All American: Apocalyptical Now
The Futurity's fastest qualifier represents a long-time commitment.
By Richard Chamberlain | August 25, 2018
If you want to accomplish anything, sticking with it is the way to go. Just ask Bill Robbins, who has spent nearly three decades becoming an overnight success in the horse business.
“Patience is a virtue,” says Robbins, the hi-tech horseman for whom Blane Wood sent out Apocalyptical Jess to be the fastest qualifier to the $3 million All American Futurity (G1) on Labor Day. “When I walked into the winner’s circle after the trial, I shook Blane’s hand and said, ‘Congratulations and thank you,’ and the first thing Blane said to me was, ‘Thanks for having patience with us.’ ”
Breaking his maiden in style on his third trip to post, with champion jockey Ricky Ramirez in the irons, Apocalyptical Jess romped to a :21.349 time while scoring by 3 1/4 lengths on the first day of All American trials. The sorrel gelding by Apollitical Jess finished eighth in his first start, 4 lengths off the pace in the May 25 trials to the Ruidoso Futurity (G1) but improved to finish second by a neck in the July 7 trials to the Rainbow Futurity (G1).
“This was only his third out,” Robbins said. “I went and watched him for the Rainbow trials. Blane had been telling me they think we’ve got a good one, but they have to perform on the track.
“In that Rainbow trial, he just didn’t break well,” Robbins said. “He got pinched and shut off. But he looped around horses to the outside and ended up running second by a neck when, frankly, he should have been beat by 4 or 5 lengths. So I knew at that time that, look, we have a fast horse, is he fast enough to qualify for the All American? I don’t know, but he has a heckuva closing kick.
“In the All American trials, when Ricky got him out of the gate good, it was a good clean race and I could tell he was either on the lead or right at it at the break. So what I was thinking at 350 yards was just please, please show me that extra gear that I know you’ve got. And then he did. He just accelerated away from the rest of the field.”
Bred by Danny Joe Miller of Farmington, Missouri (and we’ll get back to that in a moment), Apocalyptical Jess is by champion and leading sire Apollitical Jess, who also sired sixth-fastest qualifier Lynnder 16. An earner of more than $1.3 million on the track, the 11-year-old son of Mr Jess Perry has sired the earners of more than $20 million and stands at James Ranch at Wayne, Oklahoma.
Apocalyptical Jess is out of Miller’s homebred Cassandra Crest, a daughter of Holland Ease out of the Cameronian mare Diamond For Leigh, who ran second in the 2003 Retama Park Futurity (G1). Cassandra Crest also is the dam of the stakes-winning Tres Seis mare CC Seis ($87,196) and the stakes-placed One Famous Eagle mare CC Kachina Eagle ($128,215).
A Silicon Valley executive, Robbins lives with wife Christine and their 14-year-old daughter, Mallory, in San Jose, California. He runs the worldwide sales for FireEye Inc., a cybersecurity firm that provides products and services to protect against cyber threats. Headquartered in Milpitas, California, FireEye has investigated high-profile attacks against Target, JP Morgan Chase, Sony Pictures, Anthem and others.
Now 50 years old, Robbins was born in Germany, where his father was stationed in in the United States Army. Like anybody in a military family, he spent much of his youth shuttling between his dad’s postings, in particular Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, and Fort Hood, north of Austin. Robbins earned degrees in finance and economics at Southern Methodist University at Dallas, where he met his wife.
That led him to American Quarter Horses.
“I have roots in Texas and I met my wife when we were both going to school at SMU,” he said. “Danny Joe Miller is her father, so the breeder of my horse is my father-in-law. The first time I went back to Christine’s parents’ home in Farmington, Missouri, I didn’t know much about Quarter Horses. But over almost 30 years now, I’ve been involved in Quarter Horses, either with theirs or some of my own. I usually run one horse a year, sometimes I might have two, but I give my father-in-law a lot of credit for all of this.”
Miller has bred 120 winners that have earned more than $1.5 million. They include Grade 1 winners Varsity Girl and Takin On Spoon Man, as well as stakes winners Fire Thorn, CC Seis and Spoon Crest. Since 1991, Robbins has started 48 horses, with $105,897 in earnings. A 10-year breeder, he bred the stakes-winning Shazoom gelding Mals First Down, an earner of $76,130 that he named for his daughter.
It’s a family affair.
“My in-laws have about 40 acres in Missouri,” Robbins said. “Christine and I were dating that first time I went back there to meet them. I’m a detail-oriented guy, so I remember the date: It was July 4, 1988, a Saturday. I got there on a Friday night, and it was the first time her dad met the guy dating his daughter. So Danny – now my father-in-law – said OK, at 6 a.m., we’re going out to the barn with Rodney, his son who’s now my brother-in-law, said we’ve got about 300 bales of hay we need to put up in the loft. Now, it’s the Fourth of July, summer in Missouri, hot and humid. So I think that was to find out whether I was good enough to date his daughter, you know, would I quit or was I willing to work hard? Well, I guess now, 30 years later, we’ve answered that question. So far, anyway – I may still be on probation.”
He’s working on it.
“Danny Joe and his wife, Sandra, have their farm, and access to a number of large state parks, and occasionally I ride horses,” he said. “We were back there in Missouri two weeks ago, and I always get out and help them with all the stuff around the farm – feeding, cleaning stalls, putting yearlings on the walkers, just everything you can do. But I’d be lying if I said I was a cowboy or somebody who rides all the time, but to be perfectly honest, I really love the breeding aspect of it, researching bloodlines and pedigrees, and I do enjoy being around horses and watching them.”
As one of Blane Wood’s clients, Robbins had a lot to watch during the All American trials. In addition to Apocalyptical Jess, Wood also qualified Rainbow winner MM Fourinthemorning and Badhabit Jess to the All American Futurity, as well as Another Shot to the All American Derby (G1). Ramirez rode each of them.
“Because of what Blane was telling me, we knew that my horse had the talent, we just had to get it out of him, find the right race and all that kind of thing,” Robbins said. “So it’s patience over the years and, frankly, patience matters in developing a good racehorse.”
“You’ve never heard of me, so I’m an overnight success who raced his first horse 29 years ago at Delta Downs,” he said. “I’ve raced at Manor, raced at Trinity, lots of places. I’m not a real flamboyant person, but I’ve made a lot of good friendships through the business, guys like Phillip Stewart at Bob Moore (Farms at Norman, Oklahoma). Phil’s a great guy. I have two broodmares and that’s where I keep them, and he helps me a lot.
“I’ve been around this business for a long time and I’m the proverbial little guy,” Robbins concluded. “So I know what an honor it is to be in the All American, and frankly what the odds are. It’s like being the winner of the Mega Millions – the odds of getting there, Ruidoso Roulette, all those things. We were fortunate – I get that. We were in the second race the first day, and the conditions were favorable and they weren’t for the last 11 races. So I realize what they say: To get there, you have to have a fast horse, a good trainer, a good jockey and a lot of luck. And this time I had all four going for me.”
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