With the two premier summer racing meets just about here, Saratoga and Del Mar, it is an exciting time in the Sport of Kings and one filled with anticipation. This could not be truer for Carson Sullivan, a young rider with a dream who has ventured out west to make it a reality.
One of the great things about horse racing we all enjoy is the chance to fulfill dreams. Those dreams come in many forms from hitting a pick 6, to training that grade 1 winner, to breeding that stakes class homebred, to picking out that 2 year old destined for the classics, to claiming that runner you knew could do so much better, to riding that first stakes winner. We all come together with our various dreams in the sport we love which is a great equalizer. The game is generous too, as we see these dreams fulfilled with regularity. It keeps us coming back, working hard and believing.
What could be more exciting than being a young rider starting out in your career and heading out west to one of the premier race meets on the biggest stage in the game. Carson Sullivan, a young apprentice rider, is living that dream today and is determined to turn that dream into the career he and his supporters believe he can have. Just pulling into the Santa Anita backstretch with your tack as an unknown young man and getting on horses for the trainers who compete there is an accomplishment. Taking that to the next level and riding in the afternoon and winning is what it’s all about and what young Carson is there for and will work to achieve.
Carson Sullivan comes from a racing family and some good stock at that. His great grandfather was Carson Kirk who rode back in the 40’s with guys like Eddie Arcaro, Bill Hartack and Willie Shoemaker. No shabby group by anyone’s standards. Carson learned how to ride bareback and break yearlings from his grandfather James C Kirk. His mother Christine, who he counts as his biggest supporter has worked for Jack Van Berg, D. Wayne Lukas and recently Nick Zito. Those three know a thing or two about training a winner and running a shed row. Carson himself worked for John Servis until he started riding. Servis was actually Carson’s dad’s agent when he rode earlier.
With a small enough physique to be a rider, this young fitness buff developed his dream very early and has been working towards it longer than his young years would indicate. Growing up around the game he dreams of winning the big races all young and old riders do and mentions one of my personal favorite races, The Travers as one he aspires to get. We can all guess the others.
Kelly Breen is another trainer who has helped Carson and put him on horses in the morning. Carson was thrilled to work stakes horse Pants on Fire for Breen as well as some nice runners for both Wesley Ward and Nick Zito. Although his work ethic seems inherent, being around these types of horsemen has certainly honed it. All the pieces are in place and it will be nice to watch this young man put it all together.
Carson Sullivan Heads to California
Carson Sullivan spent the winter at Gulfstream. Towards the end of June he said his goodbyes to the friends he had made there and advised of his desire to head out to California and have his book handled by agent Mike Ciani. This was a strategic decision by his camp which is led by Lou Rivera aka Jockey Agent Lou who is about as fine and knowledgeable a mentor a young rider can have. They mapped out a patient plan for Carson which they hope will have him steadily advancing and competing regularly on the big stage pretty soon. He has arrived in California and has been getting morning business and meeting a lot of the outfits.
He rode Papa’s Paisly for Adam Kitchingman at Oak Tree at Pleasanton in the 10th race on Sunday and looked good finishing second to Russell Baze who has just a tad more experience and had a little more horse too. So far in his young career Carson Sullivan has won 11 races, finished second 24 times and third 27 times. He also has the benefit of being mentored by hall of famer Kent Desormeaux whose career has been resurgent since working with Jockey Agent Lou and returning to the west coast.
It will be exciting to watch this young rider develop and improve and start to win races regularly. Past the Wire will be following his career and progress and doing updated columns as we chronicle this jockey running down his dream. Good luck and stay safe and focused, Carson.
With the successful return of two year old champion Shared Belief to the stakes ranks, it certainly opens the door to discussion of who the best three year old is and will be. We have three nice horses in position to take that title and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds. Tonalist, who handled California Chrome and the test of champions Belmont Stakes in just his fifth start seems to get the least respect of the three. Not in my book however. This is a really nice horse still developing. I think he’ll prove strong as the year progresses, especially at a mile and a quarter. California Chrome has probably shown us his best early in the year, he couldn’t handle Tonalist, and we have to wait and see how he comes back from what proved to be a grueling campaign. While his early season laurels which include the Kentucky Derby may have him in the lead with some, there is plenty of racing left. Shared Belief is showing the benefits of patient handling by master horseman Jerry Hollendorfer, who skipped the Triple Crown races and now has a fast and fresh horse who will be the first of the three to tackle older in the Pacific Classic.
Just when you think you have things figured out, this game will teach you that you don’t. I always tell people, don’t develop biases and don’t make decisions before actually handicapping. Just about every public handicapper conceded the two turf stakes at Belmont Saturday, The Belmont Oaks and Belmont Derby to European Imports. This of course is the fashion of late. I have been a fan of European imports since the 70’s when they were not very popular but still won often but again no biases or opinions before handicapping. In the morning I tweeted I did not think a “Euro” would win either race despite my being in the minority with that opinion. First I liked Mr. Speaker in his race and Sea Queen in hers. Second the rails were down so they were racing over a fresh and hard turf course which was not nearly as wet as people thought. I tweeted this as well as the course did not favor the imports as many were expecting.
In contrast to the shrewd and savvy campaigns of Tonalist and Shared Belief we still have the connections of Ria Antonia and Social Inclusion vying for most mismanaged horse of the year. Neither of their connections listened to Past the Wire when we wrote what was needed for a strong second half of the year. Both horses need a freshening and subsequently a confidence builder or two. Neither the Woody Stephens, nor the Iowa Oaks serve as confidence builders and the Ohio Derby against colts for a struggling filly yet to win this year surely doesn’t. Both are talented horses that could do so much better.
Congratulations to Mark and Norman Casse on a well-deserved win in the Queen’s Plate with Lexie Lou. She dominated the boys to give Team Casse their first win in the prestigious event. Mark and Norman are fine horseman who do a fantastic job day in and day out.
See you all next week.
The first goes to all my followers who listened and bet Mr. Speaker. How we got 23-1 I’ll never know. Between him and Tonalist in the Belmont it’s an Ok summer. The second goes to Martin Panza and The NYRA for another world class card on Saturday.
The low five goes to all the workout experts who ignored and failed to discuss trainer Bob Hess’ comment on HRTV that he tranquilized a horse for a workout to slow him down. This warrants a serious look in my opinion and has a myriad of issues attached to it.
Horses to Watch
This flashy filly from Leah Gyarmati, who gave us Sweet Reason last year debuted in a small stake and trounced the field looking like an experienced race horse.