<a href ="http://www.exclusivelyequine.com/ee.asp?PI=P14-1015" target="blank">Champagne winner First Samurai, one of the most exciting horses entered in the Breeders' Cup.</a>

Champagne winner First Samurai, one of the most exciting horses entered in the Breeders' Cup.

Adam Coglianese

Co-Owner Says First Samurai Has Charisma

One of the most exciting horses scheduled to run in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 29 is First Samurai. Undefeated in four races, the son of Giant's Causeway  is his division's leader heading into the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I). He comes into the race off of victories in such prestigious events as the Champagne (gr. I) and Hopeful (gr. I) Stakes.

Bruce Lunsford, who races First Samurai in partnership with Lansdon Robbins III, talked about the colt and the excitement of owning such a talented runner recently with The Blood-Horse.

The Blood-Horse: How do you feel going into the Juvenile?
Lunsford: "It's nerve-wracking, but it's where you want to be in this industry. I wouldn't trade places with anybody. I've always said I want to be the chalk in every race I go in because I'll win more than I'll lose."

How did you get First Samurai?
"We bought him privately at the at the (2004) Keeneland September yearling sale. I guess we were the last live bid, and they (consignor Glenwood Farm) bid him in (bought him back at $380,000). Then they came back to get me and at that point asked us, 'Would you pay $390,000?' So, that's what we paid for him."

What was he like as a yearling?
"He was really good-looking, but he had a little bit of a curb. There also were a lot of Giant's Causeways in the sale, and so that (the curb) might have been just enough to put a knock on him. But it's something that obviously, to this point, has not been an issue. (Trainer) Frankie (Brothers) loved him. Of all the horses that I've seen Frankie like when I was with him, he probably liked this colt the best. He (First Samurai) was big and yet moved well. He walked great. He did all the kinds of things that you want a horse to do."

When did you know First Samurai was something really special?
"We break our horses down in South Carolina with a lady by the name of Jane Dunn, and Jane liked him even back then. Then everybody sort of got on the horse as it turned out – not just Jane and Frankie, but Pat Day, who worked him for us and really liked him."

What do you remember about First Samurai's first race?
"The weekend First Samurai broke his maiden was really interesting. That was the last weekend that Pat Day rode a horse, and it was also the last weekend that Madcap Escapade (a multiple grade I winner campaigned by Lunsford) ran in a race. In hindsight, an awful lot of events transpired in one weekend, and there was a lot of torch passing."

Did his maiden victory surprise you?
"I wasn't really surprised he won his maiden, and I wasn't particularly surprised when he won the allowance race (at Saratoga). But I was a little surprised when he beat Henny Hughes in the Hopeful. I saw him (Henny Hughes) win the Saratoga Special (gr. II). I thought he was remarkably impressive. I don't want to take anything away from First Samurai, but Henny Hughes ran a huge race in the Champagne. He beat the rest of the field pretty handily. I don't think there was another 2-year-old in the country (besides First Samurai) that could have beaten him that day."

Any other thoughts about First Samurai's career so far?
"I think he's in great hands. Frankie has done a tremendous job with this colt. Lance and I have a great partnership, and we get along very well. We're all in sync on almost every thought process with this horse. We have a great camaraderie and a uniformity in our philosophy, and we've taken our time.
"We thought about running First Samurai in the Saratoga Special instead of the allowance, but we kind of looked at it and said: 'Why are we in a hurry? All the real running is done in the fall. A lot of horses don't like Saratoga. Let's see how he likes the racetrack. If he doesn't win convincingly in the allowance, then let's run him in the Cradle Stakes. If he does win the allowance convincingly, then we'll run in the Hopeful.' We picked the Champagne with the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland being our backup. We put a plan together and we got to ride on the A line instead of the B-plus line. Plans don't often come together in the horse business, but this one did."

Have you started thinking about stallion deals?
"It's not any different than having a son who's a high school All-American in basketball. We've received several phone calls and several offers, but we really haven't pursued any serious discussions. We turned down substantial offers before the Hopeful. That hasn't been what our goal has been. Lansdon and I have been in the Thoroughbred business a long time, and, at this particular stage, we've made it fairly clear that we are going to race the horse through his racing career. Lots of people have let us know that when we want to talk, they'd like to begin discussions."

Are you worried about the 'Juvenile jinx' in which no Juvenile winner has ever won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I)?
"I think it's just kind of worked out that way. In horse racing, it's hard to win every race. I think soundness is an issue, and it may say something about the difficulty for a horse to have longevity. I knew Favorite Trick (a Juvenile winner who also was Horse of the Year) pretty well, and he was a wonderful 2-year-old. But he had pretty well matured out and was pretty well at the peak of what he became as a 2-year-old."

What makes First Samurai so special?
"The thing that makes this horse unique is that he's not only a big horse – he's got to be a minimum of 16 hands -- but he's light on his feet and very athletic. He'll also relax and rate. In the Champagne, he didn't really get over the (sloppy) ground well in the turn, but he had enough left to catch a horse (Henny Hughes) that I think is a really brilliant racehorse on a track that was very speed-biased all day. This horse (First Samurai) has a lot of charisma. I think that when people see him on the racetrack, he kind of catches everybody's attention, like Secretariat used to do. He knows he's something special."