The 45-year-old Dutrow tasted one of the sweetest moments the sport has to offer on Saturday, winning the $4.7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic with Saint Liam, just a few hours after he won the $1 million Sprint with Silver Train.
Dutrow is well known on the New York circuit, in large part because his late father, Dick Dutrow, raced horses here for many years. But he’s been adding to that legacy in recent years, winning numerous training titles in New York since 2001 and climbing the earnings ladder — finishing sixth in the nation last year total purses of $7,576,986.
But until Saturday, he wasn’t really a national presence. He had run only two horses in the Breeders’ Cup, neither of whom even hit the board, and saddled a couple Triple Crown starters.
So you might expect that winning the Classic — the richest race in North America — and likely sewing up the Horse of the Year award — thoroughbred racing’s highest honor — for Saint Liam, would have Dutrow turning handsprings.
But the big winner wasn’t reacting like someone who just hit a million-dollar lottery.
He was matter of fact in talking about how he believed in his horses and wasn’t at all surprised that they won.
“I was lucky enough to have the right kind of horses at the right kind of time,” he said at the post-race news conference. “. . . One’s a sprinter, one wants to go long. They both love this track . . . It’s not anything that I was planning a year ago or anything like that. It’s just that it happened. It was there, the timing was good. It was all good.”
“Well, actually I didn’t have any horses and I was living in the barn — Aqueduct Barn One — because I couldn’t afford a place to stay,” he responded.
In response to another question a few minutes later, he filled in some other blanks that made it clear that was a far darker chapter in his life than his biography was letting on.
“It was a bad scene,” he said of that time in his life. “I didn’t have any horses, my girlfriend … had been murdered upstate. All at the same time, my dad … developed cancer. I was sitting in a real bad spot. But you know what, I knew I could train horses and I knew I could make it here in New York. I knew if I left, I would be a failure.”
“I hustled up a horse … and I got another horse, other clients. . . . I don’t look back on tha, but I’ll tell you what, if I had to go back there again, I would do the same thing because of the passion I have for this game. You can’t keep me out.”
His business really turned around in 2000, when commodities trainer Sanford Goldfarb entrusted him with a horse named Stalwart Member, who became a stakes winner under Dutrow’s tutelage. Soon, Goldfarb — the leading owner in New York in 2001-03 — was sending him more horses and propelling him upward on the training standings.
But there have been several low points — his father died in February 2000 and there have been tough times professionally, such as this past year when he was fined and suspended for 60 days after two of his horses tested positive for prohibited substances. His assistant, Juan Rodriguez, took over the operation during the suspension period, when the boss was denied permission to enter New York racetracks.
Apart from reflecting for a moment on the dark times, he refused to go there.
“I just have fun training horses,” he said. “I love it. I have a passion for it. Everybody seen me today when when I won. I go off. I love the feeling that you get when you win, and that takes over anything that is possible in this game.”
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