Here's the scenario:
You have been a huge fan of horse racing for many years. It has always been a dream of yours to own a top-class racehorse, but until now, you have never had enough money to do so. However, just recently you came into a windfall of cash and now you are going to live your dream.
You have $100,000 to spend and you've decided to go to the upcoming Keeneland September yearling sale. Instead of spreading the money around, you decide to spend it all on one horse. You do your TrueNicks research, find your favorite sire/dam match, select a Hip, and head to Lexington with your checkbook.
At the sale, you can't believe your luck. Your perfect horse is there for the taking. The bidding reaches $100,000, you raise your hand, and then the bidding stops. You have won! Your dream has come true. You already have a name picked out, one that you have had in your mind for many years. This is too good to be true.
Needless to say, this is the coolest and most exciting thing you have ever done. But there is still one very important decision you must make:
Who will train your most prized possession?
Remember, as far as you can tell, this will be your one and only shot at owning a horse. You have to make it count. This may be the most important choice you will make. This person will make all the critical decisions, including where the horse is broken, when he begins training, what he eats, where he trains, which races he runs in, etc. The trainer (and his staff) will spend more time with your investment than anyone else. Your Derby dreams are riding on this.
So...who will it be?
What an agonizing decision this would be for me. There are so many superb trainers out there, the possibilities seem endless.
The first thing I would take into consideration is where I live. As a former owner, I know from experience most of the fun comes from being able to see your horse on the backside and watch him train. I would want to go to the track at least once a week to check in on my horse. Being in close proximity would be a must for me.
Obviously, I would want a well respected and successful person to train my horse. I would ask around, get opinions from other owners, and interview prospective trainers.
Knowing myself, I would also want a trainer that I could connect with personality-wise. From talking to many trainers, I realized there are many different personalities out there. I would want someone who is a good communicator and quite frankly, a nice, upbeat person. Having fun would be an important part of this for me, and the trainer plays a big part in that.
Here are some of my final candidates, based on where they are stabled. I separated them by regions to make it easier:
Bob Baffert - An undisputed winner, very likeable
Craig Dollase - Solid trainer, heck of a guy
Eoin Harty - As underrated as they come
Jerry Hollendorfer - Ultimate professional, an all-time winner
Richard Mandella - Hall of Famer, all he does is win big races
Tom Albertrani - Always makes the most of what he's got
Gary Contessa - Proven winner
Kiaran McLaughlin - Super guy, terrific horseman
Graham Motion - Very well respected in the industry
Jonathan Sheppard - If my horse had a turf pedigree, he'd be the one
Michael Trombetta - Doesn't get as much press as some of the others, but is among the best
David Carroll - There is nothing he does I don't like
Larry Jones - He'll be back, don't worry
Michael Maker - One of the better young trainers out there
Bret Calhoun - The best leading trainer nobody knows about
Eddie Plesa Jr. - One of the best in Florida
The Pick: Since I live in Kentucky, I would narrow it down to one of the three I have listed above. I don't think I could go wrong with any of them, but for me it would be David Carroll. First of all, he is a super guy. He always seems to have time to talk and strikes me as very professional and honest. Has a small-to-medium-sized stable, so I wouldnt feel like I'm just a number. An Irishman, Carroll trained under one of the best, Shug McGaughey, and in the early stages of his career was the exercise rider for Easy Goer and Seeking the Gold. Since going out on his own in the early 90s, has trained many multiple graded stakes winner, and most recently gained acclaim for Denis of Cork and Acoma. His horses have had equal success on dirt and turf. I would feel supremely confident that Carroll would do best, and get the best, out of my horse.