Tom Pedulla is interviewing prominent owners, trainers, and jockeys for America’s Best Racing as they travel the Road to the 147th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
weekend TV schedule
Owner Tom Durant, a member of the Texas Hall of Fame, is featured this week. Durant, 71, continues to maintain a heavy schedule as he oversees 20 car dealerships. His father, J.V., despite having only a third-grade education, started the family on the path to prosperity by establishing a wrecking yard behind their house.
The son of crack sprinter Runhappy, a $475,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale of 2-year-olds in training last March, broke his maiden in a 1 1/16-mile victory on Feb. 16 at Fair Grounds in his second career start.
Run Classic is listed at 12-1 as part of a field of eight in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby. He drew post three and will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr.
The Louisiana Derby offers 100-50-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers, meaning the top two are virtually guaranteed a berth in the expected 20-horse field in the Run for the Roses.
PEDULLA: I read that your father, J.V., started the family business despite having only a third-grade education. It sounds as though your family has lived the American Dream. Please tell us about that.
DURANT: His dad died when he was 9 years old. It was a family of six kids and he was the oldest. He had to quit going to school.
PEDULLA: It sounds as though J.V. was an extraordinary man.
DURANT: My mom (Opal) had the brains and my dad knew how to trade. He knew how to put deals together. Between the two of them, they did quite well.
PEDULLA: What led you to enter Thoroughbred racing as an owner?
DURANT: Just winning. Now that I’ve gone outside of Texas, it’s been interesting. The competition is well above what I was used to, and the quality of horses is much better than the quality of horses I ever owned before.
PEDULLA: How many horses do you have in your operation?
DURANT: It’s over 20 running right now. I have six broodmares.
PEDULLA: I see that you have recently spent big for racing talent. Is that a change for you or have you always believed in spending big?
DURANT: No, it’s a change. It started five years ago.
PEDULLA: What is spurring that?
DURANT: If I want to finish on top, I need to spend the money to get there.
PEDULLA: What drew you to Run Classic?
DURANT: I used to buy everything myself. I have a buyer now. His name is Josh Stevens, and he’s the one who put me onto the horse. He’s a big horse. He’s got a long stride. His manners are very good for a stud horse.
PEDULLA: Do you worry at all that the horse might have distance limitations?
DURANT: I did until we ran him in this last race. You’ve got to see the horse. It’s a standout. The day we unloaded him off the trailer I said, ‘This is the best horse I’ve ever owned.’
PEDULLA: I see he did not debut until mid-January. Why did he get a fairly late start relative to the rest of his class?
DURANT: When you buy at an in-training sale, we normally give them two months off after the sale. When we first shipped him to the track, he had a little problem. I can’t even tell you what it was. We brought him back home. It was minor. We brought him back to the track. Yes, we did get a late start. I would like to have a couple of more outs in him. If he steps up in this race, then it’s going to work in my favor. If he needs a bit more experience, then this is the race to give him more experience.
PEDULLA: I see you spent $950,000 on a Quality Road colt at Keeneland’s 2019 September yearling sale. What is his name and how is he doing?
DURANT: His name is Find New Roads. Pedigree-wise, he’s got the strongest pedigree of any horse I’ve ever owned. He’s actually on the [Louisiana Derby] undercard. We ran him once. He hopped out of the gate. He didn’t have a shot and the jockey just kind of made that a work for him.
PEDULLA: You also spent $530,000 on an American Pharoah colt as a 2-year-old in training in 2019. May I ask you to update us on him?
DURANT: I’m still trying to find out about him [Summer Splash]. This horse is very talented. But when we first put him in training, he bowed [a tendon], which is not good. We took a long time trying to get him back to the track. He just had his first work this past week.
PEDULLA: What is the thinking in testing Run Classic in the Louisiana Derby?
DURANT: I’m banking on him winning.
PEDULLA: It sounds as though you are optimistic despite your odds.
DURANT: I’ve always got optimism. I think the horse will step up this week. Whether he’s got the maturity to go out there and win, we’ll find out.
PEDULLA: How important is the Kentucky Derby to you?
DURANT: I’ve never run in the Kentucky Derby. I’ve run on Derby day. It would be nice to have a horse in the Derby.
PEDULLA: Do you dream of winning the Derby?
DURANT: You always think about it, but you certainly don’t dream about it. You’ve got to have the horse that will get you there and I think this is one of those horses. But we’re going to find out Saturday.