By Doug McCoy
It dominates many conversations in an American racing scene in which speed is the keyword.
But it's time of a different nature that Arnaud Delacour, based at Tampa Bay Downs for the winter, talks about when discussing the horses in his stable and some of the ways his approach to training differs from many of his U.S. counterparts.
The French-born horseman has steadily built his stable into one of the classiest and most successful in the country since he and wife Leigh went out on their own in 2007. Last season the outfit won 57 races from 284 starters for earnings of about $2.2 million.
They were in the national spotlight with Lael Stables' homebred Tapit colt Divining Rod, who came off a third in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) to win the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) and then finished third behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Their turf sprint specialist Ageless, also owned by Lael Stables, won four stakes from six starts to run her career win total to 11. Green Lantern Stables' A. P. Indian moved to the Delacour barn and was brought back off a 13-month layoff to win a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming/allowance sprint at Tampa Bay in 1:15.58, just two-fifths of a second off the track standard. A.P. Indian went on to win Monmouth Park's Decathalon Stakes and the Donald Levine Memorial at Parx Racing.
There is a central theme that runs through any conversation with Delacour about his horses and his training philosophy, and it's all about time and patience.
"When one discusses the difference between the European and American approaches to training I think it boils down to giving horses the time they need, whether it be time to recover from injury or time for a young horse to learn and mature," Arnaud Delacour said. "I think there is so much pressure on a lot of trainers in this country to produce they're forced to push horses more than they would like.
"We're very fortunate with our stable that we have the kind of owners who understand the value of patience and taking the time needed to do the right thing for our horses."
The stable lost one of its stars when Ageless was retired following a third-place finish in the Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Santa Anita Park in early January. The mare won 11 races from 24 starts and earned $717,000 the hard way: sprinting on the turf.
Several of her races were against males, including her fourth-place finish in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) in which she was beaten less than a length in a blanket finish.
"She was a wonderful horse to train and watch run, she was dead honest and was very good to us," Delacour said. "She deserves to move on and be a mom now, and we'll be looking forward to seeing how if that brilliance is passed on to her offspring."
Divining Rod had been scheduled to return to the track from a farm in Ocala, Fla., the week of Jan. 18, but that return has been moved back a bit.
"He suffered a small setback—nothing major, but it will move his schedule back a bit," Delacour said. "Look for him to be ready early this summer. A. P. Indian did move into the barn this week and he's on schedule to return soon."
Young runners with talent and potential are what any horseman hopes for, and Delacour has two youngsters who look like they could have bright futures. Lael Stable's homebred 3-year-old Lemon Drop Kid filly Hidden Treat is two-for-two lifetime after capturing the Sandpiper Stakes Dec. 19 at Tampa, while Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone's homebred Armoire, a 3-year-old Artie Schiller filly, won impressively in her debut on the turf on the same card in spite of being a bit green.
Not surprisingly, Delacour said he and his wife, who earlier was the trainer of record, will "take their time" and allow both young runners to mature and develop.
The Delacour "babies" aren't confined to the stable. The Delacours have two young sons. Luca will be 4 in August while Julien will be 2 in June.
"Leigh has her hands full with those two, and it's a whole different world than training horses, believe me," Delacour said.