10/18/2012 1:03PM

Q&A: Trainer David Hofmans

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Benoit & Associates

Veteran trainer has won such major races as the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Belmont Stakes, and the Queen’s Plate. He won the 1,000th race of his career when Sultry Season captured the final race at Santa Anita on Oct. 8.

Age: 69

What did it mean to you to win 1,000 races? It was a milestone, for sure, very big for us, because we don’t carry a lot of horses like the bigger barns that have 60, 70, 100 horses. We carry only 25 to 30 in our barn, so it takes a long time to do it, but we do feel pretty good about it.

What does that say about the level of consistency you’ve maintained all these years? It was 1974 when I started, so it’s a long time, but I do think we’ve been consistent over the years, always winning races, and winning some big ones every once in a while.

What are your memories of Touch Gold, with whom you won the Belmont Stakes in 1997? He was a pleasure to be around. He was a little difficult to train, but once you had his number – and we followed what he wanted – he gave you everything he had every time. He won the Belmont, the Haskell.

What do you mean by saying you had to have his number? You had to be careful you didn’t do too much with him. He didn’t want to train very hard. He would show indications that he didn’t want that − he’d get off his feed – as opposed to a horse like [1997 Queen’s Plate winner]Awesome Again, who you could train any way you wanted. Awesome Again would train himself. He was a big, strong horse. You put a wall in front of him, he’d go right through it. Touch Gold had a few quirks about him.

Touch Gold came out of that year’s Preakness with a fairly severe injury to his left front hoof, yet three weeks later he won the Belmont. Do you consider that your greatest training achievement? Not really, because of all the modern techniques available to the blacksmith. It was far more difficult with a horse like Greg’s Gold or Dramatic Gold. They were more challenging than Touch Gold. He had a severe injury, but we had an expert at repairing feet in Ian McKinlay.

What were the challenges with Greg’s Gold, who was a Grade 1-winning sprinter who won more than $1 million, and Molson Million winner Dramatic Gold, who earned $2.5 million? Greg’s Gold bowed a tendon, and we did stem-cell therapy, and he came back to compete at the Grade 1 level. That was a big challenge. We had to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes with him. Dramatic Gold, he was born almost deformed. He was quite the challenge. He was very crooked. He toed in very badly – he was bowlegged – and he was huge and heavy.

Perhaps your biggest win, certainly your richest, came in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Alphabet Soup. What do you remember about him? He was like Awesome Again in that he was so courageous, he tried so hard all the time. He had a strong will to win. He won a stakes race sprinting, and a couple months later beat Cigar and Louis Quatorze going a mile and a quarter in the Breeders’ Cup. He was a lot of fun to train. He had so much determination. I’m not sure he was the best horse I trained, but he tried so hard. I remember there was one race at Santa Anita where he beat Soul of the Matter [1996 San Antonio Handicap]. Chris Antley was on him. He was beat five jumps from the wire. Antley said he felt like he just threw himself at the wire and won.

You got married this summer to Linda McCoy-Murray: That’s been great. Linda and I get along quite well. She’s brought a new kind of energy to my life, and I’m looking forward to many more years with her.

Linda is the widow of the famous Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray, and she runs a foundation that provides college scholarships for aspiring sportswriters, so I’m hoping you now have a newfound appreciation for journalists: Yes, I do. Now I know what you guys go through. It’s not as easy as I thought.

Do you still enjoy training? I love it. I don’t even think about retirement. This is what I love to do. It’s in me. It’s why I get up early every day. It’s physically stimulating and it’s mentally stimulating.

Here’s to the next 1,000 winners: Thanks, but I don’t think I’ll live that long.