JOHN DEERE TURF GRADE 1
ERIC WING: We are back live in the interview tent, we are joined by the winning owner of English Channel, an emphatic victory of the 2007 John deer Breeders' Cup Turf. Mr. Scatuorchio, congratulations. I know this was intended to be the last race of English Channel's career. Can you discuss what it's like to go out on such a winning note first of all?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: For the horse, I sat there before they opened the gate and I said, "You've been a champion to us for three years, and I hope today proves that you're really the champion for everybody in chasing." He is a very, very popular horse and I'm going to miss racing him and he's been tremendous for our family. He's worked hard enough and someone was nice enough to make a deal with me very shortly, the last week or so, so I'm thrilled for him. I'm not going to divulge it right now and they said, no, we'd prefer to have a big advertisement on Tuesday, so they are excited, too. It worked out very well for everyone.
ERIC WING: Can you talk about what it's like, not just capturing your first Breeders' Cup race, but to do it at basically your home track here at Monmouth Park, being from Rumsen, New Jersey?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: I don't know if you can script it any better. That's the stuff you dream about. When we came back this year knowing the race was going to be at Monmouth, we always had it in the back of our mind how excited we would be to get him to that race and people forget sometimes how difficult it is to get a horse to these races. It's quite an accomplishment. Sometimes we all forget about that. Someone who is a racing fan ‑‑ not that sophisticated ‑‑ said to me, "How many horses are running at Breeders' Cup?" And I said, "Two." And he said, "Only two?" And I said, "You don't understand, it's tough to get there."
It's always an accomplishment and having my trainer, Todd, one of the true accomplishments, I know he tries to match up how many you won and how many you didn't win, but getting here is a tremendous accomplishment by itself.
ERIC WING: Atlantic of course, your other starter on the day. English Channel seems to like New Jersey, you like New Jersey, now three‑for‑three including a Breeders' Cup turf win.
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: He does. He won the U.N. back‑to‑back, a great thrill two summers in a row, and come over here with family and friends and local support and stuff like that.
He does like the turns, he likes the turns a little tighter and stuff like that. This race today, I was surprised, the race was very, very slow, extremely slow. As long as he was going to handle it, I thought we had a real good chance and obviously he did. He has not run on something this soft, I don't think ever. The easiest comparison was maybe Virginia as a three‑career‑old at Colonial Downs, we came up with a soft turf on Virginia Derby day.
It would be remiss not to mention that the Coolmore horse didn't really handle the track today. That horse is a true champion and this is what happens when we have some weather like this. Some horses, it does penalize some horses. Fortunately it did not penalize English Channel though.
ERIC WING: I don't know if you were watching on television or binoculars but as you were watching, were you keeping one eye on English Channel and one eye on Dylan Thomas?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: I was and I think he was keeping an eye on us, and when I saw Johnny move for the outside, turn to home and I'm going, "Not too soon, have something left." I heard my son‑in‑law son yelling the fractures left. I said, with those kind of fractures I would be very surprised if they could catch him from here and I was very surprised at the victory.
ERIC WING: Todd and Velasquez are of course getting ready for the Breeders' Cup Classic but did they say anything to you after the race about it?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: No. Basically I don't know. I came in and told me, "Don't worry about getting your shoes muddy, you just won the Breeders' Cup race." And I said, "I wasn't." Todd and I just hugged. You know, he puts a lot of pressure on himself to come over here and perform with all these horses and I was very happy to get the victory for Todd also.
ERIC WING: People know you're a big client of Todd's. Can you talk about your friendship with Todd?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: We have, we've been together for almost nine years and we have gotten friendly. The families have gotten friendly and it's always a little special. We'll celebrate tonight as a family together and when English Channel won the Woodford Reserve in Kentucky, we went back to his hotel and sat in the lobby and had pizza and beer, just relax type thing, just with the kids, nothing really fancy. That's been kind of a tradition. Even when Rags and Riches won, we went back to his house in New York and hung out with him.
It's nice. The families all get along. He's got three wonderful children and I've got two wonderful children and a so‑so son‑in‑law. (Laughter) He's getting quoted much too much. I didn't have to put that in there.
ERIC WING: And things bode well tonight because the pizza is better in New Jersey than Kentucky.
Q. I was at the post‑Arc press conference after Dylan Thomas won, and told him, "Why don't you go down to America and throw down the gauntlet and challenge English Channel?" And they did but you came out on top. You beat the No. 1 turf horse in the world. How does it feel to be No. 1 right this moment?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: Well, it's the horse, not me. But I always thought he was a champion and nothing takes away from Dylan Thomas. I would not beat him in France with those courses up and down. He was on my home court today. We caught a track that was not favorable to him so today was our day. But that's what racing is about. Some days, things lean your way and you get a little bit of a break.
Q. And the popular belief was, English Channel may not handle this kind of track. Did you have a concern at all?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: I did. We weren't sure. I mean, I just talked to Todd two minutes before they opened the gates and I said, "What do you feel about the track?" I know Todd at 5:30 had walked both the main course and the turf course. He said the turf course was fine as far as safety wise, there was nothing wrong with that. But really, it was a mess. It was a quagmire he said. He said, he's gone over some soft stuff but I don't think anybody has run over stuff like this. Obviously he handled it. He's not particularly a heavy horse so for the first time, it may have helped him today.
ERIC WING: A good point was raised, you didn't beat just Dylan Thomas but two previous Breeders' Cup turf winners, Better Talk Now and Red Rocks, two horses, particularly in the case of Better Talk Now, who English Channel has something of a rivalry with over his storied career. Does that give it a little extra oomph to say, those guys had our number in other years, but we had theirs today?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: Yeah, and you have to remember this horse was getting older. His first Breeders' Cup classic that he ran he was three and he finished fifth best of the American horses which I was really proud, I really was. Three years old, competing at this level, especially against the Europeans, he ran very well that day but he finished fifth.
Last year, we got a rough trip. Johnny was wide on all three turns just the way it's set up, he turned for home, lost the ground and couldn't hold the lead. I said to somebody, every year, we're getting a little bit closer, so maybe this year we can go over the top and knock on their door down and we did.
Q. What did Todd convey to you after the Sword Dancer? I'm sure you're disappointed to lose that race, although only second, but what did Todd say to you after that leading up to the Man of War?
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: If you watched English Channel over the years, a lot of people have written about this, he's a difficult horse to ride. Johnny gets all the credit in the world and he's fighting, he's got very natural speed and he doesn't have somebody in front of him, he'll be very rank and on a mile and a half, you just cannot waste your energy.
That race, for some strange reason, as he's getting older, he's starting to relax a little bitter so now that he's getting ready to retire he can relax. But he conveyed to Todd after the race that he seemed more relaxed than usual and he was concerned that he was not going to fire.
He said, "I got a little nervous, I didn't have any horse. I started to move at the 5/8ths pole," which was a little too soon as it turns out. But then he was surprised as he got halfway through the move that he had plenty of horse. But when he wasn't fighting him, Johnny got a little bit confused by that and just thought that he had to move earlier to put him into the race and that wasn't necessary as it turns out.
Not taking anything away from the winner, he's a great horse and a definite mile‑and‑a‑half horse, and saved some ground and I think we gave him six to seven pounds that race and stuff like that. But it wasn't a terrible race. We weren't that disappointed in it.
ERIC WING: It's got to be the greatest day of your career, congratulations. Certainly English Channel went out on as great a note as could be possible. Congratulations on a great horse and a great career and almost certain, an Eclipse Award come January.
JAMES SCATUORCHIO: Yes, he was third last year in the voting and I was very proud of him last year. Some said he could have got it last year, but, you know, I think they can't vote for him this year, I don't know what year they will ever vote for him.
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