If the relaxed confidence of trainer Tom Proctor could be passed on to his Netjets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) candidate Purim, then the 5-year-old will have a major advantage over his rivals come the $2 million race at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Kentucky resident Proctor, 51, is a big, chuckling man who could be found Wednesday morning chatting away on his cell phone while reclining on a chaise longue carefully assembled from big white bags of shavings.
Proctor, whose late father, Willard, was a renowned trainer, has already campaigned one Breeders’ Cup winner in One Dreamer, who landed the 1994 Distaff (gr. I). And even though Purim put in an easily career best performance to claim the Shadwell Mile (gr. I) at Keeneland last time out, the trainer speaks happily about the prospect of a second.
"That was just a prep race," he said, referring to the Shadwell Mile. "A prep race for this race. You know what, when this horse was young he was very freakish. He’s had some limitation problems with his air and stuff. He’s been operated on for his breathing, and he’s maybe getting his air now and he’s able to show what I always thought he had. So we’ll see."
It helps to be able to breathe properly, and Proctor can see the benefits. "Now he’s getting all his air in, he’s relaxed a little more and isn’t so anxious," Proctor said, after supervising a mile and a half gallop for Purim. "Everything is going beautifully," he added.
The fact that Proctor is known for taking his time with his horses, prompted an English member of his staff to comment that he trained like an Englishman. "An Englishman? I took that as an insult!" Proctor grinned.
A place in the Mile is a deserved reward for owner/breeder Edward Sukley, who is the only original, remaining shareholder in Purim’s sire, Dynaformer. After a meeting in Chicago some years ago, Proctor advised Sukley to dispose of his existing racing and breeding stock.
"The hardest thing in this business is for somebody to change," Proctor said. But change, Sukely did, and his re-investment included Purim’s dam, the Lord Of War mare Kirsteena.
"He’s not a rich man," Proctor said of Sukley. "But we went out and bought a few mares and a couple worked out good for him."
That is something of an understatement.