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 Thoroughbred Racehorse trainers are a breed unto themselves. They are mini-corporate CEOs. They manage and maintain a barn full of horses. Trainers employ a workforce of assistants, grooms, hot walkers, stall muckers, exercise riders, jockeys, and veterinarians. To paraphrase, “it takes a village” to get horses to the races and keep them racing. 

Trainers receive a specific “day rate” to care for horses. They earn a percentage of purse money. Nowadays trainers often own a percentage of horses in their care. Training, like farming, is a lifestyle…so much not a 9-5 job. They do their best to win races and purses for a cadre of individual owners and partnership syndicates. Once horses are in the barn, the trainer’s task is to keep them healthy and happy, get them fit through a series of workouts, prepare for a racing effort, and win races. 

“A long time ago in a galaxy far away…” trainers plied their skills in a data analysis vacuum. Any existing trainer statistics resulted from the manual labor of ardent handicappers looking for an edge. These researchers turned their efforts into marketable products and cottage businesses. Bloodstock Research Information Services, Inc. (BRIS) created and marketed the first commercial iteration of trainer categories, statistics and win percentages. Daily Racing Form launched Formulator in 2000, “allowing horseplayers to customize and sort data fields. Filters (could) be applied to display lifetime past performance, workouts, TRAINER PATTERNS, and more.”  Equibase introduced its Race Lens statistical product in 2016. Trainers became, and continue to be, subject to scrutiny and analysis of the statistics generated by the number of starters. Most past performance providers now present a limited set of trainer statistics as part of that product. 

The adage “what gets measured gets noticed” would now apply to trainers. The winning percentage would matter more to owners and handicappers than in the past. The traditional practice of using races to prepare a runner for a race further away in the Condition Book would now impact owner/trainer relationships. Participants in the game had to take notice of and factor trainer stats into ownership decisions and handicapping. Trainers and owners for obvious reasons; handicappers for the edge. 

Trainers are skilled in the care and placement of horses in races. They do what they do. Horseplayers are the data users, studying trainer tendencies for clues relative to today’s performance. Like most of us, when something works, we keep on doing it. But and this is a significant but, trainer statistics are predictors, not determiners. 

In my view, every trainer has the same goal: to discover a horse’s best track, surface, distance, class level, and running style…and place each horse in races as close to that spot as often as possible. Trainers study the Racing Secretary’s Condition Book to find appropriate races to enter. If you think about it in the context of a lifetime past performance (accessible through DRF Formulator or a typical 10-12 race sequence published in Daily Racing Form or a track program), static lines on the page are, in reality, a dynamic view of trainers using the Condition Book to enter his/her horses where the horses can be competitive. The top five trainers at every track win more than their fair share of races because they spot runners where they can compete and win. Statistics help the handicapper understand both the high percentage winning trainer and low percentage trainer as well.

A perusal of past performances for the race presented in the Glossary File below illustrates trainer decisions and the dynamic nature of each horse’s racing career to date. Referring again to the Glossary file, note that trainer statistics for each trainer are located below listed WORKOUTS at the very bottom of each past performance. We recommend reading past performances from the bottom up.

Below are the statistics cited for each trainer entered in this sample race.

Statistics cited for these trainers in this spot include percentages for number of starts and Return on Investment (ROI) for each statistic: (Days since Last Race), (Won Last Start), (Distance), (Surface), (Class), (Track), (Claim from Last), (days since Layoff), (Jockey/Trainer) 

#1 Eddie Kenneally – Braganza 

TRAINER: 31-60Days(175 .19 $1.51) WonLastStart(55 .15 $1.35) Dirt(220 .21 $1.70) Sprint(184 .20 $1.52) Alw(89 .17 $1.62) J/T 2022-23 SAR(2 .00 $0.00) J/T 2022-23(89 .21 $2.57)

#2 Patricia Farro – Hey Mamaluke

TRAINER: WonLastStart(53 .09 $1.11) Dirt(433 .10 $1.34) Sprint(272 .07 $0.97) Claim(306 .11 $1.18) Alw(40 .05 $0.49) J/T 2022-23(2 .00 $0.00 

#3 William Mott – Rosebug

TRAINER: 31-60Days(375 .17 $1.29) Dirt(534 .21 $1.69) Sprint(385 .19 $1.64) Alw(281 .16 $1.15) J/T 2022-23 SAR(51 .10 $0.93) J/T 2022-23(286 .17 $1.42)

#4 Michelle Hemingway – Edie Meeny Miny Mo

TRAINER: 61-180Days(15 .20 $2.35) Dirt(56 .16 $0.83) Sprint(82 .17 $1.49) Alw(38 .05 $0.17) J/T 2022-23(1 .00 $0.00)

#5 Wesley Ward – Top Gun Girl

TRAINER: 2Off45-180(61 .30 $2.23) Turf/Dirt(56 .32 $1.98) 31-60Days(160 .28 $1.99) WonLastStart(106 .26 $1.93) Dirt(148 .30 $2.03) Sprint(474 .28 $1.89) J/T 2022-23 SAR(14 .36 $2.89) J/T 2022-23(102 .21 $1.45)

#6 Linda Rice – Headland

TRAINER: 1stClaim(165 .27 $1.97) Dirt(685 .23 $1.70) Sprint(524 .20 $1.48) Claim(290 .26 $1.77) Alw(231 .20 $1.72) J/T 2022-23 SAR(16 .44 $2.67) J/T 2022-23(114 .32 $2.20) 

In this exhibit race, note that two horses, #2 & #6, each have over thirty career starts. The remaining four each have fewer than twelve career starts. Note that four entrants have competed in stake level heats or been protected from sale in Optional Claiming/Allowance company like today’s spot. Note each runner’s winning maiden race. #2 & # 6, both having raced in claiming races, are in for the $80k claiming tag, “for sale”, and eligible to be “claimed”/purchased, from this race. Each trainer has opted for this spot (and every other spot) based on previous efforts, timing since previous race, and their perception of current form. Why do you think each trainer entered this sample race? Which runner might hold an advantage under the race conditions? Which trainer statistics might inform you as to the outcome? Race results are posted at the end of this article.

Horses run but trainers win races. Trainers make all the decisions about the care of their stock and the timing of races. Long time trainer Ned Allard when asked about his trainer statistics told me, “Stats reflect the quality of horses I have in the barn over a given time, and the overall health of the horses in my barn. One horse with an illness that spreads through the barn can slow an entire operation for weeks. And statistics will never reflect that fact.” Allard’s wisdom reinforces the notion: Trainer statistics are useful and important as predictors, but never determiners. Still, trainers win races. Trainer statistics and angles are important but never the be all and end all. 

Results for sample race: 

The track at Saratoga that day was “good.” #1 Braganza went to post favored. #5 Top Gun Girl, from trainer Wesley Ward, set the pace under pressure from #6, the Linda Rice-trained Headland, who cruised to a 4.5-langth win. At the time, trainer Linda Rice was vying for the trainer tile at Saratoga. The full chart is available at www.Equibase.com. 

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Last updated: February, 2024

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