Churchill Maiden Winner You Ain't Poppn Gritty Since Birth

You Ain't Poppn | Coady


When You Ain't Poppn (Bolt d'Oro) fought his way to a first-out victory at Churchill Downs Saturday night, it was no surprise to longtime Mulholland Springs farm manager Jesus Pinales, who had already witnessed the colt overcome much more than his 4-1 debut odds. Bred by Carlos Rafael and out of Eyepopnruby (Take Me Out), the 3-year-old was born at Mulholland Springs, but what started as a normal foaling on the evening of Apr. 5, 2020 soon took a dramatic turn.

“I called Martha Jane and John Henry [Mulholland] and told them we had a foaling,” Pinales recalled. “We all showed up at the barn and I went through the same protocol that we do with all of them–check front feet, head, everything normal. But by the time the baby was a quarter out, his shoulders come out, we started having some real issues with the baby being stuck in the mare. We were on the phone with Carlos Rafael and he started getting nervous. We had to hang up with him and start to do our job.”

Pinales spent the next 10 minutes trying to make sure the foal had enough oxygen while attempting to extricate him from the mare.

“We were ready to go to the hospital, but it's hard to pick up a mare on the ground with the baby half inside and out, so we had to do the job here [at the farm] before we brought the foal to the hospital,” Pinales said. “So I had a few other options–use my tricks–I think everybody on different kind of farms have their own tricks. Finally we got the baby out. By that time, I can tell you that he was maybe 90% dead, basically. Martha asked me what I thought. And I said, 'He's going to live, he's going to live.' And in the end, another 10 minutes, you can see this baby open his eyes. It was unbelievable. He opened his eyes and finally took a deep breath. Five minutes later, with the oxygen and everything, that baby was like nothing had happened. He was normal.”

Once the colt was out of danger, Pinales admitted, “I was tired. Everybody was tired. We see one or two or three cases a year like that when you foal 70 mares. That wasn't normal that this baby stayed for so long in the mare. But when he opened his eyes, it was the best thing to happen to me in my life since I've been foaling mares for 10 years. It's a really nice feeling.”

The colt spent his first week in the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.

“When he came out of the hospital, he was another horse,” Pinales said. “Typically when babies take this long to wake up, sometimes the lungs are affected. You never know. He was completely 100% normal, like nothing had happened. That's when I told Carlos and Martha Jane that we had a chance with this baby to go to the sales. Because he was a beautiful foal.”

You Ain't Poppn spent the next four months at Mulholland Springs before shipping back to Rafael's farm. He eventually made it to upstate New York where he sold for $200,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, but he was always on Pinales's radar.

“I have him on my phone like the rest of our babies,” Pinales said. “I like to see the first start, I try to see all of them, but it's a lot. So it popped up on my phone and I was watching the race.”

You Ain't Poppn broke alertly in his six-furlong debut Saturday and sat just off the early pace while under a strong hold. He pulled his way into contention with a three-wide move into the lane and drove to the lead in the shadow of the wire (video).

“To be honest, I don't bet because I don't like to bet money,” Pinales said. “But in the end, I was so proud and so happy. There were a lot of feelings when you see a horse that almost died as a baby and he comes and wins his first race.”

Of the fight the colt showed in the closing strides Saturday, Pinales said, “I think that's the heart that the horse has. It's part of all of this. I hope he can win more races and I would like to see him in the future in a stakes race.”

Pinales, meanwhile, has a storybook story of his own. He arrived in Kentucky from his native Mexico as a 16-year-old and found himself at Mulholland Springs.

“I had zero experience with horses when I came here,” Pinales said with a laugh. “I didn't know how to put a chain on a horse. But [the breeding industry] was where the job was, especially in Lexington, it's the most popular place to find a job. John and Martha gave me a chance. And I am going to be appreciative all the time.”

Pinales is celebrating 19 years working at Mulholland Springs, the last 10 as farm manager.

Asked if his 16-year-old self had ever thought he would be manager of the farm, Pinales said, “Never. It was difficult, back in the day when I saw Martha Jane and John Henry running the farm, I thought it looked so difficult. I told them I don't know how you guys do this. And now, after learning from them, it's not an easy job, but knowing they trusted me, I knew I had to learn quickly. Now we have a good team here. I have a good relationship with Martha and John Henry. He's like my brother and she's like my mom.”

After watching You Ain't Poppn win Saturday, Pinales did admit to having one small regret.

“Carlos and all of the guys here at the farm named the foal Jesus,” Pinales said laughingly. “And I told Carlos, 'Please tell the new owner to name him like me.' He said, 'Well, I am going to try.'”

The colt may not be named after the man who saved his life as a foal, but he is still doing Pinales proud.

“I was so proud to see a horse with this beginning go and win some races,” he said.

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