October 29, 2005
ELMONT, NEW YORK
MERV GRIFFIN: It wasn't a funeral, we won. Come on, wake up, you people. Come here doing.
ERIC WING: We're live down in the interview room with the winning connections of Stevie Wonderboy. You just won the Bessemer Trust Breeder's Cup Juvenile, in the middle of Merv Griffin. To his right, trainer Doug O'Neill. No offense to Doug, the spot light is very much on you right now. Career as a very successful entertainer followed by a immensely successful business man.
MERV GRIFFIN: Which gave me enough money to afford Doug O'Neill and his brother Dennis.
ERIC WING: Where does today's victory rank not in scale of your thoroughbred achievements, but in your life achievement?
MERV GRIFFIN: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. There's a lot of excitement. There's the Emmys all that stuff in television. Then there's fighting with Donald Trump, that's fine. But this is extraordinary. I mean, stand in that winner's circle and be able to shout my own name was a thrill. Doug's done a fabulous job with that horse. That horse, to me, is awesome. I always loved -- my dad used to take me to Big Meadows. I got to see Sea Biscuit twice in the mid-'30s, the guy who owned him lived in our town. I fell in love with Secretariat, and pulling up his pedigree, we got it on the top and on the bottom. Damn that Secretariat. This race not as dramatically as Secretariat did. He likes to run in the back, comes up a little bit on the turn, but when he sees all those acres in front of him, that guy just goes, right, Coach?
DOUG O'NEILL: I agree. It just for me just to be involved with such a successful businessman as Merv Griffin is just incredible, and to have a special horse like Stevie Wonderboy, for him, doesn't get much better than that.
MERV GRIFFIN: We've had a number. We thought we were on the path last year, with Skipaslew. He won a lot of stuff. Colic set in. Then Cee's Irish who won a lot of money for us, she's brooding now.
DOUG O'NEILL: Neither one of those are Stevie Wonderboy.
MERV GRIFFIN: No, they're not Stevie Wonderboy, as you described him. He has a five-year-old body and five-year-old brain. He just knows what to do. And calm about everything and he just takes his time and one of the papers, it was the Racing Form, had a quote in there and said in the Juvenile at Del Mar, when he had the big win, he kind went around the thing and passed everybody and the jockey, Garrett Gomez stifled a yawn and he won. I can't see Garrett stifle anything, but he's the best, that guy. Wow, you what a rider.
ERIC WING: Before you moved out to California, you had a long successful run with your program in New York. In this new incarceration of the Merv Griffin Show, are you looking forward to taking the show on location to Louisville?
MERV GRIFFIN: To Louisville, isn't that fun. That's right in front us right? May 6. Sunshine Bright On My Old Kentucky Home. I got it all down. No, I'm not thinking of that. Oh, yeah. Gosh, don't read anything into that. I'm waiting for advice from my great trainer to tell me now are you going to take another 52 days' rest or wait for the Derby? Where we going? What are we going to do?
DOUG O'NEILL: I think we're going to savor this and talk with --
MERV GRIFFIN: I got so nervous, I couldn't look. What did he win by? Were any of you there?
DOUG O'NEILL: I know he needed every bit of the stretch, I was please stretch going in.
MERV GRIFFIN: That guy likes to run long.
DOUG O'NEILL: He's incredible. Merv's got a tremendous farm manager Don Rhodes and Merv's main assistant at his business, Ronnie Ward.
MERV GRIFFIN: Ronnie Ward, who put it all together.
DOUG O'NEILL: It's been a great group effort and there's a lot of conference calls, and I got a feeling come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, something like that. We're going to have a conference call and figure out what exactly to do.
MERV GRIFFIN: Yeah, as long as we don't meet. I like those conference calls. Can't see each other's faces.
ERIC WING: Garrett is not with us. He's riding in the fillie at Mayor Turf. Did the race unfold pretty much the way you and Garrett had anticipated?
DOUG O'NEILL: I think so. I haven't seen a replay yet. I know Garrett commented on the backside. There was an incident where he stumbled.
MERV GRIFFIN: Huh?
DOUG O'NEILL: I don't remember seeing that, watching it live. I think post 12 really helped, you know. If he would have been on the inside and had an incident like that, it might have got shuffled back too far. I think it unfolded exactly how we all hoped, except for the stumble that we haven't really seen.
MERV GRIFFIN: We looked at his legs.
DOUG O'NEILL: He looked fantastic. That's the beauty of this horse, too. He recovers so well. To me, in the winner's circle, he didn't even look tired.
MERV GRIFFIN: I called Doug after. I said, what's he doing? How's he coming down. Doug said, he's eating hay.
DOUG O'NEILL: Very mature for a horse with little experience.
MERV GRIFFIN: Yeah. Yeah.
ERIC WING: Merv already touched upon the 52-day layoff since Del Mar. There was a period between a month between that race and his next workout. Could you talk about the inactivity and how it shook out and resulted in a win today?
DOUG O'NEILL: He's such a big force horse for a two-year-old. We haven't drilled on him real hard and my main thinking as a trainer is, I'm not a big workout guy, so even though he didn't show official workouts, he was galloping a good mile and a half every day. He was maintaining his normal fitness, so, you know, if the Norfolk at Santa Anita would have been one turn, I think Merv and I would agree, we would have ran there. The fact it was two turns, we weren't real crazy about possibly dulling his speed and coming back to one turn.
ERIC WING: Question in the press box. The name of the groom for Stevie Wonderboy?
DOUG O'NEILL: Noe Garcia. N-o-e, Garcia.
ERIC WING: And Merv, speaking of Stevie Wonderboy named obviously for Stevie Wonder, who I understand made his first ever television appearance --
MERV GRIFFIN: I don't know if he made his first. He was 17 years old when he came on the show and I didn't realize that until I saw the great Motown special where they saluted him. That was the one that brought Michael Jackson to fame. And I'm watching the show and suddenly there he is on my show in a clip singing the song. I said, wow, he did start with me. I'm a great admirer of him. The genesis of the whole thing is that I like to name my horses, as Doug well knows, with some kind of a sire the dam's name included so, I know who they are, and the breeding right away. And when I saw Steven gotten, you know, I didn't want to do anything with Heat Lightening. It was a great dam. I guess her price will go up now. I guess everybody's price will go up now. That's to Lane's End for the whole back cover of the thoroughbred --
DOUG O'NEILL: Yeah, yeah.
MERV GRIFFIN: Anyway I thought, gee, Stevie, Stevie that's nice. Stevie Wonder, Stevie Wonderboy, took about five minutes. It was like when I sat down and wrote, da dee da, da dee da, da, da, da, that took four minutes. Still on the air.
ERIC WING: Questions from either upstairs in the press box or down here for Merv Griffin, or Doug O'Neill? I'll repeat everything so the folks upstairs can hear.
Q. Merv, how did you first get associated with Doug and just how did you guys get together?
ERIC WING: How did you first get associated with Doug?
MERV GRIFFIN: I saw an interview with Doug on TV. I thought I was in the process of changing trainers at the time and everything about him seemed right, and the way he talked about horses and his love for them, you know, the worry more than the race even of how they come down. That's a positive sign. I thought, gee, and you know, the O'Neill part didn't hurt either. I lived part of the time in Ireland and thought, whoa, that's the guy for us. We called him and got together and met and, my Lord, how many times, 18 times in the winner circle, you had me. A thousand horses.
DOUG O'NEILL: It really has. I think for any trainer out there you get someone like Merv Griffin calling you to train horses. You lose your breath, with just being involved with somebody as successful as Merv, and again, I like to think, you know, I've been a good addition to again Ronnie and Don and Merv and selecting horses, and Merv's very involved and loves the whole strategizing of, you know, how we going to get this horse ready for that particular race, and I think we worked good together so far.
MERV GRIFFIN: I've been in a lot of breeds of horses, I was once one of those.
DOUG O'NEILL: Arabians.
MERV GRIFFIN: I was buying Polish mares for $160,000. As I said in the Racing Forum, one day, I woke up and the horse was worth $12. Better get out of that business. And then I think it was really Burt Bacharach who got me into horse racing. We've been friends all those years. I see Jane is here, Burt's playing in Buffalo. He really got me interested in the horses. He used to drag me to all his races. I thought, boy, this looks more like fun money coming in, not going out. That's it.
ERIC WING: Anything else for -- yes, in the back.
Q. Is there any way to compare the feeling when the horse crosses the wire first to the feeling of when they call your name winning an Emmy award?
DOUG O'NEILL: For me or for Merv? You've got enough Emmy's.
MERV GRIFFIN: It's very strange. I don't remember them crossing the line. By that time, my heart is in my throat and I think I almost look away. I think I did that today. I don't remember him crossing. I heard my son Tony and Trish and all the team Larry Cohen, all screaming behind me. I thought, gee, we must have done it. I don't remember any horse ever crossing the finish line.
DOUG O'NEILL: He did, Merv, he did.
MERV GRIFFIN: Are you sure? This isn't one of your funny setups, is it? It's very strange.
ERIC WING: What's your plans now, rest him for the winter?
MERV GRIFFIN: Give him 52 days off.
DOUG O'NEILL: I think that will be part of the conference call earlier in the week, once everything calms down, and figure out what to do between now and the first Saturday in May, if we get that lucky.
ERIC WING: Up till now what's been your most satisfying movement in horse racing?
MERV GRIFFIN: I thought we really had it with Skipaslew, two years ago when he won the two big races in San Francisco almost one on top of the other. He was winning everywhere. Funny little quirky horse. I couldn't look at him when he came around. He looked like he was eating the dirt. I said what's the matter of that horse? All these people bet on him. They're looking at him funny when he put his head up. When our French rider left us and went to Hong Kong would mount him, boy, that little horse became big. We had a wonderful time with Cee's Irish. She made close to half a million dollars for us. She was fun to watch.
DOUG O'NEILL: Merv, you got that menage --
MERV GRIFFIN: We have a fillie.
DOUG O'NEILL: -- Gary Stevens.
MERV GRIFFIN: She really looked like she was on her way. Gary Stevens said, Merv, this is the most comfortable ride on a fillie since winning colors. He said what a monster of a horse. She had a little leg problem. She's at the Merv Griffin ranch in Lexington. She's already given us a beautiful fillie by incest. She's a monster.
ERIC WING: You were kind enough to come to the Eclipse Awards in Beverly Hills last year as a presenter. Looks like we might be needing your presence, quite possibly, again this coming January, though not to present.
MERV GRIFFIN: I'd love to do it. I'll bring the trophy with me so you don't have to present anything.
ERIC WING: Doug O'Neill, Merv Griffin, congratulations. Terrific job with Stevie Wonderboy and continued success to both of you.
MERV GRIFFIN: Thank you.
DOUG O'NEILL: Thank you.
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