They Once Ruled the Sport

In any non-athletic endeavor, the longer you work at a job the more knowledge you gather, the more skilled you become at your profession, and the more respect you command from your peers.

Not in Thoroughbred racing

When athletes capture their sport’s greatest events and earn numerous championship honors and accolades, it stamps their place in the history books and puts them in constant demand throughout their career.

Not in Thoroughbred racing.

This is the only sport where many one-time revered figures, even those voted into the Hall of Fame, are discarded and virtually forgotten, often while still in the prime of their careers.

In Thoroughbred racing now, there are five active trainers who are in the Hall of Fame, as well as the only living trainer to have won the Triple Crown, yet four of the six are eking out a living, training small stables with not a single big-time owner giving them horses, while the other two maintain relatively large stables, but rarely get any fashionable, well-bred horses or ready-made horses. Any time a top owner has a horse he wants to turn over to a new trainer, whether an accomplished horse or a well-bred juvenile, you can bet that horse will be given to a Todd Pletcher or a Steve Asmussen or a Bob Baffert.

When was the last time you heard of a good horse being turned over to Leroy Jolley or Frank Martin, or Jack Van Berg or Allen Jerkens or Ron McAnally or Billy Turner. These are the legends of our sport, who between them have saddled Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont winners, Breeders’ Cup winners, Eclipse Award winners, including Horses of the Year, have set single-season and career records, have led the nation in earnings, and basically ruled the sport at one time.

Despite all their accomplishments and the incredible heights they have attained, they have been discarded like old worn out luggage, left to end their training days toiling in relative obscurity. As mentioned earlier, Allen Jerkens still keeps a large stable at Belmont Park, but enjoys only an occasional graded stakes victory, training mainly blue-collar horses with unfashionable pedigrees. McAnally, who is best known as the trainer of the great John Henry, along with numerous other major stakes winners, also has only an occasional minor stakes winner. This is a trainer who has saddled five national champions and won three Eclipse Awards.

Jolley, who was one of the top two or three trainers in America and a major force in the classics almost every year from the mid 1970s to mid 1980s, has not run a horse in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 17 years, has not run a horse in the Belmont Stakes in 20 years, and has not run a horse in the Breeders’ Cup in 18 years.

Frank Martin, who has led the nation in earnings, training privately for Sigmund Sommer, for whom he sent out horses like Sham and Eclipse champion Autobiography among many others, has not had a horse in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 35 years, has not had a horse in the Belmont in 25 years, and has not saddled a horse in the Breeders’ Cup since winning with his first and only starter, Outstandingly, in the inaugural Juvenile Fillies 25 years ago.

Who can forget 1987 and ‘88, when Jack Van Berg, the perennial leader in number of wins, finally reached the pinnacle of his career, winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic and numerous other grade I stakes with Horse of the Year Alysheba. This came on the heels of his success with Preakness winner Gate Dancer. But Van Berg has gone 15 years without having a horse in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, 22 years without having a horse in the Belmont, and 16 years without having a horse in the Breeders’ Cup.

Imagine having the only living Triple Crown-winning trainer in Billy Turner, and no one is willing to give him good horses. His masterful job getting the speed-crazy Seattle Slew to win the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont has all but been forgotten by today’s owners who are desperately looking for that elusive classic horse. Why then hasn’t Turner been back to the Kentucky Derby in 32 years, and the Preakness and Belmont in 25 years? Why has he never saddled a horse in the Breeders’ Cup?

Finally, there is The Chief, Allen Jerkens, arguably the most respected and revered trainer in the country. There he is at Belmont Park, still training his string of horses, resigned to the fact his chances of winning a classic or a Breeders’ Cup race have all but passed him by. Jerkens’ last trip to the Kentucky Derby, one of only three, was 17 years ago. Amazingly, he’s never run a horse in the Preakness, and hasn’t saddled a horse in the Belmont at his home track in 10 years. His trips to the Breeders’ Cup have been sporadic, although he did saddle Society Selection to a second-place finish in the 2005 Distaff.

So, what happened? Did these one-time titans of the turf forget how to train horses? Are today’s owners so intent on sending all their horses to the mega stables with hundreds of horses that they have lost focus on the legends that are still out there after all these years, doing what they love doing, despite being shoved aside? None of them have given up. They love horses too much and love training them too much. Martin just celebrated his 84th birthday, but still gets up at 3:30 every morning. Jerkens is 80 and is still a familiar sight atop his pony each morning. Their other common bond is that, unlike other big-name trainers, they have never learned how to sell themselves. They only know how to train horses. That obviously is not enough anymore.

I watch all these trainers saddling their allowance horses or claimers or small stakes horses, and I remember all the incredible moments they provided and the history they made. It is time for racing to remember as well. These men paved a trail for others to follow, and every young successful trainer today should recall Isaac Newton’s words: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”


Leave a Comment:


That was beautiful, Steve. Amen.

03 Dec 2009 8:41 PM

It is good that you have brought forth this dark side of this business- but to expect the Owners to use objective judgment and thought when deciding as to who to send their horses to -is to expect too much.Part of the problem is also the fact that Jerkens or Turner or Jolley are not great salesmen or promoters and to me they are intellectually honest professionals.

If you want to find the reason- just meet them and the answer or answers to your questions will be found.

Loyalty, integrity, honesty, critical thinking - well they ain't got it.-( most of them anyway)

03 Dec 2009 8:41 PM

Heroes. Giants not because of what they have done but because of what they do these days. It was that same work ethic they still have that brought their glory in the first place. That makes them not only heroes, but GENUINE heroes.

God bless'em all and in all walks of life. Thanks, Steve... for reminding us of all these great men.

03 Dec 2009 8:51 PM
Steve Haskin

Funny you should say that, Shimatoree, I added something along those lines.

03 Dec 2009 8:56 PM
Matthew W

Steve I saw Doug Peterson at Los Alamitos one night, the trainer of Seattle Slew as an older horse....he had a 2K claimer who ran out....not long after that Doug passed away...

03 Dec 2009 8:58 PM
Ladies Secret Lives On


Excellent piece.  My theory is the new training methods and the amount of races a top horse participates in every year.  Similar to what happened to Bowden at FSU.  The new owners think time has passed these men by, and they train an old school way, that is not conducive to todays handling of the horse.  

Urban Meyer's spread offense at Florida seems to have passed Bowden by, and he has not caught up to it, which led to his force out.  Right or wrong that is a fact, and I suppose the new breed of owner sees the same when choosing a trainer.

03 Dec 2009 9:00 PM

This article is very sad.  Honestly, I thought Leroy Jolley and Billy Turner must have retired, since we never hear of them anymore.  I guess loving what you do is truly what counts, but still........

03 Dec 2009 9:04 PM

Hi Steve,

Your article was an eye opener!  While I have seen Jolley's, Martin's, Turner's, and Jerken's name's in the Post Parade magazine for NYRA, or in Blood-Horse articles and videos, I had no inkling of the neglect they have experienced by the march of new owners.

It's an American 'disease' throw out the old - bring in the new, or 'new and improved'.  We truly are a throw away society of not just material items, but human beings also.  Why wouldn't new owners want to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience of those four trainers?  I would assume that age would be irrelevant when it comes to training horses and knowing each individuals assets or weaknesses to reach his or her peak performances.

I don't know what else to say, I was just dumb founded by the article.

03 Dec 2009 9:04 PM

Mr. Haskin, you are dead-on, as always! I hope your article will inspire a few good owners who understand and love the sport to send these men some good, quality horses. Imagine the possibilities should a true master with a small stable and time to nurture a horse with real potential... Wake up the echoes!

03 Dec 2009 9:22 PM

These trainers are of the same stripe as Robert Frankel - horsemen not salesmen. If some of the owners really want to win classics maybe they should study results instead of popularity.

03 Dec 2009 9:28 PM

Shug McGaughey is an active trainer who is in the Hall of Fame, Mr. Haskin.

03 Dec 2009 9:49 PM
Terry in Wisconsin

I got choked up reading this article,it so true and so sad. "Owners" please give these guys a chance!

03 Dec 2009 9:59 PM

Nice story, but not sure your cause/effect are all that accurate. Also the history of the sport is littered with many that had thriving stables to the end. And what, for example, would you say about D. W. Lucas? He certainly doesn't lack for pr talent, yet his fortunes have waned. Lastly, the Newton quote is not analagous to your basic point-since it would have him "seeing" farther (better equipped, etc.).  

03 Dec 2009 10:00 PM

Van Berg was amazing when he welcomed Alysheba home at The Horse Park. Sheba remembered him! Horses are better to people they care about than people are to people. This has become a What have you done for me lately- society Sad! These men love horses more than some of these new trainers or owners who never touch the horses they own.

03 Dec 2009 10:07 PM


03 Dec 2009 10:19 PM
Paul Stone


Congratulations on your well-written article. However, the men that you have referenced need no introduction nor do they need our pity. Their collective greatness was established long ago and has never left any of them. The short-sightedness of the modern owner is, indeed, unfortunate. If i had a good-looking two year old, I would First think of Jolley or Billy Turner. They know how to train a potential champion.

03 Dec 2009 10:33 PM
Pat O'Donnell

Makes you want to go out and buy a 2 year old and let one of these gents train it. But on the other side of the coin, if these gents managed their money properly,they are not poor from their successes.but wealthly.

Besides,training bills are still not cheap. These guys have been fantastic, but the fact is, most people retire at any employment by this age. I do not believe we should feel sorry for them, but just salute their success

03 Dec 2009 10:41 PM

Amen.  I also think one of the biggest travesties in horse racing is that Bill Turner, the only living Triple Crown trainer, has never been inducted in the Hall of Fame.  

03 Dec 2009 10:52 PM

I can only join you with my own wonder on this same subject.  You wrote what I have questioned to myself many times. The few times I have asked others I have never received a satisfying answer.

Martin is at his barn first, each and every morning, his work ethic is surpassed by no one. Jerkins knows his horses, knows where to place them, there are none better then he. I have observed both men and either would more then deserve to train a better horse.

But, there is Bill Turner. It is the love that he shows the horses, the level of care he gives each and every horse, the knowledge of each and every detail surrounding his barn, that would have me give him a potential stakes horse first.

Look at his face when he has a horse race, see his eyes, his face and eyes show he still dreams. He has not resigned himself to a lower level of stock. He treats all his horses as if they were worth a million dollars, but he is always looking for that horse that will prove to be worth a million dollars. His eyes show he still has faith he can/will find that horse.

I hope he, and all of them do get a chance to demonstrate their talent with better stock.

You know, maybe your thoughts will stir some owner(s) into making that smart move. It will be interesting for the public, and boy would it benefit the racing world. Publicity of having any one or all of those trainers in the big spring races, you couldn't buy it.    

(Very unfortunately my one horse does not fit the mold, but someday, a horse might).    

03 Dec 2009 11:00 PM

Steve, Just wondering if there are many, many young people who want to learn from these masters lined up. It would seem to me that as teachers to another generation of trainers is where some of their current value can be found.

03 Dec 2009 11:21 PM


03 Dec 2009 11:22 PM
Tim G

Not sure who the one is that doesn't get the fashionably bred horses. If you're talking about Wayne? He has some top of the market horses in his barn, now and a bunch of them turning 2 in January that he'll be getting. If it's him not getting 'made' horses? He never has, prefers to make his own. He's just not as driven or as single minded as he used to be.

Also Baffert is in the HOF now too.

03 Dec 2009 11:25 PM
Soldier Course

Why? What happened?

Marketing has become more important than reputation.

03 Dec 2009 11:26 PM
Tim G

Pat, even though you think they've made a lot of money? The comparison from the old days is nothing like it is now. Also if you have horses you know that most trainers have a few of their own some taken as payment for unpaid bills.  Day rates just about cover expenses and some of them have bought expensive horses in the past to form partnerships.

Back in the day when these guys were winning races in bunches?  The purses were not good and  their % was nothing to write home about. How many races were worth a million $'s even? Then take the winners %,  the trainers % were pffft.

As far as being retired? People are retiring later and later. The tail end of the baby boomers can't get full Medicare benefits until they're 70. What pension or retirement do these trainers have??

Plus, most of these guys are really healthy, vibrant and vital. Want them to go home and curl up?

03 Dec 2009 11:34 PM

Steve, I know it's late and I'm a little slow on the uptake but there are a bunch of active HOF trainers that you didn't mention, Bill Mott, Wayne Lukas, Shug McGaughey, Nick Zito etc.

Did you mean that these ones you mentioned are the active guys who are struggling?

Sorry you have to explain this to me. Maybe in the morning my mind will be clearer.


03 Dec 2009 11:46 PM

Anyway, I completely agree, Mr. Jerkens is and always will be the giant killer. The others are legends as well.

03 Dec 2009 11:48 PM

Nicely done Steve!  Makes me sad to think about it!  I think the trainers of old (these and others before them) really knew how to train a horse - NO disrespect intended to any current trainer!!!  In following the history of the sport, I have long felt that today's horses are not necessarily "weaker" than those of the past but are trained far differently and therefore show different results.  How sad that these and other formerly top trainers are not getting the opportunities they deserve!  I agree with the poster who suggested that new young trainers should be lining up to learn from these masters - I sure would be!

04 Dec 2009 12:25 AM
Matthew W

Yeah, and what about Big Mac, trainer of John Henry, Candy Ride, Bayakoa, Tight Spot---he put together good runs of peak performances in those horses, propelling them to greatness.....he is seldom seen in the winners circle! GLAD to see Paco Gonzales and Toffan getting a few lately....and Van Berg, trainer of the great Alysheba, a horse I would compare to, when I see a Van Berg horse I almost "know" it's a throw out...

04 Dec 2009 1:09 AM

I agree 100% and applaud you for writing about this subject.   However, I think part of the reason some of these trainers haven't had a horse in a big race in years is that they won't enter questionable horses in high profile races just to grab attention for themselves.

I won't name names, but I can think of several currently or recently popular trainers with a habit of starting extremely questionable horses in high profile races.  It's apparently a good business scheme for them - they get their names in the media plus they don't have to tell  owners when their high priced horses really don't belong in G1s.  That in turn draws even more owners to hire them and the cycle continues.          

04 Dec 2009 1:14 AM

Great article Steve but sad to read. I think the what has happened to these trainers has also happened to horse racing. These trainers had classic horses, great at any distance. Today's breeders and owner/trainer connections mostly breed for speed. The endurance is not there. Thus horses break down or retire too soon. I miss these guys, I miss the way it used to be. 2009 was a great year in racing, it kind of threw me back to the great old days. This well written kindly reminder brought me back to reality. Answer me this; how did these trainers get so dumb so quick?

04 Dec 2009 3:06 AM


04 Dec 2009 5:48 AM

That Billy Turner didn't receive the Trainer of The Year Award for his masterful job with Slew in 1977 is an injustice that still sticks in the craw. He got Slew through the Triple Crown undefeated; the only horse and trainer to ever do that.  If any trainer were to do that now, the award would be a cinch.  It wasn't Turner's decision to bring Slew to California to run another 1 1/4 mile race three weeks after the Belmont when he hadn't been properly prepared and should have had some time off in any case.  It was a disaster waiting to happen and that should not have figured into the Award decision.

04 Dec 2009 7:03 AM
Saratoga AJ


A great article whose topic is well overdue. All are great trainers of the past 50 years.

Personally I believe, along with all of my "rail bird" friends that H. Allen Jerkens is the greatest trainer of our lifetime.

He is looked up to and revered by all other trainers here who refer to him as "The Chief". We all know him as the "Giant Killer".

NO ONE was better at getting mediocre horses primed for a G-1 effort while beating some the greatest horses ever, including Kelso (3 times with Beau Purple), Cicada (with Pocosaba), Buckpasser (Handsome Boy), Secretariat (twice, with Onion and Prove Out), Skip Away & Gentlemen (with Wagon Limit), and a bunch more too numerous to mention.

I personally had the pleasure of meeting him and speaking with him over the years. First time was way back when I was a teenager in 1963 at Belmont, and as recent as last Summer at Saratoga.  He is a very gentle, shy man. But always eager to talk horses with you. A true living legend.

Please see the brief two part video below:

04 Dec 2009 7:11 AM
Golden Gate

Thank you Steve for this article. I as a small owner have noticed this too and I have been lucky to find a gem of a trainer who rides his own horses in the morning and has done wonderful things for the horse world with very little invested initially materially in the horses he trains.

I have really wondered how people forget but we do and that is why history is repeated over over again and usualy not for the good.

Matter of fact my friend gave Mike Smith his first chances to ride and gave him many pointers having been a top apprentice jockey himself years ago. But probably only Mike Smith knows who I'm talking about.

04 Dec 2009 7:18 AM

Sorry Steve, it's not the trainers,

it's the age we're living in where

quality no longer counts, only quantity.  The 21st century often looks bleak because we tend to look only at the numbers.  Companies don't hire people over 50.  They try to force retirement on quality individuals who still have the skill and talent to continue.  Any more...its not

HOW you played the game, only that you win.  It's the same all over today in every aspect of the present generation, not just thoroughbred racing.  It's merely a symptom of a degenerating civilization.  Electronics have replaced community, economics have

replaced respect, business has replaced sports (and politics),and immediacy has replaced patience.

Is it any wonder why some people might believe that a trainer with 200 horses is better than a trainer with 10.  No, it doesn't make any sense, but it seems to be the direction we are taking.  How sad it is that we are losing the essence of the very thing that has made us human....a respect for the wisdom and skill of the individual.

04 Dec 2009 7:39 AM

Beautiful article, Steve, thank you.  That racing is struggling and these long valued trainers are not in the spotlight any more is a sad state of affairs, but maybe they are not willing to put up with some of the new owners who would rather push the horse too fast, hit the winners circle and head off to the breeding shed.  Maybe they are not willing to put up with all the hype that goes along with it and would rather tend to the main component in the equation - the horse.  I'd much rather have a dedicated horseman training my horse, hands on, than someone who keeps tabs on it by cell phone.  More and more, though, the public is so enamored of celebrities, that whomever is in the spotlight is the greatest.    

04 Dec 2009 8:46 AM

When I read the first few sentences I thought you were writing about the horses themselves.  Because I am an ardent supporter of groups like Old Friends, my first thoughts of the "forgotten ones" are always of the horses, great and not-so-great, who are cast adrift.  I didn't know the whereabouts of these gentlemen, and appreciate you bringing them to my/our attention.  Can you imagine the wealth of knowledge they hold, and the stories they could tell?  Perhaps a series of articles about them individually is in order.  I for one would give them my rapt attention.

04 Dec 2009 8:47 AM
Bill Daly

I think the legends you mentioned may not be as approachable as some other trainers.  They've been there and done that and aren't about to fawn all over some young punk with a lot of money.  There's a generation gap to deal with among other issues.

04 Dec 2009 8:48 AM
Carol R

A very nice article.  Much the same could be asked of yesterday's horses.  Once the horse is retired from the track, you hardly ever hear anything about them again, unless they're producing winners.  For example, whatever happened with Sweet Catomine?  Did The Tin Man and Teufelsburg ever recover from their injuries and what are they doing now?  Might I suggest that the Blood Horse web site have a "where are they now?" column about retired horses?

04 Dec 2009 8:48 AM
Paula Weglarz

These "old school" trainers are not the kind of people to b.s. about a horse. If you have a clunker, they are likely to tell you so. I admire that kind of honesty...but these days, in the upper echelon, the egomaniac owner isn't going to like that kind of tough talk. Bobby Frankel was an exception to the rule...he talked bluntly & made it work.

Also, loyalty is gone in the sport in all but a few corners. Gone are the days of racing for prestige, as well. So much is high volume stakes oriented racing stables and partnerships.

Not much room for hay, oats & water trainers in this sport these days... and I will leave it at that.

Jonathan Sheppard is an example of someone who has an active, successful stable because he has tremendous talent, a loyal owner & a great staff who are as diligent as he is. I agree that Shug and Ron, both, still stay active based on their good horsemanship, too. But many of these old school owners pass on & the older trainer is void of the same kind of client. No more single owner stables....

A real shame that we don't have more trainers regaled & active into their 80s like Australia's Bart Cummings. He is a national racing icon.

04 Dec 2009 8:50 AM

Steve- again a stellar piece.  I wondered what happened to Mr Jolley.  I had just assumed all of these men had retired.  All the wasted knowledge that the trainers you have mentioned have accumulated through their experience.  Many horses today require the patience and expertise that these men possess.  I am not an owner, so I can't speak for the owners as to why these men aren't getting the horses that they deserve.  I can only hope that some use their services now.

04 Dec 2009 8:53 AM
Mr Pick 4

Very nice article, Steve. Nothing wrong with the proverbial bucket of cold water being utilized to reopen some eyes. Food for thought; the recently formed syndicate, Legends Racing, comprised of some of the biggest and wealthiest names in this sport, might do well by its very premise, by supporting some of the people you've mentioned here.

Could be a great publicity coup for the sport in general, and for their venture in particular, rather than it being seen as another self promoting stab at the headlines.

Nicky, I know your a reader here ...why not suggest this to Bob and Wayne? Again, just a thought...

04 Dec 2009 9:00 AM

Yes, Jerkens has a heart of gold and a great horseman but probably doens't give a hoot about being a great policitican, i.e. "moneyman" This attitude permeates our society and why the country is in desperate shape despite electing a great person who just can't control the politics of slime......

04 Dec 2009 9:07 AM

I think you should add Ron McAnally and Jay Robbins to the list.  I might even throw in Janine Sahadi.  2 Breeders Cup winners and a second and it is not like she gets a lot of "fashionable" horses.

Well written piece !!

04 Dec 2009 9:14 AM
Laura P

Lovely article, Steve; thanks so much for bringing this collective oversight to our attention.

I'm particularly perplexed about Billy Turner, and wonder -- especially in his case, as the trainer of the "Slew," what you think explains the relative neglect with which they've been treated, aside of course from the pervasive "what have you done for me lately?" zeitgeist.

May the horse (Slew et al.) be with you always!

04 Dec 2009 9:22 AM
The Phantom

legends and they got their horses ready for long tough campaigns, not like today's pampered horses who are so fragile and need vacations.Do you think any of these trainers would advise their owners to duck the biggest race of the year and avoid the toughest competetion.Slew didn't neither did Spec Bid,Alysheba.Smarter trainers and much better conditioned horses.Owners in those days trusted trainers as to when and where the horses ran.None of them would have skipped the BC with a healthy horse who was great.Just like baseball are there better players today then Mantle, Mays, Aaron were in their heyday?

04 Dec 2009 9:25 AM
Secret Stuff

Is it any wonder that the trainers and their great achievements are tossed aside?  The horses themselves, no matter what they accomplish, are debated endlessly.  Ruffian is not great, according to some.  Who is Man O'War? Pocahontas or Peytona? What has Secretariat accomplished? Does this site ever go back and look at any of these greats, or does it continually charge after the new next thing?  No wonder the trainers are forgotten, if the horses themselves are.

04 Dec 2009 9:42 AM

Personally, I think the TV media has a lot to do with promoting high profiler trainers like Pletcher, Lukas and Baffert.  Two years ago, when Street Sense won the 2007 Derby, Randy Moss of ESPN was certain that any one of Pletcher's five entries were the inevitable winner of that year's Derby, although he was most convinced that Circular Quay was going to win it, eventhough Street Sense beat him by 10 lengths in the 2006 BC Juvenile.  For the 2009 edition, Mr. Moss was convinced that Dunkirk  was the hands down winner, eventhough the odds of a nonraced 2 year old winning the derby was against Dunkirk.  For those of us who watch HRTV, every time Lukas runs a horse in a Grade 1, the racing hosts act like this will be the horse that puts Lukas back on the Grade 1 track, bound for Triple Crown glory.  For the most part, they remain totally unobjective about the horses real chances in the race or the level of competition he is facing.  They are much more objective about other trainer's prospects, however, and often give excellent perspective on the horse's pedigree, penchant for racing surfaces, opponents, etc.  TVG hosts, on the other hand, can't sing the praises of Baffert enough, affectionately referring to him as B squared.  NBC often does these segments on Baffert which make him seem like a victim of capricious circumstances, glory as a Triple Crown trainer cruelly eluding him when he wants that title so badly.  When non racetrack people talk to me about horse racing, they inevitably talk about Lukas, Baffert and Pletcher.  They only know what they watch on TV.  While I understand the emotionality of rooting for favorites, the TV hosts should clarify their preferences up front with phrases like, "I'm a big Pletcher fan and I hope Dunkirk wins the Derby," or, "I'd like to see Lukas get back on the Grade 1 circuit and I hope Dublin does it for him."  It seems like every year, the TV media sing the praises of the high profile trainers and nearly every year those praises fall short.  I'm a St. Louis Cardinal Fan and an Albert Pujols fan, too, but guess what?  The playing field is made up of 8 other players who made it the Big Show as a top player, too.  Same with racing.  There are other trainers and horses making up the fields with stories and hopes and dreams of glory, too.  I doubt that the TV media being objective will discourage top owners from wanting the services of high profile trainers, after all, owners want to go with a winner, too, but thanks for this article and giving racing fans a different perspective on what goes on at the less than high profile end of our sport.

04 Dec 2009 10:02 AM

Age discrimination? It happens in every profession, perhaps here. It would be nice to see Billy Turner with some good horses, as well as the others, but if they are happy and not suffering, well hell, that's better than gold. I hope I can still rise at 80 and put in a good day's work. Maybe it's because they do " do it " the old fashioned way, without all the drugs.

04 Dec 2009 10:03 AM
Steve Haskin

I can see the point of those who mentioned Ron McAnally. Although I'm not so sure he dominated the sport the way the other Hall of Famers did year after year I have added him to the story. Thanks.

04 Dec 2009 10:04 AM

Why should we feel sorry for trainers who reached the ultimate goal in our sport.How lucky they were to be in such a unique group. Great horses made those trainers great and they can come from anywhere as Mr. Wooley proved this year.  How lucky they are to get a great horse.

04 Dec 2009 10:15 AM
Karen in Texas

As always, a great commentary, Steve! You asked the question, so what happened; and then offered that they have never learned how to sell themselves as part of the answer. I agree, but I also believe that many true horsemen (and "animal people") are similar to Seabiscuit's trainer, Tom Smith, in their psychological wiring. They are more interested in the animals than in people. That attribute is what enables them to "train" so well. Learning how to sell themselves is not a priority or even an awareness in their daily lives. I think some of the greats may miss the spotlight, but others never welcomed it in the first place.

04 Dec 2009 11:49 AM

Steve, Stan hit on what I was thinking, the use of medications.  The "old-timers" got the best out of the horse with out drugs and I think kept the horses healthier and was able to run them into at least their 4 year old season.  Gee, today we only see the fillies running as 4 year olds!  I could not believe that Zensational was retired.  Maybe today's owners just want a big splash (a grade 1 or 2) and then retire the animal for stallion duties.  The heck with racing.  I really don't like how today's racing has evolved.  Thanks for your article.  Have a Merry all!

04 Dec 2009 12:01 PM

All of the high-achievers in horseracing seem to be immediately dispensable--horses, trainers,owners,etc. Racing is just big business concentrating on today's dollsrs without any respect for the past.  As a fan, I am shocked by how we discard the history-makers without honor(Ladies Secret is the most recent example that I know). Yes, I love Zen and exictedly watch her win; but, I don't erase my memories of the past heroes of racing.

04 Dec 2009 12:02 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Not only does racing forget about star trainers, it also does the same for it's star athletes - the horses. Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup Classic winner Ferdinand was slaughtered in Japan. Multiple Grade 1 winner Exceller was slaughtered in Sweden. Every day, race horses, some fresh from the track find themselves up for sale and oftentimes to kill buyers. Since racing treats it's athletes with such indifference, it's no wonder that many of their human counterparts, the trainers, jocks, and backstretch workers find themselves cast aside too. This is so wrong.

04 Dec 2009 12:15 PM

A sharp look at one of the larger problems in a sport rife with them.

So what makes a trainer suddenly go "cold?"  Why does a stellar record tarnish and fade in the eyes of present day owners?

I read a quote from Jess Jackson that he supports Asmussen because he's "a great trainer with a love of the equine."  That may be true - but why does an owner as sharp as Jackson - with the pick of some of the greats you mentioned - go with a trainer trailing a long record of med violations that flies in the face of what Jackson believes?  

Because Asmussen is the "now" trainer - and that's all the current batch of owners (not including dynasties like the Phipps) seem to see.  Self promoters with a sharp business sense who razzle and dazzle owners with their pitch and their stats...but the stats are based on mega stables.  I'd like to see Asmussen, Pletcher or Baffert take the blue collar runners that Jerkins has prepped and match his success rate.  Wouldn't happen.  

Likewise - I doubt any of those three could have figured out the belligerent enigma in a riddle that was John Henry's mind.  I doubt they'd have ever cracked that hard shell - but McAnally did and look what we got in return - a racehorse of epic storylines.

As a diehard fan of Secretariat, it took me a long time to think of Jerkins with anything but kindness.  Fortunately, time and a little maturity showed me that great trainers can sometimes work magic - even the dark magic I felt worked for Onion and Prove Out.  But that man is pure class - and Mrs. Jerkins is truly one of the most elegant and beautiful ladies I've ever seen.

I don't know the answer to why these top trainers lose their big owners and shots at the best horses: bad personal skills, too honest, not willing to play "the Game?"  Probably a bit of all and more.  

But what a terrible waste.

04 Dec 2009 12:19 PM
Phony JJ

Greedy old owners,that are just out to make a name for themselves. Thats what is wrong with this industry.  It's not the trainers, it's the owners that just want to throw out the money and look big, not caring about the horse itself. Too scared to race on synthetics, because one horse failed the other might also, or just sheer fact that they were afraid of another horse.  Where are the days when they were eager to put their horses on all surfaces, at least ONCE, train them on it at least, once. Just because one horse tanked, don't mean the other one would.

04 Dec 2009 12:29 PM

A few months ago Steve you ran a 3 part video piece on John Nerud. You considered Mr. Nerud one of the most brilliant minds in horse racing history. Is he now forgotten like so many other past greats? Why aren't the powers that be using Mr. Nerud's council to help fix this sport. With all of these past great horsemen still around perhaps a committee could be put together to help reform, stabilize and bring back horse racing the way it used to be. Anyone else notice that boxing is also going the way horse racing has. Lack of interest in the sport, way too many weight division titles, and a sport that has a very poor reputation. Once these two sports were the "sport of kings", now they are slowing going the way of the dinosaur.  

People are right when they say that it used to be about the sport, now it's only about the money.

04 Dec 2009 12:39 PM

What an eye-opening, heart-breaking article, Steve.  I felt really badly for these trainers' struggles and touched by their stories.  That is until I remembered that they still have what they all love and need the most, that is the horses.  Every day they still have the horses and the kind of life that they chose; early mornings at the barn, the smell of hay, the sound of grain being munched and the feel of a horse under their loving hands.  They lived the life that filled their souls and there are a lot of people who never even have that.

04 Dec 2009 12:42 PM

Nice read, and not that it didn't touch me at some point but please allow me make my own analogy.

NCAA Football is still played with 11 a side-on a 100 yard long field-with a 60 minute clock. Is it any different a game then when Doc Blanchard or Dick Butkus or OJ Simpson played--when men like Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes stalked the sidelines? Yet men who were perennial kings of calling the game-of assembling the talent, names like Paterno and Bowden are no longer relevant. The names that flow off peoples tongues today-Meyer, Saban, Kelly-a new generation of much younger men. Did the old guard get stupid? Probably not. Did the game change? Of course it did-all things change and evolve. Maybe age was one factor that kept the Bobby's and JoPa's from being at the forefront today.

You know-a horse is a commodity like anything else-just like a human athlete. If I'm a young man looking to be in a post New Years bowl game I would have to assume hitching my star to the likes of Urban Meyer or Brian Kelly are going to increase my chances. Wouldn't you say the same for a horse vis a vis a Pletcher or Mott vs. Leroy Jolley or Jerkins Sr?


04 Dec 2009 12:49 PM
Don in Massachusetts


Another great article about racing's past trainers and heroes.

It appears that the racing world is only interested in the current, not the past...another perfect example would be the change of a race named after a great champion Lady's Secret to a "modern" horse.

I agree with you that this are sad facts.

I hope your words will inspire some owners to seek out these trainers.

04 Dec 2009 1:02 PM

Please let Billy Turner be inducted into the Hall of Fame while he is still with us!

04 Dec 2009 1:07 PM

Great article Steve. What a sad  reality check of just how much the horse racing industry has changed. So much to be learned from these old warriors of the game. How sad Billy Turner has not been rewarded with Trainer of the Year. Unreal...

04 Dec 2009 1:19 PM

It's a shame that real horsemen ship is traded for hype and circuses! If only the owners knew, how much further some of the horse they owned, could've gotten had they not fallen through the cracks of these big time trainer programs! Unfortunately, I've seen this with my own eyes, where some horses just didn't get the attention or didn't fit into the program and fell by the wayside. I have a trainer down south that has won stakes(Some graded_) at all the major racetracks, trained for Harry T. Mangurian, and is one hell of a horseman but doesn't get the horses that he deserves. He cares about them and the owners, which is more than some of the Marquis Trainers or "Breakdown Kings" as I call them, do. It's a shame. How cannot you not give Shug or Jerkins a horse?

04 Dec 2009 1:24 PM
Steve Haskin

My intention was not to evoke pity for these trainers, but to bring awareness how some trainers who do not conform with today's standards, such as selling themselves or operating huge glitzy stables, are pretty much shunned by owners. Unlike athletes, Hall of Fame trainers do not lose their skills. Today, it's all about youth, size, and perception, while forgetting about those who made the sport what it once was. We have left these trainers with basically nothing more than their memories and little hope for the future. I just find that sad.

04 Dec 2009 1:51 PM

Great could probably write a similar story about the horses, jockeys and grooms who as you stated "Despite all their accomplishments and the incredible heights they have attained, they have been discarded like old worn out luggage"

04 Dec 2009 2:40 PM

I to find it very sad Steve. Unfortunatley in life, the rich,high profile people get all  the attention. Owner's seem to want to affiliate themselves with that. The young, the glamorous.

A slight change of subject, but I feel the same way when I watch the Kentucky Derby every year. I see all these high profile, rich celebrities there that could care less about racing. Then they interview them and they say such stupid things like "I like the gray horse to win..he has such a pretty mane"... I just want to jump through the T.V.  I love this sport, know these horses and follow racing all year but because I am just an average joe I don't get the "box" seats at the derby.

04 Dec 2009 2:45 PM

Like all of society, not just horse racing, it's 'What have you done for me lately?' and instant gratification.

04 Dec 2009 2:47 PM

Another warm, fuzzy, sad story about horse racing. Mostly true, great conparision to Coach Bowen by another blogger.

So how many of you "horse owners" are gonna send "your string" to one of these trainers??

Kinda reminds me of the great outcry about horses being slaughtered. After the NOvember Sale it now looks like we have too many horses on the planet, so where are the folks who are gonna save these horse we used to eat (yes that is what I said) make baseball from their skin, feed the meat to our dogs and cats, export to France????

If only one of you will do something other than talk (which is cheap just ask ant politican) then Mr. Haskin's well written prose will have a positive effect.

04 Dec 2009 2:51 PM

Racing is greed. Discards its stars; human and equine alike. When will they learn.

04 Dec 2009 3:03 PM

Steve H, maybe you COULD evoke some sympathy for us all. Chicken farming now the tops in Kentucky?

Want to buy a dozen eggs? Soon we'll have HOF trainers selling eggs and fried chicken from roadside stands.

Actually it is tough seeing some of these guys who were once huge in the industry, totally changed the game,(whether people think it was for the good or not) having people think suddenly they can't train any longer.

Maybe some of them can come back around and get some new horses and owners. A couple have started that turn around and I'm glad to see it.

Well sorta anyway.

The main thing about the mega stables NOW is the huge number of drug positives, particularly those of Steve A.  We used to think Lukas and later Baffert were big.

These guys like Pletcher and Asmussen are almost overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.

Although I bet Steve has 3 times as many horses as anyone else and it's really hard to compete in the low level claiming game and the big stakes at the same time and STILL manage the whole operation. He said once he doesn't want to be like a certain trainer and foresake his family and relationships for the game. Well I'd say he's doing even worse damage, mostly due to the things that taint his name and the game with it.

As far as 'selling themselves'? Unless you go back 50 or more years that's always been a part of it. You can't be a cantankerous old grouch and attract owners who spend a lot of money, even the lowest level of horses eat grain, hay, have shoes and need grooms etc. Besides what some consider 'selling themselves' is actually people selling their program and goals. That's good business sense. Sorry to say this is a business that is selling your abilities as a horseman and someone who can get owners where they want to be. Gone are the days of the Vanderbilts et al who were the gentrified people doing it for sport. Our economy doesn't allow for that.

04 Dec 2009 3:25 PM

I'm glad I'm not a trainer. There's no future in it.  

04 Dec 2009 3:33 PM

This is very sad but a true reflection of this use and discard disposable society.When I go to the grocery store- I tell the young checkers at the check out counter-

look very carefully at me because I am your future-( I am old).

We discard the older people into concentration camps called nursing homes.

So how can we expect any better for our superb trainers that Steve has mentioned.

They are working because of class and character and grit which is what we look for in great horses. And guess what- we do not appreciate it in great human beings like Turner, like Jolley and like Jerkens.

A thought- perhaps we should have a university of training where these giants should be professors who teach selected young people about training horses. But who will finance it ?

04 Dec 2009 3:43 PM

It is indeed sad that these trainers of yesteryear are not being given the better horses to train.  I had not heard anything about Ron McAnally in years and he trained John Henry, Bayakoa and Paseana.  Jack Van Berg surfaced when Alysheba came back to the US and then died.  These men mentioned are great trainers and wonderful people but you have these up and coming trainers that get a lot of press when they have a big horse and then owners seem to flock to them.  Baffert sailed right to the top with his first Derby winner.  When you get the better horses, you have better chances at the big races.  Jason did a blog a few months ago asking if we had the chance to get a race horse, who would we have train it?  It listed a few trainers and I chose Jack Van Berg.  He's a great trainer and a great guy.  I don't get why trainers with all that experience don't get better horses.  They truly deserve those horses and the horses deserve them.

04 Dec 2009 3:43 PM
joe c.

Considering Slew's continued influence in bloodlines-thanks A.P. Indy and the beautiful Slew daughters-Billy T. should be in the Hall.  Any other trainer might have burned up and out the speedy Slew, long before that glorious spring of 77.  Slew could have been forgotten, too.  And I add cheers to Jay "Tiznow" Robbins!

04 Dec 2009 4:05 PM

I avoid betting most of these guys due to low win %.  Maybe there are no Grade 1 candidates in their barns, but should they not be able to spot their horses in spots that allow for them to win more than 10% of the time?

04 Dec 2009 4:25 PM

It is sad that time has passed these legendary trainers by.  This past weekend I got the chance to

see Jack Van Berg saddle a couple claimers at HP, that went off at odds of 44-1 and 58-1, respectively.  While I agree with all the points made by others, I would add that it is my belief that many of today's owners want more or even total control over their investment, and trainers

like Pletcher, Asmussen, and O'Neill seem to not have a problem with providing it.

04 Dec 2009 5:16 PM

Thanks Steve.  Alysheba's win in the Derby might have been the gutsiest one ever.  JVB is one of my favorite trainers and I'd love to see him get one more great one.

In regard to nexts year's Derby, I saw "Thomas Got Even" win a Maiden race nicely, then he disappeared.  Any word on him?

04 Dec 2009 5:32 PM
Ace Hare

While there is no denying the skill that these trainers still retains and that their past accomplishments are still great, there is reason that I have not seen mentioned as to why big-time owners do not send them the big-time horses: Their ages.

It has nothing to do with selling themselves, their accomplishments and an honest, down-to-earth conversation can solve that. But why would an owner invest hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in an operation that, forgive me for putting it bluntly, can go down at anytime? It is hard to invest a great deal of money in a long-term vision and have to immediately start making back-up plans for an inevitable occurrence that may take place sooner than later.  

04 Dec 2009 5:33 PM
Brian Appleton

You're like the "heart" of thoroughbred horse racing Steve. You never fail to remind us to honor those who have practically dedicated thier lives to the sport we all love so much. Thank you!

04 Dec 2009 5:43 PM

Its a shame since all those trainers crafted their trade in the 'hay, oats, and water' days.

Now in the age of the super trainers with their Vets in tow, they don't stand a chance ...

04 Dec 2009 6:10 PM
Steve Haskin

Ace Hare, their ages? These guys were cast aside 25 years ago when they were in their 40s or 50s, a couple in their early 60s. You really think their operations were ready to "go down at anytime?"

04 Dec 2009 6:10 PM
hasty road

Are trainers the only people who never lose their edge?  How many managers do we have in the Major Leagues who are 84 years old. Basically your sayiing that an owner who has shelled out millions on a horse should hire a trainer who was in his prime 20 or 30 years ago over a Pletcher or Baffert. I do not think that Lukas is the same trainer that he was 10 or 15 years ago and the stats bear this out and he still gets quality horses. If an owner takes his horses away, should we feel sorry for him because he is not producing.  I admire and appreciate every trainer that you have mentioned but times and methods change over the years and I do not think that we owe them anymore than admiration and a big thanks for their past accomplishments.    

04 Dec 2009 6:11 PM

Wonderful article! Does anyone know what track Billy Turner is training at? I was watching a lower level race on TVG a couple weeks ago. I can't remember which track it was. One of the trainers was listed as William Turner. The TVG hosts didn't mention that it was Billy; would that have been him?

04 Dec 2009 6:22 PM

Ace Hare,

I don't see what their age has to do with it.  Charlie Whittingham won the Derby with Ferdinand at the age of 74 and he waon the Derby, Preakness and BCC with Sunday Silence at the age of 77.

He had no problem winning at that age.

04 Dec 2009 6:27 PM
Steve Haskin

Also, Monica, remind Ace Hare and Hasty Road that Woody Stephens won his fifth straight Belmont Stakes at age 73. If you listen to Hasty Road, all the trainers I mentioned are 84, which obviously means they have lost all their faculties and have forgotten how to put a saddle on a horse. Frank Martin was a forgotten trainer when he was 60.

04 Dec 2009 6:56 PM
pat turner

Steve, thank you for mentioning that Billy Turner is alive and well and still training. Great piece. I wonder every day why the

owners with dreams of Triple Crown success do not send horses to someone who has actually won it.

Bill's  great horsemanship is as

strong as ever. His dedication to

his horses has never wavered.

Thanks again for the wonderful piece.  

cc, Bill trains mostly at Belmont,

Saratoga, Aqueduct but we are currently at Palm Meadows in FL.

Recently he ran a horse at Meadowlands. Maybe that is where you saw him in the entries.  Pat

04 Dec 2009 7:06 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks for writing, Pat, and for informing everyone where Billy is right now. He actually was the impetus for this column for a while, because I thought about it everytime I saw him at the track and kept asking myself, 'why arent top owners willing to give good horses to the only person living who has won the Triple Crown?' It made no sense. Then when I read that Pancho had turned 84 and is still training, I felt this was the perfect time to write this. I can only hope some influential owner reads this and asks himself or herself the same question I asked myself and comes up with the right answer. Tell Billy good luck and I hope you have a happy holiday.

04 Dec 2009 7:55 PM

If these trainers were forgotten in their 40-50 or 60's thats really sad for horse racing, they trained some marvelous horses...without you, Steve!!! I would never have heard about them...and thats very pathetic for horse racing......

04 Dec 2009 8:04 PM

Pancho Martin had every right to glory with the incredible Lil's Lad. But the geniuses that owned him gave him to another trainer.I've no doubt Lil's Lad would have become one of the sport's immortals in Pancho's hands.

04 Dec 2009 8:05 PM
Ida Lee

Thank you for this eye-opening article. And I also want to thank these men for bringing out the best in these wonderful icons of racing that I have enjoyed and loved through the years.

04 Dec 2009 8:22 PM

Steve great piece as usual. I don't feel pity for these great men the wonderful trainers they are. We the racing fans will always hold them in our hearts. They should be so special to us. Maybe they get pushed back a little but how can you ever think of the horses of old without thinking of one of them. If the new owners don't want to put their horses with them it is their loss they'll never know what they missed but we will always have our memories never to be forgotten.

04 Dec 2009 8:33 PM
The times they are a changing

Times change, if you have ever spent anytime around the above mentioned.  You would like them as a person but would 100% understand why they are where they are.  A few of the above have and still deal with personal demons and others are just outright not people persons.  Now owners expect to be the boss and have more control than there was back then.  Back then trainers were paid to train and were left alone to train.  Today owners want more control, The "owners" have changed more than the game itself.  And not to feel pity there are others who have evolved with the times and other never will.  

04 Dec 2009 9:30 PM
Steve Haskin

I assume you have first-hand knowledge of the few with personal demons. You speak in the present, as if personal demons are lifelong issues. I will agree with you about some of them not being people persons, and that assuredly hurt them in dealing with the new breed of owner. But if an owner's goal is winning classics and championships then their personal relationship with their trainer shouldnt matter as long as they achieve their goals. I once had an owner call me and ask me to call Bobby Frankel to find out how one of his horses was doing because he was afraid to. No one says an owner and trainer have to be close friends. It's the results that count.

04 Dec 2009 10:57 PM

Love this article. The most I can add is that these folks were real horsemen and cherished the horses. But I must say (and this is in answer to some of the comments here) the one person I don't regret who has been pushed off to the sides is Lucas-- the things I could say against him would be actionable, but those of us around racing know (horses who have died? injured horses? horses who cannot breed?).  I don't miss that #$%%^%&$%.

04 Dec 2009 11:41 PM
Fire Slam

Im still trying to figure Lukas out. Some of the most well bred and most expensive horses. Still cant get a win. He must have some very loyal owners.

Todd Pletcher is another one. Gets the best of the best.

The good thing about our sport is, a good horse can come from almost anywhere, and the little folks have a chance. Thats why they run the race.

05 Dec 2009 12:04 AM
Tim G

Wow, Steve. I guarantee you that would never happen with any of my trainers. I PAY THEM, they don't pay me.

I wouldn't have a trainer that I couldn't have a business relationship with and it's a heck of a lot of money that we're talking about.

Unreal, paying a guy 75-100 a day plus, I dang sure better have an open line of communication. Fact is one of them is a very good friend.

I don't interfere, never have. But I want to know how they're doing and my guys aren't spring chickens, so that's not an excuse.

Before you say I'm a new breed of owner, no not at all. We're talking decades.

Many years ago a lot of trainers treated owners like mushrooms, but that became unacceptable about 20 years ago wheen the sport became even more expensive than ever.

I always respected Mr. Frankel and most of his results, but that isn't for me.

05 Dec 2009 12:19 AM
Jill Wachbrit

Thank you for reminding us that these wonderful trainers are still out there.  I am just now getting into the thoroughbred ownership game and I have been told to use a number of different trainers.  If I am lucky enough to have more than one horse I would love to work with these trainers.  

05 Dec 2009 12:37 AM

Mr. Pick 4, Why would Wayne suggest anything of that nature? His stable was way down and not a lot of high dollar material there. HE managed to get some new owners in his stable.

Plus that isn't his, Bob's or Nick's decision on Legends. It's the brainchild of Olin and Thomas.

The whole premise is Legends of training who have won multiple Triple Crown races, that's what that group is geared to.

Plus trainers are competing against each other in a very tough game majority for their very livelihood. If an owner wants to go to a different trainer that's one thing.

Hey there's lots of us struggling, why don't we force the mega stables with 200-300 horses to share with us all.

05 Dec 2009 12:38 AM

I really have to speak to several

issues.first PEM...JoPa at 83 is

still coaching, is back on the field, and takes Penn State to a Bowl game every year...and can still chase down a referee to argue with him.  And we still

love and respect him...I'd say

he remains at the forefront in college football.

To others...I wouldn't want to have

a "people person" to train my horses; I'd want a horseman..

..someone who knows horses and can train a horse well.  Considering

that, the records of these trainers speak volumes.  They shouldn't have to market themselves.

And to Karen...if you pay the price

you can get a box seat.  The media and tracks use celebrities to promote their tracks.  Racing is hurting these days, financially.  It's just a way of drawing more people in to watch the program.

(Though personally I'd like to see

more in depth on the horses rather

than a chat with a banal Atlanta


05 Dec 2009 12:45 AM
danny alameda

Those guys need to get the latest designer EPO drugs

Cmon it's easy to stay a few steps ahead....just get the EPO d'jour -- they only have figured out the test for 2 of 'em

I guess you all really know that but beat around the bush like it doesn't exist

so sad... they run for 10 races and the blood thickens so bad they're done


Easy Game

05 Dec 2009 1:58 AM
danny alameda

im sure you'll omit

cuz that's the name of this "game"

look the other way


05 Dec 2009 2:00 AM
Judy Loves John Henry

Hi Steve!

Thanks for another great article.

And, thank you for mentioning my favorite horse's trainer, Ron McAnally!! To this day, I hear nothing but good things about Mr. McAnally and his staff.

BTW I hope you can come back to California for John Henry's life-size statue unveiling on December 26h... You know I'd love to see you again :-)

Happy Holidays!!

05 Dec 2009 2:06 AM

As a horse racing fan, I was born at least a generation too late.  

05 Dec 2009 7:07 AM
Golden Gate

I've found with some of the older trainers the "F" word flows quite frequently. It seems a number of them grew up in the sport from the bottom up...sleeping in tack rooms and mucking stalls and getting kicked in the arse when they didn't do right.

Nothing cuddly about the way they earned a living to stay in the sport. No wonder some don't have great people skills..but I have found out when there is someone working who is really hungry or a rider is injured they are one of the first to kick money into the pot or cook something up for them.

and for those that commented theses trainers will tell you straight out if your horse can run or not are correct..they don't beat around the bush...after all this is how they make a living.

As my one friend said "If the horse can't run give it another job"

05 Dec 2009 7:48 AM
Steve Haskin

Tim, I never said anything about not having a good business relationship. I said a personal relationship. You think Frankel hung out with Khalid Abdullah and Frank Stronach? I've never heard anyone call Ron McAnally or Billy Turner anti-social and hard to get along with. Allen Jerkens and Jack Dreyfus played touch football together. They werent bosom buddies, but managed to stay together and have a great relationship for nearly 50 years. Believe me, if you gave Leroy Jolley good horses, he'd be happy to communicate with you, just as he did with Bert and Diana Firestone. Yes, he could be ornery and grumpy, especially with the media, but he also had a great sense of humor.

05 Dec 2009 9:06 AM

Leroy Jolley is still around?

05 Dec 2009 9:24 AM

This article hits the nail on the head Steve.All the local hardware stores are out of, or going out of business. The only places left are Home Depot and Lowes, they can charge what they want,give poor customer service and if you don't like it there is nowhere else to go.

05 Dec 2009 10:23 AM
David R.

Very true Steve. The story reminds me of all the people who only bet favorites - "Back class" often comes through!

05 Dec 2009 10:33 AM
Tim G

Slew, They are horsemen as well. An owner has to hit on the right fit for themselves.

Also, isn't JoPa a figurehead? Has been coaching from the press box almost all year? Heard they offered Bobby Bowden the same and he retired. I'm not anti-age, my own trainer is over 70, my other one is pushing that.

Woody, Charlie etc all trained successfully into their golden years. I really think more than anything it may be sustained success. Yes Billy is a TC winning trainer and in my opinion a superb horseman and trainer. Chip Wooley is a Derby winning trainer, John Servis has won 2/3 of ONE TC but I don't think anyone is knocking down their doors to train their horses. A lot of these guys are perceived as one horse wonders.

Now Allen, Jack and LeRoy (don't know Frank Martin well)? I don't get that. They've had a number of wonderful horses. Have they had huge or sustained success in the dream races for owners, the Classics? Maybe that's the deciding factor, don't really know. Although I do know some owners see racing as a social occasion, something to bring friends to and yes a pesonable trainer who can put up with that and the sometimes annoying situtations that come along with it is important. Why? Because, as I said it's an expensive hobby for a lot of these people.

Steve, being able to ask your trainer about YOUR horses is part of the business relationship. I would pretty much guarantee that the Prince or his racing manager could get any answer they wanted about a horse.

05 Dec 2009 11:22 AM
Ann in Lexington

These old-style trainers never trained more horses than they could keep in their own barn. They knew each horse, its quirks, its strengths and weaknesses. They knew that conditioning is as important as speed training, perhaps more so. When a horse had a problem, it went on R&R; none of this 'patch it, inject it, he's got to run in the G1 next week.' (Ask Steve Jenkens, son of the Chief, why he lost Quality Road.) Yet horses brought up this way raced every two weeks when ready to run and didn't need 6 weeks between races to recover. They were racehorses, not stallion prospects.

05 Dec 2009 11:47 AM

" I once had an owner call me and ask me to call Bobby Frankel to find out how one of his horses was doing because he was afraid to.

Steve Haskin 04 Dec 2009 10:57 PM"

Think this is what Tim G was speaking about. That IS a business relationship.

Think about if you couldn't go to one of your employees and ask how a million $ project was coming along?

Now if the owner would have said I want to know if he had a fight with his daughter or some other highly personal question? THAT would have been inappropriate unless they were good friends.

Most of the trainers with big stables (the conscientious

ones anyway) want to not have an owner find out things about their own horses through the media, gossip etc. Sure way to lose a horse and an owner.

05 Dec 2009 11:52 AM
Jim P

You could almost add Neil Drysdale and Richard Mandella to this list. I think they've proven they are better trainers than the horses they are getting. Drysdale has a pretty high percentage of wins in big races and Breeder's Cup races. Mandella didn't do too bad in the 03 Breeder's Cup -- 4 winners!

05 Dec 2009 12:17 PM
Ace Hare

My comment was speculation about why they cannot currently get horses. I was expecting the Woody Stevens comeback, and am a little disappointed that Mack Miller wasn't mentioned for Sea Hero, as well. My point is that it would be hard for an owner to invest with these men at this point in time... As to why they have not been getting quality horses for the last 20-some-odd years, why not ask some of their former owners that are still in the game? Maybe some of their old owners passed away and, as old-school trainers couldn't pick up new-school owners? And as you said, Steve, it is the results that count. Maybe their performance suffered for certain owners that yanked their horses from them. I know that a lot of old-school trainers expect owners to give them good horses and send checks for the training bill, but want them to stay completely out of the way, no input or interaction. Some owners just want to go with the hot hand, or just like a certain trainer's philosophy.

And don't forget, there are crooks or cheats at all levels of this game (you didn't mention the stack of unpaid bills that one of the trainers in this article has been rumored to have left at racetracks across the country, including one specific incident that I personally know of). Hell, maybe they cheated too much or didn't cheat enough to suit their owners (don't give me the old oats, hay and water routine, that training regiment has never existed).

There are a lot of reasons that owners no longer employ certain trainers, surely, as long as you have been around this game, could have examined some of these reasons other than throwing a pity party for them (if this article wasn't meant to raise awareness through a prism of pity, what was the point?).    

05 Dec 2009 1:06 PM
needler in Virginia

It's shameful, and SHOULD be an embarrassment to racing, that "flavor of the month" applies not only to the horses, but also to the trainers who have given everything to, attention, interest, time, knowledge, wisdom.

I always knew that most people have the attention span of a very small gnat, but this state of affairs gives the gnat a good name. How CAN we ignore what these trainers have given the game?? Oh, wait; I know...they trained YESTERDAY.

Sad, sad, Steve. So sad but so true. Thanks for the reminder.

Cheers and safe trips.

05 Dec 2009 1:36 PM
Connie in Wisconsin

Beautiful article.  These are great horseman that should not be forgotten, but, in the end I'll bet they are still very happy people because they are doing what they love and I'll bet their horses are being doped up either.  If I were a horse I would be lucky to be in their barn.

05 Dec 2009 2:21 PM

Ann in Lexington, It was Jimmy Jerkens who had Quality Road, not Steve Jenkens (???).

Ace, I agree with some of what you say.

But, the rumors of unpaid bills are ALWAYS exaggerated. Like one where the guy who was supposedly OWED the bill said nobody even HAD that kind of money back when it reportedly happened.

People always tend to embellish for whatever their own issues are.

Usually though the one of the things that is the most difficult for trainers? Collecting from owners.

Most of these big time trainers? Their horses look great. They look like show horses, well fed, shiny coats, well muscled and unfortunately some of them run like show horses too. But in most cases whether they're the number one horse in the barn or the $5000 claimer they ALL have that same look about them.

Believe it or not in the old days there were some who didn't believe in juicing their horses. There still are those who try to abide by the guidelines (as confusing as those can get).

WOW, didn't know we're training regiments now.....

(just kidding, an attempt to lighten it up a bit).

05 Dec 2009 3:41 PM

Trainers should be judged by how they treat horses and how well they do on average.

The best trainers are not the schmoozers with fat barns and fat records who train factory-style but those who are good enough to offer each horse the best chance to stay sound and perform at their best.

Those who win big ones on a trail of destruction don't deserve to be admired and honored or being given more horses.

Water seeks its own level between owners and trainers. Drugs and high ITM % attract regardless of drugs and destruction. Wwners will fire trainers who want to do the right thing with their horses like turning them out before an injury becomes worse, even when it is clearly in the best interest of horses... And owners. Racing has attracted a fair amount of scum because the industry permits the racing of infirm horses on drugs and the press glorifies super-trainers by focussing on big figures and egocentric personalities instead of honorable conduct and quality.

Ban all the drugs one month before each race and on race day so horsemanship can make an honest come-back and so honest and skilled trainers regardless of age can have a fair chance. Why not limit a trainer to 60 or 70 horses, including 40 to 50 at the track under his personal care? Even out the playing field.

The skills and worth of a trainer, that is one who gives each horse the best chance to stay healthy and sound to succeed as a racer at whatever level, should be evaluated by balancing:

- his/her number of victories, stakes victories, money earned and the monetary value of horses under his/her care upon retirement


- the number of horses he has been given to train, their total monetary value when he/she first got them, the number of horses he/she injured and those that died, the vets bills and surgeries, entries, travel and other costs.

This should the only way to appraise the worth of a trainer.

05 Dec 2009 3:47 PM

Joe Paterno at 83 is no mere figurehead.  Last year his leg was broken when he was smashed into by a player during the game.  He had to coach from the press box.  This year, he's back on the side lines..and Penn State is going to another bowl.  Just watch him move at the pep rallies.  What has made him great is his diligence to his players as students...and his love of the game. Same with the older trainers who love racing and train their horses with diligence and patience.  And I would still insist

that having the maximum number of horses in your stable simply doesn't afford the individual attention each horse requires. While the media darlings may indeed love the horses and the game...assistant trainers are doing the actual work. And if they

have truly deserved all the hype, why have we not had a Triple Crown winner in 31 years?  The trainers

Steve Haskin noted have had Triple Crown winners!  Those glorious super freaks were trained very well indeed.

05 Dec 2009 8:30 PM

Good example today at Holly Park... a mare that was previously trained by Ron Mc for one of his long-time client won the Bayakoa (this must really hurt!!) for a different trainer. I can only imagine the sting felt tonight by the classy HOF inductee Ron Mc!!

06 Dec 2009 12:01 AM

As usual this turns into the same ol same ol. That's why a lot of us have stopped posting.

YOU KNOW for a fact Slew that those trainers don't do their own work? I know a lot of the greatest in the game like John Nerud who would tell you that the first 'mega trainer' Wayne Lukas, worked like a dog. I know some of the current guys with big barns who have hours and schedules that would kill most people.

Where the heck do you think the assistants gain their knowledge? From instruction and guidance and an occasional kick in the butt from their bosses.

Any wonder some of the best trainers of this day and age came up under some of the very trainers that you are apparently speaking about?

As far as the trainers Steve mentioned? Only Billy Turner has won a TC.  I know as well that some, not all, but some of the mega trainers know every single horse in their barns. Their organizational skills, knowledge and attention to detail is amazing.

Stan, a trainer gets into the HOF on merit of what his horses accomplished over the years. Some of these mega stables have more breakdowns because of the law of averages. Your judgement of what makes a good trainer is not one that many owners would go by. There are a lot of trainers who have had major success in the biggest races in the game. Would you say they don't deserve to be in the HOF because they had 150-250 horses and won more of the biggest races than anyone has ever done, set stakes winning records but had more breakdowns than the guys with 10 horses????

Someone who has super healthy horses has 5 in their barn on average but has never won a race more than a claimer at a second tier race track should be in the Hall of Fame, as long as they have never had a breakdown? Get real.

Racing is a tough business, horses are fragile animals. Most of these trainers love their horses, but they're not 'IN LOVE' with them. When you have been doing it as long as most of them have, you'll have a nervous breakdown if you do so.

06 Dec 2009 12:20 AM

Fire Slam a small little matter of 13 Triple Crown races, 18 or is it 19 Breeders Cup races, 235 million + in purses won (the majority of which, if taken as the purses they pay out now would put him way over 300 million), a record in G1 and graded stakes races won that took YEARS for someone to break?

He has a program plotted out and if his owners are loyal (and they are) they like the way he does things. He hasn't won as much in the last number of years, but he's always dangerous and you never know when he'll jump up and bite you.

When his stable was down a couple years ago, people were writing the same stories about him. About how he hasn't changed the way he trains his horses etc. The guys Steve is speaking about haven't had the wins in those races that the owners love or would love to win.

I've read your stuff in past, first you question Hal, you've commented negatively on Wayne and Todd as well as other trainers before. Lets just take this story at face value and hope that the Jerkens', Turners', Jolleys, Van Bergs (love that crusty old guy) can get some of the horses they deserve as well.

06 Dec 2009 1:02 AM

As usual, you get to the "heart" of racing, Steve.  My dream, should I win the lottery is to purchase a yearling and ultimately give that horse to Billy Turner to train.  

The big business barns are just that, big business.  No disrespect to Todd Pletcher, but he can't have "hands on" all of his horses.  Why an owner would not thier trainer to have personal interaction for their investment, I don't know.    

06 Dec 2009 7:56 AM

What a beautiful article recognizing the great trainers now reduced to working in the shadows.  I think many owners are so fixated on making money quickly and whisking their horses off to the breeding shed that they don't want to wait for the patient handling that is the hallmark of these  great trainers.

Personally, I'm glad Mr. Haskins didn't include Lucas.  He marked the advent of the churn and burn trainers that came on the scene in the '80's.  Lukas may have mellowed since but he doesn't deserve the same esteem as those mentioned in the article.

06 Dec 2009 9:28 AM

Bradgm...I didn't say the trainers in the media spotlight don't do their own work.  I said it was impossible for one trainer to give the needed time to each of 150-200

horses.  Assistants are valuable,

and the trainers are good.  However, the mega trainers also run horses in claimers and allowance races...but they are not

there at the track with them.  They're too busy with RA, Lucking at Lucky,etc.  Consider this...few

horses today are actually owned by

one person.  They are syndicated...

like Big Brown and I Want Revenge.

(speaking of toss aways..where is

I Want revenge during all these legal battles???). And if only ONE

of the older trainers has a Triple Crown...that's more than we've seen in the past 31 years. We have

however, seen many break downs.  And if you think any owners and trainers don't "love" their runners...maybe you should watch the Mosses and Shirrefs reactions

after the BC Classic again....or

Larry Jones' when Eight Belles went down.  In this day and age,

age itself is a condemnation and skill and wisdom are toss-outs.

06 Dec 2009 10:26 AM

Wouldn't it be exciting for the sport to have each of these HOF trainers be given a promising youngster--one they are involved in selecting--and bring them along to compete. Perhaps a trainer/owner or breeder paired up with the goal of these young athletes competing in a kind of futurity event. Sort of a entire program... or a two select races just for them. We know every race is a battle for the win, but this would be a little different with maybe even stories written about the progress. Gosh, it wouldn't really be so different than the following of all the Barbaro sibs except these would all be the same age and targeting the same goal in races. Seems like there is a story and a challenge in it that would be good for the sport. Maybe someone has a better idea for how it might work.

06 Dec 2009 11:20 AM
Mike Relva


I totally agree with you. It's a shame that these great trainers have been almost ignored. BTW I've always been a fan and have great respect for Mr. Van Berg.

06 Dec 2009 1:09 PM
Stephi S.


You said.."You can't be a cantankerous old grouch and attract owners who spend a lot of money"

Well, I guess you have never heard of "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons. He was a cantankerous old grouch who trained for 70 years. He trained two Triple Crown winners, Gallant Fox and Omaha, as well as Bold Ruler, Nashua and Granville. I can assure you he would not have tolerated the current media demands on the horses and trainers. I don't agree with his training methods, he almost ruined one of the great horses, Seabiscuit, just because he didn't like his sire and didn't take the time to figure out the horse's needs. But I do agree that owners and the media have no business in the shedrow.

I remember when the owners came to visit when I was working on a training center in VA, the trainer hated it. One set of owners used to show up in their Rolls, she was in fur from head to foot, with big red nails and a ton of perfume. Their horses would run to the back of the stall and look very worried whenever she came to the door of the stall. And she would leave stuff for them to eat, all of which was totally unsuitable for a horse in training, or any horse. She would also leave pom-poms for their manes when they raced. She kept having to bring them because the ones she had left last time unaccountably got lost before the horse ran. (heh,heh,heh) I was the person in the barn who wrote up and sent out the monthly reports to the owners on each and every horse, and they could call the trainer with any questions or concerns. But we did prefer that they NOT show up during training hours. In my book, owners should send the checks on time, show up in the winner's circle when their horse gets there, and leave the training of the horse to the trainer. We did have a yearly "Owners Day" when the owners were invited to watch training and have a nice lunch in the track kitchen. Other than that, we preferred the owners stay out of the shedrow. And for the most part, they did.

06 Dec 2009 1:49 PM

There is one thing I think most people don't realize and that horse training doesn't pay that well unless you get "lucky"  with a big horse. Trainers are poorly paid have no medical, no workmans comp for themselves, no retirement, and one owner that doesn't pay his bills eats up what he made on the others.

Billy Turner lost Slew because he didn't want to run him on the west coast, so the owner moved him.  He like Leroy, can't afford NOT to train horses as it is the only way they know how to make a living.  I'll bet few people know that one of Jolleys big owners stiffed him for six figures plus, putting him back to square one with no owners.

In the winter he lives in a studio trainers room at Plam Meadows, not in a condo or fancy house.  The fact is, trainers do the numbers game because it helps pay the bills and gives them a better chance at a good horse.  Being in the game since the 70's I know those guys, and they are great horsemen,to be around, but they do get no respect.  I recently moved my stable out west and Leroy J had 4 cheap horses that year. I mentioned it to someone and they asked, who's Leroy Jolley?  

This sport is sad in the way it discards its once greats.  I do not include Lukas in the group, or the younger guys training now Shug and Mott are a later generation, but it could happen to them too.

Thank you for remembering them

06 Dec 2009 7:01 PM
Soldier Course

Such very sad news about the harness track barn fire in Ohio. This should have been a lead article throughout the day at, given the fact that 43 horses and two people lost their lives in this fire. I had to hunt for the article.

Has a charitable donation account been established in connection with this tragedy?

06 Dec 2009 8:20 PM

Stephi, that was a different era, a different type of clientele and a whole different set of economics.

Back in the day, racing was handed down through the generations and trainers trained for them as private trainers for most of their lives or at least the trainer pool and owner pool was so limited that they put up with a lot different things than they will now.

Owners now are astute businessmen/women who are self made millionares, made their fortunes through business sense, savvy and knowing what was going on in their business.

Someone who isn't media friendly, only hurts the game. We don't have the luxury of being elitist and so bound by tradition that we shoot ourselves in the foot. Good thing you said 'used to' because frankly, that's part of what is making life so difficult for these old timers.

sarc, those trainers you mention could have been discarded as well and after Wayne had Bill and Bob pass, he was struggling. As I'm sure you know, if you really are in the game, it costs as much or more for those guys to keep their horses up and running as it does anyone and as you alluded to, they don't make a lot of money off of each horse after expenses, none of us do.  Have to say though it helps when you won the biggest of the big races. I remember an article not long ago that chronicled how people like Wayne would still be just as upbeat and positive, looking for the next great horse even if they had 3 broken down lowest level claimers in their barn. I'm not sure but maybe that level of confidence and positivity have helped those that have stayed prominent, or come back somewhat.

06 Dec 2009 9:46 PM

This article is so on target. Thank for stating it so well.

I personally have felt the sentiments expressed in your article so strongly, that I did what I could about them some time ago.  I am a website developer, so I created websites as gifts for Allen Jerkens and Billy Turner. and  I doubt Allen has ever seen his, but Billy is excited to have a website.

I can say that when we attended tradeshows and had Allen's site running, people stopped in the aisle to listen to the Prove Out-Secretariat race call. They told us they got goose bumps. I also just checked You Tube and 45,749  people have viewed the Seattle Slew KY Derby video. The fans are there. As you say, it is the owners who are missing the boat.

On a related personal note, we have a modestly bred 4th generation homebred with Allen Jerkens.  She is in a small a partnership of friends.  Allen may not want to schmooze, his barn may not be resplendant with flowers, and you may learn the occasional new and colorful word, but in my mind the ultimate proof is in the pudding. I credit Allen with maximizing our filly's abilities, keeping her sound, and giving us a terrific run for our money.

Our filly is in Aiken for the winter (we believe in other old fashioned ideas, such as time at the farm, even for sound horses), but she will return to Allen in the spring as a 5 year old and we are looking forward to another wonderful year of racing.

If a "big" horse happens along, every trainer you mention will know exactly what to do with it. The statistics of this happening are not favorable however, and you do not need the "big" horse to have a wonderful time racing. All the trainers mentioned in your article are masters at developing any horse you give them to its fullest potential. Over the long haul that would seem most important.

07 Dec 2009 4:16 PM
Debbie O'Connor

Nice article, but I think all sports are pretty mercenary in the way they treat "yesterday's heros".  I'm sure every sport can give you the same type of examples.  If you are not fashionable or the "flavor of the month", you're forgotten.

09 Dec 2009 1:28 PM

What a great eye-opener this article is. Thanks again Steve.

My favorite "soap box" subject is nicely covered by the comments. Let's get back to raising race horses - not stud muffins.

09 Dec 2009 2:38 PM


Thanks for another great article and for giving these great trainers their due.

I would submit to you that racing is no different than the rest of our culture and corporate America in that everything today is the drive for instant results and short term performance. There does not appear to be any respect for past accomplishments nor in building for the long term. It is all about "what have you done for me lately?"

While many would not want to admit it, ageism does exist in our society and some of the comments here reflect the truth of that. The positive part is that there do exist many capable veterans in many fields who love what they do and do it well at ages when the rest of us are sitting on our laurels. While they may be older and on the downhill side of a career, their experience is worth a lot and the transfer of that knowledge base to the novices in their respective fields is what makes any enterprise, sport or industry successful in the long term. God bless them all.

11 Dec 2009 12:14 PM

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15 Dec 2009 4:31 AM

This article is baut only sport  commentary,ofcourse always  wants to win.

Congratulation for all trainers.

28 Dec 2009 6:07 AM
Lloyd Smith

It may be impolite to ask, but does Mr. Turner have an email address where he can be contacted?

22 Sep 2010 10:03 AM

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