Bill Mott? No. Bob Baffert? Not this time. Nick Zito? Uh-uh. Doodnauth Shivmangal? You betcha.
The list of Belmont Stakes (gr. I) trainers took a turn for the unusual this year as horses from top-tier conditioners veered off the Triple Crown trail before the third stop at the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 11. But Shivmangal, a native of Guyana on the north shore of South America, will be saddling Isn’t He Perfect for his cousin D.J. Ramnarayan, who races as Kharag Stables.
Isn't He Perfect, most recently ninth in the May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), will be a huge longshot in the Belmont field. The son of Pleasantly Perfect owns just a starter allowance victory and a maiden claiming win from 13 starts, and rolled a pair of fifths in the Jerome Stakes (gr. II) and Wood Memorial (gr. I) before the Preakness.
But Shivmangal is undeterred by such trivia.
“I would call him an iron horse,” Shivmangal said of Isn’t He Perfect. “He was huge and strong when we bought him (for $27,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale Co’s April auction of 2-year-olds) and he was tough when we got him to the track. His dam (Reciclada) was Chilean and I thought he’d like turf. When he lost his first race on the turf I cried. I am emotional about my horses.
“He is a horse who likes to be up close, and I’ve been disappointed with some of the rides he’s been getting. I think the Wood knocked him out a little and the Jerome maybe was too quick to come back two weeks later. He is a horse that yells for his food, but when we got him to Pimlico for the Preakness he didn’t eat or sleep. He was too quiet, and then when we got him to the infield to be saddled, he began rearing and bucking and jumping. I’d never seen him like that. He was too anxious, maybe from the crowd.
“I expect him to be better back home now. He’s galloping 2 ½ miles a day. I don’t breeze my horses a lot. I like long, slow works to build endurance and foundation.”
Shivmangal has been around horses his entire life. His father, Bulla, was a horseman in Guyana. Doodnauth started as a jockey but soon outgrew that work physically, and became a top trainer in his native land, where he conditioned runners such as Guyana Star, Guyana Bulldozer, John Henry II, and Guyana Flyer. “I won two races in one day with Guyana Star,” he said proudly.
Shivmangal first came to the United States in 1984 on vacation, and came back to stay shortly afterward. He began life here owning a trucking company, and then slowly got into racing after getting his trainer’s license. His first winner stateside was Miss Guyana in 1991, and he began having success claiming and winning with horses like Big Daniel, Like Itor Leave It, and Miss Tahiti. In the 1990s he began attending the sales in Ocala.
“I like buying horses out of producing mares,” he said. “I don’t look much at the sire, but as long as the dam has produced winners, I like to get those horses. I look at conformation and have a good eye for babies. And I like big horses and colts in particular. They can handle the pressures of training better.”
Shivmangal has won at an 8% clip in his 21 years of training in the U.S. He has 25 horses in training plus yearlings. His feed program is unique in that he likes to feed a lot of different things, including eggs and Guinness, to his horses. He also credits his extended family including his wife and four children, plus a variety of cousins, nephews, and nieces, for helping out around the barn and supporting the operation.
“We are a very close-knit family,” said the trainer, whose nickname is Shook. “We have Joey and Chico and Louie and Sonny and Ashook. They are all behind the scenes and help us out tremendously.”
Shivmangal understands he will be an underdog in the Belmont. It is a situation with which he is very familiar.
“My horses pay big money because people don’t know about us,” he noted. “Owners don’t give us horses to train. They won’t take chances because they don’t know who you are. But I want to thank the people who have supported me and are behind me in my whole operation here. I really appreciate it.”
If he wins the Belmont, Shivmangal will become a household name in the world of racing.