After moving with his family from Michigan to California as a young man, trainer Doug O’Neill says he experienced “love at first sight” when his father took him and his brothers to Santa Anita Park. That initial surge of emotion has never ebbed and, after leaving high school to go directly to work with horses on the racetrack, O’Neill has called Santa Anita his base since he opened his own stable in 1994.
From that beginning, O’Neill has advanced up the ranks while making himself a formidable force in North America, currently ranking among the winningest trainers by career stable earnings with a total of $121.59 million through May 2018.
He has twice saddled winners of the Kentucky Derby, with bargain $35,000 juvenile purchase I’ll Have Another romping in the 2012 Run for the Roses and adding the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. I’ll Have Another stood poised to make history with a Triple Crown bid but an injury kept him out of the Belmont Stakes and eventually led to his sale to Japan as a stallion.
Just four years after I’ll Have Another, O’Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam once again were celebrating with roses when undefeated juvenile champion Nyquist proved best at Churchill Downs to become one of only eight unbeaten Kentucky Derby winners at that point in history. Justify became the ninth in 2018.
O’Neill, who celebrated his 50th birthday in May 2018, also has trained six winners of Breeders’ Cup races, with Goldencents victorious in both the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Dirt Mile. Nyquist made history as only the second horse, following Street Sense, to win both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby.
Maryfield, who won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in 2007, joined I’ll Have Another and Nyquist, as well as 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Stevie Wonderboy and 2006 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Thor’s Echo, as champions trained by O’Neill.
Another star runner developed by O’Neill was Lava Man, who earned over $5 million and Grade 1 victories on dirt, turf and all-weather surfaces. Lava Man had been claimed by the O’Neill team for only $50,000 and became a multiple California-bred champion as well as one of the most popular runners in the sport; after the gelding was retired from competition, O’Neill has shared him with the public as a stable pony and general ambassador for racing.
There may never have been much doubt that Steve Asmussen would become a trainer since he had been immersed in the racing world since birth.
Both his father, Keith, and mother, Marilyn, have spent much of their lives conditioning racehorses, and his brother, Cash, also pursued the craft after a brilliant international career as a jockey. While Steve started out in the sport as a jockey, he quickly grew too tall, towering over six feet, to pursue riding professionally.
Beginning his life as a trainer with some horses owned by his family, Asmussen recorded his first winner at age 20 and, fueled by a nonstop work ethic, he has forged an unparalleled career that led to his induction into the Racing Hall of Fame at age 50 in 2016.
Asmussen has led all North American trainers by seasonal wins nine times, and in three years he set all-time records for the most wins, topped by the 650 winners he sent out in 2009. Through May 2018, he ranks second only to the late Dale Baird with a total of 8,037 wins. However, Asmussen’s career with branches of his stable around America is more properly defined by the remarkable champions he conditioned to four Horse of the Year titles from 2007 through 2017 in a feat unparalleled in the modern era.
Curlin, who won the 2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in addition to the 2008 Dubai World Cup while amassing then record earnings for any horse based outside of Japan with $10,501,800, was honored as Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
In 2009, Asmussen teamed again with Curlin’s primary owner, Stonestreet Stables, to hone Rachel Alexandra into a champion. She became the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years and defeated males twice more in Grade 1 stakes to earn the Horse of the Year title.
Asmussen also trained Gun Runner to the 2017 Horse of the Year title, and the son of Candy Ride won that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic in addition to the 2018 Pegasus World Cup while earning $15,988,500, a total surpassed outside of Japan only by the Bob Baffert-trained Arrogate. Asmussen’s other champions are the fillies Untappable and My Miss Aurelia, and sprinter Kodiak Kowboy.
Born in County Cork, Ireland, and now based in Newmarket, Ed Vaughan is an intuitive horseman who has trained since 2004.
His guiding principle is that “I want to continue improving the quality of my string each year and aim to regularly compete at the top level.”
A former assistant to trainer Alec Stewart at Clarehaven Stables, Vaughan took out his license after his employer sadly passed away. As well as learning from Stewart, Vaughan banked a wealth of experience in his formative years; he successfully graduated from the Irish National Stud course and spent four years working at training facilities in America.
Afterward, Vaughan transferred to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, and he was assigned to supervise a pre-training barn in Ireland. While holding this position, he experienced what would be a highlight in any horseman’s career when he broke in the legendary Dubai Millennium as a yearling.
Two separate two-year spells followed as an assistant to both Charlie Mann and Noel Chance ahead of the switch to Stewart’s team.
Vaughan currently is based at Machell Place Stables. His current runners include Group 3-placed filly Dancing Brave Bear.
Born over the Black Swan pub in Rugby, England, Karl Burke gained his first interest in racing through watching the sport with his father and eventually he became a jockey, riding his first winner for trainer Alan Jarvis, The Britisher, in an apprentice race at Hamilton.
Knowing he would be too heavy for a career on the flat, Burke switched codes to jump racing and went on to record 50 winners from 750 rides.
With his wife, Elaine, who he had met in school and who is Jarvis’s daughter, Burke later set up a boarding and pre-training yard in Newark where they gave early lessons to young stock. It was here they started training a small string of both flat and jump horses in 1991.
Among Burke’s early stars was Daring Destiny, winner of the Ayr Gold Cup, a Group 2 race in Germany and a Group 3 in Ireland. In 2000, as his stable was growing, Burke and his family bought the historic Spigot Lodge in North Yorkshire, and he has trained there for over 15 years.
Among Burke’s initial Group 1 winners was Lord Shanakill, who won the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly in 2009, and Odeliz, who won the 2015 Prix Jean Romanet in France and the Premio Lydia Tesio in Italy.
Burke cites Quiet Reflection as one of the best horses he has trained, and the daughter of Showcasing won the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and the Haydock Park Sprint as a three-year-old in 2016.
The following year, Burke sent out the colt Unfortunately to win the Prix Morny and Laurens to capture the Fillies Mile, and he calls those Group 1 victories perhaps the most important of his career. In May 2018, Laurens won another Group 1, the Prix Saint-Alary, in France.
Burke’s primary goal for the future is to win a classic race.
Deciding to take up the mantle of a trainer at the age of 24 Ciaron Maher has since gained the reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative horsemen in Australia. A former jump jockey he has the same fearless approach to his chosen profession as he did as a rider.
Described as having an affinity with animals by his father, Ciaron originally promised his parents that if things didn't go well as a trainer in the first couple of years, he'd go back and help them on their farm. Farming's loss is horse racing's gain.
Training his first winner in 2005 he has since saddled over 600 winners, including 10 at Group One level and has expanded his operations to Caulfield, Ballarat, Cavallino Estate, Merricks North and Warwick Farm. The multi-location operation means he has the best facilities for his horses and has a base near every major racecourse and race in the country.
His first significant winner was Moudre in 2010 while his first Group One success came along in 2014 when Set Square who took the VRC Oaks; he hasn't looked back since.
David Eustace joined the team in 2016 adding a more meticulous approach to the stable that mixes perfectly with Ciaron's more relaxed outlook.
Son of British trainer James Eustace, David has been around horses all his life and also brings a slightly different approach to training thoroughbreds. He gained a valuable apprenticeship in Australian Racing while working for Black Caviar's trainer Peter Moody before making a move to a more senior role with Ciaron. Also a former Amateur jockey he has a great understanding of racehorses and is proving an excellent foil for Ciaron as they target further growth and success.
Last season the Ciaron Maher stable trained 65 winners while during this campaign they have already surpassed that target by some distance.
After developing a passion for racing following regular trips to Turf Paradise Mike Puype didn't wait that long to 'live his dream'.
After a foray into racehorse ownership, Mike first took up a license to train in 198, aged just 20. He stayed in his Arizona base for five years before heading west to become assistant trainer to legendary West Coast horseman Walter Greenman. It was during this education he met Gary Biszantz, the master of Cobra Farm in Kentucky and in 1995, he became the private trainer for the Cobra operation. It was a very successful partnership with Mike developing stable star Cobra King into a Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful. Not only that but he saddled Old Trieste to win Hollywood Park's 1998 Swaps (G1) by 12 lengths.
Opening a public stable in 2002, Mike now enjoys the diversity of horses and owners that come with the territory. Known for his adept purchasing of value and quality horses he has also developed a reputation in developing young horses.
The name of "John Quinn" will be forever associated with Phoenix Thoroughbreds after saddling our first ever Royal Ascot winner. Phoenix CEO Amer Abdulaziz described Signora Cabello's victory in the 2018 Queen Mary Stakes as being "more important than winning the Epsom Derby for the fund."
John has been around horses all of his life having started out hunting on his grandfather's farm in Ireland. His love of these magnificent animals saw him join Edward O'Grady's stable as soon as he could leave school and become a conditional jockey. Following several enjoyable years, John decided to come to England in search of more opportunities and ended up in Malton with Jimmy Fitzgerald before going freelance in the 1980s.
Two hundred winners in the saddle were notched up before changing tact in 1990 to run a livery yard. It was shortly after he decided to enter the training ranks and although winners were, at first, slow to arrive, he has gone from strength to strength and now oversees 65 horses from his bases at Bellwood Cottage and Highfield Yard.
Still, a dual purpose trainer and has had success at the top level and is one of a handful of trainers to have tasted success at both Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival.
Not from a traditional racing background Peter Chapple-Hyam is the son of a greengrocer who caught the bug for the "Sport Of Kings" while enjoying a family tradition of going to the races with his father every Saturday. There he idolised the likes of Lester Piggott and said one of his earliest memories is of The Minstrel winning the 1977 Epsom Derby.
This love for racing showed no signs of abating through his school years where he would often play truant from college to spend the afternoon in the bookies.
It was no surprise that following is 'interrupted education' he pursued a career in the industry he adored and spent a near half-decade with trainer Fred Rimell as an aspiring amateur jockey. He soon decided that path wasn't for him and he took up a position with Barry Hills as a pupil assistant before becoming Hills' full-time assistant trainer. Determined to learn as much as he could Peter took working holidays in Australia gaining knowledge of a different way of working.
His thirst for knowledge served him well, and he saddled two Group One winners in his first season as a trainer in 1991 while a year later he trained his first classic winner. Now a dual Epsom Derby winner Peter has also spent time training in Hong Kong adding to his experience and knowledge of how to get the best out of his horses.
Thought of one as one of Australia's more lateral thinking trainers with terrific attention to detail Michael Kent rose to prominence in the mid-1990s. It was a period which saw him take the Victorian mid-week trainer's premiership for both the 1993/94 and 1994/95 seasons in addition to becoming the youngest trainer ever to enter the top five in Melbourne, aided by the likes of Group 1 South Australian Derby winner Bullwinkle.
In 1996, eager to secure his financial future and expand his horizons Michael turned his attention to Singapore. During his first campaign he was the leading trainer in the country by strike rate and followed that up the following season, by finishing second in the trainer's premiership, a feat repeated in the year 2000. He would write his own chapter in Singapore racing history by winning the country's first ever $1million race as well as capturing the Triple Crown Challenge with Southerly Wind, the only horse complete that remarkable test.
Since his return to Australia, the winners have continued to flow, and he tasted Group One success when striking in the 2016 Australian Oaks with Abbey Marie.
With a wealth of experience, he is set to continue sending out significant winners.
In a very short space of time trainer, John Thompson has amassed some very striking numbers with a near 700 winners saddled including six at Group One level and over $27 million in prize money gained for his owners.
As a fourth generation trainer it's no surprise that John took this path, but despite his background, he has been determined to learn as much as he can. For 20 years, John worked as a foreman in some of the country’s leading stables including the Ingham’s Crown Lodge and Bart Cummings Leilani Lodge, where he was Bart’s right-hand man for eight years.
What followed next was a stint as head trainer at Nathan Tinkler’s Patinack Farm, and he soon made his mark as just six months into the role he landed a Group One victory when Small Minds took out the Australasian Oaks and stablemate No Evidence Needed finished second.
John has tasted success in five states and in 2011/2012 was Australia's leading trainer of two-year-olds and his experience in the industry gives him a great insight into the mind of the thoroughbred.
In the near 30 years, Mick Price has had a license he has become one of Australia's leading trainers.
Preparing a multitude of prominent horses Mick has established a reputation of being a talented handler of juveniles. In 2003 he saddled the trifecta in the Group 3 Blue Diamond Preview with Halibery, Gaelic Princess and Roedean before World Peace took out the race for the stable in 2004. Mick maintained his fantastic record with two-year-olds by winning both the colts and fillies divisions of the Blue Diamond Preludes in 2005 with Perfectly Ready and Doubting.
It's not just with the younger horses though he has tasted success thanks to victories in numerous Group Ones including the Futurity Stakes, Railway Stakes, Goodwood Handicap, Toorak Handicap and Blue Diamond Stakes.
One of the horses Mick is most recently associated with is Lankan Rupee, the star of the stable in a stellar 2013/14 season. The horse won the Group Three Heffernan Stakes, the Group Two Rubiton Stakes before graduating to Group One success in the Oakleigh Plate. His winning run at the top level didn't stop there with both the Newmarket and TJ Smith Stakes added to his CV.
Another runner synonymous with the Price name is Samaready, a Blue Diamond Stakes winner who added the Group One Moir Stakes as a three-year-old before retiring from racing having had only 13 starts but amassing prize money of just under $1.7million.
Since taking over Lees Racing following the sudden death of his father in 2003, Kris Lees has established himself as one of the leading trainers in Australia gaining successes at the top level.
In his first season in charge, he amassed $2 million in Prize money for his owners while it was just a year later that he notched up his first Group One victory with County Tyrone winning 2004 The Metropolitan at Royal Randwick.
Ever since the winners have continued to flow, as evidenced by six Newcastle premiership titles on home turf while preparing more than 100 winners in a season on four occasions. These achievements have led Kris to feature in the top 20 list of Australian trainers on a regular basis and seen him take some of the Country's most prominent races.
The 2015-16 season was a landmark campaign for Lees Racing in terms of prize money courtesy of winning New South Wales’ richest race – the $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick during The Championships, along with the $1m Randwick Guineas with surprise packet Le Romain. That season Kris’ horses pocketed more than $7m for his band of owners.
Kris' success, training prowess and manner have allowed him to build length relationships with some of Australia's most prominent owners.
Son of record-breaking trainer Aiden O'Brien, Joseph first came to worldwide prominence as a Flat jockey. Due to his height his time in the saddle was always going to be short, but in the six years, he had riding he achieved an astonishing amount of success.
Riding his first winner aged just 16 Joseph never looked back tieing in a three-way dead head for the Irish Apprentice Championship in 2010 despite still attending school and then taking that title on his own the following season. That was also the year he rode his first classic winner with Roderic O'Connor taking the Irish 2000 Guineas. If that wasn't enough, he ended 2011 by becoming the youngest jockey to ride a Breeder's Cup winner when partnering St Nicholas Abbey to success in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Those victories were just a small taste of what was to come with 2012 seeing Joseph and Aiden becoming the first father-son trainer-jockey combination to win the Epsom Derby thanks to Camelot while later that year Joseph was crowned Irish Champion Jockey with 87 winners. Joseph’s lasting legacy in the saddle, though, will be his Group 1 wins, riding 31all over the world.
Joseph was officially granted his license to train in June 2016 and immediately got off the mark saddling four winners on his first day with runners. It wasn't long before his first Group One in his new role followed when Intricately took the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.
It's pretty much been a remarkable success story since then with high profile wins continuing to flow including a Melbourne Cup with Rekindling in 2017 a result which announced his training prowess to the World. He is also off the mark as a Classic-winning trainer courtesy of Latrobe in the 2018 Irish Derby at the Curragh.
In addition to his achievements on the flat, he has recorded notable successes over jumps with Cheltenham Festival winners ad Grade One winners.
Jerry Hollendofer has earned his place in the top echelons of the sport the hard way.
Born in Ohio, he found himself living in California in the late 1960s where he first began work as a hot-walker and then groom at Bay Meadows. He furthered his racing education through work in various guises with trainers Jerry Dutton and Jerry Fleming before striking out on his own and taking up a license in 1979.
The now Hall Of Famer didn't find success straight away, failing to surpass 16 winners in each of his first six years as a conditioner. 1985 offered better returns, but it was the following year that became the breakthrough season with Hollendorfer not only breaking the $1million purse earnings mark for the first time but also winning the training titles at both Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields. He didn't rest on his laurels following those victories as he went on to win over 30 consecutive championships at both venues up until 2008.
After his first stakes win came in the mid-eighties, Hollendorfer has gone on to win most significant races in North America and smashed through the 5000 winners mark in December 2007. He was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2011 and has earned more than $5million in prize money every year sine 1997.
A product of his family's racing heritage Mike Stidham has been training winners for over 30 years. As a boy, he would often be found assisting his trainer father George walking hots, rolling bandages and observing the workings of a racing barn.
Mike wouldn't have to wait that long to strike out on his own. At the age of 21 and armed with a handful of his dad's cast-offs, he set up a training establishment on the Gulf Coast. His first winner would quickly follow while a year after his initial success came his first stakes win when Me Good Man struck in the 1980 Independence Stakes at Louisiana Downs. After more victories, Mike would spend two productive years in California before taking up the reins as private trainer to the LaCroix family at Meadowbrook Farm back in Florida.
He has now been a public trainer now for over thirty years and trained over 1000 winners perhaps most notably Graded victors Manzotti and Two Altazano. 2011 proved to be a seminal year when he sent out a total of 13 stake winners throughout the year – a handsome total that included four graded stakes.
Mike now looks after a string of around 70 horses that he races around the nation from his two major bases at Fair Grounds in Louisiana during the winter and Arlington Park in Chicago in the summer.
As a National Hunt jockey for 16 seasons, Jamie Osborne rode almost 1000 winners, including at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival, making him one of the leading riders of the 1990s.
When the time came to switch to the training ranks, Jamie change codes to concentrate on winning races on the flat. It was a decision that paid off almost immediately as in his second season with a license he was responsible for the winner of the 2001 Winsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot when Irony took the spoils. He further cemented his reputation by saddling the Milk It Mick to land the 2003 Group One Dewhurst Stakes and ever since then he has managed to send out high-class winners with his Royal Ascot total now standing at six.
He is perhaps best known for his work with Toast Of New York who won the 2014 UAE Derby before being edged out in the same season's Breeders Cup Classic.
Like many successful trainers before him, Mike Maker had the best possible apprenticeship learning his trade under the expert guidance of Hall Of Fame legend D.Wayne Lukas.
Starting his own training operation in 2003, he put this education to good use quickly gaining a reputation for saddling winners. In 2009 he recorded a first Breeders' Cup success when outsider Furthest Land took the Dirt Mile while two years later he as at it again when Hanson conquered Union Rags in the Juvenile. That took his record in the World Championships of Racing to two wins from just 11 starters.
Not content with that Maker has continued to regularly send out Graded Stakes winners with the likes of Juanita, Derby Kitten, Statley Victor and more recently Run Time and Taghleeb.
Operating mainly in Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, and Florida he has amassed around $100 million in prize money while working at a winning strike rate hovering at around 21%.
From his earliest days, Todd Pletcher was on track to fulfill an exceptional destiny.
From the age of seven, he helped his trainer around the yard father Jake before spending his summers off from school as a groom. Gaining a top-class apprenticeship, he got a job with the legendary D. Wayne Lukas and spent seven years as a vital part of the team, working with such stars as Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch and champion fillies Serena’s Song and Flanders.
Pletcher founded his own training operation in 1995, and the rest has been racing history. A seven-time Eclipse Award winner he has overseen the careers of multiple champions, including Rags to Riches, the phenomenal filly who in 2007 became only the third member of her gender to win the Belmont Stakes. He is perhaps best known for his work with champion juvenile Uncle Mo, who has gone on to be a sort after sire while Always Dreaming and Super Saver have given Pletcher a place in Kentucky Derby history. Those and many other champions have helped him accumulate purse earnings, of over $360.5 million through May 2018.
Widely admired for his meticulous attention to detail, Pletcher has drawn clients from around the world and counts Coolmore, China Horse Club and Argentina’s La Providencia among his international owners in addition to Phoenix.
Like many trainers, Peter Miller has racing in his blood. Following in the footsteps of his parents, who ran Winning Ways Stables, he has risen to become one of the leading practitioners of his craft.
Originally aiming to be a jockey, before doctors told him he would grow too big, he took up training to continue his love affair with racehorses. As apprenticeships go, working as a groom for Hall Of Famer Charlie Whittington is an excellent foundation. During his time with the great man, Miller worked with horses such as Greinton and Cigar's sire Palace Music.
Miller also gained experience working for trainers Mike Mitchell and Don Warren, and during a brief stint as racing manager for the legendary Golden Eagle Farm of John and Betty Mabee.
Taking up the reins himself Miller landed his first Grae One in 2007 when Set Play took the Del Mar Debutante.
Now based at San Luis Rey Downs Miller focuses his attention on the Southern California circuit, mostly at Santa Anita and Del Mar. However, in 2019 Pete expanded his stable to include Kentucky tracks Keeneland and Churchill Downs. No matter what, he will ship when a great opportunity presents itself, as he has shown with the likes of Finnegans Wake, Comma to the Top and Majestic City.
Best known for his work with Grade one winners Roy H, Stormy Liberal, Comma to the Top, Finnegans Wake, Heir Kitty and All Squared Away Miller enjoyed a particularly emotional success with Belvoir Bay at the 2019 Breeders' Cup meeting. The only female in the field, she became the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint Champion, setting a course record at Santa Anita. Just two years earlier, she had been lost for two days following the San Luis Rey fire. Her return to the top is a testament to the horse and Miller's skills.
A former endurance rider, Salem bin Ghadyer has quickly developed into one of the leading trainers in the UAE.
Heading up Fazza Racing, the private stable of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai he first started training in 2014. Salem's first big win came a year later as Frankyfourfingers won the Group Two Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan. A first win at the highest level came in 2017 as Long River crossed the line in front, this time in Round Three of the Maktoum Challenge. Cappazano added to that Group One success by taking the 2019 renewal of the same race while Heavy Metal is another horse that has served Salem well with wins a brace of successes at Group level.
The Emiraty trainer also gave us one of our biggest highlights, saddling Gronkowski to miss out in a photo to Thunder Snow in the 2019 Dubai World Cup. Many had written off the son on Lonhro but Salem and his team managed to get him back to top form in a very short space of time.
All the trainer's achievements are even more remarkable when you consider he is partially blind. He only has 10% vision and uses his excellent hearing and physical examinations to get get the best from the horses in his charge. Additionally, he has assembled a large, trusted team that he credits with being a big help in his success.