An Interview With: TOM SANFORD, BILL SPAWR, MIKE SMITH, JONELL SANFORD
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the connections of Amazombie. Left to right, co-owner Tom Sanford, co-owner and trainer, Bill Spawr, rider Mike Smith, and Tom Sanford's wife.
JONELL SANFORD: Community property. Jonell.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, I'll start with you. Looked like you had a pretty neat somewhat inside-out trip. Not much in her way. Great job and tell us about your view from on horseback.
MIKE SMITH: I was really sitting loaded. I had a lot of horse. My main concern is at the point where I cut the corner. When he hits the front too soon, he tends to really wait. So I was trying not to hit it too soon but yet not let him idle at the same time.
It worked out. He actually did hit the front a bit too soon. You'll watch it in the replay. Just keep after it a little bit. Luckily, the wire was coming up. Once the horse got up to the neck, he dug back in. I felt comfortable he wasn't going to pass me.
THE MODERATOR: Did he start to ease up a bit thinking the job was done?
MIKE SMITH: He's a great horse. He's brilliant. Got him going so good right now. He turns around the back side, and an explosive turn of foot. He's teaching him to do the right thing of the trust me, he's going to be around a long time, this guy.
THE MODERATOR: On television, Tom, Jonell, and Bill, they were talking about the horse being a throw-in on this deal, something of an afterthought. Can you retell the story for us, if you would?
BILL SPAWR: I was in a race for yearlings one day, and we were watching the yearlings go, and the manager said I got a couple of horses at the track you should look at. The owner had a heart attack and wants to sell everything. I said, I don't have any money. I wasn't interested. He said, they're by Northern Afleet. I love Northern Afleet. I like the stallion. Really nice colts.
I said, that's fine. What are they worth? I don't want any money. I'm not interested. Put a number on him. Oh, $5,000. That will make him go away.
He said -- I said for him -- because he said the other horse was the better horse. He said he was a better horse. He ran once, and he said he was fourth in a good race. I said for him. He thought I said them. So he was cold that day. A couple of days later, we sent him a check, and he said, they will be in tomorrow. I said they? He said didn't you mean Amazombie, too? Oh, yeah, I sure did.
So you might say he's a throw-in.
THE MODERATOR: Well, good job bluffing your way through that one. Mike, congratulations, by the way. Breeders' Cup win Number 14 for you. Bill, Number 1 for you. Congratulations. I'm sure it's a very sweet moment. Your seventh starter. First time you've hit the board, let alone won a race. So big day for you.
Tom and Jonell, you came into this race after a win in the Ancient Title, which was a Breeders' Cup win and you're in race, meaning you got entries paid, all fees taken care of, a travel allowance. Bill was commenting that, if not for that, you probably wouldn't have come. Is that true?
TOM STANFORD: Well, that had a lot to do with it, that's for sure. If the horse was coming, we were coming. That sure helped.
THE MODERATOR: My question was if not for those fees taken care of, might you have decided to keep the horse home?
TOM STANFORD: If we hadn't won the Ancient Title, we were thinking about the California Gold Races. Cal Cup. I'm sorry, Cal Cup. If we hadn't won the Ancient Title. Winning the Ancient Title was big in getting here.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, a lot of people said, maybe who are caught by surprise by Amazombie beating The Factor in the Ancient Title, people chalked it up to pace scenario, The Factor got cooked, and you were just the lucky beneficiary of the hot pace.
When you were riding him, you knew there was more behind Amazombie's win in the Ancient Title?
MIKE SMITH: We certainly did. He was huge in that race. You can ask Bill. After that race, he lays down for a while, and you could take him out the next day and ran him. Bill has done an amazing job getting this horse better and better and better every time. When he got back to Santa Anita, he ran the prep he needed to run. Today he just knocked it through the wall really.
I'd like to say one thing. I'd like to thank Dale and everything for giving me the opportunity to wear this logo I'm wearing on my pants. It's Jeff Ruby's. For every time I wear this logo, he donates $10,000 to the Disabled Riders. Like to thank you guys.
THE MODERATOR: Sounds like a real win-win.
MIKE SMITH: And we all get free dinner tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Anybody like to ask a question.
Q. Like Bill was saying earlier this week that you were telling him about when you won the '94 Sprint at Churchill here with Cherokee Run and you sat behind a ton of speed and made your move in this long stretch. Was this the way this kind of race kind of worked out also for you?
MIKE SMITH: Ironically. It's very similar. You watch that Breeders' Cup race and this one. I was able to cut the corner with Cherokee Run and get out the exact same way. It was a little shorter margin. It was pretty much the same strategy.
Q. For Mike and Bill, this horse has won on every surface. Does he run a little better on dirt or have a different running style on dirt?
MIKE SMITH: As far as the field, I would say he's better on conventional dirt.
Q. Does he feel any different on dirt?
MIKE SMITH: He's a big powerful horse, and he needs to get a hold of something, and he seems to get a hold of horse better.
Q. 14th win, just as sweet as the first. Does it ever get old winning these kinds of races?
MIKE SMITH: No, it doesn't. I saw Jerry Bailey in the booth up there. I told him I was coming after him. I got three more left.
Q. For anybody really, does California take a lot of pride winning this Breeders' Cup Sprint?
BILL SPAWR: Absolutely. Absolutely. They say it pays to own Cal bred. There's evidence there. I would like to thank two friends of mine or we wouldn't be here. Gus Christopoulos and Jon Lindo, who helped us make this horse eligible. Remind us of the deadline. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here today.
THE MODERATOR: Jon Lindo, a sales executive for DRF. Greg, go ahead.
Q. Just talk about winning for the first time after trying so many times.
THE MODERATOR: Question for Bill is can you talk about winning for the first time after several times.
BILL SPAWR: Well, I feel I was due. We tried several times, and I don't think I've had a horse to run in these races under the same circumstances, where the track -- he enjoyed the track, and he was -- today he was at his peak. And just the feel I got from him in the shank and moving him around, I thought he was ready to go.
Q. Bill, can you tell us, during the race, your feelings as the race unfolded coming down the stretch and how you saw things, how they were unfolding. I watched on the ground. I didn't see it very well. I know, when he turned for home, when he left the three-eighths pole, I thought mike had him in a good spot. About four or five lengths in front of you?
MIKE SMITH: About four in front of me. I was trying to gauge it. I knew I was loaded. I knew I was going to hit the front at some point. I just hoped it wasn't too soon.
BILL SPAWR: I don't know if you saw the Ancient Title, but if he runs back to the Ancient Title, he would win the race. That was such a powerful race. Mike came back and circled five or six wide. He said, I'm sorry, but I had so much horse, I couldn't get in trouble. I had to move around to get around him.
When he had the lead again, he went again, and he opened up so quickly that Mike took a hold of him.
Q. Mike, you mentioned your logo, can you explain exactly who you're wearing that for and how it occurred?
MIKE SMITH: All the Disabled Riders, some are paraplegics and hurt in many different ways. They have families. They're not able to support their families, pay their Bills. This does all of that. Jeff Ruby is the man that donated $10,000 every time. I get to ride two more with it. He's donating $30,000 to disabled riders.
THE MODERATOR: Is that the PPJF, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund?
MIKE SMITH: Yes, it is. Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse. Ruby's Steakhouse, and his name is Jeff Ruby, the owner.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to all four of you. Tom Sanford, Bill Spawr, Mike Smith, Jonell Sanford. Congratulations to Amazombie. Maybe we'll see you in January.
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