05/18/2016 12:40PM

Farrier Jimenez proves to be an asset for O'Neill barn

Barbara D. Livingston
Jim Jimenez (above) has been trainer Doug O’Neill’s farrier for 22 years.

BALTIMORE – As trainer Doug O’Neill puts Nyquist and Land Over Sea through their paces leading up to this weekend’s Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan stakes, he is accompanied on his morning rounds by Jim Jimenez.

O’Neill and Jimenez have an easy rapport, whether they are studying past performances together or watching the stable’s stars breeze and gallop. O’Neill is blessed with a certain calmness and optimism, and Jimenez might even be a bit more laid-back. The result is that even during a week as important and potentially stressful as this, the atmosphere remains business as usual, or at least close to it.

Jimenez has been O’Neill’s farrier for 22 years. He worked on O’Neill’s first Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, and for the last three weeks has been on the road with the stable, first in Kentucky and now at Pimlico. With a little luck, the next stop will be New York.

Last Sunday, Jimenez put a new set of racing plates on Land Over Sea, the expected favorite in Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. He replaced Nyquist’s shoes the week before the Derby and will do so again a week before the Belmont.

Nyquist has seemed remarkably calm during his training at Pimlico, and Jimenez said he is like that when he shoes him, too.

“When you shoe him, he stands perfectly still and doesn’t move a muscle the whole time,” Jimenez said.

O’Neill recognizes the contributions Jimenez has made to his operation.

“The old saying is, ‘No foot, no horse,’ and it is very true,” O’Neill said.

Jimenez is from California, where his father, Jimmy Jimenez, was a trainer. When Bobby Frankel came to California from New York in 1972, Jimenez said Frankel told him about an extraordinary farrier back east named Ray Amato. Jimenez went to New York to learn from Amato, who now is Todd Pletcher’s farrier.

When Jimenez returned to California, his first client was trainer Robert Wheeler, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. According to Jimenez, his second client was Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

Jimenez has been around a lot of good horses with O’Neill, but two stand out to him.

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“In the years I’ve been with Doug, there have been two horses I knew were special right off the bat, Nyquist and Stevie Wonderboy,” Jimenez said.

Stevie Wonderboy went 3 for 5 in 2005 for his late owner, Merv Griffin, and O’Neill, ending his championship season with victories in the Del Mar Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park. He made one start at 3 before being retired.

“He had a world of talent,” Jimenez said. “Doug held him together as long as he could and then did the right thing and made a stallion out of him.”

Jimenez’s father made it to the Kentucky Derby as a trainer in 1974, the 100th running of the race. He finished third with Agitate.

“I’ve won two Derbies with Doug,” Jimenez said. “My father finished third once. I’m sure he is up above, looking down, and probably thinking he outbred himself.”