Count trainer Chris Richard as one of the more enthusiastic horsemen regarding the recent removal of Polytrack and installation of dirt before this year's fall meet at Keeneland.
Richard registered four wins from his first five starts at Keeneland this fall, winning three races for owner Maggi Moss with Galloping Domino, Como Se Llama, and Electric Temptress; and one with Jackrabbit Thoroughbreds’ Quality Council.
Richard has enjoyed success in recent years at Prairie Meadows, where he has registered four training titles and finished as second-leading trainer this year. Without many horses with proven form on synthetic surfaces or turf horses that might excel on Polytrack, Richard had few Thoroughbreds he thought were a good fit for Keeneland in recent years.
After making just a few spot starts at the Lexington track in recent years, Richard was excited when he read about plans to switch the main track back to dirt. He was certain he’d have some horses who would be good fits at the meet.
“When they went back to the dirt surface, I was pretty excited,” Richard said. “We gave some horses some layoffs, freshened them up. We thought we were in some pretty good spots if we could get a little lucky and we’ve been fortunate in that the horses have run well.”
Chris Richard is all smiles with the return to dirt at Keeneland - Coady Photography
Richard had previously worked with horses at Keeneland as an assistant to Tom Amoss from 2000 to 2005, when he went out on his own. Richard loved winning races at Keeneland with Amoss and looked forward to saddling his own winners this year.
“We kind of planned for this meet. I really hadn’t participated much at Keeneland when it had Polytrack,” Richard said. “When they switched over, I really got excited again because when I worked with Tom, we had a lot of success here. It was always a lot of fun to come and win races here.”
With Kentucky moving September dates from Turfway Park, which features Polytrack; to the dirt racing at Churchill Downs, Richard has had even more options in Kentucky.
Richard, 43, a Ragley, La., native, grew up helping out his grandfather who ran horses at Evangeline Downs and Delta Downs. With that interest in horses from a young age, Richard studied at Texas A & M, where he received a B.S. in Animal Equine Science and an M.S. in Equine Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.
He would train some horses for owner Jim McIngvale before taking the assistant position with Amoss. When Richard was ready to move out on his own, Amoss helped him along.
“Tom was very instrumental to me in going out on my own, he was very supportive,” Richard said.
Richard said he initially had five horses when he started at Arlington Park. Moss would soon express interest in racing in the Chicago area, but Amoss was not interested in starting a stable there. He recommended Moss consider Richard, and the two quickly found success. Richard said they work well together.
“We communicate very well; we’re always on the same page,” Richard said. “In our partnership and our system, we just seem to be on the right page together.”
Last year Richard ranked 36th in wins and 81st in earnings among North American-based trainers. The Midwest-based trainer has won multiple stakes and registered his first graded stakes win with Outta Tune in the 2012 Count Fleet Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park.
Richard enjoys working with horses and likes competition. The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Triple Crown races are a goal.
“I enjoy winning races at any level. It’s just a lot of fun and I have a lot of passion for it,” Richard said. “Like every trainer, we want to get to the point where we have some good 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds and we’re running in the Derby preps and hopefully we get one that’s good enough to get to the Derby some day. I think that’s the ambition of most trainers and it’s definitely mine.”