Friday, May 27, 2022

Local horse owner prepping for Kentucky Derby

For Clint Cornett, nothing is a sure thing. Well, except for maybe his lightning-fast horse White Abarrio.

That’s what the longtime Flower Mound resident is hoping now that White Abarrio has all but guaranteed himself a spot in the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7. The 3-year-old colt is currently No. 6 on the leaderboard with 15 prep races left. The Top 20 horses qualify to be in the starting gates at the Derby.

“All signs point that way, but you don’t want to be over confident and have that belief in your head until you’re actually there,” Cornett said with a laugh. “White Abarrio is our first Kentucky Derby contender, and it’s absolutely exciting. You just have to keep your emotions in check.”

He added, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for sure.”

At this point, the only thing that could keep White Abarrio out of the Kentucky Derby would be a health-related issue or somehow not accumulating enough points in his final Kentucky Derby prep race. In terms of the latter, that would mean he’d have to drop 15 spots to fall out of contention. That seems highly unlikely.

White Abarrio has had four starts thus far with three wins and one show to go with $240,850 in winning purses. He finished third at the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on November 27, then won the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park in Florida on February 5. At press time, he was slated to compete in the Curlin Florida Derby (G1) on April 2.

“He’s an athletic horse. He’s very light on his feet. He’s a beautiful-moving horse. It carries over to race day, which is the main test. He saddles very professionally — cool, calm,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said in a February 6 feature article by bloodhorse.com. “When he gallops, he can get a little keen in the morning, but when you work him in company, he’ll relax. It’s a good attribute to have—to have speed but the ability to rate.”

Cornett and his brother, Mark, of Naples, Florida, know a thing or two about horses. As far back as the late 1980s, when they were in high school, the duo would frequently drive from their home in Carrollton to Shreveport to watch horse races at Louisiana Downs.

Mark has gone on to build a nearly 30-year career as an owner, racing manager, and bloodstock agent. That stretch includes purchasing horses Blind Luck and Dubai Majesty, both of which were voted Champions and Eclipse Award winners in 2010 for their respective divisions.

Clint spent five years between 2000 and 2005 as a partner with his brother for Turf Express, Inc. He scaled back to focus on family and his growing software company but eventually created C2 Racing Stable last year. Once again, he went into business with Mark, and as Clint said, they hope to have hit the jackpot with White Abarrio.

“I called Mark last year and said I wanted to jump back in [to the horse game], and I remember telling him, ‘Find me a horse that can take us to the Kentucky Derby,’” Clint said. He currently runs the day-to-day operations at C2, while Mark is the racing and bloodstock manager. “He’s had great luck with that over the years. He happened to be at the track and saw White Abarrio run his first race and break his maiden, so we called the owner and purchased him privately in 2021.”

He added, “We knew from the beginning that [White Abarrio] was a professional and quality thoroughbred.”

The Kentucky Derby is the longest running sporting event in the United States, dating back to 1875, according to kentuckyderby.com. The race is often referred to as “the run for the roses” and has continuously produced “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” the approximate length of time it takes the winner to run the 1¼ mile from the starting gate to the finish line.

The Kentucky Derby is the first race within the Triple Crown, followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Only three-year-old thoroughbreds can qualify for the races.

Having had past success in horse racing, a Kentucky Derby berth would be the pinnacle and a day of firsts for a horse-loving family like the Cornetts.

“I’d say there’s a 90% chance he makes it,” Clint said. “The odds are incredibly in his favor right now.”

To learn more about C2 Racing Stable and White Abarrio’s journey to the Kentucky Derby, visit c2racingstable.com and follow them on Twitter at @c2racingstable.

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