Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘It’s Everything I Ever Wanted’

Growing up with an eye on each of her parents galloping racehorses at Finger Lakes in upstate New York, Elizabeth Dobles learned quite a bit about the value of hard work. Still, she found herself surprised last Saturday when War Story, making his first start under her care, came flying home to win the G3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes by 1 ½ lengths at Gulfstream Park.

“It’s exciting. Like every other race I win, it’s a pleasure,” said Dobles, demurely acknowledging the milestone of her first graded stakes victory. “He’s a hard-knocking horse.”

The surprise wasn’t so much that the 7-year-old Northern Afleet gelding had enough talent to beat the assembled field, but rather that War Story was able to do so despite showing a completely different side of himself during morning training hours.

“When he first came to me in October, I knew he was a good horse,” Dobles explained. “He really didn’t impress me in the mornings, though. His breezes were slow, and he’d always breezed fast for his previous trainers; it was a bit of a concern for me, and for the owners, but he kept getting better.

“Now, looking back at it, he’s an older horse and he just knows what he’s doing. He goes out there and does his job in the morning, but he knows the difference in the afternoon.”

The Harlan’s Holiday was the 38th career start for War Story and marked his eighth victory. With earnings nearing $3 million, the one-time Kentucky Derby contender seems to be getting better as he matures.

“He’s just a really easy horse to be around,” Dobles said. “Of course, it’s every little girl’s dream to be around horses all day, every day.”

The dream has evolved a bit since her childhood, however. Dobles set her heart on becoming a jockey as soon as she received her first pony at 13 years old, a little Quarter Horse. She graduated to an off-track Thoroughbred about six months later.

“I pretty much learned on him how to ride,” she said.

While both of her parents were exercise riders, her father also worked a full-time job at a factory to ensure that his daughter kept a regular school routine year-round. When the Finger Lakes season ended each winter, the Dobles family stayed up north.

She missed the excitement of the track during those long, cold winters. By age 16 Dobles had gotten her license to gallop, spending weekends and holiday breaks working for trainer Chris Englehart at Finger Lakes. After graduation, she moved on to working for Englehart’s son, Jeremiah, on the NYRA circuit of Belmont, Aqueduct, and Saratoga.

“Jeremiah was always putting me on the nice horses,” Dobles said. “I realized I wouldn’t be able to keep the weight down and stay healthy, but I started to get more interested in training and became his assistant.”

Dobles wound up working for Jeremiah Englehart for six years, garnering the opportunity to travel as far as Hong Kong with millionaire King Kreesa. She also experienced the ultimate thrill of a Breeders’ Cup victory in 2013, when Ria Antonia took the Juvenile Fillies via disqualification.

When she wintered in Florida, however, Dobles knew she’d found her new home. She decided to stay year-round and started a family; her son Austin, now four years old, enjoys riding his miniature pony Bartolito around his mother’s shed row at Palm Meadows.

“It’s like paradise after those New York winters,” she joked, laughing.

Ria Antonia, owned in part by Ron Paolucci, became Dobles’ introduction to owner John Guarnere. Guarnere’s Imaginary Stables partnered with Paolucci on the ownership of several horses, and when Dobles stepped out to start her own stable in mid-2016, Guarnere was one of the first to support her.

Imaginary Stables was the owner of Dobles’ first winner, Looks Good, in October of 2016. Their first big success together came when Guarnere claimed Arty’sbourbongirl for $6,250 in January of 2017, turning the mare over to Dobles. She came back two months later to win an allowance/$25,000 optional claimer and made over $72,000 that year.

“I wish I had been more prepared when I started training,” Dobles admitted. “I had no idea how to read a condition book, so I’d put horses in the wrong spots and then wonder why they lost. I learned from my mistakes, though, and now we’re really turning the corner.”

Dobles’ first stakes winner came in late 2018 with Guarnere’s Vow to Recover in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Gulfstream Park West, and the young trainer who gallops most of her own horses has improved her earnings each year. Her barn at Palm Meadows now holds 30 horses, including the classy War Story.

Prior to War Story’s victory, plans called for the gelding to target a listed stakes race at Tampa in March 2020 and then the G2 Charles Town Classic in April, a race in which he has hit the board for three consecutive years. Immediately after the gelding’s Harlan’s Holiday win, however, Guarnere started thinking about the Pegasus World Cup.

A few days later came the Stronach Group’s bombshell announcement. The Pegasus’ purse decrease wasn’t such a huge deal, but the removal of Lasix on race day might prove an insurmountable task for War Story.

The gelding had to miss the 2015 Belmont Stakes due to an episode of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, and he has always raced on Lasix.

“The owners want to do what’s best for the horse, as do I, and racing without Lasix would be really hard on him,” said Dobles.

With her horse-first mantra and a full-time job as a mother to occupy her time, Dobles still heavily relies on the lessons she learned during her days at Finger Lakes.

“You know, nothing’s given to you up there,” she said. “The people that don’t work hard don’t get the benefits, while those who put in the overtime and the extra hours, it pays off in the end. I’m glad I learned that kind of work ethic. These days, if I’m not working in the barn, I’m working at home with Austin or cleaning up after him. I can’t complain, though. It’s everything I ever wanted.”

The post Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘It’s Everything I Ever Wanted’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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