The Hollywood crew that's responsible for the upcoming "Seabiscuit" film apparently got bit by the racing bug in the process and have negotiated a deal to buy part of a Kentucky Derby contender.
San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) hopeful Atswhatimtalknbout will likely have a new set of owners when he heads postward in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prep. Owner B. Wayne Hughes agreed to sell a 10 percent interest in the son of A.P. Indy to a group that includes Academy award-winning producer/director Steven Spielberg for a reported $500,000. Spielberg is founder of DreamWorks, who is producing the film, along with Universal and Spyglass Entertainment.
The group of new owners includes director Gary Ross and producer Frank Marshall. Ross also wrote the movie screenplay based on the best-selling book, "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
Marshall and Ross were on hand at Santa Anita Sunday morning to see the 3-year-old "Ats" work at Santa Anita with Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron in the irons. McCarron, who engineered the deal between the Seabiscuit group and Hughes, will be become Santa Anita's general manager on Mar. 31. Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw, were unable to attend the workout. The new ownership group is expected to be in attendance for the San Felipe, however.
"The deal isn't official and won't be until maybe Tuesday or so," Hughes said. "We haven't officially signed on the dotted line yet, but I anticipate it happening. I agreed to sell a piece of what I think the horse is worth right now. It's a good thing getting this group of people involved with my horse and in racing. They're great people and as excited about Atswhatimtalknbout as I am, so I couldn't be more pleased about the way it all worked out."
McCarron, who retired from race riding last summer, plays jockey Charlie Kurtsinger in the "Seabiscuit" movie and was also a leading consultant to the film. In spite of his closeness to those involved, he said he wasn't going to make this Sunday's riding duty a regular thing.
"He went beautifully," McCarron said of the 1:13 six-furlong drill. "He's just as fluid as he can be, which isn't always the case. Sometimes when they look like they're moving smoothly they are actually choppy and conversely, sometimes when they look choppy they're actually very smooth. He's right where he needs to be at this time of year, both on a physical and maturity level, so that's another positive thing he's got going for him.
"I was dying to chirp to him a little in the stretch so I could really feel some of that acceleration I know he has, but if I did that I know he'd have worked in 1:11 or something and I'd have made Ron (Ellis) mad.
"This is the kind of horse who makes you contemplate coming out of retirement for. I'm not going to, of course, but he sure makes me think."
Ellis said he was pleased with Atswhatimtalknbout's work and dubbed him ready for his stakes debut. Ellis is concentrating more on the colt's future as a legitimate Kentucky Derby (gr. I) candidate. If all goes well in the San Felipe, the big bay will likely have his last prep in the Apr. 5 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
"By the time (he makes it to Churchill Downs) he'll have five races, which is a lot," Ellis said. "So this time is really kind of his breather. I don't want to take too much out of him and have a horse left when the time comes."
And as for training for some new owners, Ellis says not much will change, but that nothing could be better for racing right now.
"Hollywood Park was built by Hollywood, as was Del Mar and it was even prominent in the early days of (Santa Anita)," Ellis said. "Getting Hollywood back into racing is what this sport needs; it's a real shot in the arm for the game, which is why I think Wayne decided to do it."