2020 Triple Crown Trail: Co-Owner of Dean Martini Chats Ohio Derby, Rolling the Dice

The Life
Dean Martini, ridden by Ricardo Mejias, won the $500,000 Ohio Derby June 27 at Thistledown. He is the lone racehorse in the stable of owners Raise the BAR Racing. (JJ Zamaiko Photography)

Tom Pedulla is interviewing prominent owners, trainers, and jockeys for America’s Best Racing as they travel the road to the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve and Preakness Stakes. The Derby has been rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Preakness will be held on Oct. 5.

Brad Rives, 61, managing partner of Louisville-based Raise the BAR Racing, is featured this week. His partners are Rick Riney, Annie Jesse, and Diane Jesse. Raise the BAR finds itself in a rather shocking position. Although Dean Martini had dropped his first seven starts, trainer Tom Amoss claimed the Cairo Prince gelding for $50,000 in a May 17 maiden race at Churchill Downs on behalf of the one-horse-at-a-time operation.

Dean Martini placed second to well-regarded Man in the Can in a June 12 allowance-optional claiming race at Churchill, leading Amoss to suggest they think big by entering the $500,000, Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown.

Sent off at 14.60-1 odds, the blossoming 3-year-old made a courageous inside move for jockey Ricardo Mejias and held off South Bend by three-quarters of a length. Two-year-old champion Storm the Court ran third as the beaten favorite.

The victory provided Dean Martini with 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, putting him 21st on the Churchill Downs leaderboard.

PEDULLA: Brad, what is your background?

RIVES: I was born in Lexington but have lived in Louisville for 55 years. I am retired. I was with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities for 32 years in a lot of finance and executive roles. I was chief financial officer for eight years, chief administrative officer for three, and retired five years ago.

PEDULLA: What is your background in racing?

RIVES: I played around with horses probably for 20 years in different consortiums and syndicates, probably five or six different groups. We were out of the business for four or five years and then two years ago we formed the current entity, which is Raise the BAR Racing.

PEDULLA: What led you to claim Dean Martini?

RIVES: We gave Tom the OK up to $50,000 but kind of relied on him to make recommendations. It was his recommendation. He came with a couple and we talked through them. He had a preference for Dean Martini and his rationale made sense, so that’s what we did.

PEDULLA: I guess you were able to look past Dean Martini’s record?

RIVES: He hadn’t won, but he had been all over the board. He had finished off the board once. If you looked at the numbers, he was fairly competitive. Tom liked what he saw in the more recent races.

PEDULLA: What led you to take a shot at the Ohio Derby?

RIVES: Tom called and said, ‘I’ve looked at the numbers and I think we have a shot to be competitive. It is not a sure thing by any means, but I think we should roll the dice.’ That was his term, ‘Roll the dice.’ He gave us the choice and we agreed with him and gave it a shot. 

PEDULLA: Were you a little shocked to hear he wanted to run in the Ohio Derby?

RIVES: Yeah. I was actually on the golf course when he called me. I walked the hole without playing. Guys were looking at me and I said, ‘Just keep going.’ I skipped the hole and rejoined them on the eighth after talking it through and deciding, ‘Let’s go for it.’

PEDULLA: Was it a hard decision?

Dean Martini in Ohio Derby winner's circle. (JJ Zamaiko Photography)

RIVES: Tom is focused on the animal and on putting them in the right positions. His rationale, based on speed figures and what he had seen in comparative horses, made sense.

PEDULLA: Were you able to attend or did you stay away due to the pandemic?

RIVES: Everybody is over 60. We’re not running scared, but we’re a little cautious. We wish we would have been there, but it was just not the right time, unfortunately.

PEDULLA: Were you together to watch the Ohio Derby?

RIVES: We did not watch it all together because people had different commitments. But we were all on the phone kind of screaming at each other. There was a whole lot of screaming.

PEDULLA: Did it seem surreal when he won?

RIVES: For sure. It was chills and shaking hands. We enjoy it, but we don’t have a lot of horses. We’re not all over the country. We don’t do it every day, so it was pretty doggone exciting. It was incredibly exciting.

PEDULLA: Is he your only horse right now?

RIVES: He is. We’ve had three horses, but we haven’t had more than one at any given time.

PEDULLA: What is next for Dean Martini?

RIVES: We wheeled him back in two weeks for the Ohio Derby, so he needs at least four weeks or something like that (until his next start). Everything seems fine right now. There is no reason for concern. We want to get him back into the feed bag and make sure everything is good and then begin to look at alternatives.

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