One Rule for Three Rules: Always Be Happy
By Laura Pugh
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) is looking as good as it ever has with a talented group of undefeated grade 1 winners, such as Frontrunner Stakes (GI) hero Gormley and Champagne Stakes (GI) victor Practical Joke. Throw in Breeders’ Futurity (GI) winner Classic Empire, who would be unbeaten as well if not for losing his rider at the start of the Hopeful Stakes (GI), and you have a very promising field of juveniles.
But what if none of these three come away victorious in just under two weeks? What if all three are upset by an undefeated Florida-bred by the name of Three Rules?
Three Rules, owned and bred by Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, has won his first five starts by a combined total of 31 ½ lengths, including dominating wins the three-race Florida Stallion Series. Now, he is looking to step out of the comfy confines of his state bred races, into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“I knew he was special from the moment he was born,” Bert Pilcher, Shade Tree Thoroughbreds owner, said. “He stood up and started nursing within five minutes, and after he was finished he began to play.
“When he got tired, he’d go over to the mare and nurse again and start bucking and playing, like he just drank some Red Bull.”
According to Pilcher and trainer Jose Pinchin, another asset that Three Rules possesses is his intelligence.
“He is very, very smart,” Pinchin said. “You have some horses with talent that just stupid, but this horse is talented and smart. He does everything so easy. He never over-extends, he just always takes care of himself. He’s just a very smart horse.
Pilcher says that the colt loves to play catch with people walking by his stall with a ball Pinchin gave him to keep from getting bored.
“He’ll take the ball and toss it to someone outside his stall,” Pilcher said. They’ll put it back in, only to have him toss it back out. He just loves for people to play with him.”
Another thing that Three Rules loves is his food. Some horses have particular tastes, showing a specific love for carrots or peppermints. That is not the case for Three Rules.
“Jose once told me that you could probably put a rock in his feed tub and he’d find a way to eat it,” Pilcher joked.Pilcher also recalled a time on the farm when the colt was first ever breezed.
“He was only going to breeze a quarter, and he did it so easily I would’ve been happy if I had looked down at my watch and seen him go in :25,” Pilcher said. “I hit my watch at the eighth (and) then again at the quarter and again on the gallop out. I had him in :23 for the quarter (and) :36 for the gallop out, but he was going so easy it looked like he went in :25.”
Trainer Pinchin also described the colt’s latest work—a five-furlong bullet in 1:00 flat—in a similar manner.
“It was perfect,” Pinchin said. “He did it so easy. He looks like he’s just cruising around until you look at the time.”
Pinchin said he caught the colt in in :35 4/5 for the first three-eighths, which would have bested even the bullet 36 1/5 recorded at that distance for the day. Despite the impressive fractions, both Pilcher and Pinchen described the work as a “maintenance” breeze.
Three Rules is scheduled to have his final breeze at Gulfstream Park this coming Friday. After that, he will be shipped to Santa Anita, arriving Oct. 31. Pilcher isn’t worried about the change of scenery or track affecting his colt.
“Nothing phases him,” Pilcher said. “The day I weaned him all he wanted to do was play. I put him in a paddock with four or five others, all screaming for their mama’s and he just kept trying to get somebody to play with him.
“I moved him to a new barn one time, because he was a bit of a bully, and it got him kicked, giving him a pretty big hematoma. After dinner, I went to check on him, and he was sound asleep! I couldn’t believe it, sound asleep in a completely new barn after only spending a few hours there.”
Both Pinchin and Pilcher know their colt is in for a test come Nov 5, but they are both ready for it, if not even excited.
“We’ve never seen him run,” said Pilcher. “We would like to see a horse come up to him and make him run, and we know it will happen in the BC. Jose believe that once that happens we are in for something real special.”
And while some might underestimate Three Rules due to the fact that he’s raced exclusively in restricted state-bred company, both Pilcher and Pinchen feel that the son of Gone Astray is ready to step it up.
“I know we are stepping into the lion’s den,” Pilcher said. “But, we felt like with everything he’s done he’s earned the shot. We’re coming (to Santa Anita) to win. He doesn’t know who he’s running against. This horse is the real deal, he’s the whole package. He’s got the mind, the body, he’s got everything.”