By Tom Pedulla/Thoroughbred News Service
USA: When Bill Parcells served as an NFL head coach during a 19-year career that brought two Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he craved competition.
Also known as ‘The Big Tuna’, he was relentless in driving himself and others to greater heights. He constantly needled players, pushing them to find untapped potential. He demanded so much of himself that reporters who covered his teams on a regular basis could see the immense toll the long season took. Fatigue, caused by late-night film study and early-morning game-planning, was written on his face.
Parcells is 78 now, driven to reach another Super Bowl of sorts. His horse Three Technique can take a major step towards the Kentucky Derby on May 2 with a strong performance for trainer Jeremiah Englehart in the $1 million Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park.
‘I don’t know what to expect’
“We both know what we’re trying to do – we just hope we can go forward,” says Parcells. “I don’t know exactly what to expect.”
Three Technique was purchased by Parcells for $180,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky Select Yearling Sale. He shows every sign of being a legitimate Derby prospect, having launched his three-year-old campaign by running second to front-running, mud-loving Gold Street in the one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes on January 24 at rain-drenched Oaklawn Park.
The son of good turf performer Mr Speaker has trained forwardly since then, including a dazzling half-mile work in 46secs flat on February 29 at Oaklawn, swiftest of 119 horses drilling the same distance that morning. With Englehart eager to leave plenty in the tank, Three Technique covered four furlongs in 48.80s at Oaklawn on Saturday.
“He’s doing everything right leading into the race,” says Englehart. “I’m pretty happy with where he is.”
Three Technique is named for an alignment in which a defensive lineman positions himself outside the shoulder of an offensive guard. He owns two wins and has never been worse than second in five starts for Parcells’ August Dawn Farm.
‘I get very excited when my horses have a big race’
When Parcells was asked if having a horse in the Derby would compare to the adrenaline rush of a Super Bowl, he replied: “I think if I am lucky enough to have a horse in there, I would feel pretty similar to what I felt (in the Super Bowl). Yes, I’m pretty sure I would. I get very excited when my horses have a big race. That would be the ultimate.”
Parcells has long been interested in horse racing. He lives in Florida during the winter but makes sure to spend each summer in Saratoga Springs so he can regularly attend races at Saratoga prestigious summer meet.
He gradually increased his involvement as an owner some time after he coached his last game, for the Dallas Cowboys, in 2006. According to Equibase, his August Dawn Farm has won 47 of 261 starts since its inception in 2011 with 35 runner-up finishes and 30 third-place results for earnings of $3,153,702.
“I like action; I had it all my life in football,” Parcells says. “This gives me something to think about in the morning. I’m always interested in what they’re doing and when the next race is.”
Although Parcells always wanted NFL owners to give him ample breathing room during his time with the Giants, the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and Dallas, he is very involved as a thoroughbred owner.
‘There is no surprise why he was such a successful coach’
“For me, there is no surprise why he was such a successful head coach,” Englehart says. “We talk just about every day. Sometimes I’ve got good news. Sometimes I’ve got bad news. He processes all of the information well and makes decisions from there. Usually, the decisions he makes are pretty spot on.”
Parcells typically has approximately 10 horses in training at a given time with Englehart. He regularly draws on his football days in naming horses. Tuggle, another good three-year-old in the barn, is named for Jessie Tuggle, a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker. Bavaro, an equine salute to rugged Giants tight end Mark Bavaro, was a capable New York-bred claimed away from Parcells some time ago.
There are times when Englehart almost finds it hard to believe that Parcells is a client. “I’m a Giants fan,” he says, “so he was pretty much my childhood idol.”
They are working together for the third year after Parcells decided to change trainers. Neither ever loses sight of the urgency to get results. “He’s on top of me to make sure I’m on top of it,” Englehart says.
When it comes to buying horses, the trainer occasionally finds it necessary to remind Parcells of one of his famous proclamations: “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
Englehart says: “I’ve used that a few times on him in buying horses. He kind of chuckled at it a little bit and started letting me buy more and more horses.”
Parcells and Englehart were in agreement when Three Technique was purchased. If the colt should win the G2 Rebel – he will have Saudi Cup-winning jockey Luis Saez aboard – he would be virtually guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The Rebel awards Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 basis.
Owner and trainer are cautiously optimistic. “He’s excited,” Englehart says. “But there is still a lot of ballgame left.”
• Find out more about Bill Parcells at the Pro Football Hall of Fame website
• Visit oaklawn.com for more about racing at Oaklawn Park