbelievable horse that he is.
For these events, on this stage, to be able to share it with family, it takes a horse of Mitole’s ability to put us in this position and how grateful this group of people knows to be for that opportunity, we will be eternally grateful.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, can you put his campaign this year into a little more context, going back to the break he had before starting 2019 and the thinking behind that how that affected being able to run so often.
STEVE ASMUSSEN: As mentioned, going back as a three-year-old, he proved his brilliance. The horsemen that Corinne and Bill are, understood something as simple as a splint that he incurred as a three-year-old, that his elite ability only comes along very rarely and gave them more than enough time to be sure that he would be healthy enough to do what he does, because a body like his, that moves as fast as his is, is simple physics.
But laid out a map which we felt was highlighted by the Met Mile, and then at that point for a horse to have the mind as well as the physical ability to regroup and then to prove you’re the fastest horse in the world at the end of the year is truly special.
THE MODERATOR: Bill, your feelings right now.
BILL HEILIGBRODT: Well, I have to just say amen to what Steve said. But I do want to say in one thing: I know this horse. I know horses. My wife knows horses. We buy our horses. We sweated getting this horse, but I’m going to tell you here today nobody would have or could have trained this horse other than Steven Asmussen.
CORRINE HEILIGBRODT: I call us the A team. The A team.
BILL HEILIGBRODT: To have a horse this fast, it’s like an athlete. Like if you played football, and you have to play every week, when you get to the last game, it’s really, really difficult. I’m telling you, you don’t know. And the horses are no different. And of all these fast horses Corinne and I have had, it’s very difficult to keep them at that level of performance.
After all this, I watched him in Arkansas, in the pouring down rain, beat some really, really tough horses. And then to come back here like this and to do it all this time later, after everybody in the country trying to beat you, it’s really, really something.
So Corinne and I consider us the most fortunate people in the world to have been able to have owned a horse like this. And it just comes around never. Okay? So that’s the way we think about it.
CORRINE HEILIGBRODT: The thing I’m trying to say is we want to thank the A team, and that is the family, Scott Blasi, all of the groomers, everything.
BILL HEILIGBRODT: And Mr. Santana.
CORRINE: And the jockey for sure. We thank him. But it is a pleasure to have a horse like this. This horse is fast. He has a great mind, and I think he’ll prove himself in the stallion barn at Spendthrift.
THE MODERATOR: You said nobody but Steve could have trained this horse. Could you tell us about your history together? You probably have won a thousand races just together.
BILL HEILIGBRODT: That’s what they said when we went into the Hall of Fame. I checked it. I have to say it might have been more than that. But we won together. He knows how to treat me. He knows that I’m interested in it. He knows the kind of horses I buy and what I want to do. And that’s more than any other trainer I’ve ever been with that’s done. So it’s just a great thing to be there.
And I can guarantee you one thing, I’m working really, really hard to put another set of horses with him because I want to do it again.
THE MODERATOR: On the same topic, can you just talk about Bill and Corinne and their support over the years.
STEVE ASMUSSEN: This is a very special moment because of that. We get to savor this victory, remember the moment, how great that this horse made us feel about each other, about ourselves.
And that’s what horse racing’s about. And I think with Bill and Corinne, you mention all the great victories, the history of it and stuff, this is the best one to date.
CORRINE HEILIGBRODT: I’ve got a picture at home when that boy of Steve’s, the oldest one, was about this big in his mother’s arms.
BILL HEILIGBRODT: In the Winner’s Circle with a valid expectation.
CORRINE HEILIGBRODT: It was nice for him to be there today.
THE MODERATOR: That was a big race then, too. Very fast horse. Steve, you mentioned coming out here early and in October, and that’s what you do for the Breeders’ Cup out West normally. Could you talk about that perspective.
STEVE ASMUSSEN: Scott’s an incredible horseman. His passion is unmatched. Just the personal sacrifice that he continuously makes to eliminate the variables that may not allow us to be in this position.
When the responsibility of a horse like Mitole comes along, I think we try to prove, get everything out of their path and allow them to be who they are, and that is how grateful we are for this opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: And the philosophy of coming out early to prepare over a track you’re not sure what you’re dealing with here.
STEVE ASMUSSEN: They’re running it here. That’s what we’re getting ready for. Whatever they’re going to do with it, we’ll be ready with it. To know what the racetrack is going to be like six weeks in advance is impossible, let alone a week, two weeks out.
But he’s out here to make the adjustments, and Scott, Angel’s gotten on the horse all year, if not longer. They know the horse. They know how he’s responding, what he needs, and to be in this position.
Let us celebrate him and honor Mitole for this feeling.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. You picked him out of the sale. Can you talk about the horse? Because we know how hard it is to hold a horse together all year with this many great. What’s the mindset like? How does he approach his job? Talk about it from his perspective.
STEVE ASMUSSEN: I don’t want to admit this, but I’m positive anybody could train Mitole. Bill and Corinne give me all the credit, and it’s Mitole. We’re not going to run for him. It’s what he’s capable of. And I think that people that know, for him to get to the Met Mile and perform the way that he did against that field on that stage, stretched out, and then for him within a matter of months to retrack, to reset, to be the fastest horse in the world over three-quarters of a mile — good luck anybody trying it. It’s out there. Go prove it.
Q. Steve, is this guy horse of the year?
STEVE ASMUSSEN: That is an unbelievably loaded question with me looking at my watch to go saddle another candidate for it. My kids still need to go through college. I’m not sticking my neck out there yet.
Q. To follow up, hypothetically if Bricks and Mortar wins and Midnight Bisou wins, what’s the case for Mitole for Horse of the Year, how compelling of a case does he have? He’s the first horse since ’88 to win the Met Mile and this race in the same year?
STEVE ASMUSSEN: That is so loaded. It’s unbelievable. There is no replacement for Mitole as far as a race horse goes, and there is no replacement for Mitole as far as a race horse goes, and there is no replacement for Midnight Bisou as far as a race horse goes.
And for being somebody who has been fortunate enough to have great horses over the years, what makes them special or any comparison, they’ve proved themselves on the racetrack. So anything else is simply a debate. And so I think we just need to appreciate who they are and let the chips fall where they may.
Q. Same question for the owners.
BILL HEILIGBRODT: Everybody likes honors, okay? People who like to play football win the national championship, I did. Everybody likes to have honors, but winning the race is the important thing. And we let the experts pick who they want for those positions.
Steve has other good horses. But this horse has done it. All I can say he’s done everything he’s been asked to do. And it’s been a really, really tough campaign. So what everybody thinks will be fine with Corinne and I. All I can tell you is they don’t want to put them in the gate at 6 or 7 furlongs with them, that’s what I will tell you.
Q. Steve’s led you up on a lot of nice horses. Can you tell us where this ranks in your career. And you’ve been on Mitole since the beginning or close to the beginning. What does this win mean for you?
RICARDO SANTANA, JR.: First of all, I came to Steve since when I was a little kid. Steve gives me opportunity in my life. I rode a lot of good horses for Steve. And I need to say thank you to Mr. Steve and the group, they’ve always got confidence in me and giving me the great opportunity and amazing horses.