After three very busy weeks of Kentucky Derby prep races, our Racing Dudes Beginners Series returns this week. We’ll be covering the most important aspect in racing this week; the trainer. A trainer does it all. They work extremely long hours, and seven days a week. Taking care of a horse is like taking care of a child; they require constant attention. Just like parents, some trainers are great and some are not. In this article we’ll analyze the trainers that we follow and know the most about. We’ll discuss their strategies, training methods and actions. We’ll also give you some tips on how and when to bet them.
Todd A. Pletcher – When it comes to winning money, nobody has done it better than Pletcher over the last few years. He operates a very large stable on the east cost. His “home” tracks are Gulfstream, Belmont, and Saratoga; as well as a few starters at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, and Aqueduct. Any time you see his name you have to respect the horse. Pletcher’s strength is first time starters. His two-year olds usually dominate in maiden races at Saratoga, and his first time out three-year olds dominate at Gulfstream. Pletcher has done a great job of luring in deep pocket clients, and has a keen eye for picking out two-year olds in the sale rings around the country. With all the positive that he does, there are a couple negatives. He has gotten a reputation for getting young three-year olds injured, and sometimes his first time starters that run huge can’t reproduce that effort when they run again. Still, this is a guy you have to bet on if you want to win.
Bob Baffert – The king of California is Bob Baffert. He has dominates at Santa Anita, Hollywood, and Del Mar with a fairly large stable of nicely priced animals. Like Pletcher, Baffert has a few owners with deep pockets that keep his cupboard full of fast horses. Even though he wins in California, when he ships horses to other tracks is when you really have to watch out! Baffert ships to win! This year at Oaklawn Park Baffert won the Arkansas Derby (G1), the Rebel (G2), the Apple Blossom (G1), the Fantasy (G2), and both runnings of the Southwest (G3). When outside of Califorina, Baffert is almost an automatic play.
Steven M. Asmussen – The man with the largest stable in the United States is Steve Asmussen. It’s nothing for his horses to be running at five different tracks each day. Asmussen employs several assistants to look over his barns, and most of them are pretty good horseman. With Asmussen, you have to be cautious on when you bet him. When analyzing a race, make sure that the horse running fits the race. For example, if the horse has been running for a $50,000 tag and all the sudden it drops to $5,000 tag, STAY AWAY. Asmussen has been known to drop horses way down in price when they have problems just to get rid of them. Other trainers do this as well, but not to the extreme that he does. With so many horses he can afford to lose one. With that being said, most of the time he spots his horses to win, so he is one you simply cannot ignore.
Chad C. Brown – Here is a real up and coming guy that you need to watch. Although his stable is not as large as the first three guys I’ve talked about, his horses are of high quality. He’s already making a huge impact at a young age, and I look for him to get better and better. Brown runs primarily on the east coast. In the winters you can find him at Gulfstream, and the rest of the season he’ll race at Belmont and Saratoga in New York.
Jamie Ness – Much like Steve Asmussen, Jamie Ness has a large stable that runs at a variety of different tracks. Ness makes his money on mostly claiming horses. Over the last year and a half he’s won more races than any other trainer. He’s nearly unbeatable at Tampa Bay and Penn National, and his assistant Cory Jensen has success at Oaklawn, Delaware, and Presque Isle Downs. His biggest client is Midwest Thoroughbreds, who aggressively claims horses. The team has a winning formula that you cannot ignore at the betting windows.
Kelly R. Von Hemel – This is a guy you really have to watch at Prairie Meadows, so it is fitting that we are doing this article now considering that track opens up on Friday. Von Hemel has a nice stable of Iowa bred horses that can compete day in and day out at Prairie Meadows. He holds several records at the local track, including most career stakes wins and most stakes win in a season. Kelly also has a few claimers that can win anywhere, and usually he will sneak up on you with a stakes caliber horse. When not at Prairie Meadows, Kelly runs a smaller stable at Oaklawn and Remington. Outside of Iowa he’s not quite as strong, but you can still get very good value on some of his better horses that will win for you at a price.
Donnie K. Von Hemel – The Dudes have always liked and respected Donnie K, but he’s turned into our personal favorite trainer after this years Oaklawn meet. As you know we’ve been able to hang out at his barn on several occasions this year. No matter what first name you put in front of it, the Von Hemel name in horse racing carries a lot of weight. Donnie K has a strong stable of stars; racing at Oaklawn, Arlington, Saratoga, and Remington. His two biggest strengths are patience with horses development, and placing them in the right races to win. He rarely sends a horse over that is not ready to win, so this is a name you must respect every time he has one entered.
D. Wayne Lukas – This Hall of Fame trainer was the first guy to run multiple stables throughout the country. He’s won every race you can imagine, and during the 1990’s he dominated the triple crown picture. Many of his big money clients are now gone, and Lukas had cut his stable back tremendously. He’s having a down year at the moment, but he is still a name you should respect. When betting him though, you have to be very careful. Lukas usually over spots his horses, and runs them in races that are above their heads. The key with betting him is making sure the horse is entered in a class that makes sense. He’s been known to put maidens in Graded stakes races. That doesn’t mean he thinks they are good, it’s just him being crazy! Also, much like Asmussen, watch his extreme class droppers…usually a bad sign.
Chris Richard – Chris Richard is another up and coming trainer that you better keep an eye on. He started out being a private trainer for the very successful Maggi Moss, but now has a larger public stable that runs at Oaklawn, Prairie Meadows, and Remington Park. Richard still trains several horses for Moss and has picked several Iowa breds as well. Last year he absolutely dominated the competition at Prairie Meadows, and looks loaded and ready to go this year as well. When you see Richard jump a horse up in class, don’t be alarmed. He spots horses to win and a jump in class usually means the horse is doing well. However, if you see him drop a horse in class that is a bad sign, and the only time you shouldn’t consider betting them.