Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sat., May 21

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/21/2011 #

Slone Alone:  Gerard Butler Assistant Returning to Racing Roots; Willcox Inn Works as Arlington Classic Approaches May 28

British-born traveling lad Howard Slone, currently serving as an assistant to Newmarket-based trainer Gerard Butler at Arlington but with an itinerant international summer in front of him, has not always been gainfully employed pursuing equine endeavors.

After graduating from the London School of Economics, which boasts such diverse alumni as JFK and Mick Jagger, Slone originally went to work at a commodity trading house.

“I was very interested in learning about financial markets throughout the world,” said Slone, “but while I was at the commodity trading house, I kept getting bogged down in legal work which I found very boring.

“The full name of my school is the London School of Economics and Political Science,” Slone explained, “and it is famous for its school of law.  Shortly after graduation I had qualified as a barrister and that’s why I wasn’t given much of an opportunity to expand my horizons.

“Eventually, I left that job to go out on my own,” Slone said.  “A friend of mine and I who each had separate skills that blended very well together formed our own company doing niche consulting in the technological field, and that worked out very well for us.

“The timing was exactly right for that sort of thing,” said Slone.  “We started out as just two people with no money, but this was during the period of sudden millionaires and we were in the right place at the right time.  Also, our company was able to expand significantly when we were fortunate enough to get the government as one of our clients.  We were up to 30 employees by the time we sold the company to the government and made out quite nicely.

“My wife Carole and I decided to move to France, where we lived in Deauville from about 2001 to 2006,” Slone said.  “I was born and raised in Cumbria, in England’s Lake District near Scotland, and I had always been close to horse racing.  I caught the horse bug as a teenager because my Dad’s friends all had horses and I really wanted to become a trainer as a youngster, but because of the sacrifices my parents had made to give me an education I felt a strong obligation to pursue a professional career in business.

“Living in Deauville, I had the chance to try and get back to horseracing,” said Slone, “and I was anxious to take it up again.  I got a job working for the French trainer Eric Danel and also worked at Haras de Thenney and did some pinhooking, but France is a great place to spend money but not a great place to make money with the tax structure there.

“We moved back to England, and because I wanted to continue to get myself taught correctly I worked for trainers like Roger Fisher and Mark Tompkins in Newmarket,” Slone said.  “I admired the way Gerard Butler ran his operation and I fortunately I was able to convince him to give me a job.  He is very fastidious and can be hard to please, but that’s what I need right now.  He is helping to eradicate all the blind spots in my pursuit of a training career.  I’ve always described myself as something of a dilettante-autodidact, so the way I look at things now that I’m working for Gerard – I’m getting a free education and getting paid for it.

“In the meantime, my wife now works in the large racing office of trainer Clive Brittain in Newmarket,” Slone said.  “She had done public relations in the film business before we moved to France.”

However, there is also one other unfulfilled ambition running around in the surprisingly catholic interests of Slone.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing and while growing up I became a devotee of the novelist Kurt Vonnegut,” Slone said.  “Now I write freelance articles for local magazines back home, but I’ve also written two unpublished novels.  The first one was a typical first effort and I think it left a lot to be desired.  But the second one – for that one I am currently actively seeking a publisher.”

So it goes.

All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, who broke his maiden at first asking at Arlington Park last September and defeated Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the process, worked five furlongs in 59.40 Saturday morning at Arlington under jockey James Graham and then galloped out three-quarters in 1:11.40.

The sophomore son of Harlan’s Holiday out of a Gone West mare recorded early splits of 24.40, 36.60, 48.40 and 59.40 in possible preparation for the upcoming $100,000 Arlington Classic on May 28.

Trained by Mike Stidham, Willcox Inn followed up his Chicago score with a third-place finish over Keeneland’s Polytrack in the Grade I Breeders Futurity in October, then recorded another third in the Churchill’s Grade II Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November over the Louisville lawn and finished second in Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Grindstone Stakes over a yielding grass course in New Orleans. In his last trip to the post Willcox Inn finished eighth in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland