Archive for the Trainers Category

Aug 30 2015

Head Trainer Tom Morley – Honesty Is His Trademark

Tom Morley2 Spa 2015

Head Trainer Tom Morley

When we last visited with Tom, nearly two years ago, his stable consisted of himself, Maggie Wolfendale, one groom, one hot-walker, and about a dozen horses. Since that time, his stable has grown to around fifty horses, with 33 stabled on the grounds at Saratoga and Belmont, a dozen two-year olds in nearby training centers where Tom visits them on a regular basis, and about five older horses turned out at farms (having a mid-season break). His staff now consists of two full-time assistants, eight grooms, eight hot-walkers, and, of course, now lady of the castle – Maggie Wolfendale-Morley.

Tom Morley Stable remains a New York based operation, but will soon be expanding into other racing circuits. Tom told us “Fifty horses is a good competitive number to divide the stable”. After Saratoga, Tom plans on leaving some horses at Saratoga and moving the rest back to Belmont. In the fall, he intends to send some horses to Keeneland for the first time. Then over the winter he plans to ship a division to Florida and stable them at either Payson Park or Palm Meadows. In Florida, his two assistants, Pearl Hagadorn and Sarah O’Brien, will manage the operations while Tom runs the New York division. Tom added “In the future, when my staff has been with me longer, I wouldn’t be afraid to let the number of horses grow larger. At the end of the day, it’s not just a numbers game, but you need to have the numbers because there is always a level of attrition, when horses get hurt, sick, or taken away by an owner.”


May 22 2015

Meet Ian Wilkes – You Make Your Own Luck

Ian Wilkes

I recently sat down with Ian Wilkes, the trainer of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned. Ian told me that “Fort Larned took me to places I’d dreamed of going.” But to get to those places, Ian Wilkes had to learn from some mistakes first. And during the course of our conversation, I discovered that Ian is very willing to share his mistakes and the lessons he learned along the way. He explained, “You’re never too proud to say that you screwed up. Successful people always make mistakes in life and learn from them. Just don’t keep making the same ones over again.”


Mar 9 2015

Meet Brendan Walsh – The Ups and Downs of a Horse Trainer

Brendan Walsh

Brendan Walsh

When he started training three years ago, Brendan Walsh bought enough equipment for a dozen horses.  That wasn’t enough.  It went to twenty and now it’s 32 horses in his stable.  He expects to have between 40 and 45 horses over the summer.  The day after we interviewed Brendan, he won his 3rd consecutive start at Gulfstream Park.  In 2014, he cracked the $1 million mark for purses earned.  So, the life of a horse trainer is a bed of roses, huh.  Well, listen to Brendan’s story before you give up your day job to try it out.

Brendan Walsh grew up on a farm in County Cork, Ireland. That gave him plenty of exposure to animals, but not horses … until he got a pony. He had to teach himself how to ride, since no one in his family “had a clue.” Brendan described his relationship with the pony, “For about two years that pony would buck and kick and run off on me. My dad said anyone else would have just quit. But, I’d keep getting back on him, and eventually I got him going pretty good.”


Oct 14 2014

Meet Thomas Brandebourger (Asst. Trainer to Christophe Clement)

Thomas Brandebourger

Thomas Brandebourger

In a prior article about Christophe Clement, we noted his ability to attract talented and loyal staff.  Over the past few months we’ve spent some time with one of his assistant trainers, Thomas Brandebourger.  In doing so, we discovered a man working quietly, out of the limelight of the racing world, tending to a string of Clement’s horses, seven days a week.

Thomas is 29 years old, a native of France, speaks three languages …  loves horses, soccer, and a good coffee. Since the age of three he has wanted to train horses. His father bred and sold horses in France, and Thomas grew up on a farm. But, as Thomas said to me, “The exciting thing for me was the racing. I just wanted to be as close to the racing as possible.”

As a teenager, during his school vacations, Thomas worked with several trainers learning how to train and ride horses. Then at eighteen, he stayed and worked with an accomplished trainer in France, Robert Collet, for five months. After that, he told his father that he wanted to go to America, to “see what is going on there.” So, at nineteen years old, Thomas picked up his tack and moved to America, for what was supposed to be a few months. He never went back to France.


Jun 2 2014

Meet Christophe Clement – A Truly Happy Man

Clement in Paddock at GP

On Saturday, June 7, Christophe Clement will start a horse named Tonalist in the Belmont Stakes.  A horse with only four starts, but considered by many to be the main threat to upset California Chrome’s pursuit of the Triple Crown.  Back in January, over the course of two days, I spent several hours with Christophe and his stable of horses at Payson Park, including Tonalist, who would break his maiden in convincing style at Gulfstream Park less than two weeks after my visit. The following is the original interview, in it’s entirety.

Every now and then you meet someone who is truly happy … truly.  And, when that happens, I find it inspiring.  For one, it inspires me to pursue those things in life that make me truly happy.  Secondly, to realize that happiness might not be as elusive as others would have you believe.  It’s out there.  It’s possible.  And if you listen closely, Christophe Clement is telling us how to find it.

After greeting us at his office, he offered my wife and me a tour of the grounds.  He explained that the best advice he ever got in the business was to bring his horses to Payson Park twenty years ago, and he’s been doing it ever since.


May 25 2014

Meet Ben Colebrook – A Young Trainer With Some Fresh Ideas

Bel Colebrook and Dylan Davis

Ben Colebrook and Dylan Davis

On a recent trip to Kentucky, I had a chance to sit down with Ben Colebrook, a young head trainer in the Lexington, Kentucky area.  Ben was formerly an Assistant Trainer to Christophe Clement.  I was curious to learn what Ben took away from his experience with Christophe which spanned about 41/2 years.

Also, being a young guy, I was interested in his views about how to attract young people to follow the sport of horse racing.  His response to that question was entertaining, and made me rethink some of my viewpoints on the same subject.  So, without further adieu, meet Ben Colebrook.

Where are you from and how did you get started in horse racing?

I’m from central Kentucky. My dad was a farm manager and he trained horses. I came up breaking babies and working on the farm for my dad. Through college I galloped horses and worked the sales for some consignors and went to work for Bill Harrigan at Miacomet Farm breaking yearlings. From there I went to work for Fred Seitz, who was training horses; he owned a farm in Kentucky called Brookdale, but later on he decided to train, so I went to work for him for 3 ½ years. From there I went to work for Christophe Clement, starting in February of 2008, and I was with him until August of 2012, when I went out on my own.


Mar 17 2014

Meet Michelle Nihei – A Smart and Caring Horse Trainer

Michelle Nihei GP

Michelle Nihei

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with head trainer Michelle Nihei (pronounced Nee-Hay).  In our conversation we covered a lot of ground; including her academic background prior to horse racing, the lessons she learned from working with Todd Pletcher for six years, the challenges facing a small barn, and several hot topics in the industry today. It was a lively discussion that I must admit headed in directions that I did not foresee.  But, at the conclusion, I learned that Michelle is someone that truly cares about her horses, the people in her stable, and the future of the horse racing industry.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Calgary, Alberta.  I went from the University of Saskatchewan, where I got my undergraduate and Master’s degree, to the University of Kentucky for my PhD (in Neuroscience). Read More >>

Feb 24 2014

Meet Buzzy Tenney – Hard Working, Always Smiling

Buzzy Tenney Smiling

Buzzy Tenney

Buzzy Tenney is the long-time Assistant Trainer to Hall of Fame Head Trainer Shug McGaughey.  In 2013, he was a member of the team that won the Kentucky Derby with a horse named Orb.  If there is a friendlier person in all of horse racing … I can’t imagine it.

During a recent visit to the backside at Gulfstream Park, Buzzy sat down with me and shared his story.  From getting started in the business with no prior horse experience to winning his very first Kentucky Derby last year, Buzzy is a shining example of a hard-working horseman, who has learned his trade from the ground up and continues to practice it on a daily basis.


Feb 10 2014

Meet T.C. Stevens – Famous Name, Different Tack

TC and Jaime Stevens

T.C. and Jaime Stevens

Tory (T.C.) Stevens is the son of Hall-of-Fame rider Gary Stevens.  But, unlike his dad, T.C. is trying to make his mark on the sport of Thoroughbred Horse Racing through different means … as a head trainer.

He launched his racing stable on March 28, 2013 and two days later his leg was broken while riding one of his two horses in training.  That might deter some new trainers, but as I learned from my visit with T.C. at Gulfstream Park, this young man does not discourage easily – a necessary quality for surviving in a very challenging profession.

During my visit at Gulfstream Park, T.C. introduced me to his horses, and then he offered me the lone chair in his office while he pulled up a pail.  We had the following conversation.


Aug 25 2013

Meet Tom Morley – An Englishman in New York

Tom Morley Portrait

In an ongoing effort to bring to you, the fans, examples of real people working in the horse racing industry we bring you Tom Morley, horse trainer.  Tom was mentioned in a prior post about Maggie Wolfendale, who works as the Paddock Analyst for NYRA.

In addition to her job at NYRA, Maggie is very involved in Tom’s business, working with the horses on a daily basis.  They are involved in a personal relationship as well.  (Update July 26, 2014: Tom Morley is now Maggie Wolfendale’s fiancee!)

Tom is a young trainer, who launched his own business in 2013.  He had prior experience working for Eddie Kenneally as an assistant trainer.  All of that we’ll get into, and more.  He was very generous with his time, so we have a lot of material to write about Tom.  So much, that we’re going to break apart the interview into multiple parts.  This part will introduce you to Tom and set the stage for some very interesting insight into the life of a young trainer.