The Walder Blog: Feb 3, 2011
I played baseball when I was a kid, shortstop. I had a coach who thought I had a really good arm so I started pitching. I was good. I remember one game I had 17 strikeouts. I had a wicked curve and a pretty good fastball. I was All-City in Los Angeles. But once I got to college at Niagara, everybody was All-City. I ended up hurting my shoulder and at that point I decided to call it quits.
I remember once I got a fortune cookie that read, ‘Don’t be divided from the truth by what you would like to believe.’ I kept it with me. I knew I wasn’t good enough to go to the next level, so the minute I got hurt I dropped out of school and went to the track.
I used to ditch school and go to the races in Los Angeles. My mom would ask how school was and I’d tell her, ‘Great. I hit the double.’ When I dropped out of Niagara I started working at Woodbine.
I’ve been asked if I can apply anything from baseball to racing. It’s funny; I want to be 2-5 every time I run because I know I’m in the right spot. That kind of pressure doesn’t bother me. When I was pitching, everyone has their eyes on you, the pitcher. I didn’t mind that. I relished that. That’s not to say I was looking for attention, but if it’s there I don’t have a problem dealing with.
I do think having been an athlete I understand what it takes to recuperate from competition. That’s why as a claiming guy I’m a little unusual because I like to give my horses some time between races. A lot of guys don’t. A lot of guys go every two weeks. But I think I’m a little more sympathetic knowing what it takes to recover from an effort. It’s hard to give your best effort if you don’t have a little space between starts. Nowadays, when you look at these pitchers, they’re on pitch counts. They used to go every three days now it’s four days. It’s common sense. So I think you can apply that toward this business as well. Some horses thrive on running, and some owners want you to run more often than others, but sooner or later it’s going to catch up to you.
I try to think of it as wanting quality starts, not quantity starts. I know the race office doesn’t always want to hear that. The fact is if you’re in my barn you’re probably only going to get 10 starts a year, so I want to maximize those starts. I want to have the horse in the best shape mentally and physically and I want to cherry pick my spots. I’d rather run 10 times and have eight quality starts than run 15 times and have seven or eight poor efforts. What’s the point?
I remember I had a horse named Sure Star way back when. I used to give her a month off and she’d run second, third or fourth. I’d run her back in a week and she’d win. All horses are different. Look at Dutrow with Laysh Laysh Laysh, who ran three times in eight days. If I did that with one of my horses I’d be scared they wouldn’t get up for a month. Actually, I had an owner in October who had me run a horse back in a week and he won. Believe me, that was unusual for me. The phone was blowing up. My owners were like, ‘This isn’t a Peter Walder move.’ But the horse came out of the race fine and the owner said, ‘Let’s try it.’ I’m not close-minded that every horse has to have a month off, but sometimes horses don’t respond. Some horses want to run. I find once I have a horse in my barn for a while it’s easier for me to figure out their likes and dislikes.”
Things are going OK here. I’m not winning as much as I’d like to, but we’re hitting the board a lot. Hopefully, the seconds and thirds will turn into wins next time.