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From a Whim to Kentucky Derby Hopeful

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Dean Reeves has an eye for measuring talent and he ties it back to his days as a basketball player. "You see a kid walk in the gym and suddenly he has moves, his step, his shot, and the way he handles himself on the floor, you know this kid is going to be a player." 

When his hometown Atlanta Hawks traded Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks for the rights to Trae Young during the 2018 NBA draft, he went "on the record" that trading Luka away could be a mistake. Although Trae has become an All-Star, Doncic is on his way to becoming the face of the league. 

So far, so good on that call. 

Long before sharing his basketball insights, Reeves made another call that changed the course of his life. It was 2010, a year after Reeves and his wife Patti formed Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. He was doing something he had probably done hundreds if not thousands of times before, watching horse racing replays. 

Reeves Racing Silks

Trainer Tim Ritvo suggested Dean look at a replay of a Calder Maiden Special Weight race, focusing on the winner, GOURMET DINNER. But it wasn't GOURMET DINNER that caught the eye of Reeves. He called Ritvo and told him, "Call me crazy, but I like the second-place horse." In his debut, MUCHO MACHO MAN took the lead out of the gate and grudgingly gave it up to GOURMET DINNER in the final strides. 

Ten-months later, Reeves found himself where his love for horse racing began, Churchill Downs. The first trip to the fabled track was during his undergrad days at Georgia Tech. At the last minute, he and a couple of bartending buddies decided to head to Louisville for the 1976 Kentucky Derby. They drove through the night and spent the next day in the infield, "never even saw a horse race, but had a good time."He in no way dreamed that he would be there with a horse. "I always wondered how you got a horse in there, what that's like, something you would dream about. As things turned out, I got a horse in there with MUCHO MACHO MAN." 

And there Reeves was, back at Churchill, watching his horse MUCHO MACHO MAN from the third floor. Maybe he should have watched from the first floor as MUCHO MACHO MAN finished third that day, behind NEHRO and 2011 Kentucky Derby Champion, ANIMAL KINGDOM. 

A date with the Derby is almost becoming routine for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. They felt that excitement again with TAX in 2019 and in this year's delayed Debry with SOLE VOLANTE. They hope their green and gold diamond silks will be on display in the 2021 Kentucky Derby as well. Reeves plans on Triple Crown nominating two of his horses. 

Horseplayers, keep your eyes on ISOLATE and DR. SCHIVEL during the road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby. 

ISOLATE has hit the track twice, winning his debut and then following it up with a much-improved Allowance Optional Claiming score, both at Gulfstream Park. Reeves is kicking around the idea of entering ISOLATE into the Breeders' Cup or some other stakes races in November. (Aside from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill is the only other Derby qualifier in November.)  Reeves says we'll know for sure in the next couple of weeks. 

DR. SCHIVEL is Reeves' other Derby contender. The son of VIOLENCE has raced four times, hitting the board in each with two wins, a second, and third. He won the Grade I, Del Mar Futurity in his last effort and is getting some time off now. Prior to the Del Mar Futurity, the ownership group discussed their plan for DR. SCHIVEL. "If things were just perfect, we'd win this race [Del Mar Futurity], win a Grade I, and we want to give this horse some time off." After running a tough schedule for a two-year-old, the Derby hopeful "just needed a break." 

The plan went perfectly and DR. SCHIVEL is in the barn, getting some much-needed rest. He is expected to start training in late December/early January. Expect to see DR. SCHIVEL get on the Derby Trail sometime in February.  (The Robert B. Lewis Stakes on February 1st at Santa Anita?) 

Dean Reeves says of his personal road to the roses, "Only in America, and only in horse racing, can anybody reach that excitement and pinnacle to have a horse in the Derby. It can be done by anybody," Maybe next year, Reeves' eye for talent will punctuate his journey from a whim with a few bartender buddies to winning and wearing the Kentucky Derby crown.

You can follow Reeves' strong barn of thoroughbred horses at Reeves Thoroughbred Racing

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