My Boy Tate retirement leaves fond memories

Thursday, May 4th, 2023

My Boy Tate keeps an eye on the action at trainer Michelle Nevin’s barn at Belmont Park Thursday. Susie Raisher photo

By Joe Clancy

Billy Koch called Michelle Nevin Tuesday and was pretty direct.

“You know, I’m kinda sad.”

Nevin didn’t hesitate. “Don’t be sad,” she said. “It’s a happy thing, a good thing.”

Nobody should be sad, even if it hurts a little to see the end of New York-bred champion My Boy Tate’s racing career.

The 9-year-old gelding – bred and trained by Nevin, and co-owned by her and Koch’s Little Red Feather Racing Stable – exits sound, happy and ornery as ever with $837,288 in earnings over a 38-start, 11-win career. Champion New York-bred male sprinter of 2021, My Boy Tate made his debut as a 3-year-old in 2017, joined the Little Red Feather team after two starts in Nevin’s silks and made himself a favorite with just about everyone he met.

“You know, you know . . . there’s a lot of love for this horse,” Koch said. “He had an unbelievable career, better than so many horses. How many horses are still running in stakes races after as many starts as he had, as a 9-year-old?”

Not many.

By Boys At Tosconova out of the Sharp Humor mare Backslash, My Boy Tate was foaled at Rockridge Stud in Hudson, spent time with Nevin’s father Michael, went to Rudy Delguidice in Florida for early prep work and showed up in Nevin’s barn as a 2-year-old in 2016. The dark bay brought a reputation to the track.

“He was just a quirky fella,” said Nevin. “He was gelded very early on for being wicked mean and has had that personality throughout his life. We just accepted him. You have to hand all the credit to the grooms, the hotwalkers and the riders who dealt with him. He was awful wicked.”

Nevin says wicked the same way she might say charming. My Boy Tate wasn’t all that mean to people (especially those with apples), just competitive, opinionated and steadfast. Through seven seasons of racing, he never really lost that edge.

“He takes every day of training like he’s got to show off,” Nevin said. “He just has an extremely strong personality, very tough to gallop, not allowed to go anywhere without the pony because he’s such a bully. I thought he would slow down as he got older. He’s competitive, so competitive at everything he does.”

The traits served him well on the racetrack. Fourth in the debut (Jan. 20, 2017 at Aqueduct) and second by a nose the next time, he joined the Little Red Feather team for his third start in April. Third there, he broke through that summer – winning a Saratoga maiden to start a five-race winning streak. The skein took him through two allowance conditions and stakes wins in the 2018 Say Florida Sandy and Hollie Hughes at Aqueduct. He went on to add four more stakes wins (he was disqualified from two other stakes scores, once for a therapeutic medication overage and once for interference), plus two additional allowance victories and finished with 10 seconds and three thirds to go with the 11 wins. All but three starts came in New York.

His 2021 season was his best with three wins and three seconds from 10 starts for $227,500. The campaign started early with fourths in the Gravesend and Say Florida Sandy a week apart at Aqueduct in January. Next came wins in the Hollie Hughes and Haynesfield at Aqueduct, solid seconds in two stakes at Saratoga, a Parx Racing allowance romp, a 6-length thrashing of the Leon Reed Memorial at Finger Lakes negated by the medication disqualification and a second to Lobsta in a New York Stallion Series stakes in December. He was named champion New York-bred male sprinter at season’s end, an honor for which he was a finalist several times (including 2022).

Last year, My Boy Tate (named for Nevin’s nephew) opened with a half-length win over Lobsta in the Say Florida Sandy – only to be placed fourth for interference – but rebounded to win the Hudson at Aqueduct in October and place in two other stakes while earning $139,500.

Nevin brought her stable star back for another campaign in 2023, but he finished fourth in the Say Florida Sandy – a race he started in five times – in January and was fifth in the Affirmed Success April 30. There was never a thought of finding easier competition in the claiming ranks.

“He was on his favorite track, he loved Aqueduct, on a sloppy track, and he loved a sloppy track,” Nevin said of the final start. “I just thought, ‘If he doesn’t show up today, we’ll call it quits.’ He was a little quieter than normal in the paddock, usually he’s a bit of a wild fella. After he ran and didn’t run any good, he was irate. He’s just lost a step and that’s OK. I’m still really proud of the horse. He’s been amazing. He’s carried me since I started training and every time he won a race was a major highlight for me.”

Koch echoed the sentiment.

My Boy Tate will have plenty of time to “destroy” Jolly Balls in retirement. Susie Raisher photo

“It’s hard for a horse to retire sound, this is a business,” he said. “You put horses in claiming races, you sell horses. We’re a fiduciary to the partnership so it’s especially hard for us but he deserves to retire. Credit Michelle for keeping him sound for so long. I can’t say enough good things about her, about him, about the experience.”

Nevin credited her barn staff, especially groom Nazario Flores and exercise rider Tommy Singhe, for the care they showed My Boy Tate during his racing career. He reached beyond the barn on plenty of occasions too, starting as the favorite 14 times and winning fans along the way.

“He loves apples and a couple people came by with bags of apples for him this morning,” Nevin said. “It almost melted my heart. We’re going to miss having him in the barn.”

My Boy Tate heads to the ReRun Thoroughbred retirement farm in East Greenbush where he’ll be evaluated for a second career by Lisa Molloy and staff. Nevin will “be stalking him” to make sure the right fit emerges.

The Early Days
Nobody is more responsible for My Boy Tate’s development than Florida horseman Rudy Delguidice, a 2-year-old pinhooker and yearling-to-2-year-old prepper. Delguidice started working with My Boy Tate early in his yearling year and was impressed – if a little bit shocked – from the start.

“In the barn he was great; he laid down, he was classy, you could tie him, do anything with him,” Delguidice said Thursday. “As soon as you put the saddle on, and left the barn, he was hard to ride.”

Delguidice plied the youngster with mints, spent $300 on bits from Australia and put his horsemanship skills to the test.

“You do babies, you take your time, the stall to a round pen to a little field . . . he wanted to go right to the racetrack,” Delguidice said. “He didn’t want to be in company, he didn’t want to be behind horses. You wanted to ride him collectively, use your leg, all that stuff. He didn’t want any part of that. He wanted to do his own thing.”

Delguidice let him, and focused on making incremental progress, developing the mind as much as the body – hoping for the best at every step. My Boy Tate kept eating mints, being agreeable in the stall, but he challenged riders at every juncture. Until Delguidice gave in.

“You know what?” the former jockey told the horse. “We’re going to do it your way.”

My Boy Tate responded to the hands-off approach, trained on his own, kept learning, kept improving.

“You try to say this is the right way to do it but when you get on a horse that’s telling you it’s not the right way you’ve got to get along,” said Delguidice. “You can’t instill your will. You’ve got to get away from thinking you know best. He frustrated me, but look how successful the horse was. He knew what to do.”

Delguidice, injured in a riding accident last summer at the Classic Mile training center and “working hard” in rehabilitation with The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, watched all 38 of My Boy Tate’s races on television or in person and gave words to the horse’s thoughts all those years ago: “He was just trying to tell me, ‘Let me do it and I’ll make you proud.’ He knew what to do and look how successful the horse was. I’m so proud of him.”

NOTES: My Boy Tate’s dam Backslash is at Rockridge after recently foaling an Into Mischief filly . . . Nevin is training a 2-year-old half-sister to My Boy Tate by Congrats . . . My Boy Tate is the third-leading earner in Nevin’s training career, behind millionaires By The Moon and Paulassilverlining.

My Boy Tate wins the Hudson Stakes in his 20th appearance at Aqueduct on Empire Showcase Day. NYRA Photo.

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