“You go back and forth 100 times…”
Those were Chad Summers’ words when asked to recall what had happened.
A little over two weeks ago, the owner/trainer’s superstar sprinter, Mind Your Biscuits, was on fire heading into a long-awaited rematch with his rival, Drefong, in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Unfortunately, the showdown didn’t live up to its hype.
While Drefong took the lead and never looked back, cruising home under a hand ride, Biscuits never fired into gear and finished a middling sixth, some 8 lengths behind his winning foe. The result left Summers scratching his head and searching for answers.
“Nobody ever said this game was easy,” he said. “It’s a very humbling sport. Every time you put the bridle on and lead them over, you want to win. You’ll lose some races, you’ll have some bad racing luck. Sometimes you’re on top of the world, and sometimes you feel like you’re under the Titanic.”
There had been talk in the weeks leading up that Biscuits might not make the gate after experiencing a dip in his training. Summers moved him to a different stall with the hope that a change in scenery would improve his spirits, but in the end, it proved too little, too late.
I asked him if he ever takes a vacation to help deal with the daily grind.
“Never,” he replied with a laugh. “I took Monday afternoon off after the Forego, went for a drive up in the mountains and the lakes, and just pondered a lot. You rely on your staff and family and friends, but you have to be your toughest critic. You have to bear the responsibility and figure out how to get better every day. You can’t rest on your laurels; you can’t be satisfied. That was the running joke out of Dubai: it’s all downhill from here. We knew going in that (the Golden Shaheen) was just the starting point, and while there have certainly been some struggles since then, we’re not ready to throw in the towel.”
Maybe it’s just his mindset, or maybe it’s easier to do several weeks removed, but Summers seems to have moved on from the Forego disappointment.
“Saratoga’s a really tough place to do well,” he said. “Now we put the past behind us and focus on getting ready. We know who the horse to beat is, and we’ll go back to the Breeders’ Cup with the target squarely not on us. We’ll be the outsider again, and maybe that’s for the best. At this point, when we lead him over, people will have questions, but the best thing about this sport is that the answers will come on November 4.”
Having already punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint after winning the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship, Biscuits can take time ramping up for the season finale. He’s already shipped back to Belmont with the rest of his stablemates, where he’s definitely happier with the quieter, familiar surroundings. He’ll have another two-plus months to relax and rejuvenate before he ships west, as the Del Mar racing facilities won’t open up for horses until October 22nd, less than two weeks before the first Breeders’ Cup race breaks from the gate.
The conundrum facing Summers (and every other trainer running that weekend) is when – and where – to ship, a matter intensified by the fact that nobody will really know how the track’s surface will play come November 3.
“You want to get there early; the question is, do you train at Santa Anita first and then ship (a small distance), or do you ship straight from here?” he said. “That track will be closed for 2.5 months, so no matter what that track was or how it played during the summer, you don’t know how it will be in the fall. It could be a totally new constitution and you’re not going to have a long time to figure it out.”
Apart from Biscuits and Drefong, the rest of the dirt sprint division has featured several other strong performances this summer. Imperial Hint recently blew the doors off of a small field at Parx, nearly breaking the course record while kept completely under wraps. El Deal destroyed his competition in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap. Ransom the Moon and Roy H both showed plenty of talent and tenacity at Del Mar, with the former winning the Grade 1 Bing Crosby.
“The Sprint might be the strongest, deepest division out there,” Summers said. ” We’re looking forward to what the fall and the Breeders’ Cup have in store for us. You know you’re going to face the best of the best. We certainly have our work cut out for us. Three weeks ago, we were the first or second favorite. Now, we might be 15-1 morning line, and maybe rightfully so.”
His first season of training at Saratoga might not have played out the way he’d envisioned two months ago, but Summers has never waivered from 2017’s finish line.
“At the end of the day, we’ve had one goal in mind, and that was to be the champion sprinter.”
Stay tuned next week and all year long as racingdudes.com follows Chad Summers and Mind Your Biscuits on their quest for vengeance in the Grade 1, $1,500,000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 4, 2017.
Next week’s story: Stable Update: Chad Summers Profile #8
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