Through the first third of 2016, which of the top money-winning trainer are trending up, which are down and which are consistent compared to the first third of 2015?
by Joe Fitzgerald
This is a look at how the trainers in the top 25 are faring after the first four-and-a-half months of 2016, in comparison with the same period last year. I contrasted the results from the morning of May 14, 2016 with the same date in 2015. Some thrive in the pre-Grand Circuit period, while others do better early in the year, and these results reflect that fact.
Twenty-nine-year-old Rene Allard is second again, but unlike top trainer Ron Burke (see below) Allard has 37 more wins in 260 more starts and has bumped his earnings up by $207,000. His UTRS dropped from 0.379 to 0.342. Half his starts have been at Yonkers Raceway, a percentage that will shift now that the Pennsylvania tracks are in full swing. Red Hot Herbie, Lettucerockthem A, Carolsideal, Yagonnakissmeornot, Domethatagain and Rock N Roll Xample are a few of his better ones.
Richard Banca is our first surprise, as the leading trainer at Yonkers goes from number 17 a year ago to number three. His 434 starts represent a 46 per cent increase from May of 2015. His 94 wins are up 42 per cent and his stable has earned twice as much money — $1.1 million. Forty-one-year-old Banca, who was shown the “Not Welcome” sign at The Meadowlands in January, 2012 has made more than 90 per cent of his starts at the Westchester, NY track. Mach It A Par, Monroe County, Santa Fe Beachboy and Sam’s Escape are some of his money makers. He finished 2015 in 20th place.
Australian native Peter Tritton is another surprise, as his stable of top-shelf imports carried him from 48th in 2015 to number six this year. A low volume trainer, his starts and wins haven’t jumped much but his earnings are up more than $612,000. Bit Of A Legend N, the richest standardbred in North America by $150,000, swept the Levy, while Sell A Bit N excelled throughout the first part of the year, including in the Matchmaker. For The Ladies N and Texican N are a couple of others. Tritton has made all but a handful of his starts at Yonkers Raceway.
Yonkers trainer Thomas Milici has risen from the depths of obscurity to the upper echelon of the training fraternity. He occupies the nine slot. His 73 wins represent a 63 per cent increase over all of last year, when he didn’t crack the top 50. And his earnings are up $423,000 over all of 2015. A number of very productive horses have fortuitously fallen into his lap. Major Athens, the richest trotter in North America, and Kid PK are a couple of his charges.
Delaware trainer Dylan Davis, who turns 39 soon, jumped 12 spots to number 10. His 66 more starts have translated into 10 more wins and $148,000 more in earnings. Go Collect N and Cashendash Hanover are some of his winners.
Meadows regular Norm Parker rose 31 spots to number 14. He had 124 additional starters that earned $200,000 more than his horses did during the same period last year. That represents a 40 per cent increase. Coffee Addict, Chef Lee and Breedlove are three of his better ones.
Thirty-one-year-old Andrew Harris, who made more than 63 per cent of his starts at Yonkers, moved up from 44 to 21. He had 10 additional wins on 15 fewer starts and banked $319,000 more than he did during the same stretch in 2015. He is 12th on the Yonkers trainer’s list. His Bettor Rock On N has committed to the upcoming Molson Pace. Phil Your Boots, Skates N Plates and Lucan Hanover are other money makers. The latter just returned to the Casie Coleman barn.
Ron Burke, the top trainer this year and last, took $488,850 out of the inaugural Pennsylvania Classic when his charges finished 1-2-3, led by his Classics hope Check Six. Still, Burke has sent out 142 fewer starters this year, and those horses have won 16 fewer races and banked $282,000 less than his bunch had by May 14 of last year. He recently crossed the $4 million threshold while none of his competitors are close to $2 million, so it’s all relative.
Luminosity, Take It Back Terry, All Bets Off, Atta Boy Dan, and Confederation Cup winner, My Hero Ron, are a few of the 46-year-old trainer’s money makers.
Richard Moreau, 51, the dominant force in Ontario and winner of the Trainer of the Year O’Brien the last three years, is at number five, two spots better than a year ago. His starts and wins are down a couple of dozen each, but his earnings are up by more than $32,000. Moreau finished 2015 at number 13. Witch Dali, Rafa, Ms Mac N Cheese, Gerries Sport, Boomboom Ballykeel, Mohawk Warrior and Grin For Money are in his stable.
Jimmy Takter, who ended the season in second, moved from 15 to 12, but what he accomplishes during the early part of the season means little. Not Afraid, Great Vintage and Sunfire Blue Chip are three horses that earned money for him during this period. Takter earned more money in Canada than any other trainer during 2015.
Fourth place Jeff Bamond,31, was third at this point last year. His starts and wins are about the same but his earnings are down more than $308,000 and his UTRS dropped from 0.314 to 0.283. He has made 85 per cent of his starts at Yonkers. Krispy Apple is still going strong, but last year’s Matchmaker winner, Venus Delight, and four-time division winner, Anndrovette, have both failed to fire. Mach It So, Ideal Cowboy, Validus Deo and PH Supercam have made money for Bamond Racing. He wound up fifth last year.
Ontario based Carmen Auciello, 35, drops a couple of spots, from six to eight. Despite having 102 fewer starts, his win total only fell by two, although his earnings decreased by $216,000. Auciello, who crossed the $10 million threshold in career earnings in late January at Woodbine, made a quarter of his starts at Yonkers Raceway. His War N Munn recently won the Diplomat, while Heavenly Hill took the Blossom Series final.
Ohio trainer Virgil Morgan, Jr., 50, who has more than 5,000 wins to his credit, fell from number 5 to 15. His earnings were cut in half as he took in $478,000 less than last year. Starts were down by 150 and wins off by 65. He’s the king of Scioto Downs; things should heat up now that they’re open.
Tracy Brainard, 39, who was banned from Yonkers — except for sire stakes races — one week into May of last year, was ninth on the trainers list a year ago. She wound up at number 49 at year’s end and has only had a dozen starts under her own name in 2016.
Jennifer Sabot, who was/is Lou Pena’s girlfriend, was at number 13 on May 14, 2015. She’s credited with only 19 starts and one win in 2016. Contrast that with the 86 board finishes and $573,000 she was credited with at this point in 2015.
With things beginning to open up on the Grand Circuit front and in the sire stakes realm as well, the complexion of this list will change markedly over the course of the next couple of months.