Kirk Godby Chats Confidence Game’s Derby Chances, Origin of Don’t Tell My Wife Stables

The Life
Kentucky Derby Confidence Game Kirk Godby Keith Desormeaux James Graham horse racing Rebel Stakes Oaklawn Park Louisiana Downs owner horse racing Don’t Tell My Wife Stables My Boy Jack
Kirk Godby (left), co-founder of Don’t Tell My Wife Stables, celebrates in the Oaklawn Park winner’s circle with HISA chief executive Lisa Lazarus and jockey James Graham after Confidence Game won the Rebel Stakes on Feb. 25. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla is interviewing prominent owners, trainers and jockeys as they travel the Road to the 149th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve May 6 at Churchill Downs.

This week’s installment features Kirk Godby. He co-founded Don’t Tell My Wife Stables with Rob Slack in 2010. The partnership will be represented by its second Kentucky Derby starter, Confidence Game, an upset winner of the Feb. 25 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park for trainer Keith Desormeaux and jockey James Graham.

Don’t Tell My Wife Stables made its Derby debut when My Boy Jack turned in a solid performance when finishing fifth in the 2018 Derby. That colt also was trained by Desormeaux, a long-time friend and associate of Godby.

Godby discussed his time spent as a groom at Louisiana Downs in 1992, the evolution of the partnership’s catchy name and his confidence in Confidence Game during a question-and-answer session conducted on behalf of America’s Best Racing.

PEDULLA: Where does your interest in racing come from?

GODBY: It comes from my dad (Dub). My dad claimed a horse with a couple of friends back when I was a junior in high school or so, some 40 years ago. I just got around it. He had a stakes horse a year or two after that and I followed him, which really got the excitement going. I just fell in love with this sport and these animals, their amazing athleticism. That’s where it all started.

PEDULLA: I understand that you once worked on the backside. What can you tell me about that?

GODBY: I wanted to learn this from the ground up and I wanted to get people involved in the sport I loved so much. I knew being 30 years old with no experience it would probably be a tough go if I didn’t have some kind of experience. So I drove over (to Louisiana Downs) and worked for my dad’s trainer (the late Bill Stice). The first day I met Keith Desormeaux and we became close friends. I spent six months there. I groomed three or four horses. I actually found out I was allergic to hay when I got there. 

Confidence Game (Eclipse Sportswire)

PEDULLA: What happened after that?

GODBY: I started a courier logistics company here in Fort Worth, Texas, and I built it up. I met my wife (Kelley) soon after I started that company and we raised a family (daughters Lauren and Kristen). I was following the game but I wasn’t really able to participate in it or focus some time on trying to get people involved. It wasn’t until 2010, I was at a board meeting down in New Orleans and I took a few of the board members out to the Fair Grounds and Keith invited us to come out to the backside. The guys got a really nice look at what goes on back there and it wasn’t a couple of days later that Keith called and said, ‘Why don’t some of those guys put in some money and I’ll claim a cheap horse and we’ll have some fun.’ That was 2010 and that was the beginning of Don’t Tell My Wife Stables.

PEDULLA: What did you learn, not specifics but big picture, during your time on the backside?

GODBY: Big picture was what all goes in on a daily basis to maintain these horses. There is a lot that goes into it. You are up early. You come back to feed. It is 100 percent about the horse. The other takeaway is I found out how much these people on the backside love these animals.

PEDULLA: Obviously, your stable has a catchy name. How did that come about?

GODBY: We get tons of compliments on the name. We did not come up with the name to be cute. This industry is all class. We did not intend to be cute or even hide it from our wives. It just kind of came about. I knew we had to formalize. We had to get a license and a stable name. We had three or four conference calls and I’m walking them through what we need and every time we ended the call Mike Gualtieri from Hartford, Conn., would say, “Geez, whatever you do, please don’t tell my wife. She’s freakin going to kill me.” I circled back with Rob and said, “We’ve got to come up with a name.” And he goes, “I think it’s already been named. Mike’s named it Don’t Tell My Wife Stables.” We just ran with it. It's been a lot of fun.

PEDULLA: Desormeaux purchased My Boy Jack for $20,000 at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale and acquired Confidence Game for $25,000 at Keeneland as a yearling as well. What can you say about his eye for talent?

GODBY: Man, arguably I think he’s one of the best in the industry. There are a lot of good ones out there. He told me years ago he had to get good at that. I think there are some things at the sale that he gets away with. Some of the big-money guys, they have their agents there and if there is a pimple on them, they are off the horse.

PEDULLA: When did you start thinking you might have something in Confidence Game?

GODBY: Keith had been seeing it early on. Before his first race, he said, “This guy has got some talent.” Damon’s Mound beat us by 13 lengths in that race, but that’s when I saw how professional he was. He didn’t run green. You could tell he was trying. 

PEDULLA: Did the Rebel surprise you? He went off as a longshot.

GODBY: The Rebel solidified what Keith had been telling me behind the scenes, that this guy is super talented. He compares him to Exaggerator (who won the 2016 Preakness Stakes after placing second in the Derby). When you’re hearing a young horse compared to Exaggerator, I’m thinking, “That’s great to hear, but you’ve got to go out and prove it.” He’s got natural speed. I love his running style. He can be forwardly placed without urging. He’s got all the tools and he loves to compete. He’s got the grit.

PEDULLA: Why hasn’t he run since the Rebel?

GODBY: Keith and I went back and forth on it. I leave all of the decisions to Keith. I learned years ago to stay out of the way. We certainly had options. In Keith’s mind, he wanted to give this horse his best shot coming into this race fit and fresh. Our intent is to run in all three Triple Crown races.

PEDULLA: You will face long odds, but so did last year’s winner, (80.80-1) Rich Strike. Does Rich Strike give you some hope?

GODBY: I’m a humble person. I can tell you I am very, very confident that we have a legit shot at winning this race. I don’t look at him as a Rich Strike. I look at him as an Exaggerator when he ran second to Nyquist (in the Derby). I don’t want that to sound like I’m being cocky or anything. That’s just how I feel about it.

PEDULLA: Where does that confidence come from?

GODBY: I think just what he’s shown and proved so far. And he’s still developing.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram TikTok YouTube
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram TikTok YouTube