After a disappointing second in the Hollywood Gold Cup it didn't take Mace Seigel, the owner of Rail Trip, long to make up his mind to ship the gelding east, transferring him from the barn of Ron Ellis to Rick Dutrow.
The drama unfolding is already clearly visible. Samantha Siegel, who felt no need in moving the colt from the cozy confines of California, was as taken aback by the sudden decision as trainer Ron Ellis. No other horses have been removed from the Ellis, but the loss of Rail Trip is a hard blow to the stable.
It seems almost customary that the top horses be shuffled from trainer to trainer theses days. Just last year we saw Rachel Alexandra bought up by Jess Jackson off her 20 length tour de force in the Kentucky Oaks, then transferred from Hal Wiggins to Steve Asmussen. The brilliant Quality Road was moved Jimmy Jerkens to Todd Pletcher. Summer Bird, last year’s Champion three year old, was abruptly moved away from Tim Ice to Tim Ritchey.
Jess Jackson may be the only owner within the bunch mentioned above to have a valid excuse to moving Rachel Alexandra. He already had his number one trainer and for him to buy a horse like Rachel Alexandra and to not turn her over to Steve would’ve been one big slap in the face. The owners of Quality Road and Summer Bird, on the other hand have no good, legitimate reason that they have made know for the transfers. Now that Siegel joins the list of high profile trainer shifts, one has to ask, does he have a valid excuse?
The answer to that question is yes he does. Siegel obviously wants to get the horse a start over dirt against the best dirt horses currently training. He cannot do that sitting in California, since all of the major Californian tracks are some type of synthetic where the majority of eastern tracks are still good old, conventional dirt.
Another thing Rail Trip will get in the east is a taste of just how good the best dirt horses, currently training really are. If Rail Trip is placed in the Woodward for his first start on dirt he will meet up with the Blame and Quality Road, the top two older males of the east. Some other horses he will probably get to meet are I want Revenge and Mine That Bird. Both horses disappointed in their debuts this year, however, both had valid excuses in each start.
Now onto the final element of this interesting new drama, the Dutrow element. Man fans still question why didn’t Siegel allow Ellis to come east with Rail Trip? Why, if there needed to be a transfer, did he transfer to Rick Dutrow of all people?
The answer to question one is simply that the Siegel’s still have around 15 other horses in the Ellis barn and probably do not want him leave those horses for just one horse. They also have used Dutrow as their east coast trainer for years, with a number of horses. They trust in his ability as a horseman and even Samantha admits that Dutrow has a knack for noticing when something is wrong, way before many other trainers.
The answer to question two was already answered in question one. Dutrow, despite his lengthy rap sheet of drug violations, is a good horseman. He can detect things quicker than other trainers and refuses to run his horses unless they are in tip top shape. Is the man an angel, no, but the owners trust him and that is what matters.
So, is Mace Siegel the bad guy in this? My answer is no, but many may think otherwise, believing he hurt his previous trainer and turned his back on his daughter. To this writer, he did what was best for the horse and what was needed. Sometimes people may need to step on some toes and go against the beliefs of others to do what needs to be done. That is all that happened here and in due time his Samantha and Ellis will probably see the reasoning behind this move. Mace Siegel is not the bad guy, just a guy trying to do right by his horse.