Ron Moquett isn't concerned with win percentages and makes no bones about it.
He's concerned with developing the horses in his care and that's exactly what he hopes to do with his string of 10 bedded down in the Clark Stakes Barn just behind the paddock on Frank Sullivan Place. (Editor's note: Originally published in July 24 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
"Win percentage means absolutely nothing to me. That's for novice gamblers and owners that don't know what horsemanship is," Moquett said Saturday morning after completing all his training before the break. "I tell my guys, my owners, that my thing is I've had the years when I had the high and gaudy win percentages, but those years didn't coincide with the right column. The right column is the money earned. It doesn't matter, you can't eat a win percentage so you better develop the horse and try to get the most out of them.
"People that have them, not claiming trainers, they either wait for everything to be absolutely perfect, which you can't control, or they're entering only whenever they think they can't lose. Either way, with the gaudy win percentage, when you have 25 that means you've got your butt kicked three times you thought you were supposed to win. Three out of four. So why don't you give them a race instead of five breezes and let them come running late and then beat them the next time?"
A native of Hot Springs, Ark., Moquett ran in back-to-back editions of the Kentucky Derby with Far Right in 2015 and Whitmore this year. They're both in training, but back in Kentucky with the main string at Churchill Downs. One could make the meet, along with several others in the 44-year-old trainer's Saratoga contingent.
Moquett went stall by stall with The Special's Tom Law and Jack Clancy Saturday morning.
Entertainer: A maiden winner at Oaklawn this winter for owner William Sparks, the son of Malibu Moon is 8-1 in today's third race (an allowance going 6 furlongs). "He's been second in a couple stakes races. We bought him off Gary and Mary West and we've been happy with him. We're looking for him to run big. Just an a-other-than. He's been second in those two stakes races against horses that have come back to win again. One was that Toews On Ice of Bob Baffert's, the other Will Munnings. He's put on 100 pounds and I'm proud of him. Wherever he's run, he's run better so I'm proud of him."
Knights Key: A winner of his only start last November at Churchill Downs, the son of Giant's Causeway is out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemon Kiss. "He's a horse Steve Hobby had that Alex and JoAnn Lieblong own. Won his first out and was one of the hot horses, Derby talk. He won very, very impressively. He had a little issue, stopped and gave him time and now he's coming back. Since I've come up here, I've got this division for the Lieblongs. He's one of them high-dollar suckers ($300,000 yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga)."
Johnny Obvious: Eighth in Saturday's sixth race. "This isn't really his kind of track. He's a front-running speedball and (Friday) it looked like you were better off coming from off the pace. We're not messing with him. He's a first-time starter and so far I have never had a horse leave the gates like he does, so I'm not going to try and get him left just to make a race. We're going to see what he does. He's a little bit of a mess, doesn't take any crap from nobody. He's got wee-man's syndrome."
Rockshaw: Owned by the Lieblongs, the 2-year-old colt breezed a half-mile on the main track Saturday in :52.87. "He's a Maclean's Music. They're running well, let's hope he carries that tradition. He's a tank. One of those kinds that causes jockey fights. Everybody that sits on him wants him. You get those every now and again, you just hope they take the afternoons as good as the mornings. We're looking at next Saturday if the race goes and all is well. We gave him a slow breeze, he did well and we're thinking all systems go for next weekend."
Pressing Luck: The 4-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky is 0-for-9 but finished second last time out in maiden special at Ellis Park. "He's doing well, we're going to try just a little different tactic with him, make him a closing sprinter I think. He's a half to Normandy Invasion, so he's got a bloodline that says he's better than what he's shown us. We're going to keep on rolling, see what happens. Ellis is always misleading. The little Pea Patch can throw some runners at you for no money at all. He got beat (a head) by a 28-1 horse and should have won, got lackadaisical, lost focus. Physically he was better and mentally he was not. There's a race for him next Friday."
Air On Fire: The son of Unbridled's Song and the winning Pulpit mare Unaltered cost $350,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. "Every barn at Saratoga has to have at least one Unbridled's Song that they feel strongly about and this is ours. He's a good boy, he's atypical in Unbridled's Song where he's just a pro, he doesn't do anything wrong. If you go up there and tell him to stand he stands. He's unraced, but has some good blood on both sides and a really nice way of moving. We're going to run in about two weeks when the races go seven-eighths. He's too big and long-striding of a horse to consider this 5 1/2 junk for him."
Fire Starter: The most experienced member of the string with 18 starts. He's 2-2-4, including a win in allowance company at Oaklawn last year. "He came from David Fawkes, another for Alex Lieblong, by Tapit. Weak mentally. We're looking for better things than he has shown us."
Midnight Visitor: The 3-year-old Midnight Lute filly on the comeback trail after a fourth, a third and a second in three starts last season. She breezed a half in :48.55 Friday on the main track. "She's built like a colt. She's coming to me off of a problem. Very happy with where she's at. I'll talk to Mr. Lieblong about where he wants to run her. When she was sent to me it was with marching orders of a certain kind but now that I've got her I wonder if we might alter that a bit. She's got the wrong chromosomes, she looks like a guy. Look at the foretop on her."
Swing And Sway: The New York-bred filly is completely stretched out in her stall as the tour continues. "My New York-bred. Westrock's horse, the coffee people, Joe Ford. We bought a New York-bred, I don't know why or what. She's by Maclean's Music. We were looking at her and later we realized she was a New York-bred, we like her, don't care if she's a New York-bred or not. Our main places to show out for us are here and Oaklawn. Obviously she can run here and they don't care if we run her there. She'll be tough. She needs to take her job a little more seriously. She's very talented. When she runs, has a good break and everything stays the way it is, you'll be writing about her the next day. That's a fast horse. I'm working her (Sunday) and if all goes well and stays good with her shins then we'll probably go a week later. Just whenever the next maiden special weight goes. I'm talking her up, but I'm a trainer. I'm supposed to, right? If we were in that second race (Friday) she would have beat their brains in, from what I've seen. If she brings it in the afternoon."
Torrent: The daughter of Blame and stakes winner Tidal Pool finished a late-running third in Friday's sixth race behind Bowie, losing by 1 1/4 lengths. "She walked out of the gates and came running, just got beat by Asmussen's horse, the $750,000 Malibu Moon. Watch her race. She was dead last, everywhere, but look at her, the rest of them look like sports cars and this is an 18-wheeler. She's a freightliner. There's no reason she should ever go 5 1/2 except she's got a crazy trainer that wanted to try to get her focused. She's one of those horses you've got to tell them to do it three times before they get it right. I told myself 'it's time for her to put it together without having to do all this work.' I can't stand that. I'm from the school of 'give them a race,' . . . I'm proud of her. Everybody was excited before the race and they're even more excited after."
Far Right: Winner of last year's Grade 3 Southwest and 15th in the Kentucky Derby, the 4-year-old son of Notional is unraced since placing 10th in the Grade 3 Commonwealth April 9 at Keeneland. "He's at Churchill but he'll run here whenever they write the race . . . an allowance race, one turn. Probably Den's Legacy's race last year. It will be a field full of graded stakes horses, but that's him, too."
Whitmore: Second in the Southwest and Grade 2 Rebel and third in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, the son of Pleasantly Perfect got turned out after finishing 19th in the Derby. "He won't run here. I told him if he made it to the Derby that I wouldn't run him until the fall. I saw him the day before I drove up here. He's chestnut with a white blaze and when I saw him he was brown. He had no white nowhere, completely brown (with dirt). I keep him at a friend's, an old horseman's place. I told him to just be a horse. He had a tough campaign."