When trainer Michael Dickinson shipped Winchell Thoroughbred's Tapit from his Tapeta Farm in Maryland to Churchill Downs on Wednesday for Saturday's Kentucky Derby (gr. I), the conditioner brought a little bit of his farm with him.
"The Mad Genius", as Dickinson is often called, packed the colt's daily treats of Guinness beer and three eggs, along with a little bit of sod and grass from Tapeta for his daily grazing sessions to make the transition from Tapeta to Churchill a littler easier for the son of Pulpit.
"I want to make my horse as comfortable as possible," Dickinson said. "He gets his one beer and three eggs everyday at the farm mixed with his grain. He likes the grass the best. It's part of his natural diet."
Dickinson said he prefers training at his North East, Md., farm as opposed to at a racetrack. "It's tough training at the track and it's very hard for one guy to rise above the rest. If I were at the track I would probably starve," he said.
"At the farm I am free to improvise. I can breeze my horses at 3 p.m. if I so choose. I don't but I could."
Pulling off remarkable training feats at Tapeta is nothing out of the ordinary for Dickinson. After winning the 1996 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), Da Hoss was sidelined for nearly two years with a bowed tendon. Dickinson nursed him back to health to win the 1998 Breeders' Cup Mile after just one prep race.
Tapit, who is the 8-1 third choice under jockey Ramon Dominguez and will break from the outside post 18, enters the Derby off only four career starts. Most recently he scored an impressive win in the Wood Memorial (gr. I). He began the year by finishing unplaced in the Florida Derby (gr. I), after which it was discovered he had mucus in his lungs.
"My health aways reflects my horses health," Dickinson said. "He was sick so I was sick. We're both feeling a lot better now."
While the horse and trainer may both be feeling better, Dickinson isn't overly confident or too terribly worried about his chances in the Run for the Roses.
"I am more confident than I was going into the Wood but not as confident as I was with Da Hoss' second win in the Breeders' Cup. I'm in the middle still mulling it all over," the trainer said.