01/23/2015 1:58PM

Hovdey: Osborne determined after narrow miss in BC Classic

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Justin N. Lane
Toast of New York (center) finishes second to Bayern (top), ahead of third-place California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1, 2014.

Jamie Osborne is not a masochist. Really, he’s not. He’s a nice guy with a properly droll, British sense of humor who describes himself as an “overrated jockey and underrated trainer from sunny Upper Lambourn,” a horsey town located about 70 miles west of London.

So why, then, does Osborne insist upon displaying the most agonizing moment of his underrated training career as his profile photo on his busy Twitter account? Why does he subject himself, as well as his followers, to the constant image of stable star Toast of New York narrowly losing the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic to Bayern, with Horse of the Year California Chrome close behind in third?

Why, Jamie? Why?

“I do it to punish myself daily,” Osborne said. “Sackcloth and ashes. I don’t allow myself to forget how we failed. It spurs me on to try a little bit harder next year. Undoubtedly, it was trainer error, and I’ve been analyzing every move to see how we could have made those few inches different.”

This is Osborne on a roll, self-deprecating for effect and quotable to a fault. Toast of New York gave the former jump rider a whole new American audience, and they made the most of it last year with a grand splash at the Breeders’ Cup in the colt’s first race on dirt, along with a second to Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic and a smashing win in the widely televised United Arab Emirates Derby from Dubai, both on synthetics. He also was sixth in the newly christened Belmont Derby on grass.

Beyond his 2014 prize money of more than $2.3 million, the Kentucky-bred Toast of New York ended up being rated the third best 3-year-old colt trained in the British Isles on the Longines World’s Best Racehorse ranking, behind only the Epsom and Irish derbies winner Australia and the Cartier Horse of the Year Kingman.

“And without ever running in England,” Osborne said. “Had his nose been a few inches longer in the Classic, we may have had a state welcoming home. Her Majesty might have been there. Sadly, it wasn’t, so we just slinked quietly back into the country with our tail between our legs.”

Osborne was speaking from home in sunny Upper Lambourn, where the temperature was reported that morning on a national BBC telecast as minus-8 (that would be celsius) and featured as coldest among a list of such major locales as Heathrow, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. Osborne posted the image.

“Imagine Upper Lambourn getting noticed at all,” Osborne said. “I like to think that maybe Toast of New York helped put us on the map.”

With his name recognition and ability to travel far and wide, Toast of New York could be making an even bigger impression in 2015. This season, he will be flying the colors of Al Shaqab Racing of Qatar, which bought him last week from Michael Buckley. His trainer came with the deal.

“He’s wintering now, which basically means we keep him ticking over,” Osborne said. “He canters every day, and we keep him as warm as possible.”

In the meantime, Toast of New York is getting bigger and, one would assume, stronger. According to Osborne, the colt’s most recent weight hit 575 kilos – about 1,260 pounds.

“That’s 20 kilos more than he was at the Breeders’ Cup,” the trainer said. “Of course, some of that is winter blubber, but he’s definitely a rounder, more muscular type of horse now than he was then. If a horse will improve physically like that, there’s every chance he can ratchet up his ability that one notch more. While the final arbiter will be the racecourse, I would like to think there’s a great chance he’ll be a better 4-year-old than a 3-year-old.”

Not surprisingly, Toast of New York’s first target of 2015 will be the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28. The Tapeta surface over which Toast of New York won the UAE Derby is gone, replaced by a sandy loam, which Osborne will test when he has a runner in a minor race at Meydan next week. As for Toast of New York, he will go straight into the World Cup without a prep.

“You never know how many bullets you’ve got in your belt with these horses, and I want to make sure every time I put one in the barrel, I can hit the target,” Osborne said. “We can get him ready at home. We showed that last year.”

After Dubai, Osborne looks at the world as Toast of New York’s oyster.

“When you’ve got a horse with his mentality and his constitution, you want to think globally with him,” Osborne said. “We have a lot of fun bringing him to the states and for phenomenal prize money. The Pacific Classic will be on dirt this year at Del Mar, but he proved he could run on that at Santa Anita. And if I dare look that far ahead, I would hope to take another crack at the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland to see if we can get it right this time.”