It'll Be Time For Truth Come Oaklawn's Rebel

Time for Truth breezes last Sunday at Oaklawn with Greta Kuntzweiler aboard | courtesy of Robert Yates

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When considering the speculative nature of America's financial future, President Harry S. Truman famously exhorted his aides to bring him a one-handed economist.

“All of my economists say 'on the one hand'…, then 'but on the other hand'…,” the plain-talking Missourian from Independence famously quipped.

To put it another way, convictions matter, not the pros and cons. You are either in or you're not. Horse racing, or more specifically preparing for the 150th Kentucky Derby is no different. It's about possessing sterner stuff.

Another Harry Truman, Harry Truman Rosenblum that is, knows this all too well. His father, Dr. Hyman Rosenblum of Little Rock, Arkansas named his son after his close friend 'Give-Em Hell Harry', and the former chief executive served as the boy's godfather.

Harry T. Rosenblum | courtesy of Harry T. Rosenblum

Bitten by the racing bug before he attended Hendrix College, Rosenblum has spent 39 years owning Thoroughbreds. He has dreamed of Derby glory–both the Arkansas and the Kentucky variety–not just for himself, but for what it means for his state.

“I've been in this position before, coming into a big race like the Rebel with a horse and it just conjures so many emotions because of the spirit we have in this state for racing,” he said.

On Saturday, the path to 150 rolls through Oaklawn Park as the Cella's storied track once again will play host to the next leg in their Arkansas series–the GII Rebel S.–a race which offers 50 Derby points to the winner.

A senior investment manager in Little Rock, Rosenblum couldn't be more pleased that his colt Time for Truth (Omaha Beach–Shape Shifter by Lookin At Lucky) has made the Hot Springs starting gate. As a 15-1 morning-line shot, the 3-year-old will face 12 others, including a pair of 'TDN Rising Stars' in Carbone (Mitole) and Timberlake (Into Mischief).

After hearing about the horse's smart :9 4/5 furlong workout during the Under Tack Show at last year's OBS April Sale, Rosenblum purchased the juvenile bred by Dominique Damico as a late April foal through the auction house for $47,000 after the dark bay RNA'd. A minor vet issue didn't deter him, especially when he watched the gallop out from the show.

“I was just very impressed with that performance, the year that Omaha Beach had last year as a first-crop sire contributed of course, and once you see just how intelligent he is, it confirmed early that we had something special going,” Rosenblum said. “So, then it was time to send him to Ron Moquett and his team.”

Naming his new acquisition after a book by American businessman William E. Simon, Rosenblum already knew that the Arkansas-born Moquett, whose stakes victories include a win in the 2020 GI Breeders' Cup Sprint with the irascible, but supremely talented Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect), was the perfect fit.

Team Moquett saddles Time for Truth with cotton in his ears to keep him calm before his debut | Owney Creative

“Ron and I won the Smarty Jones and [GIII] Southwest together and there is no one in the business who I trust more than him to make sound decisions,” he said. “His staff is just first class and everyone takes such great care of whoever you send to them.”

The pair watched as Far Right (Notional) swept the 2015 Smarty and the Southwest, but running into eventual Triple Crown champ American Pharoah in the GI Arkansas Derby was a tough break. Far Right was 15th in the Kentucky Derby.

Flashing forward to this year, a win by Time for Truth in the Rebel would have several levels of meaning for Moquett. As an Arkansas guy, he's immersed in the history and culture of racing in his state. It's never lost on him about what big races mean.

“The history of the Rebel, who has won it and obviously how it propels a horse's career is why we enter,” the conditioner said. “Nice horses belong in the Kentucky Derby and for us here, there is no greater title than the Arkansas Derby, and that is where we are trying to get with Time for Truth.”

Every owner and their trainer have target races. The way you ready your horse for something like the Rebel is to back into it. In other words, you figure out the best path by working in reverse.

But you can't push a position–as horsemen understand it–because plans go awry.

Like Rosenblum explained, “You have to manage risk constantly in this business, horse racing is no different, and preconceived notions can get you into hot water very quickly.”

Once Time for Truth posted an 89 Beyer when he broke his maiden at first asking by 1 3/4 lengths at Oaklawn Dec. 31, it was time for Rosenblum and Moquett to sit down and have a conversation about the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby.

The meeting between the two was one of those junctures where practiced apathy and risk management mixes with aggressive moves. If you are lucky, then you might be able to employ a touch of strategic planning.

Time for Truth with hotwalker Roxanna Lopez | J.N. Campbell

“I prefer the word nimble,” says assistant trainer Chance Moquett, Ron's son, who spent 15 years in the corporate world before returning to be a part of his father's operation. “We grapple with unpredictability all the time here at Oaklawn because it is what we're used to.”

Unlike other tracks whose surfaces benefit from chemicals which help keep them stable, Oaklawn's is devoid of such agents because of the park's rules designation. Thus, the setup, the training, really every aspect around the dirt oval, is constantly subject to change.

Winters especially can wreak havoc on Derby Trail planning and that is precisely what happened with Time for Truth's preparation during the second half of January with a blast of frigid temperatures that sent the thermometers to the basement.

In situations when the weather intervenes, keeping a horse like Time for Truth on the muscle falls to Moquett's crack team of grooms and exercise riders. Jose Espinoza, who has been with Moquett for a dozen years and served as Whitmore's groom, manages the colt's daily care, while Roxanna Lopez hotwalks him every day. Both did countless circuits with him around Barn Whitmore on the backside, as everyone waited for the sun to come out.

By the time it did, the Moquetts were resolved that they had two choices for Rosenblum, who in the interim had sold a 30% stake in the horse to Cheyenne Stables in what he calls “a business decision to help mitigate risk.” After a couple of four furlong sets Jan. 29 and Feb. 3, there was an allowance race that Time for Truth could make or the other option would be the Feb. 10 running of the newly minted Ozark S. The team opted for the latter and though it was a runner-up ending to Valentine Candy (Justify), objectives were met.

“In lieu of a big breeze, that stakes race took on the part,” Chance Moquett said. “I mean it was a muddy track, facing a much more experienced horse like the winner, our colt went off as the favorite and this is what you do when you are backing into a race like the Rebel.”

Time for Truth breaks his maiden at Oaklawn | Coady Photography

A favorite among anyone who has sat on him, Time for Truth's mild-mannered Clark Kent style has impressed Moquett's staff. Exercise rider Greta Kuntzweiler called his way “incredibly unusual,” which coupled nicely with what veteran jockey Rafael Bejarano said, “when you ask him, he responds.”

Chance Moquett added, “Our plan last Sunday was to go 50 flat and that is exactly what Greta did with him. She's just that exact with everything she does, if you need a lick going :50.13, then that's what you get. Now, we are going to find out if this colt can take us where we want to go.”

Being nimble and looking for key moments of progression leads his connections to enter their 3-year-old in the Rebel.

Time for Truth may have never traveled two turns yet, but his Arkansas-based principal owner and trainer certainly think he has what it takes to get them to the Arkansas Derby and beyond.

For Rosenblum, the Moquetts and their stable, there is no indecision and only one course. President Truman would be pleased. So, now it's just time for truth come Saturday.

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