Magic Weisner a stay-at-home until now
NEW YORK -- Trainers and their horses regularly travel the 200 miles between Baltimore and New York. Nancy Alberts never bothered -- until now.
The Maryland-based trainer had to apply for a New York license so she can saddle Magic Weisner in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, her first trip to New York on racing business.
Alberts represents the little people of racing, the ones who get up before dawn to muck out stalls and work out their horses for peanuts in purses. She bred, owns and trains Magic Weisner, who finished second in the Preakness as a 45-1 shot, closing fast on War Emblem, who seeks to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
"She needs to enjoy it because it's fun,'' said Bob Baffert, War Emblem's trainer. "Before you know it's gone, it's over. So you have to enjoy the moment because you'll never know when you'll get the chance again. Go to New York and have a good time and take it all in.''
Enjoy it, yes. But it's also about the money.
The second-place finish in the Preakness was worth $200,000 and brought in offers of more than $1 million for Magic Weisner; a good run in the Belmont might bring in more. That's huge for a gelding who has no value for breeding.
"I'm not against money,'' Alberts said. "But I'm thinking of keeping him. We'll see.''
Alberts, 56, spent 30 years working out horses and working as an assistant trainer and exercise rider in Maryland and Delaware, never thinking of the big time. She's had bumps, bruises and broken bones, and nearly died when a horse she was working with kicked her in the spleen, leaving her in constant pain.
And she's still recovering from an arm broken when a horse lay down in a stall, pinning her against the wall.
But Magic Weisner has helped changed things. He has won five times, has been in the money nine times in 11 starts and has career earnings of $433,110.
He is the second son of Jazmeena, a daughter of 1976 Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes. Alberts discovered filly limping around a field while other 2-year-olds romped freely. She fell in love with the horse and convinced owner Ahmed Foustok to sell him to her for $1. Jazmeena ended up with 14 career wins.
Alberts' way to the Belmont is being eased by those more familiar with the spotlight.
Jockey Richard Migliore, who replaced Phil Teator for the Preakness, is helping her with the paperwork along with his agent, Drew Mollica. She's happy to have Migliore, who has ridden in New York for 20 years.
"They've been wonderful,'' she said. "They've been calling and asking if I need to do anything. And I think the best thing I have going is Richard rides up there all the time. So he knows the racetrack.''
Migliore may do a little more in a race that's 5/16 of a mile longer than the Preakness.
"We were closing very well,'' Migliore said of the ride in the Preakness. "Maybe just a couple of jumps off.''
A longer race adds up to a few more jumps on front-running War Emblem.
"I need a fairy tale after the suffering I've been through,'' Alberts said before the Preakness.
That was one. A Belmont win would be even better.