The series continues this week with Rodolphe Brisset. He trains Quip, winner of the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 at odds of 19-1. Quip, a son of Distorted Humor, looms as one of the top choices in the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. The Grade 1 contest represents the last of the major prep races this spring.
Brisset, 34, was born in Tours, France. He worked as a jockey in France before turning his attention to training and coming to the United States. He served for more than 10 years as a top assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before beginning his own operation last April.
With 50 qualifying points for his upset victory at Tampa Bay Downs, Quip is on course to be part of an expected full field of 20 horses for the run for the roses. He showed an ability to handle the Churchill Downs surface when he broke his maiden there at six furlongs in his Sept. 23 debut, a factor that bodes well.
PEDULLA: I see that you ride Quip every morning and work him. Does that give you a significant advantage?
BRISSET: Not really. Many trainers win from the grandstand. I love to ride and we get along well together. We keep it simple and it’s been awesome between him and me. I’d rather be on the horse than on the ground.
PEDULLA: Doesn’t it give you a better read on your horse when you work him yourself?
BRISSET: Oh, yes. For the breeze, for sure. It gives me a little more security about getting the job done the way I want.
PEDULLA: I understand he’s been challenging. Is that correct?
BRISSET: Not too bad. I would say he had a couple of quirks at 2. He and I got along well right away. He’s matured a lot and we are very pleased with the way he is doing now.
PEDULLA: How did you settle on the Arkansas Derby?
BRISSET: Well, a couple of things. Justify got re-routed to the Santa Anita Derby. And the Arkansas Derby is a Grade 1. I work with a team of owners that likes to promote stallions, and a Grade 1 in this race looks much better for the Thoroughbred.
PEDULLA: Is the three-week interval between the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby a concern? Is that short for you?
BRISSET: Well, of course it is. But we also know Arkansas Derby winners have won the Kentucky Derby. Everything we’ve tried has worked pretty well so far. We will adapt.
PEDULLA: How many horses are you training?
BRISSET: Right now, we have 20 and we are expecting a bunch of babies (2-year-olds).
PEDULLA: How big an operation would you ultimately like to have?
BRISSET: We have two assistant trainers and a couple of foremen. We are ready to expand if we need to. We are not scared of numbers.
PEDULLA: How important has Quip been in helping you to establish yourself as a trainer?
BRISSET: Well, it’s been life-changing the minute he crossed the line in the Tampa Bay Derby. It’s gotten things going quicker than it might have been.
PEDULLA: So you have seen an increase in interest and business?
BRISSET: Of course. The main thing I saw is I’ve been getting a lot of press. It doesn’t change much for us. We just keep doing the job.
PEDULLA: You were a jockey in France. How much does that experience help you as a trainer?
BRISSET: It does a little bit. I’ve been saying a couple of times I wasn’t a very good jockey. But I guess in the Thoroughbred world, any experience in any kind of job is an advantage.
PEDULLA: What would you say was the most important thing you learned while you were with Bill Mott?
BRISSET: One of the main things I learned was to sometimes back up and see the bigger picture. It makes you make better choices.
PEDULLA: Was he a powerful influence on you?
BRISSET: I came to America and I worked with him and the whole team for 10 or 11 years. I became what I am because of them. He was a big influence and, like I’ve said a couple of times, kind of a father figure for me.
PEDULLA: Do you allow yourself to dream of winning the Kentucky Derby?
BRISSET: No. Right now I’m thinking about winning the Arkansas Derby. Let’s take it one by one.