Changing hemispheres

Southern Hemisphere Horses Present Complexities Adjusting to U.S.    Proven Trainers with Imports Preach Patience      By Jeff Lowe     For as long as racehorses have been moved from one hemisphere to the other, the effect of crossing the equator has been an age-old mystery. How much recovery time a horse generally needs, and why, is still a complex issue for American trainers who regularly find success with horses from the Southern Hemisphere.     Hall of Fame trainers Richard Mandella and Ron McAnally follow a similar timetable before they generally feel comfortable sending a horse from the Southern Hemisphere to the races. Mandella, who has a long list of South American stars like Bal a Bali, Redattore, Gentlemen, Sandpit and Siphon accentuating his career highlights, suggested that four months is an ideal amount of time once a horse arrives to the United States before his or her first race. McAnally, with a roll call from Argentina that includes Candy Ride, Different, Paseana, Festin and Bayakoa, operates with a ballpark estimate of four to six months.     "I could not tell you why they need that long," McAnally said. "It would take God almighty upstairs to answer that.     “I just know that with a horse like Candy Ride, he had about six months once he got here and he was ready to go; he won an allowance on the dirt at Hollywood Park, then he won a nine-furlong Gr2 on the turf at Hollywood Park, and he won the Pacific Classic [a $1-million Gr1] going a mile and a quarter at Del Mar.”     Mandella's and McAnally's calendar does fly in the face of the schedule of a giant gelding who helped blaze the trail from the Southern Hemisphere to the U.S. Australian legend Phar Lap traveled 10,000 miles by ship to San Francisco in the winter bridging 1931 and '32, arriving January 15. He promptly ran away with the Aqua Caliente Handicap in Mexico just two months later, setting a track record before mysteriously dying that April.     Likewise, with the shoe on the other foot, horses from Europe regularly trek to Australia for prestigious races. Godolphin Racing's Cross Counter arrived "Down Under" last September 8 from England and came away with a victory in the Gp1 Melbourne Cup two months later. European shippers have won the Melbourne Cup five times in the last nine editions.     Heading the other way, horses from Australia have been successful right off the bat in Europe, with the prolific sprinter Black Caviar as perhaps the most notable example. She won the Gp1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot just six weeks after prevailing in the Gp1 Goodwood in Adelaide, Australia. Aidan O’Brien’s spectacular success from his Ballydoyle base in Ireland has featured a few imports from Australian and New Zealand, among them a top-caliber sprinter in Starspangledbanner and a 10-furlong specialist in So You Think.     Starspangledbanner, like Black Caviar, scored in the 2006 edition of the Gp1 Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot, just a couple months after arriving from Australia. Conversely, So You Think had six months in between his final start “Down Under” and his European debut in Ireland.     “It all depends on the individual horse and how they adapt,” O’Brien said. “No doubt, when they don’t have to stop training and can continue exercise in quarantine, [it] is a big help.”     Mandella suggested that a break is often necessary for a Southern Hemisphere horse to adjust to its new environment and build back up after a long season back home. The differences in the U.S. include the makeup of the racetracks, as some dirt tracks in South America are much harder than the sandy loam in place at Santa Anita and elsewhere in the states. South American imports also have to adjust to wearing a saddle in their training each day, whereas back home they usually would only be ridden with a saddle in workouts and races.     "I let them down and bring them back easy and by the time I get them ready it's about four months, and I think that works real well," Mandella said. "Generally they have done quite a bit to earn the chance to come here, so they are due [for some time off], but the difference in the environment and the training is probably the biggest change, and you have to kind of re-train them to our style of training with saddles every day, traffic they have to face—those kind of things that we have at our American racetracks."     Mandatory time in quarantine with little exercise upon arrival to the U.S. is another factor emphasized by John Fulton, who won the inaugural edition of the Japan Cup as an American-based trainer in 1981 and more recently has been a bloodstock agent focused on private sales that send South American-breds to the states.     "One of the problems we haven't been able to overcome is the long quarantine in Miami where they have to spend six or seven days; that sets us back," Fulton said. "If we could go straight into a quarantine at the racetrack or even just two days in [quarantine in] Miami, it would change the situation considerably. You can hire someone from the facility to go in and walk the horse a little bit but that is about it. If we could somehow eliminate this antiquated requirement—the [American] government doesn't even seem willing to look at it—it would change things dramatically.”     Fulton lives in Buenos Aires most of the year and has been an agent in deals for dozens of South American horses who have gone on to race in the U.S. Fulton said six months used to be a rule of thumb for Southern Hemisphere imports who headed to the U.S. to join the likes of McAnally and trainer Charlie Whittingham.     "Down here [in Argentina], they run the big races in November and December and then that is when people would buy horses, and they were horses that were tired, so it was just standard practice to take them up and give them lots of time because they needed lots of time, just like any horse needs a break," Fulton said. "They not only needed a break, they were shipping and changing hemispheres, so they always said six months. In recent times, the tendency is to buy horses earlier so they are more lightly raced and they arrive considerably fresher. It does depend on the horse. I've had horses run up in the U.S. two-and-a-half months after they had been running in Argentina and continue right on winning."     Bill Recio, from his base at the Classic Mile Training Center in Ocala, quietly deals with a steady stream of South American imports who require or preemptively receive longer introductions to life in America. Recio cut his teeth as a trainer under the tutelage of Arnold Winick, who was among the pioneers in bringing horses to the U.S. from South America. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Winick won 12 training titles at Gulfstream, six more at Hialeah Park and three titles at Arlington Park—fueled in part by Argentine horses. Recio trained on his own in Chicago and New Jersey in the 1980s before deciding to switch to a prep role in Ocala. He retained a knowledge edge for working with South American stock, dating back to his time with Winick.     “Some of them you can go right on with, but the majority you can't,” Recio said “They'll come in and look great, you give them a little bit of time, and next thing you know they break out in skin disease and they kind of go backwards a little bit. Arnold Winick believed that crossing the equator is a lot tougher than coming from Europe or Japan. It's the difference in seasons. Besides the fact that it is different water, different feed, I think the climate is a big factor as well. They are also not allowed to do much in quarantine, and it is pretty rough on them.    “Having said all that, I just got a horse—I probably shouldn’t say the name yet—that came from Argentina after winning a Gr1 race going a mile, and he has come in as good as any horse I have seen. He didn't go backwards at all, never went off his feed and his feet were in great shape. He was physically in great shape and he seemed to acclimate pretty quickly. So you have to judge them all individually.”     Ignacio Correas IV, a native of Argentina now based in Kentucky, has joined the orbit of Mandella, McAnally and Neil Drysdale in recent years in his success with South American imports. Correas, a fourth-generation horseman, soaked up lessons by observation, going back to his youth in Argentina when Drysdale was regularly acquiring South American horses on behalf of Whittingham to send to California.     As a groom in 1982, Correas accompanied his father's Gp1 winner Compero from Argentina to France, where the horse was trained by David Smaga and prevailed in the Gp1 Premio Roma, but not before he required some patience.     "We went there with Campero from Uruguay to Paris and 48 hours in the quarantine barn," Correas said. "The next day he went to the track and he was coming out of his skin. We breezed about 10 days later, and he looked like a monster. Fifteen days later he looked like a monster and then 20 days after that, he could not beat a maiden 5-year-old. It took him two months to start coming back. Sometimes you can see their coats are dull or they start washing out, and they show you; but a lot of times it's not until you put them under pressure. I think part of it is adaptations to the American style of racing—the shorter stretches than we have in Argentina—so they need to be able to really quicken.     "Really, though, it's the hemispheres. You go north-south, south-north, and it screws with them. You go East-West, West-East, you're perfect. Don't ask me why. Maybe you can find horses that can do it in five months instead of six, or maybe you can find one that can do it in four-and-a-half months, but that doesn't mean that you are going to have the full potential in four-and-a-half. The full potential, you're probably not going to see until six months. Some horses even take a year. Usually when you go through the campaigns of the good Argentinian, Chilean, Brazilian horses, the second campaign is better than the first. Their good campaigns [in the U.S.] are as five- and six-year-olds."     Argentine-breds Blue Prize and Kasaqui have fit that profile as headliners for Correas, who opened up a public stable in 2015 after serving as a private trainer for Kevin Plank's Sagamore Farm in Maryland. As a four-year-old, Blue Prize finished second in allowance company in her first two starts in the U.S. in 2017, but she improved steadily and finished third in the Gr1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes that October before scoring a breakthrough a month later in the Gr2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. In 2018 as a five-year-old, Blue Prize was better than ever in collecting four stakes victories, including the Spinster. She became Correas's first-ever Gr1 winner, taking the baton from Kasaqui, who was a Gr2 winner at Churchill Downs and finished second by a neck in the Gr1 Arlington Million.     "For different reasons, both those horses needed almost nine months before they raced here," Correas said. "The [trainers] that have patience get the most out of the horses that come here from the Southern Hemisphere. Sometimes when you have a good horse, you have to hold yourself not to run them because they look like they are ready, but they are not. And unless they have the blessing of having conditions, they are going to have to go against tough horses right away. Blue Prize lost an allowance twice, but at least she had the conditions where she didn't have to be thrown to the wolves and that built her back up. The problem is that they are good horses so they always look good and they always try. They look the part, but sometimes they are just not ready for that kind of effort.”

By Jeff Lowe

For as long as racehorses have been moved from one hemisphere to the other, the effect of crossing the equator has been an age-old mystery. How much recovery time a horse generally needs, and why, is still a complex issue for American trainers who regularly find success with horses from the Southern Hemisphere.

Hall of Fame trainers Richard Mandella and Ron McAnally follow a similar timetable before they generally feel comfortable sending a horse from the Southern Hemisphere to the races. Mandella, who has a long list of South American stars like Bal a Bali, Redattore, Gentlemen, Sandpit and Siphon accentuating his career highlights, suggested that four months is an ideal amount of time once a horse arrives to the United States before his or her first race. McAnally, with a roll call from Argentina that includes Candy Ride, Different, Paseana, Festin and Bayakoa, operates with a ballpark estimate of four to six months.

"I could not tell you why they need that long," McAnally said. "It would take God almighty upstairs to answer that.

“I just know that with a horse like Candy Ride, he had about six months once he got here and he was ready to go; he won an allowance on the dirt at Hollywood Park, then he won a nine-furlong Gr2 on the turf at Hollywood Park, and he won the Pacific Classic [a $1-million Gr1] going a mile and a quarter at Del Mar.”  

Mandella's and McAnally's calendar does fly in the face of the schedule of a giant gelding who helped blaze the trail from the Southern Hemisphere to the U.S. Australian legend Phar Lap traveled 10,000 miles by ship to San Francisco in the winter bridging 1931 and '32, arriving January 15. He promptly ran away with the Aqua Caliente Handicap in Mexico just two months later, setting a track record before mysteriously dying that April.

Likewise, with the shoe on the other foot, horses from Europe regularly trek to Australia for prestigious races. Godolphin Racing's Cross Counter arrived "Down Under" last September 8 from England and came away with a victory in the Gp1 Melbourne Cup two months later. European shippers have won the Melbourne Cup five times in the last nine editions.

Black Caviar wins the Gp1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot

Heading the other way, horses from Australia have been successful right off the bat in Europe, with the prolific sprinter Black Caviar as perhaps the most notable example. She won the Gp1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot just six weeks after prevailing in the Gp1 Goodwood in Adelaide, Australia. Aidan O’Brien’s spectacular success from his Ballydoyle base in Ireland has featured a few imports from Australian and New Zealand, among them a top-caliber sprinter in Starspangledbanner and a 10-furlong specialist in So You Think.

Starspangledbanner, like Black Caviar, scored in the 2006 edition of the Gp1 Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot, just a couple months after arriving from Australia. Conversely, So You Think had six months in between his final start “Down Under” and his European debut in Ireland.

“It all depends on the individual horse and how they adapt,” O’Brien said. “No doubt, when they don’t have to stop training and can continue exercise in quarantine, [it] is a big help.”

Mandella suggested that a break is often necessary for a Southern Hemisphere horse to adjust to its new environment and build back up after a long season back home. The differences in the U.S. include the makeup of the racetracks, as some dirt tracks in South America are much harder than the sandy loam in place at Santa Anita and elsewhere in the states. South American imports also have to adjust to wearing a saddle in their training each day, whereas back home they usually would only be ridden with a saddle in workouts and races.

"I let them down and bring them back easy and by the time I get them ready it's about four months, and I think that works real well," Mandella said. "Generally they have done quite a bit to earn the chance to come here, so they are due [for some time off], but the difference in the environment and the training is probably the biggest change, and you have to kind of re-train them to our style of training with saddles every day, traffic they have to face—those kind of things that we have at our American racetracks."


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