ARCADIA, Calif. - For a guy who had been halfway around the world and back in a little more than a week, trainer Eoin Harty looked remarkably fresh on Wednesday morning. But with a victory in the $6 million Dubai World Cup with Well Armed in his rearview mirror, and a chance to win the Santa Anita Derby for the second straight year on the immediate horizon, Harty had plenty of reason to have some spring in his step.
"It's a fantastic week to be in the middle of," Harty said at his Santa Anita barn on Wednesday morning.
On Saturday, Harty will send out Mr. Hot Stuff in the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast's major prep for the May 2 Kentucky Derby. Harty won the Santa Anita Derby last year with Mr. Hot Stuff's older brother Colonel John. Both are by the sire Tiznow and are out of the Turkoman mare Sweet Damsel. Both were bred and are owned by the WinStar Farm of Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt. Harty trains both colts. Corey Nakatani rode Colonel John last year, and will be on Mr. Hot Stuff on Saturday.
But with all those commonalities, the two colts could not be more dissimilar. Colonel John was a top 2-year-old who continued to progress at 3. Mr. Hot Stuff took six starts just to defeat maidens.
"They're like me and my brother. Polar opposites," said Harty, whose brother, Edward, is a trainer in Ireland. "My brother got straight A's, was never any trouble. I struggled to put 2 and 2 together.
"Colonel John, the first time you showed him what to do, he'd do it. Colonel John is a total professional. Unemotional. Sensible. Does what he's supposed to do. He doesn't give you any grief. This guy, he's always shown talent, but it's been a matter of waiting for the penny to drop. I will say this, since I got back from Dubai, he doesn't seem to be the jackass he was.
"This guy's like Colonel John on meth. He's like Bart Simpson," Harty said, dropping in a character from one of his favorite television shows. "He'll do anything. He'll go to the back of his stall, grab a mouthful of hay, then come to the front of his stall and try to fling it as far as he can. Where does that come from?"
Mr. Hot Stuff is named for the nickname bestowed upon Bill and Susan Casner's son-in-law, Clark Anderson, after he wore an outrageously multicolored ski outfit on the slopes four years ago, highlighted by a bright pink hat that said, "Hot Stuff."
"I told him I'd name a horse after him one day," said Kathy Harty, Eoin's wife.
The ski outfit has become a source of underground humor for the Hartys and their friends. Eoin Harty has been photographed in it - he won't let that photo be seen - and earlier this meet, Mr. Hot Stuff's exercise rider, Yutta Tang, put it on and then got on the colt.
Gary Stevens, the Hall of Fame jockey, has worn it in a local tavern. The Hartys' teenage son, Eddie, wore it to a local coffee shop, but after getting called pejoratives by a passerby who wasn't in on the joke, he might not be so eager to do it again.
Kathy Harty has put together a video montage of various people wearing the suit. Considering how diligent she is about posting homemade videos of workouts by Colonel John, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Well Armed on Youtube, it's surprising she hasn't posted the video yet.
"I think I will," she said.
It could become a sensation if Mr. Hot Stuff springs an upset on Saturday.
"If the horse goes to the Kentucky Derby, the ski suit will go, too," Eoin Harty said.
There have been flashes of talent from Mr. Hot Stuff. He comes off a third-place finish, behind The Pamplemousse and Take the Points, in the Sham Stakes on Feb. 28. But Harty admits it will be a tall order to beat The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile on Saturday.
"He's going to have to step up to the plate this week," Harty said.
Harty's week is reminiscent of the bi-continental double pulled off by Bob Baffert in 1998. Baffert won that year's Dubai World Cup with Silver Charm, then came home and won the Santa Anita Derby with Indian Charlie. Even though Harty self-deprecatingly says he was not a good student, he must have taken good notes that year. He was Baffert's assistant.
During his seven years with Baffert, the stable won the Kentucky Derby twice, with Silver Charm and Real Quiet, and just missed a third with Cavonnier. Since going on his own following the 1999 Breeders' Cup, Harty has fashioned his own successful career.
Until this past week, Harty's biggest wins came in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with Tempera, and in last year's Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes with Colonel John. Harty also trained Street Cry, who won the Dubai World Cup after doing his early racing with Harty. He has gone on to be a successful stallion, including siring 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense.
In other Derby developments:
* Mr. Hot Stuff drew post 5 when a field of 10 was entered on Wednesday in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby. The speedy The Pamplemousse drew the outside post and was installed as the 9-5 favorite on the morning line of Santa Anita's Jeff Tufts. Pioneerof the Nile is the close second choice at 2-1. Take the Points was entered, with Chris DeCarlo named to ride, but unless one of the top two choices defects, he will scratch and run in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 11, with Garrett Gomez scheduled to ride.