Trainer Pessin’s Experience, Instincts Helped Identify Stable Star Bell’s the One

Racing
Bell’s the One after winning the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes Oct. 9 at Keeneland to punch her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 6 at Del Mar. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Trainer Neil Pessin does not need more than a couple of minutes to spot a yearling with potential – as well as one with flaws.

As the son of noted veterinarian Arnold G. Pessin, he grew up surrounded by horses. His father made an indelible mark on racing in his own state by building the Kentucky Training Center as well as Dueling Grounds, now known as Kentucky Downs.

beginner Takeaways

Trainer Neil Pessin is the son of a veterinarian and maintains a small stable so that he can be hands on with his horses.

Pessin selected stable standout Bell’s the One from a yearling auction. She was extremely athletic but physical flaws kept her price reasonable.

Bell’s the One has been a fast, consistent racehorse from the start, winning her first four races for Pessin and owner Bob Lothenbach.

Bell’s the One, who gave Pessin the biggest win of his training career in September 2020, is a leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

Pessin leaned on all that his father and others taught him when he eyeballed Bell’s the One ahead of the 2017 Fasig-Tipton July sale of selected yearlings. Her potential issues were as obvious to him as her exciting possibilities. “She’s not the most correct horse, but she’s very athletic and very athletic moving,” the trainer said. He noted that the horse is “a little wide in front.”

What to do?

“You listen to your experience. You can call it gut or whatever you want. I’ve been around it my whole life,” said Pessin, 62. “I have an idea what a good horse looks like. We’re not always right. Sometimes, we think they look like a good horse and they’ll have trouble outrunning me.”

When Pessin discussed risk versus reward with Bob Lothenbach, the veteran owner trusted his trainer’s instinct enough to make a winning bid of $155,000. Then they held their breath. Would Pessin be right or would the lack of correctness lead to an injury-plagued, mediocre career?

“It’s an inexact science. There is no rhyme or reason as to why some run and some don’t,” Pessin said. “You’ve just got to get lucky — and we got very lucky with her.”

The 5-year-old daughter of Majesticperfection is being pointed toward the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 6 at Del Mar, a race in which she finished third last year to returning superstar Gamine and since-retired Serengeti Empress. She and regular rider Corey Lanerie showed their readiness for the stiff challenge ahead by winning the Oct. 9 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland Race Course to ensure a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint.

Her victory by a determined neck against rapidly-closing Club Car in her most recent race said much about her career. It was her 10th victory in 21 starts with four runner-up efforts and a pair of third-place finishes to hike her career earnings to $1,336,825. She provided Pessin with his first Grade 1 triumph on Sept. 5, 2020, when she staged a furious rally to overtake Serengeti Empress by a nose in the Derby City Distaff Stakes presented by Derby City Gaming.

Pessin knew early that Bell’s the One was, indeed, the kind of horse that leads a trainer to have a bounce in his step when he arrives at the barn each morning before dawn. “She’s always shown signs of being a nice horse,” he said. “She wasn’t one that the light bulb had to come on. It was on.”

Bell’s the One after Oct. 9 win at Keeneland. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The bay Kentucky-bred broke her maiden at first asking, on Sept. 1, 2018, at Arlington Park, and launched her career by winning four in a row. She continued to develop and improve from there. In Pessin’s eyes, she can do no wrong.

“She shows up almost every time,” he said. “The time she hadn’t was human error, not her error. Rider, my fault. Never placement because I’m not scared to place her anywhere.”

Pessin trains approximately 15 horses and deliberately keeps his numbers relatively low so that he can be as hands on as possible. He focuses on every horse every day. He also admits to spoiling them on a regular basis with peppermint treats. “They’re like your kids,” he said.

Bell’s the One is particularly demanding.

“She knows she’s the queen,” the trainer said, adding, “She just lets you know she’s in charge. We’re just along for the ride.”

Lanerie, who has been riding for more than three decades, paid the mare an enormous compliment after her latest success represented one of the highlights of Keeneland’s Fall Stars Weekend. He credited her with having the quickest turn of foot of any horse he had ever been aboard and said, “She goes from zero to 60 fast.”

Pessin give Bell's the One a kiss after Grade 1 win. (Coady Photography)

Lanerie was initially at a loss for words when asked to describe what that tremendous burst feels like. “She’s special. I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “You can feel her gears clicking in.”

Bell’s the One failed to crack the top three only once in six starts this season, when she took fourth behind victorious burner Gamine in the Derby City Distaff. In addition to the Thorughbred Club of America, her other victories this year occurred in the June 19 Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs and the July 28 Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga.

Lanerie credits Pessin for her consistency, a quality hard to come by.

“She shows up every time and runs her heart out. She wants to win,” the jockey said. “He’s maintained her fabulous. He’s managed her and put her in all the right spots and done a great job just keeping her right, having her ready every time to show up.”

Bell’s the One would be a decided underdog to Gamine in the Filly and Mare Sprint in her effort to provide her trainer and jockey with their first Breeders’ Cup victories. Lanerie is eager to embrace that challenge.

“I like our chances. Of course, we’ve all got to beat Gamine,” Lanerie said. “In horse racing, anything can happen.”

Including flawed horses that run like the wind.

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