‘Voodoo’ Singing a New ‘Song’ for Schwartz and Rice


Voodoo Song | Sarah Andrew

Barry and Sheryl Schwartz’s Voodoo Song (English Channel) has turned over a new leaf as a turf router since transferring to the Linda Rice barn after the retirement of veteran trainer Mike Hushion at the end of the Belmont meet last month.

The homebred took his record for Rice to three-for-three over the Saratoga lawn Wednesday afternoon with a front-running score in a New York-bred optional claimer.

“Linda has turned him around,” said Barry Schwartz while standing beside his wife Sheryl outside of the winner’s circle just after getting their picture taken. “In this race, he was a different horse. He was so relaxed out there. That is what she’s been working on. Last time he opened up by 15 or 20 lengths because he was so rank, but this time, he did what the rider wanted. She has done a great job with him.”

Runner-up in an off-the-turfer on debut at Belmont in October, Voodoo Song broke his maiden when switched to the turf next out at Aqueduct in November. Off the board in his next three starts on dirt, the last two of which were sprinting, he was then sent to Rice, who removed the blinkers and stretched him out on the turf in a $40,000 claimer at the Spa July 22, which he won by 5 1/4 lengths.

“This horse had run one decent race on the turf, but had been running on the dirt mostly,” said Rice with her mom Jean Rice looking on proudly. “When I picked him up, he was coming out of dirt sprints. I took the blinkers off, but he really wanted to run long on the turf. That’s the key. He clearly loves this course, which is always helpful as well.”

Rice did something rarely seen in horse racing these days, running Voodoo Song back on just four days rest in a 1 3/8-mile state-bred allowance at Saratoga July 26.

When asked the reason for the quick turn around, the New York-based conditioner said, “Opportunity. I don’t like to run horses back on short rest unless it’s a good opportunity. You don’t just do it for kicks. You do it because there is a good opportunity sitting in front of you that may not be there three weeks from now. That’s when you do it. When it works it’s great and when it doesn’t you get a little egg on your face.”

In this case, it worked out great as Voodoo Song took the field from gate-to-wire for a 3/4-length success. The race was not without its tense moments though, as the chestnut bolted out to a 16-length lead early, clocking an opening half-mile in :46.14.

“I think when you run a horse six furlongs on the dirt, they tend to be a little rank going long. So between the last two races, I feel like he has really flourished,” Rice said. “Last race, he was running off and was rank. I turned him back in four days. This time he trained so well after the last race that I wanted to find him another race on this course because he likes it and had really thrived. He was relaxing beautifully. He was really happy in his training. When they are good, you have to go with them.”

Voodoo Song has been quite good at Saratoga, but with just 11 race days left in the meet, it is doubtful he will make another start at the Spa before the meet ends.

“I’d be hard pressed to think we’d run him a fourth time at Saratoga, but you can’t count it out,” Rice joked. “Now, he has his open allowance conditions, so we will see. We will just have to take it one day at a time.”

Schwartz bought Voodoo Song’s dam for $200,000 as a yearling at the 2003 Keeneland September sale and she won two of eight starts for him, including the Open Mind S. going six furlongs on the main track at Aqueduct.

“They always tease me a bit because we almost gave up on the mare a couple of times,” Schwartz said. “The farm manager wanted me to sell her. She’s very high maintenance. She’s very finicky, very high strung. That race on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita, she went the first half in :42 3/5, that is about as fast as you will see any horse go. They always tease me about it because she never reproduced it, but with this horse she did.”

Schwartz’s longtime trainer Hushion conditioned Mystic Chant during her New York campaign, which included her lone stakes win. The pair have had several stakes winners over the years, including GISW The Lumber Guy and MGSW Great Intentions, and Hushion continued to train the bulk of Schwartz’s stable until his recent retirement.

The conditioner spent the past several years battling cancer and closed his stable doors last month to spend more time with his family. As a result, Schwartz had to distribute his horses among other trainers, including Rice and Todd Pletcher, who both already had horses for the Calvin Klein co-founder.

“We were together 25 years,” Schwartz said of Hushion. “We had a great relationship and had a lot of fun together. We are still friends. He is up here for this meet. He is really happy. He has gone through an awful lot in the past few years with his health and he has gotten to the point now where he said, ‘I feel good and I want to spend my time with my grandchildren.’ I’m happy for him.”


Original Article – http://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/voodoo-singing-a-new-song-for-schwartz-and-rice/