This morning on the backside near the clockers’ stand, Ron Anderson and Doc Danner are shooting the breeze, taking a break from the normal routine of lobbying trainers and chatting up owners in the hopes of scoring winning mounts for their riders. Anderson represents Garrett Gomez, currently fifth in the standings at Saratoga. Danner’s jock is Shaun Bridgmohan, who ranks tenth.
Anderson could run for public office, and if the horsemen’s population had anything to do with it, he’d win. He has the PR business down flat. Every morning, putting around the track in his white golf cart, he smiles and shakes hands and talks to trainers, agenting with the seamless veneer of a well-trained politician. It’s a routine he has down pat after more than 30 years in the business, and his sterling roster of former clients leaves no doubt as to his ability. He worked with the late Chris Antley and held the book for Eclipse Award winners Jerry Bailey and Gary Stevens, among others. When he picked up Garrett Gomez as a client after Stevens retired, the rider’s career jumped to a new level.
“The hardest thing is to keep everybody happy,” says Anderson. “To win and keep everyone happy, that’s the main thing. Your brain is going all the time – what if I were on this horse, what if I were on that horse, will this guy give me a shot, does his horse have a chance, all that stuff. People come up to me and say, ‘hey, I need a tip in the fifth race today,’ and I’m like, ‘Buddy, my mind is four or five days down the road.’”
Anderson and Gomez shot out of the blocks this meet and led the race for the riding title going into the second week. But Kent Desormeaux teamed up with leading trainer Bill Mott to pass them by, and Cornelio Velasquez took the lead yesterday. John Velazquez is also higher up on the standings by one or two wins. The competition is tough. The agents are doing their best.
“Every rider should be an agent before they become a jock,” Danner says, half joking, half serious. “Then they’d understand everything we go through.”
Danner, longtime agent for the now-retired Pat Day, has found himself working in a different way since taking Bridgmohan’s book. Now he’s hustling mounts rather than organizing them, doing his best to get his jock on horses with a shot. It isn’t easy.
But, as Danner later remarks, anyone who thinks this game is easy ought to have his head examined.