Paul Nolan used to have a pair of lucky shorts. He also has a ritual he goes through when he gets to the jockey's room each night, which he claims some might consider to be superstitious.
But for his money, nothing works better than winning a big race to put you right back into the game.
Following his Manitoba Lotteries Derby win aboard Balooga Bull, Aug. 6 at Assiniboia Downs, Nolan said he hoped he had snapped a "dry spell."
Well something has sure changed, because with only 18 days of racing left this season, Nolan, with 51 trips to the winners' circle, is back in the jockey race, right in the middle between Rohan Singh, who leads with 54, and apprentice Jennifer Reid with 48.
Since his Derby win, Nolan has been on fire, as witnessed last weekend with five wins, including four on Saturday. On Wednesday, he had a pair of wins aboard Lets Rocket and Seven Tuff. Singh picked up a win on Stormin Along and Reid rode Giveyourheadashake and Spring Soup to victories.
The trio are back at it again this weekend. Tonight Reid and Singh are featured in seven races and Nolan in six. Saturday, all three have eight rides, including mounts in the $50,000 one-mile Agassiz Stakes for Manitoba-bred three-year-olds and up.
"They (the lucky shorts) were kind of shredded so my wife told me to get rid of them, 'because they're nasty'," Nolan said Thursday. "They didn't make any difference anyway, things just kept going the same way. Besides, I have two black cats at home, so if I was superstitious I'd really be screwed."
Lucky charms or not, Nolan says it all comes down to what you do in the saddle that counts, and he hopes to take that philosophy all the way to the bank on Aug. 25 in Edmonton. That is, if trainer Ardell Sayler and owner Paul Brandt decide to enter Balooga Bull in the $200,000 mile-and-three-eighths Canadian Derby at Northlands Park.
"We nominated him and now we'll look at the field, decide how the horse is doing and then we'll determine if we're going to go," said Sayler, who has some concerns. "The horse is training really well right now, but he is a funny eater. Also, I don't like shipping 15 hours, rest one day, gallop the next and then race. Shipping takes a lot out of a horse, so if we do go, I want to make sure everything is right."
Still, Sayler and Nolan are busy preparing the 7-1 super horse for the biggest race of his life. "You can be superstitious all you want but when the gates open everything changes," said Nolan, emphasizing the need to be mentally prepared every race. "I mean things just happen where you are left in a position where you can win it. You have to go into every race with the mindset that you are going to win."
A win in Edmonton would mean a much-desired trip back to his home in Rugeley, England, at the end of the season. "So if you see me win that derby then you know the plane ticket is paid for."
Nolan says Balooga Bull is, "probably the happiest I have ever seen him. He is enjoying his training now. When I let him do what he wanted to do (in the Derby) he was happy again and having fun. His whole attitude has changed. His eyes sparkle, and it's like he knows what he did."
Sayler, however, is also concerned about the distance. "We'd be going two furlongs further than the horse has ever gone, and it takes a special horse to go a mile-and-three-eighths. His pedigree shows he can go a mile-and-a-quarter, but a mile-and-three-eighths is two furlongs more.
"We're going to do what's best for the horse, not for the dream. "We'll get prepared for it right now, and just see how the horse is."
Post time tonight and Saturday is 7 p.m.