Frequently decked out in pink pants that coordinate with his pink and blue stable colors, it's not difficult to spot trainer Tom Morley in the paddock. (Editor's note: Originally published in Aug. 17 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
More difficult is locating his whereabouts during training hours. Morley is ever occupied with directing traffic - horse and human - to and from his barn to the track and speaking with owners on the phone.
A 33-year-old Englishman based in New York, Morley opened his 2016 Saratoga season with his first graded stakes win in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap with Haveyougoneaway. He's won four races from 11 starters through Monday and hopes for more from his barn the final 18 days of the meet.
Morley talked about speedy turf workouts, changing distances, horses that become crabby when deprived of mints and even long tongues as he went from stall to stall last week with The Special's Annise Montplaisir.
Bruce: The bay stood in the back of his stall, sticking his large pink tongue out and wiggling it around. "Vital part of the team, Standardbred, my pony. Everyone asks why I haven't run him. He's run plenty of times and that's why he's my pony. Enormously long tongue, as you can see, and a complete passion for mints. And rather a character out there because everyone wonders what on Earth I'm riding. The tongue is about two feet long."
Passporttovictory: New York-bred 2-year-old Frost Giant filly is tethered to the back of her stall, dozing quietly. "She won a maiden special here a couple of weeks ago for New York-breds. Javier (Castellano) has ridden her twice and commented both times that she's going to be better as she gets to go long. She did win going three quarters so we'll point towards a 6 ½-furlong (Seeking the Ante Stakes) on the 26th for New York-bred two-year-old fillies. Kind of a cuckoo filly. She doesn't do anything silly for three days and suddenly she jumps in the air, sticks her legs in four different directions and threatens to fall right on her backside. And then you don't see anything out of her for another three or four days."
Via Frattina: Chestnut 2-year-old Street Cry filly strolled from the Oklahoma to the center of Morley's walking area outside the barn during the tour. "Named after the main shopping strip in Rome, she worked extremely well, five-eighths on the turf last weekend. She'll debut on the 21st here going long on the turf. Both of these fillies, Banner Wave and Via Frattina spend their life passed out, to be honest. That's what good horses do. They're growing, they train hard, they eat up and they rest for the rest of the day."
Aroma: Seventh in debut at Belmont July 13, 3-year-old Lonhro filly entered in today's sixth race going 1 1/16 miles on the grass. "I sprinted this filly first time on the grass at Belmont because I thought that she had an awful lot of speed, but she was a little flat-footed away from the gate and she ran like a horse that wants to go long. She shows an awful lot in the morning, I want to see it in the afternoon."
Yowl: Third in a July 24 starter allowance. "All the girls' favorite. He's a Tale of the Cat, a 4-year-old gelding. He had a minor hiccup and his owner Anthony Warrender is a wonderfully patient man and one of my bigger owners. Kudos to him for giving this horse as much time as he needed. We brought him back, he won a maiden first time off a very long layoff. He'll run in the last book here, he's starter eligible for the non-two starter 50 going long on the turf. He is literally like riding a Cadillac. (Morley's wife Maggie) absolutely adored riding him. You can just sit there, she says it's like going around on the back of a sofa. He's a complete dude to be around and a big happy fella to be around. He loves a cuddle and gets pissed off if somebody else is being fed a mint. He's a mint addict."
Le Grand Warrior: Sprawled out flat in his stall, 2-year-old Majestic Warrior colt finished ninth in July 28 debut. "He'd shown plenty of speed in his breezes, but he also has a big springy action. There's not much turf in his pedigree but I worked him on the turf and he worked nicely at the weekend, so he'll come back on the turf. He may be a horse that needs to go a little bit further, but at the moment he's going to stay sprinting, it will help him get stronger. This is the position you can find him in a lot of the day. (Saratoga is) a good place for 2-year-olds. They eat well and they sleep a lot, unlike their trainer who doesn't sleep a lot."
Haveyougoneaway: Five-year-old chestnut daughter of Congrats is tied to the back of her stall dozing. "She won the Honorable Miss, beat a very good filly in Paulassilverlining. The two of them were 12 lengths clear of the third. It was a really good horse race between two really good horses. They went ding-dong the length of the stretch. As a racing fan it was probably a great race to watch. As a trainer of one of them it was very nerve-wracking. The whole way down the lane I thought we were going to run a very good second to a very good filly. She'll come back in the Ballerina, all being well. You just try and not get in her way too much, the really good ones do it for you."
Kiss The Toad: Two-year-old colt by Exchange Rate finished third in a 1 1/16-mile maiden on the turf Aug. 13. "We ran a really good fourth on the dirt down at Belmont. An angle I'm fond of is giving them a race on the dirt, which is the surface they're used to breezing over so when you put them on the turf they're just a little more professional. He got that name because he was a bit of an ugly yearling, and so the owner Michele Moroni said 'If you think he's ugly I shall call him Kiss The Toad and he will turn into a prince.' And I was like 'I presume you're joking.' The Jockey Club papers came and he's actually called Kiss the Toad."
Aktabantay: A Group 3 stakes winner in Europe before coming to the U.S. in 2015, 4-year-old bay Oasis Dream colt finished third in Parx allowance-optional June 27 in most recent start. "He won the (Group 3) Solario Stakes as a 2-year-old in England, and then he slightly lost his way as a 3-year-old, he got beat 6 lengths by Gleneagles in the St. James's Palace. He came to me at the end of his 3-year-old career. He'd been running over a mile in Europe and I tried to go a mile with him here and he just ran flat at the end of his races. We needed to change something up and see if he was a sprinter. He won a graded race in England as a sprinter, so we ran him in a 5-furlong race at Parx and in two more strides he'd have won. We're going to start sprinting him from now on. We'll get him ready for Belmont and the 6- and 7-furlong races."
Brother O'Connell: Winner of allowance-optional going 1 mile at Suffolk Downs Aug. 6. "A Giant's Causeway New York-bred of Donegal's. He's been an awesome horse to have around this year. He's won three races this year, both his state-bred a-other-thans and he won at Suffolk Downs. He'll point to the West Point August 26 for New York-breds, a race that will have a lot of class." As Morley walked to the next stall, Brother O'Connell grabbed a plastic bag sticking from a grooming box on a hay bale and dumped the contents onto the ground. "Nice, brother, nice," Morley said.
Ardmore Bay: New York-bred 2-year-old by Bluegrass Cat is 2-for-2 after victory in Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park Aug. 7. "He's done nothing but impress me. Kudos to my assistant Sarah O'Brien who bought this horse in Florida this winter. Brought him along, got him going. I tried to buy him off her myself and she said I didn't have enough money. So I found somebody with more money than I did, so The Elkstone Group bought him. In his first start he broke half a step slow but (jockey John Velazquez) said 'I just moved my hands a tiny bit and he took off with me.' He'll point to the With Anticipation at the end of the meet."
Athena's Aegis: Three-year-old Acclamation filly broke her maiden in third start at Saratoga Aug. 12. "A very fast filly who was bought at the Tattersalls Craven breeze-up sale last year, owned by Linda Juckett. She's very fast, she ran an extremely good second on debut at Belmont. I knew that once we got her onto the grass we'd see a different side of her. She just got a bit of a sticky trip on her second start."
Stefan O'Eishan (name pending): "He's a Northern Afleet of Donegal Racing's. He's a big, backward 2-year-old whose last two pieces of work have been extremely encouraging. He's still learning his trade, he's still a big baby. He's probably still a little way away from running, but he certainly needs to be here in training with the caliber of 2-year-olds we've got up here now. I wouldn't expect him to show too much until later in the fall when he'll debut. The plan is to get a race into him in September and try and break his maiden in October."