Hot ‘n Dusty, which Jim Rome owns a share of along with Little Red Feather racing, will run in the eighth race at Hollywood Park on Saturday.
The next time Jim Rome mentions anything about horse racing on his syndicated radio show — heard locally on KLAC-AM (570) — think about how many other broadcasters these days bother to even acknowedge the sport exists.
Definitely, Rome has an investment in its future. His family does now, too. But thoroughbred racing might want to invest more in having Rome help promote its future through his involvment in a growning stable of potential big-time winners.
Someday, Rome may be at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., with the rest of the Kentucky Derby crowd. But this Saturday, while most of the horse racing attention is on the 135th run of the classic event, Rome will be equally as nervous at Hollywood Park to see two of his thoroughbreds run — Gallatin’s Run (linked here) will make its maiden race from the sixth spot in the sixth race; Hot n’ Dusty (linked here) will go in the eighth race.
While Hot n’ Dusty has been “our most productive runner of late — just a machine,” says the Calabasas High grad Rome, the debut of Gallatin’s Run makes him most edgy.
“I had a great day today,” Rome said Wednesday. “I’ve been in this (radio) business 20 years and, before today, I’d never interviewed (Duke basketball coach) Mike Krzyzewski. But we finally got together (on the air). It was a great ‘Jungle’ moment. But that interview didn’t keep me up at night for a week the way Gallatin’s Run’s first race this Saturday has.”
Rome and his wife, Janet, are involved in eight horses — three, they own outright or are majority owners and race under the silks of Jungle Racing LLC. They are partners in four more with Little Red Feather Racing (linked here). And the last one, Hot n’ Dusty, is in partnership with Little Red Feather and breeder/owner Madeline Auerbach (linked here), a Valley-based horse enthusiast who has been very successful with the state’s most successful stallion, Unusual Heat.
A brief Q-and-A with Rome as he nervously awaits the first race for Gallatin’s Run (pictured here):
Q: Can you describe how it’s been this week waiting for Gallatin’s Run finally race after waiting so long?
Rome: It’s a very big deal for us. (Little Red Feather co-owner and Valle-based) Billy Koch went to the Ocala sale in March of 2008: I gave him my budget. And he and our trainer, Mike Puype , and a bloodstock agent targeted a number of horses. One day I was about to start ‘Jim Rome Is Burning’ (on ESPN) and he’s on the phone bidding on this 2-year-old colt. We get to our number and he says, “Can I do it.?” I said: “Go for it.” He tells me: “You own the horse. They’re coming over with the paperwork. I’m shaking.” My response is: “You’re shaking???!”
The colt comes to California … we — I mean my wife, Janet — name him and we’ve been training him and paying for him for over a year now trying to get him ready to race. Obviously, it’s been very frustrating and trying, but that’s part of my education as a thoroughbred owner. They’re incredibly fragile animals. He’s had some nicks and bruises and hasn’t been right. Even now, he’s not 100 percent. We know we’re running him a little short, but it’s go-time and we have to get him a race.
Q: How does the debut of Gallantin’s Run compare to any other horses you’ve got to watch in their first race?
Rome: I can honestly tell you when Surfer Girl, the horse we own outright, ran a few week’s back, it was one of the greatest days I have ever had. An unbelievable kick in the ass. It’s hard to even explain.
Imagine writing a huge check for a horse that you had researched and studied but had never actually seen in person. We bought her in Brazil last summer. She had won one race and had a second. She was set to run during the Breeder’s Cup weekend in October. I couldn’t attend the race but I was going to air it live during my show I didn’t sleep much that whole week i was so geeked. Then right before the race, a vet shuts her down saying she had a skin infection. Then we lost another five months until she ran March 28.
Keep in mind, we’re watching her train, we visited her all the time and are absolutely in love with the horse. But she had never run for us. We had no idea what we bought. You really never know.
We threw down huge jack, spent nine months getting her ready and had no idea if she would show up or not. Did we buy a runner or a goat? I was nervous as hell and it felt great. She gets out, looks confused on the track, not at all comfortable, Koch, who I always sit next to during a race, is telling me, “Uh-oh, we’re in trouble. We’ve got a problem.” Then suddenly, she makes the turn, comes running and nearly steals the race. One of Madeline Auerbach’s horses beats us by a nose. But Surfer Girl competed like a mother. Not knowing, and taking the entire day in and seeing her battle was a jolt that stayed with me at least a week.
This is where I lose people, because they’ll say, “It’s just a horse.” But she battled, competed like hell, wanted it badly, and I was nearly as proud of her as if she was my own kid. I know, it sounds ridiculous but I love the horse and she showed up!
And although Gallatin isn’t as fit or as prepared as Surfer was for her race, we’re going to go through it all again Saturday.
== More on Rome and his jones for horse racing:
– Jim and Janet Rome talk more to TVG about their horse racing fun (linked here)
-From the Thoroughbred Times (linked here)
– An archive of interviews Rome has done with horse racing folk (linked here)