California Chrome’s game effort to become the first horse since Affirmed to win the Triple Crown collapsed yesterday as the fan favorite finished fourth. Tonalist finished strong and pulled it out in the final strides, edging Commissioner by a head. Medal Count took third place, with California Chrome finishing in a tie for fourth with Wicked Strong.
QUESTION: What was your impressions of the race and how you saw it unfold?
EVANS: We were a little bit nervous about having the outside post, how he would react to the crowd and he was perfect, it didn’t bother him a bit and he broke well, got a good position and he rode him beautifully.
QUESTION: To have this race success, inevitably you had to be a Triple Crown spoiler, your thoughts on that.
EVANS: We loved California Chrome, we hoped he would win the Triple Crown, but we love our horse too.
QUESTION: Tell us about his last few weeks with the Peter Pan.
EVANS: He was sick before the Wood Memorial, we couldn’t run him in it, so we couldn’t run in the Derby so we aimed for the Peter Pan and Christophe Clement did a good job of getting him ready for the Peter Pan and he surprised me, it wasn’t a very nice day, there were thunderstorms, lots of rain and a muddy track and he just galloped and that’s the clue he was a good horse because he was only three?quarters fit so we had four weeks to get ready for this and Christophe had him just right.
QUESTION: The ride that Joel gave him today, talk about the trip.
EVANS: He was in perfect position, he was happy with the 11th post, allowed him to get the horse into stride and do what he wanted to do with him and he did that.
QUESTION: Can you tell us more of the back story of how you acquired this horse and also getting him to the races?
EVANS: Well, Fasig?Tipton is a horse sale in Saratoga every year and I had two horses with Wayne and Cathy Sweezey to sell for me which they were unsuccessful in selling. They also had Tonalist and they were unsuccessful in selling him. And Cathy Sweezey urged me, ten times probably, to look at the horse and dragged me back and I said I didn’t get any money for the other horses, I don’t have any money to spend on him. She said you’ve got to buy this horse. He didn’t sell so they discounted him substantially and I said finally, all right, I’ll buy him. She made me do it.
QUESTION: He’s very lightly raised, he was late getting to the race as a two year old. Why was he late getting started and talk about his campaign.
EVANS: He’s 17 hands, a great big boy, sort of like his grandfather Pleasant Colony. Christophe doesn’t push horses, he takes great care of his horses and I’m patient, I’ve been in the game a long time, and I know you have to be patient, take care of the horse and that’s what we did.
QUESTION: Just tell us a little bit more about the feeling of being the Belmont Stakes winner. How did it feel?
EVANS: I was slightly surprised. And it’s great. I mean, I’ve been in this game a long time. I told somebody this morning that I’ve been in 50 years, I can’t wait another 50 years to win a race.
Q. Steven Coburn has said that he feels any horse that enters the Triple Crown either races in all three or none at all if they don’t have the points to get to the Derby they shouldn’t be in the Triple Crown. What’s your retort to that?
EVANS: I have no comment on that.
Q. Mr. Evans, you mentioned Pleasant Colony, could you talk about your family’s involvement in this Triple Crown series and how satisfying it is to maybe put the period on an incomplete sentence from the past?
EVANS: Well, very satisfying actually. Yesterday I went to my father’s grave and thanked him for putting me in the position to be doing this and I came in 1981 to the Belmont, we had high hopes for Pleasant Colony, I’ve been where Steven Coburn’s been and it’s not fun when you don’t win. It was very quiet after he didn’t win. He was a wonderful horse. And it’s very satisfying to be able to make up for that. My brother was a great breeder and owner and did really well in the business and so did my father and I’ve kind of tagged along behind them, but now they’re both gone and I feel I have to fill their shoes, if I can.
Q. Yeah, we actually talked yesterday and you talked about how fortunate you have to be to even get a horse in a race like this. So in winning it, did you sort of reflect on all of the horses that you had and your family’s had and how remarkable it is to get one to this point?
EVANS: It’s remarkable to even have one in a race like this and then to win it, I think we were 11 to 1 odds. We had one chance in 11 of winning and that means that you probably aren’t going to.
QUESTION: Do people confuse you for the chairman of Churchill Downs Incorporated?
EVANS: In Canada they call me ?? my middle name is Sheldon, most people call me Shel. Here I’m Robert, which is his name. I don’t like the association and just leave it at that.
Q. I just wonder what it’s like, how does it feel watching your horse win this? Do you feel like you’re riding him or do you maybe feel like you’re running the mile?and?a?half yourself? What is it like?
EVANS: I feel like I don’t want to watch. I didn’t even watch the stretch run very well.
Q. Does the fact that Pleasant Colony broodmare sire enter into your willingness to listen to Ms. Sweezey?
EVANS: Yes, it did, Pleasant Colony is a very good broodmare sire, underrated broodmare sire, those of you in the business know that a lot of breeders breed 200 mares a year. My father would not breed more than 36 mares a year, thought that was plenty so he didn’t breed nearly as many but his statistics were wonderful.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on potential changes to the Triple Crown format?
EVANS: I actually think it would be better to spread it out a little bit. It’s better for the horses and it would be better to promote it I think, a lot more time to create interest. Racing has a problem in that it doesn’t believe in marketing or selling itself and it should do more of that but the time wouldn’t do any good if racing didn’t promote itself.
Q. You said you went to the graveside yesterday, where is that?
EVANS: In Connecticut.
Q. Any plans at this point for the summer for the horse?
EVANS: At this point, no. I mean, we got to look at how he comes out of the race and how he does and give him time to get over it. Of course, we would love to aid for the travelers, you can dream. As Christophe says we made the dream come true so far, we have high dreams for him. He said early on when he knew how good, that he was a really good horse, he wanted him to have a career, he wanted him to have a career.
QUESTION: If you could just talk about Christophe and the job he’s done training this horse, especially bringing him up to the Belmont.
EVANS: He’s obviously a world class trainer. He has a reputation which he resents of being a grass trainer and I think rightly so. I think a good trainer can train horses to do anything. Some horses like to run better on grass than they do dirt. This horse likes to run on dirt. We’re not going to show him grass except to eat it.
Q. Where in the run did you know that you were going to win this?
EVANS: Right at the end when I saw the photo.
Q. Were you here for Belmont 1981 and what do you remember about how deflating that was when Pleasant Colony didn’t win?
EVANS: He didn’t have a very good ride in the race, he got too far behind and came running to the stretch and it was clear he wasn’t going to get there and it was very disappointing, it was very quiet in our box, my father, my brother, and myself, we turned around and walked out. That was it.
QUESTION: It was a heck of a day at Belmont Park today. Can you talk about this record crowd and just the experience of this big bell meant stakes?
EVANS: I think it’s fabulous. I was on the NYRA board for 12 years and I think the day today was spectacular, couldn’t be better in any way, I’ve never seen the races like this. Ogden Phipps was three of the best Fillies I’ve ever seen in one race and I think it was just great. So exciting and this is the way racing ought to be.
Q. You still have the breeding farm in Virginia and how many horses do you have?
EVANS: I have a farm in Maryland.
Q. Maryland? How many horses do you have?
EVANS: I have a lot of horses, they aren’t all there.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate, tell us more details on your operation and where the horses are?
EVANS: I’d rather not.