Confidence everything
in horse racing

Jan 30, 2007 1:24 AM

"If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the Universe against me."—Ralph Waldo Emerson, November, 1843.


Confidence, as described by Webster, is "trust in a person or thing."

In racing as in life, confidence can be the difference in winning or losing.

Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel described in one word the reason for the resurgence of jockey Garrett Gomez: "confidence." No one, it seems, would disagree on the essentiality of a feeling of certainty or assurance in oneself.

"In racing, confidence is very important," said retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, "not just for the rider, but for the whole barn. When a barn is on a roll, the whole team is happy—the grooms, the hot walkers, the trainer—and that confidence spills over to the horse. It’s the horse’s sixth sense. It’s very powerful."

Potent enough to be infused by the rider into the horse

"I don’t think it’s necessarily the horse giving the jockey feedback, but the other way around," Stevens said. "Your feelings are transmitted to the horse. How, why, I don’t know, but when you win four, five, even six races in one day, you feel invincible, like you can’t lose on anything. Somehow that feeling would transmit to the horse.

"By the same token, when things are rough and you’re in a valley, that transmits as well, and horses wouldn’t perform at their best. It’s like a baseball player in a long season. You’re going to have peaks and valleys."

The aura of confidence can be even more important in training.

"It’s like any other sporting event," said 40-year-old Jack Carava, one of California’s most successful trainers since going on his own in 1993. "If you have confidence, things seem to fall into place. People work harder and it’s easier to get up in the morning and easier to go the extra mile and do what it takes to win. Confidence is a word that covers a lot of different things.

"When you’re winning, it’s infectious. It makes people happy. They work harder and creates more winning. As a trainer with a staff of employees, it’s your responsibility to do the best you can and keep everybody happy as possible. If you’re dejected, I’m sure they’ll be down, too. It becomes cyclical because of the ups and downs of year-round racing, but you try to instill as much confidence in your horses and people ads possible."

Richard Migliore, who has hit the ground running in Southern California after moving from New York, where was an eight-time riding champ at Aqueduct, can’t say enough about being confident.

"It’s huge," the 42-year-old rider said. "At this level, most trainers and jockeys are more than capable. Confidence is what separates who does well. Confidence enables you to do things without thinking, and usually your first instinct is correct. When you’re confident, you follow your first instinct."

Ron Anderson echoes that sentiment.

"Everything takes confidence, whether you’re training horses, riding horses or an agent," said the Las Vegas native who played Col. Parker to Jerry Bailey’s Elvis, and who currently represents Gomez and Migliore. "Always try and focus on the positive and forget about the negative. Concentrating on the negative will just beat you up. Life is all about confidence."

The homestretch

”¡ We were 9-for-9 in our "News You Can Bet On" selections for Eclipse Awards, and 13-of-16 overall, missing only Breeder, Male Turf Horse and Jockey. Some voters went sentimental and tabbed Edgar Prado, who was second to Garrett Gomez in purse earnings last year. On second thought, what would you expect from a voting procedure that has more wrinkles in it than Robert Redford’s face?

”¡ When the lottery was approved in California years ago, its champions said it would be a panacea for education ills, but that was hollow vow. School kids today don’t know the difference between the state of the union and the state of the onion or Osama and Obama.

”¡ I see where Bill Parcells called it a career again. That’s one less coach to bully the media, leaving only the irrefutable Bobby Knight, who’s not only No. 1 in college basketball victories, but also No. 1 in intimidation.