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Walsh Ready To Launch Training Career at Gulfstream
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – After going out on his own at the end of October, Brendan Walsh is getting ready to saddle his first horse as a full-fledged trainer, perhaps as soon as Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The 38-year-old native of Cork, Ire. is in the process of building his stable, but he hopes to launch his training career with an accomplished graded-stakes winner in Saturday’s ninth race, a $53,500 allowance race over the Gulfstream turf course. Walsh is hopeful that Santiva, a highly regarded 3-year-old colt that competed in the Triple Crown, will draw in from the also-eligible list and help him get his training career off to a winning start.
Owned by Tom Walters, Santiva was formerly trained by Eddie Kenneally, for whom Walsh worked as an exercise rider and assistant for the past four years.
“I got on Santiva myself when I was with Eddie. When I decided to go out on my own, the Walters showed some interest in sending me a horse,” said Walsh, who still exercises Santiva and other horses in his stable. “They’ve got three horses and they sent me all three. To get a horse like Santiva is fantastic in my first season. Hopefully, it’ll prove to be a good thing for me.”
Santiva has not started since finishing eighth in the Belmont Stakes (G2) on June 11.
“We’re going to give him a try on grass. He ran once on it as a 2-year-old. We’re not going to necessarily turn him into a grass horse. We just want to see how he does, and now is as good a time as any to try it,” Walsh said. “He did run on the grass once last year at Saratoga and got beat just a length and a half by J.B.’s Thunder in a maiden, so it’s not as though we’re taking a shot in the dark. It’s going to be a good start back after a six-month layoff. A grass race seems to be a little easier on them than the dirt.”
Santiva finished second on turf in his second career start last year before finishing second again behind J.B.’s Thunder in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) over Keeneland’s synthetic surface. The son of Giant’s Causeway established himself as a horse to watch in the 2011 Triple Crown when he captured the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in his final 2-year-old start.
The Kentucky-bred colt made a strong showing in his 3-year-old debut when he finished a wide second behind Mucho Macho Man in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds in February. A troubled start in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland was followed with a solid sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and his Belmont Stakes disappointment.
“We gave him a break after the Belmont. The whole Triple Crown thing took its toll. We stopped and gave him a little bit of time off,” Walsh said. “He’s gotten stronger and he’s developed a lot mentally. I would like to think he’s as good a horse – or a better horse – as he was the first part of the year.”
Walsh, who grew up on his family’s farm, has a wealth of international experience to help him in establishing himself as a public trainer. After attending Ireland’s jockey school and working for trainers in Europe, Walsh went to work for Sheik Mohammed’s Godolphin Stable.
“I worked five years with Godolphin, back in the day when they had Dubai Millennium, Street Cry, Fantastic Light and Daylami,” he said. “Tom Albertrani was in charge of Godolphin at the time, and I would go back and forth from here, the UK and Dubai.”
With a desire to become a full-time assistant trainer, Walsh returned to England, where he worked for trainer Mark Wallace for 3 ½ years before coming to the States to work for Kenneally.
“Training is something I’ve always wanted to do, and Eddie was a stepping stone to doing that. That was great experience,” he said. “I did four years with him, and Eddie was great to work for.”
Walsh, whose stable is based at Palm Meadows, is also thankful that he has Santiva on his side as he embarks on his solo career.
“His biggest asset is that he’s just so tough,” he said. “He showed that last year when he won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill. He beat Astrology, Steve Asmussen’s horse, who’s a huge horse. There was another huge horse on the other side of him. He had every reason to back out of it, but he stuck his head out and battled hard. That’s him all over. I wouldn’t want to get in a fight with him.”