Chip Woolley Interview - January 19, 2019
Mine that bird's trainer. Chip Woolley who brought the horse all the way from New Mexico on a van. I remember catching up with him one of our countdown programs throughout derby week. We stood there at our tent on the backside, and we talked about his journey, and what he was hoping for in the Kentucky Derby, I don't know even he could have imagined that result. But what a ride it was. And what a ride it's been over the past decade for chip Willie who joins us now here on the line forum. Chip welcome to the program. How's that for a little trip down memory lane? Well, that's always fun to listen to that. Call for sure. I don't think it was Tom Durkan's favorite day. Thank you. That that little gap there when he was trying to figure out who it was that was pretty pretty funny to look back on and who on earth could have expected. It would be mine that bird. I know you did you were actually very confident going into that Kentucky Derby. Honestly wasn't confident about winning. But I thought I could sure run third. You know, I didn't think I could be pioneer the Nile. Really? But, but you know, I thought I could sure like the board. You know, had you ever seen that five eighths mile run that that he put in before had he ever done anything like that before. No. You know? I I actually he really mainly was about a three eighth mile run. Really, you know. But but that's what I was looking for after I bought the horse. I mean that was the whole what I thought would be the key to make any good horse or a better or slim put it that way, not a good. But a better horse was to to wait and just make a move. And we had worked him that way. Here we'd pudding with couple of other horses and put one like twenty in front of him one like ten in front of him. And and let him work to those horses from the three eight, you know, and and and I worked in to really nice steaks Phillies and he beat him like an afternoon off. You know? I mean, so I knew he had that any myth. If we could just get the proper trips to get that kind of a run from him. I mean, I didn't know it was going to be good enough to win the derby. But but I believed it would make him that much better chip. What do you remember about the moment that he crossed the finish line? Shock really. I mean for just a moment. I remember we were all screaming and celebrating in our box. You know? And then all of a sudden, it's like a ton of bricks following on you, you know, you you couldn't believe you to -ccomplish something like that, you know, and you were on crutches, right? If I remember, yes, sir. I was on crutches. And I remember I even took off out of my box hopping on one leg look without my crutches. You know before all of it kind of come crashing down on me. And then and then, and then all of a sudden, you realize what what you've done, you know. And it's just too big for for belief. You know, so it it was kind of look back on it. It's kind of funny to think about, but but at the time there wasn't just for instant you had some celebration. And then it was just like oh my God. You know, what do we do now? And and it's kinda kinda funny to look back because it's like the whole world come crashing down on you for a little bit. Yeah. It's it's definitely an overwhelming feeling. I've I've never been part of a Kentucky Derby win is an owner trainer, whatever. But I've been in the winter circle a few times with with people that I've interviewed and whatever. And and it's it's a surreal experience. I mean, people do weird things, you know, Terry Finley couple of guys picked him up, and they were all going to body slam him into the mud. I'm just going to. You know? I mean, I I was with Doug O'Neill with Nyquist. I got to watch that race from the box. That was exciting. And the like you mentioned everybody going crazy, and whatever and then interviewing Doug who had worked for me his first job on the race track in interviewing him going down to the winter circle with just a surreal experience for me. And he he'd done it before. So it wasn't. He I don't want to say he was used to it. But he knew what to expect. But I think you're right there. It's it if you could go back and do it again, I think you could enjoy it a lot more like. To you would know what's coming. You know, when it happens to somebody like me from a regional area. Like, this it it, you know, you just don't know what what to think after it happens. You know? And and I think if you could go back, you could sure enjoy the moment a lot more. Do you think? That's why it's so addictive. Like everybody says, oh, I want to do it again. You know, is that lightly certainly to do it on that stage. I mean, you know, there's no other stage in horse racing like that stage. And and I mean, you know Breeders Cup. They might I don't know how many people they get there. But I, you know, generally, like Santa Anita say, there's forty five thousand people or so I mean to do it on that stage at church he'll and and with all the history behind it. You know, it's just I don't know the stalled summit if you're a true horse racing person. You know, chip you've always. Been very humble when you joined us before the derby after the derby, and I know you always gave credit to the horse and rightfully so. But let's not gloss over the training job that you did getting this horse ready to run that kind of race on the first Saturday in may talk about the weeks leading up to the derby. And and what you had to do to get him ready, considering the fact that you were a bit hobbled yourself. Well, you know, the main thing I did was just trying not to change anything. We'd been doing other than the trip. He was gonna get in the derby, you know, and and. I honestly can't take a lot of credit for it. He he he was just a really good horse, and we got him dead fit. And you know, he was really on his game. And I mean, you know, you saw two weeks later in the Preakness he showed up again just happened to run into super horse that he couldn't beat you know. Really? I say that much. I mean, you know, every trainer out there does the best. They can do to have one ready on a given day. And luckily for the derby, you know, exactly when it's going to be, you know, so you can you can count backwards from derby. You know, we my moved him two weeks early. So I play time to to prep him, and and get a couple of works over Churchill's track and recover from a trip, you know, that that's no easy trip on the horse. And so everything I did, you know, I planned starting about a month out to make sure that you know, we were dead prepped for for derby that day, you know, and otherwise, you know, it it truly a great performance by really nice source. It seems like you you never second guess yourself along the trail and that happens to a lot of trainers. They they worry about it so much that they get in the horses way at the very least you stayed out of his way and just kept. Him healthy and happy. Yeah. Probably the only thing I would change. If I was to do it again is I wouldn't have worked in between the derby, and the Preakness I would've let him go in there and a little bit pressure. But but. But don't think I didn't second guess myself. It just didn't show up. Well, maybe that helped him when he went to the Belmont, maybe made them just a little bit fitter for the Belmont. Maybe you know. But but I did plenty of second guessing. But but just tried mainly what you're saying just to stay out of his way and make you feel good and happy, you know. And and, but I think if I could change one thing, I probably wouldn't have wouldn't have working prior to the Preakness. And then just went in there a little bit fresher, and you know, until you've been through the triple crown. No trainer can understand. How grueling it is on a horse to get through the triple crown and. With all the travel and the moving new racetracks, and the distances everything combined, if you look back, you think, you know, could maybe trained just to hair less would helped horse, you know, and and he wasn't a real big horse. And so it took a lot out of him to get through to get through it, you know, and and. I don't know. He just runs huge not too many excuses. Visiting trainer. Chip Woolley here on the horse racing radio. Network trainer of two thousand nine Kentucky Derby winner mine that bird chip, you know, in other sports, like golfer example, you win the masters. You are always known as a masters champion. If you win the Super Bowl, you're always known as a Super Bowl champion. Same thing with the World Series in baseball. You will forever. Be known as a Kentucky Derby winning trainer you've had a decade to kind of go through your life as a derby winning trainer. What's that been like for chip Willie? Well for the most part is back to normal. But, but yeah, you know, every day in the race's you'll run into a new fan that you've never met. You know? That's that goes back to that derby, you know, and and that's fun. And and you enjoy it, and you try to represent sports the best you can't at all times, you know. But. To be in a club with. Some of the greatest trainers ever to live. It's kinda special. What's it like to be featured in a movie? Well, I gotta be on stunt never was to. Too caught up in the movie thing, you know, I I felt like took thirty years greater stores history to get a movie. So I thought ours was a little too quick. That's a great line. Great take. But you know, it's fun. It was a real good fun movie to watch and the have a few laps. And and but I just never really got caught up that much in in all of that. What is what's mine that bird doing now? He lives on his owner's farm over here in in Roswell New Mexico, mainly a big lawnmower. They take him into a few. We take him and do a few fundraisers and things around. They took him to Colorado Springs for the air force game. And did a fundraiser furred wanted warriors. You know, we take him a few places do things like that. And then mainly most grass, but but he's got a good life. And and he'll be well cared for rest of your life. You know, it's that's great. You know, we we've had a lot of Kentucky Derby winning trainers on this show. And and that they always talk about, you know, people say, oh, did you win the derby? And you can finally say yes, I did. And how many times if people ask you that roughly, you know, ever win the Kentucky Derby, and you get to tell them. Yes. How many times does that happen? It happens more than you think. And kind of. Luckily for me between how shocking it was to the to the world, you know, the mind a lot of people still remember it, of course. And and and so, but you get on a plane and some. Nobody might ask you what do you do for living train March? Or really, you're been to the Kentucky Derby. Well, yeah, I win one. They're like really I mean half of amac. Like, they don't believe it. But it's just you know, it's something really special. You know, when when after the during the Breeders Cup the year, I won the derby. I spent quite a bit of time with Baffert, and we got to be pretty good friends, and I was at his house one night. And of course, he's win every major race in country pretty much by then. We were he took me and showed me as trophy case. And we're looking through their shorts from Dubai you name it. I mean when everything on demand all in Breeders Cup, Trump and. Of course, he ran second to to by that bird was near the Nile. And he told me that you see all those right there. He said, I trade all of them for that one. You've got this year. Wow. That was. I think the first time I realized what you what you'd really accomplished. Yeah. That's a great great story. And by talking about putting it in perspective, a guy like Bob Baffert says something like that to you. That's that's incredible. You know? Exactly coming from him. You know that really? Really put it in. In the light of what you'd -ccomplish in? And what yours done, you know? Chip it was a memorable day. It's one that. We're never going to forget. I know you will never forget it. And really appreciate you spending some time with us here this morning getting up early out there in New Mexico to be with us. Appreciate the visit here and look forward to hopefully, seeing you at this year's Kentucky Derby when you you make it back as a derby champion sounds good.