The trainer vocabulary Robert Falcone Jr. possesses could pass for that of a conditioner decades deep into a been-there, seen-that career.
Like many of his Belmont Park brethren who have literally had barns on the backside for longer than he has been on this earth, the 22-year-old Brooklyn native speaks in a second-nature manner of reconciling Thoroughbred racing's peaks and declines, of being grateful for the good horses in his care, of being all too mindful of the fact it could be hours, days, years, or never before another prime career opportunity manifests.
His is a decidedly non wide-eyed perspective that flies in the face of what his age and experience says he should own. It is a seasoned stance shaped by the fact Falcone's formative years were spent preparing for what has transpired the past three seasons, and one that has been enhanced the last several months as he has knock off feats some of his backstretch neighbors have spent their entire careers chasing.
And he's not done yet. Five months after Mind Your Biscuits became Falcone's first graded stakes winner and less than two months after the New York-bred son of Posse gave his conditioner the distinction of saddling a top-three finisher in a Breeders' Cup race, the chestnut colt will attempt to cross the velvet rope into becoming a grade I winner when he heads a field of nine as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park Dec. 26.
Such achievements make it tempting to slap the meteoric rise label on the Falcone shedrow. And assured as he is in his own ability, Falcone is properly humbled by the heights Mind Your Biscuits has carried his fledging operation to while it is still in the dues-paying portion of development.
A former assistant to Dominick Schettino and son of longtime Thoroughbred owner Robert Sr., Falcone has been training on his own since 2014 and has saddled 24 winners while seeing his runners amass more than $1.4 million in total earnings. When Mind Your Biscuits hit the wire 1 3/4 lengths in front in the July 30 Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course, it validated Falcone's belief in the colt and his personal conviction.
"From my first year going into my second year, I doubled my win column, I doubled the purse money that I earned. So I was hoping to kind of in my third year, to just keep progressing with each year that I trained," said Falcone, who currently has 17 horses in his care. "And really, I got lucky that I got the opportunity to work with a horse like (Mind Your Biscuits). He helped me prove myself a lot and prove my barn could work with the big stakes horses as well.
"Even to get an opportunity is very hard in this game especially at a young age. You just don't get that many opportunities, of course, as the guys who have been in the game a lot longer. So I just feel lucky and fortunate."
Most luck is actually the byproduct of one's own diligence. In that respect, Falcone has been working on his path of good fortune since about the time he could walk.
The education Falcone was getting inside the classroom repeatedly took a backseat to what he was soaking in trailing his father around Aqueduct Racetrack and the like. His initial aspirations were to become a jockey. When the reality of those physical demands set in, the younger Falcone knew one way or another that he was still going to make his love of racing his life's vocation.
"School just wasn't...I wasn't a good school kid, to say the least," Falcone said. "I always ended up at the racetrack or the barn most of the time. That was what I wanted to do. After I graduated middle school and moved on to high school and they started to talk colleges and this and that, I was always set on going to the track. I think (my father) kind of just accepted it from that moment on that I wasn't going to do anything else. I was at least going to give this a shot and didn't really want to do anything else."
With some help from his father, who gave him a few of his own horses to train once Schettino endorsed his assistant's desire to break out on his own, Falcone began taking the first baby steps toward success. He won four races from 39 starts in 2014, totals he improved to nine wins from 86 starts the following year. He also had a long-standing friendship with bloodstock agent Chad Summers, racing manager for J. Stables who, along with Summers' family, owned part of a son of Posse that showed promise—but no victories—in his first four starts.
"I was good friends with Chad and after (Mind Your Biscuits) came off the bench, he gave me a call and asked about taking a few horses for him," Falcone said. "And so far it's all worked out well."
In his first start for Falcone after previously being trained by Roderick Rodriguez, Mind Your Biscuits broke his maiden in take-notice fashion, winning by 7 1/2 lengths against state-breds at Aqueduct April 9. Three starts later, he won an allowance test for New York-breds at Belmont by 9 1/4 lengths to earned his way into the Amsterdam field.
Even though his fifth-place finish in the Ketel One King's Bishop (gr. I) Aug. 27 represents his worst finish in 12 career starts, Mind Your Biscuits was only beaten four lengths by eventual TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Drefong that day. Dismissed at 15-1 odds in the $1.5 million Sprint Nov. 5 at Santa Anita Park, Mind Your Biscuits crossed the wire third, beaten just a nose for a second, a position he was eventually elevated to this week when it was announced runner-up Masochistic had been disqualified for failing a post-race drug test.
"It's like everything else. They doubt you when you aren't successful and then still they doubt you after you are successful. We always felt like (Mind Your Biscuits) was nice horse," Falcone said. "The way he ran in the Breeders' Cup hopefully put an ease on all the doubters. Even thought he is a New York-bred, he showed New York-breds can run just as well."
Falcone laughs when the very real possibility of him heading into the New Year as a grade I-winning trainer is mentioned and he keeps talk of his forward progress in general terms. He wants to grow his stable. He wants to take whatever transpires next with a day by day attitude.
And like any seasoned pro, he has learned that chance is the most valuable commodity on the backside.
"You don't know when you're going to get a good opportunity again. It could be tomorrow, it could be a week, it could be a far time from now," he said. "Hopefully I just get more opportunities."