LAUREL, Md. (Mar. 15, 2017) — In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person who compassionately refrains from entering nirvana in order to save others. It also is the title of a Steely Dan song from the 1970s.
Confusing? Well, so is Bodhisattva, the horse. Jose Corrales has trained Bodhisattva for three years but is still trying to get a handle on him.
“He is a complicated horse,” Corrales said. “He can fool you.”
The California-bred has run some amazing races. He also has turned in some clunkers. On Saturday, he will be one of the top choices in the $75,000 Harrison Johnson Memorial at Laurel Park.
Another California-bred entered is I Came to Party, by Bold Chieftain, bred by Ellen Jackson, Kevin Nish and Kim Nish, owned by Ronald Clark and trained by G Brooks.
If you are watching the race on TV, don’t expect to see Bodhisattva until the far turn of the 1 1/8-mile race. He comes from the clouds.
“I think I know what he needs now,” said Corrales, who rode more than 1,000 winners between 1981 and 1993. “I wish I could ride him myself.”
In 2014, Corrales asked his friend and client, Andy Stronach, if he would sell him Bodhisattva, who was then 2. Instead, Stronach gave him the horse.
Bodhisattva went on at 3 to win the Federico Tesio Stakes on the lead at Pimlico. Corrales thought long and hard, gritted his teeth, and ran him back in the Preakness, where he finished last of eight behind American Pharoah over a sloppy track after a deluge hit the track while the horses were being saddled.
“The Preakness was very disappointing to me,” Corrales said. “It was one of his worst races, and I don’t like running horses just to run. It doesn’t do the horse or me any good.”
Later that year, Corrales sent Bodhisattva to Northlands Park in Alberta, Canada, for two races. After a break, he resurfaced in Southern California with trainer Doug O’Neill and ran three times. Bodhisattva failed to finish better than fourth in any of those races.
“Doug is a friend of mine, and I sent him the horse because he is California-bred,” Corrales said. “He did everything right with this horse, and he taught me a little bit more about him.”
Bodhisattva returned to Corrales last May and won his next two starts, a third-level optional claimer at Pimlico and the Carl Hanford Stakes at Delaware Park. He rallied from about 12 lengths behind in both races under jockey Taylor Hole.
“When I got him back, I started training him my way, and he began working good,” Corrales said. “I told Taylor, ‘Whatever you do, I don’t want you any closer than five lengths to the next-to-last horse. I am the owner, and there will be no complaining, just take him back.’ He did, and the horse won. He ran an amazing race at Delaware.”
But then – for a variety of reasons, according to Corrales – Bodhisattva went off form again and did not run well in six straight starts. He regained his footing in the 1 1/16-mile Native Dancer at Laurel in January, closing from almost 25 lengths back to finish second to Page McKenney.
In his most recent race, Bodhisattva lagged more than 15 lengths off the pace before unleashing a strong move on the far turn in the 1 1/8-mile John B. Campbell Stakes on Barbara Fritchie Day. He took the lead in upper stretch and pulled away to defeat Page McKenney by 3 3/4 lengths.
Carlos Quinones, who resumed riding in the United States in January after a long hiatus, was aboard in both races.
“I told him to take him back and then go to the outside,” Corrales said. “This horse has problems going inside. He chickens out.”
Now 5, Bodhisattva has won six races from 28 starts, earned $323,000, and is rounding into the best form of his career. If things go well Saturday, Corrales would like to send him to the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic on April 22.
“I think he will be his best this year and next year,” Corrales said. “This horse is like a kid to me. It took my daughter a long time to find herself, but now she is a teacher and is very good at it. It is the same thing with this horse.”