James Kasparoff, trainer of Gayego

James Kasparoff, trainer of Gayego

File Photo

Kasparoff Has an Ace in Bob Black Jack

James Kasparoff trains Kentucky Derby starter Bob Black Jack and two other horses.

California trainer James Kasparoff may only have three horses in his barn, but since one of them is May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) starter Bob Black Jack, right now there is not much to complain about.

“It is a lot of fun,” said the 34-year-old trainer. “We are getting attention we normally wouldn’t get. We are really happy with the way things are going and wouldn’t trade positions with anybody.”

Bob Black Jack provided Kasparoff with his first stakes win when he took the California Breeders’ Championship Stakes last year. The son of Stormy Jack won the Sunshine Millions Dash Stakes to kick off his 3-year-old campaign before finishing third in the March 15 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and second in the April 5 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).

A resident of Monrovia, Calif., Kasparoff went out on his own in 2000 after working with trainers Frank Veiga, Mark Molina, Don Pierce, and Willard Proctor. Before taking out his trainer’s license, Kasparoff was a foreman for Proctor and an assistant starter.

Kasparoff trains Bob Black Jack for his older brother, Tim, who is a professional poker player, and Jeff Harmon. He convinced the two to buy Bob Black Jack privately for $25,000 before his first start.

“He’s a real tough horse to be around,” the trainer said of his stable star. “In order to get anything done with him you have to put a lip shank on him. You put his feed tub in, and you have to have someone keep his attention so he won’t bite you. He bites to get you. That is a part of his personality, and that is part of what makes him a good horse. He is tough and he can handle things.

“He is a good horse though. He is very relaxed and understands whatever you want him to do. He is very kind to the rider, and he would stand on the track all day if you let him. He isn’t the type to run off, and he has a good mind. He was taught the right way, and he is just a good racehorse.”

In addition to Bob Black Jack, Kasparoff trains a grass horse named Itsnotjustagame for his brother and Harmon and also has a 2-year-old filly in his care.

“We are quiet right now,” said Kasparoff. “Itsnotjustagame is a pretty nice horse, and he is sitting on a win. Unfortunately for him, he has had to play with this guy (Bob Black Jack), and this guy is just a little too much for him. That’s an understatement, but they are pals. He is a good horse to have him next to and has been a good work mate.”

Even if Bob Black Jack fails to win the roses, he has provided his trainer with an opportunity of a lifetime, and one that some trainers never get to experience.

“You just hope that on Saturday things go well and that whatever happens, the horse comes back sound and you can fight another day,” said Kasparoff. “He always seems to run his race, and he is always right there. It would really be something if he wins.”