Trainer Bruce Levine with Buddy's Saint.

Trainer Bruce Levine with Buddy's Saint.

Hirsch Thoroughbred Management

Five Questions: Bruce Levine

Bruce Levine is trainer of Buddy's Saint, a contender on the 2010 Triple Crown trail.

Bruce Levine won his first race as a trainer in 1979. The native New Yorker is a perennial leader by wins on the New York Racing Association circuit, and has trained a good number of top stakes winners in the Big Apple, including grade I winner Bustin Stones  and Coyote Lakes, a three-time winner of the Gallant Fox Handicap (gr. III). The 55-year-old conditioner has never had a starter in the Kentucky Derby, but has his best shot this year with one of the “hot horses” this winter in Buddy's Saint.

Buddy’s Saint, from the first and only crop of 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, is unbeaten in three races and won the one-mile Nashua Stakes (gr. II) and nine-furlong Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct last fall. Owned by Eli Lomita’s Kingfield Stable, Buddy’s Saint is currently in training at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., where he recorded his first work of 2010 on New Year’s Day, going four furlongs in :50 3/5 over the main track.

Levine, currently at Gulfstream with a string of a dozen horses, took some time out from his Monday morning in South Florida to answer five questions:

You have a top contender for the Triple Crown trail in Buddy’s Saint. What is the game plan for the coming months?

The Fountain of Youth (gr. II, Feb. 20, nine furlongs) is our target; that’ll be our start. It will either be the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I, April 3, Aqueduct) or the Florida Derby (gr. I, March 20) after that, depending on how he comes out of the race and how he runs in the first one. That’s basically where we’re at.

As your only Triple Crown race starter, you ran Koluctoo Jimmy Al in the 1993 Preakness (gr. I) where he finished 10th. What was the experience like?

We had a lot of fun doing it. We were kind of taking a shot. We had a 3-year-old and we thought he was getting better. He ran a good race before (winning the Cahill Road Stakes at Aqueduct in April), but we were taking a shot and that’s what we did. It didn’t pan out, but we had a lot of fun. Back then, nobody had heard of us.

This horse (Buddy’s Saint) is showing us quite a bit; he won those two races, so this time I think I’ve got a little better hand right now than I did then.

Buddy’s Saint was a $100,000 purchase out of Book 3 of the Keeneland September yearling sale. Who picked this horse out for Eli Lomitas and what can you tell us about the owner?

I buy all the horses for Eli Lomitas. His thing is he wants to go to the Kentucky Derby. We’re on the same page as far as that goes - his dream is my dream. I don’t buy fillies; I buy only colts. I’m only looking for two-turn horses that will go long. There are a lot of people like that out there.

I’ve been training for him for four or five years. He’s very easy to train for. He don’t bother you; he let’s you do your job. He really let’s me steer the ship. He lives in Manhattan.

You came up under the legendary trainer Johnny Campo. What was that experience like?

He worked hard and I learned a lot from the guy. He was a good leg man and was good with the 2-year-olds. I tried to learn what I could. It’s kind of where I got my education. The rest of it since then has also been a learning process.

Racing in January, Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct both have their respective…charms. Which do prefer and why?

I love warm weather, so you know which I like. I’m not missing Aqueduct too much. It’s nice to be here; believe me, it’s nice.