European Group 2 winner Triple Threat looks for his first Grade 1 win in Saturday's Arlington Million. (Photos by Bill Denver/Equiphoto)
After falling ill last year, Triple Threat seemed to lose his enthusiasm for training. That prompted former trainer Andre Fabre to suggest that owners Team Valor International and Gary Barber make a change.
“Last year, he got some kind of a flu bug and it wiped him out for most of the year and when he came back he just wasn’t enthusiastic anymore,” said Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor. “He’d lost his mojo and the trainer, Andre Fabre said ‘You can keep him here another year but I think a change of scenery might do well for this horse because he’s just kind of lost his interest.’ ”
Heeding Fabre’s advice, Triple Threat boarded a plane and was sent to Danielle Hodsdon in Camden, S.C. to try and get the European Group 2 winner interested in racing again. Irwin's instructions for Hodsdon were simple: make the horse happy.
“We sent him to Dani and she spent about two and a half to three months with the horse doing nothing but trying to make him happy. I told her not to let the horse breeze until he was screaming for it, and she did an incredible job. We sent him to Bill Mott, and in his first start we got rewarded because he won [the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes].”
Winning the Monmouth Stakes seemed to really get Triple Threat interested in racing again with the 5-year-old taking another step forward in his training. That was encouraging enough to both Irwin and Mott to plan on the Arlington Million for his next race, an idea Irwin had when Triple Threat moved to the U.S. and Mott warmed up to after the Monmouth Stakes.
“I kind of had it in the back of my mind but I didn’t want to verbalize it,” Irwin said. “I wanted to make sure that the horse was up to it, then once he showed that he was, I started talking about it. But mostly, I just wanted to get him here and refresh his attitude then let him show us what he was capable of.”
TRIPLE THREAT (LEFT) WINS THE MONMOUTH STAKES
But even with Triple Threat training well coming into the Million, it hasn’t been easy for the horse. He was scheduled to run in the Arlington Handicap in July but was scratched after spiking a fever. In addition, while Triple Threat isn’t a hard horse to train, he does have his own ideas about things.
“He’s got a little bit of, I wouldn’t say bad temperament, but he’s his own man and you’ve got to really work with him,” Irwin said.
One of the main goals Irwin and Barber have for Triple Threat is to get him an elusive Grade 1 win. The 5-year-old horse has run in three European Group 1 races in his 14-race career, but has not been able to manage a win at racing's top level. With a strong female family behind him and good looks, the only thing he needs to complete his stallion resume is a Grade 1 victory.
“He’s one of the best-looking horses we have ever owned; he is spectacular looking. I hope that we can win this race because I think he deserves a chance at stud, and if he wins this one, he’ll have his chance,” said Irwin. “[Irish classic winner] Canford Cliffs was produced by a half-sister to Triple Threat. I used to own a mare named Drei, so that’s the dam of Triple Threat and also the grandam of Canford Cliffs.”
Team Valor is already in the unique position of being one of three owners to win both the Arlington Million and Beverly D. Stakes after winning the Million in 1993 with Star of Cozzene and the Beverly D. last year with Euro Charline.
But if Triple Threat and Team Valor’s Beverly D. contender Euro Charline pull off the Million-Beverly D. double this year, it’ll have one stat all to itself, the only owner to win both races in the same year.