Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
You have targeted a 2-year-old for private purchase that you are convinced can win the Runhappy Del Mar Futurity in your own backyard and eventually go on to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. He possesses abundant speed, he is responsive to his rider and he will fight, fight, fight.
You successfully complete negotiations for the colt. He does, indeed, win the Del Mar Futurity for his new connections, displaying every quality you thought he offered and more. You are as excited as you can possibly be. You cannot wait to see what might happen during the remainder of his juvenile campaign – only to be told to wait ‘til next year.
Next year? Next year?
Most owners would have been heartbroken. But this is the story of Dr. Schivel as it unfolded last season, and when trainer Mark Glatt informed the father-son team of Jed and Tim Cohen that the youngster urgently needed time off, the majority partners accepted the setback in stride. Their willingness to do so is a primary reason why Dr. Schivel rides a five-race winning streak into the Breeders’ Cup and looms as a prime contender in the $2 million Qatar Racing Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
According to Glatt, sophisticated testing indicated Dr. Schivel could have been at risk of injury if they had not been willing to give him time away from competition to mature after he ran four times at 2. “He had some bone areas that were lighting up,” Glatt said. “Although they were not injured, he could have hurt himself and we just had to wait for those scans to give us the green light.”
Breaking that news to Jed and Tim had the potential to be one of the harder calls Glatt had to make since he began conditioning Thoroughbreds in 1994. The Cohens, along with partners Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and breeder William Branch, made it easy.
“Although it’s a very difficult call to make, they were very accepting of it, just like they always are,” the trainer said. “I’ve had a number of horses with them and it’s pretty straightforward. Always do what is best for the horse.”
Dr. Schivel was sent to Rancho Temescal, a farm Tim owns in Piru, Calif., and the wait for clean scans began. “I got to see him every day at the farm. He wasn’t out of sight, out of mind,” Tim said. “I could see how he was progressing here. He was growing up.”
Glatt continually urged patience. “Once you make the commitment to give a horse some time off, it’s important to give them as much time as they need,” he said. “With the new diagnostics we have, they are very helpful in telling you when a horse is ready to return to training.”
Month after month went off the calendar until the layoff totaled nine months in all. Glatt was so supremely confident that it would all be worthwhile that he plotted a 3-year-old schedule that worked back from the Breeders’ Cup.
The bay son of Violence finally returned to competition with a neck victory in a June 18 allowance optional claiming race at six furlongs at Santa Anita Park. Then the sophomore was asked to step up in a big way. He faced seven older horses in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes on July 31 at Del Mar. He again got the job done by a neck, edging Eight Rings. Following Collusion Illusion’s success last year, Dr. Schivel provided Glatt with consecutive victories in the prestigious Bing Crosby.
Tim Cohen described the rollercoaster experience with Dr. Schivel as a “planned adventure.” That adventure took another wild turn in the Oct. 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship. Regular rider Flavien Prat had his right rein snap early in the contest. That did not keep his mount from arguably his finest performance to date, an authoritative 3 ¼-length decision against Flagstaff.
That victory placed Dr. Schivel on a collision course with fellow 3-year-old Jackie’s Warrior, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. Although Jackie’s Warrior has not faced older horses, he staged a memorable display of grit and determination when he fought off comebacking Life Is Good in the Aug. 28 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Jackie’s Warrior and jockey Joel Rosario cruised by 6 ¾ lengths in the Sept. 25 Gallant Bob Stakes at Parx Racing in his final Breeders' Cup prep. Rosario enjoyed the luxury of glancing back for competition five times. No threat was in sight.
Still, those associated with Dr. Schivel are looking forward to the classic East-West showdown.
“We’re pretty confident. We get to run out of our own stall on a course we’ve never lost on (3 for 3) and he’s performed well against older horses. We’re pretty happy with where we’re positioned,” said Cohen, who is appreciating everything involved in getting this far.