Greatest Training Achievements

Steve Haskin's Look Back at the Decade 

Editors of The Blood-Horse challenged senior correspondent Steve Haskin to fill in the blanks on several “best of” lists for the decade of 2000-2009. While several of them appear in the Dec. 26/Jan. 2 combined issue of the magazine (mailing on Dec. 29), there wasn’t space for them all.

Over the coming days until the end of the year, all of Steve’s lists will be posted here with readers of encouraged to comment.

Greatest Training Achievements (Individual Horse)

1-- John Shirreffs and Zenyatta; 14 for 14. What made this a truly extraordinary feat was keeping her undefeated despite her come-from-behind running style, which left her at the mercy of the pace every race.

2-- Rick Dutrow winning 2008 Ky. Derby with Big Brown in only the colt’s fourth career start and third as a 3-year-old, while battling foot issues and Big Brown having virtually no serious training in the month of January.

3-- Jay Robbins bringing Tiznow back from a severe back injury to win his second straight Breeders’Cup Classic in 2001.

4-- John Shirreffs giving a textbook lesson on how to get a horse to peak on Derby Day, using every prep race as a small step forward. The result was Giacomo running the race of his life in the 2005 Run for the Roses at odds of 50-1, for his first victory of the year.

5-- Graham Motion keeping Better Talk Now competitive at the highest level (grade I stakes) for six straight years until the age of 10.

6-- Tim Ritchey’s unusual two-a-day training regimen for Afleet Alex and his focus on building up the colt’s stamina, which enabled him to romp in the 2005 Belmont Stakes. Also, getting him to win the Preakness following two lung infections that spring.        

7-- Doug O’Neill getting his $50,000 claim, Lava Man, to win three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cups at ages 4, 5, and 6, and becoming the first horse ever to win the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in the same year.

8 -- Tim Ice winning the 2009 Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup with Summer Bird in his first year as a trainer.

.9-- Nick Zito’s management of Commentator’s career.

10 tie-- Bobby Frankel outsmarting everyone by getting Intercontinental to wire her field in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at 1 1/4 miles, despite the filly never having previously won farther than 1 1/16 miles.

10 tie-- Bob Baffert getting Midnight Lute to win the 2008 BC Sprint off only a 10th-place finish in the Pat O’Brien Handicap in the previous 11 months, and for having him sharp enough to win the Sprint two years in a row.

Honorable Mention

Laura De Seroux’s handling of Azeri, who won 14 of her first 15 starts, including the BC Distaff and a Horse of the Year title.

Jonathan Sheppard bringing the 9-year-old Cloudy's Knight back off a one-year layoff to win two consecutive graded stakes in 2009 and missing by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Marathon. In addition, Sheppard won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in back-to-back years (2008-09) with Forever Together and Informed Decision. The former has already won an Eclipse Award and Informed Decision likely will join her.

Carla Gaines getting Cal-bred Nashoba’s Key to win her first seven starts, including two grade Is and two grade IIs, after making her career debut as a 4-year-old.

Kiaran McLaughlin winning 2006 BC Classic with Invasor off a two-month layoff and missing the Jockey Club Gold Cup with a virus.

John Salzman getting Xtra Heat, who ran for a $25,000 claiming tag first time out, to win 17 of her first 20 starts, 16 of them stakes, and then getting narrowly beaten in the 2001 BC Sprint.

Greatest Training Achievements (Overall)

1-- Richard Mandella winning four Breeders’ Cup races (4-for-4) in 2003 – Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile, Turf, and Classic.

2-- Bobby Frankel winning 25 grade I stakes in one year (2003)

3-- Todd Pletcher winning a record 93 stakes in a single year (2006)

4-- Linda Rice becoming the first female trainer to capture the Saratoga training title in 2009.

5-- Todd Pletcher setting a single season earnings record of $28,576,097 (2007)

6-- Steve Asmussen winning a record 622 races in one year (2008) and breaking own record the following year.

7-- Todd Pletcher winning the Saratoga training title five years in a row (2002-06)

8-- Bob Baffert winning his seventh straight Del Mar Futurity in 2002, then again in 2009.
9-- Allen Jerkens winning the Suburban Handicap 45 years apart (with Beau Purple in 1962 and Political Force in 2007).

10-- Humberto Ascanio winning two grade I stakes on the same weekend only 10 days after taking over the horses trained by the late Bobby Frankel.


Previous Lists:

12/21/09 - Most Physically Impressive Horses
12/22/09 - Most Memorable Triple Crown Performances
12/23/09 - Most Memorable Breeders' Cup Performances


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