Emerson said, "Always do what you are afraid to do." If trainer Jeremiah Englehart and owner Tom O'Grady are afraid of American Pharoah in the April 11 Arkansas Derby (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park, they are sure showing no signs of it.
By undertaking the daunting task of facing last year's 2-year-old champion and runaway winner of the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) this Saturday with Bridget's Big Luvy, they are either overcoming their fear or are confident they can pull off an upset, or are merely hoping to earn enough points to get in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Either way, give them credit for taking on the challenge and traveling all the way to Hot Springs, Ark. from the stable's East Coast base to do it.
Englehart is a realist and has all the respect in the world for American Pharoah, but he is going into the Arkansas Derby with complete confidence in his colt.
"I won my first graded stakes by taking a shot, and the favorite didn't run her race," Englehart said on a national teleconference April 7. "I've watched American Pharoah's videos and I have a lot respect for him and am a big fan of his. I understand how nice a horse he is and I'm honored to run against him. But at the same time, my horse is doing well and I wouldn't be surprised to see him jump up and surprise a lot of people."
Bridget's Big Luvy broke his maiden last year in his third career start in the slop at Belmont Park. The son of Tiz Wonderful could only finish a distant fifth in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) in his 3-year-old debut, but they discovered he was a non-sweater when he came out of the race with a temperature of 104.9 degrees.
"Someone told me to give him Budweiser (beer), so we put Bud in his feed every night and it's helped him," Englehart said.
It was then off to cooler climes in Maryland, stretching out to two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Race Course and he proceeded to take his field wire-to-wire, winning by 2 1/2 lengths.
"So far, he's one for one with Budweiser." Englehart said.
As for joining the Kentucky Derby trail, Englehart said, "I knew at the eighth pole (of the Private Terms) I'd be looking for Derby points and that Tom was going to make him a late nominee (to the Triple Crown). He's a Louisville (Ky.) guy and is big fan of the Kentucky Derby and all Louisville sports. He always throws a big party on the Thursday before the Derby that everyone knows about."
If Bidget's Big Luvy, who was bred in Maryland by Dark Hollow Farm, makes it past the Arkansas Derby and heads to Louisville, not only will the Budweiser story follow him, but the little tidbit that the horse was named after one of the owner's children, Bridget, who, according to Englehart had either a teddy bear or a blanket that she called Big Luvy.
Dark Hollow Farm sold Bridget's Big Luvy to agent Cary Frommer at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium yearling sale for $175,000, which didn't exactly turn into the most lucrative pinhook, as the colt was withdrawn from the Ocala Breeders March 2-year-old sale and then failed to meet his reserve and was bought back for $149,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium 2-year-old sale two months later.
Following the Private Terms, Bridget's Big Luvy was sent to Oaklawn Park and turned in a sharp half-mile work in :47 2/5.
"It's nice when you think your horse is going in :49 or :50 and you look at your watch and see :47 2/5," Englehart said. "I was expecting him to run well in the Private Terms and he did, and I'm expecting him to run well this time. If he's good enough to win we'll find out.
"He's a horse who doesn't like to be grabbed hold of, so I tell Angel (Cruz) to just take a long hold of him, regardless of where he is, and let him do his thing. This will be his measuring stick. We think there is improvement and we just hope to see him jump forward and maybe be a Kentucky Derby horse."