Celebrating his 72nd birthday in December 2017, Andre Fabre collected his 28th French champion trainer title over the last 31 years as the racing season concluded, leading his peers with 145 wins and €8,687,957 in stable earnings. As the decades of statistics indicate, there has been no trainer like him in the history of French racing, with his achievements including seven wins in the vaunted race known as Europe’s championship, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Born in Spain, Fabre spent many of his early years in Berlin, where his father was a diplomat in the French occupied zone after World War II, but he moved back to France to study law.
He has been quoted as saying he believed he was “wasting my time” with that education because he knew then that he wanted to devote his life to working with horses.
Following his heart, Fabre took to riding and became the leading jumps jockey in France, steering home about 250 winners before he retired from the saddle in 1978. He trained his first jumps winner that same year and eventually sent out four consecutive winners of the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris.
But when Fabre turned his attention to flat racing, the results were even more impressive. His string of champion trainer titles includes 21 consecutive seasons from 1987 to 2007, and he has sent out winners in virtually all of France’s most significant races including 13 in the Grand Prix de Paris beginning with Dancehall in 1989. Fabre quickly made his presence felt on the international racing scene as well. In 1993, he saddled Arcangues, a Group 1 winner on French turf, to upset the Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt at Santa Anita Park at record odds of 133-1. Following that breakthrough, Fabre has won four more Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2017 Turf with Godolphin’s Talismanic. He also has won each of Britain’s Classic races, joining Sir Michael Stoute and Aidan O’Brien as the only current trainers to achieve that distinction. Daniel Wildenstein’s Peintre Celebre, winner of the 1997 Arc and Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby), is the highest rated of all of Fabre’s champions at 137 and is one of three high-rated runners worldwide for the trainer along with Michael Tabor’s Hurricane Run at 130 in 2005 and Baron Georg Von Ullman’s Manduro at 131 in 2007. Fabre also has trained for many other distinguished owners, including Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, for whom he developed the likes of international stars Banks Hill and Flintshire and 2004 Dubai Sheema Classic winner Polish Summer.
With his trademark white hair, sharp wit and unmatched instinct for selecting young horses that evolve into champions, Bob Baffert is the most well-known figure in American racing.
He overcame 37 years of history when he sent out American Pharoah to sweep the Triple Crown in 2015 as the colt became the first horse to achieve that feat since Affirmed in 1978.
In 2018, Baffert tied the record for Triple Crown race wins when Justify surged to victory in the Preakness Stakes for the trainer’s 14th success in an American classic event. Just two weeks earlier, Justify had made his own historic mark as the first colt in 136 years to prevail in the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old.
Baffert’s rise to prominence is one of the most often told in racing worldwide. Raised on an Arizona cattle farm, he was drawn to the sport of racing with his father, who owned Quarter Horses, and began grooming and riding at age ten. First a jockey and later a trainer of four Quarter Horse champions, Baffert went on to condition Thoroughbreds, breaking through to the elite level when Thirty Slews—a horse he had bought for $30,000 as a yearling—captured the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Since that time, Baffert has trained many of America’s most successful runners and has translated his achievements internationally as he also reigns as the leading foreign-based trainer of Dubai World Cup winners, with Silver Charm, Captain Steve and Arrogate to his credit. Arrogate, who also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes, banked $17,422,600, a record for any horse based outside Japan.
Baffert has won the Eclipse Award as America’s outstanding trainer four times, in 2015, 1999, 1998 and 1997. He has trained 19 American champions including eight who reigned as the best three-year-old colt of their generation topped by American Pharoah and dual classic winners Real Quiet, Silver Charm, War Emblem and Point Given. He also is the leading trainer based on Breeders’ Cup earnings with $27,605,000 through 2017 and ranks second, with 14 Breeders’ Cup winners, to fellow Racing Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who has 20.
Baffert also made history for Phoenix Thoroughbreds as he saddled our first Grade 1 winner, the filly Dream Tree, when she won the Starlet Stakes only months after Phoenix’s initial purchases of Thoroughbreds.
Introduced to racing as a child through visits to Saratoga Race Course with his family while living in nearby Mechanicville, New York, Chad Brown did not intend to become a trainer.
Focused on his studies designed to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, Brown worked for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey during summer vacations from Cornell University and eventually decided he wanted to make training his life’s work.
In a relatively short period of time, that work has propelled Brown to the very top of North American racing. He led all trainers on the continent by earnings in both 2016 and 2017 and also earned the Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer for both years.
A key turning point for Brown came when he accepted a position with Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel in 2002. The late, longtime trainer for Juddmonte Farms in America, Frankel won five Eclipse Awards himself and was a master of the game, and Brown often credits Frankel with instilling in him many of his approaches to conditioning horses.
Brown began training on his own in 2007 and remarkably earned his first Breeders’ Cup win with his first starter, Maram, the following season. Since then, he has sent out nine additional Breeders’ Cup winners and pulled the girth around seven champions, including 2017 juvenile male Good Magic, who went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby.
While Brown, who will turn 40 in December 2018, was at first known mostly for his turf runners, and indeed six of his champions earned their laurels on the grass, he smashed any pigeon-holing of his talents when he dispatched Cloud Computing to win the Preakness Stakes in 2017.
Brown also earned the respect of the racing community and huge popularity with fans when he oversaw the incredible recovery of top filly Lady Eli from a case of laminitis and her return to Grade 1 triumph. Lady Eli was voted the champion turf female for 2017, two years after the often fatal disease had stricken her, and she was honored with the People’s Choice Award in 2018 after fan voting conducted by the Dubai Racing Club.
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.
From his earliest days, Todd Pletcher was on track to fulfill an exceptional destiny.
At age seven, he began hot walking horses for his father, trainer Jake Pletcher, at Ruidoso Downs, and he went on to spend summers as a groom with the stable when it as based in Louisiana and Nebraska before venturing out to work for other trainers in Southern California.
He took his first fulltime job with D. Wayne Lukas and spent seven years as a key part of Lukas’s empire while 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. He has earned more Eclipse Awards as America’s outstanding trainer, seven, than any other conditioner in history, while honored for his seasons in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2014.
To date, he has 11 champions to his credit, including Rags to Riches, the phenomenal filly who in 2007 became only the third member of her gender to win the Belmont Stakes over males and the first since Tanya in 1905. Some of Pletcher’s other most memorable champions include juvenile Uncle Mo, who has gone on to be a superior sire, and Ashado, who was honored twice.
Pletcher also has two Kentucky Derby winners to his credit in Super Saver and Always Dreaming and two additional Belmont Stakes winners in Tapwrit and Palace Malice.
At the relatively young age of 50, Pletcher already had become North America’s winningest trainer based on purse earnings, with a total of over $360.5 million through May 2018. Remarkably, he has led all trainers by seasonal earnings ten times.
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.
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.
As soon as he completed his A levels at school in Norfolk, Robert Cowell went directly to work in racing with a post under trainer Gavin Pritchard-Gordon to begin a life’s journey that has taken him to Group 1 success.
In addition to a brief stint as a jockey, Cowell worked two seasons with twice British jump racing champion trainer David Nicholson before heading to France to serve as an assistant to John Hammond. During his two years with Hammond, he worked with such stable stars as Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Suave Dancer and French champion sprinter Polar Falcon.
While based in France, Cowell also was able to ride as an amateur, partnering many horses for Hammond while continuing to cultivate his horsemanship skills.
From France, Cowell traveled in 1992 to the United States, where he took a post as assistant to California-based trainer Neil Drysdale and was part of the team that sent out eventual American Horse of the Year A.P. Indy to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic that season. The following year, he assisted in developing champion filly and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Hollywood Wildcat.
Cowell established his own successful training operation in California but later decided to return to England, where he had a larger group of owners willing to support him. He is based at Bottisham Heath Stud near Newmarket.
In 2011, Cowell sent out his first Group 1 winner when Prohibit won the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Further elite success followed when Jwala prevailed in the 2013 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
Goldream also became a stable luminary when, at age six, he captured the King’s Stand Stakes followed by the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.
In addition to Phoenix Thoroughbreds, Cowell counts among his international roster of owners the likes of Cheveley Park Stud, Fitriana Hay and Newsells Park Stud.
A dominant force in British flat racing for decades and one of the all-time greats who has reigned as champion trainer ten times, Sir Michael Stoute is the only trainer in the 20th century to win an English Classic in five successive seasons. He claimed the fifth of those victories in the 2010 Derby with Workforce, who went on to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later that season.
Stoute has won all the English Classics, a collection completed with the 2008 St Leger via Conduit, as well as top races all over the globe, including the Dubai World Cup with Singspiel; the Breeders’ Cup Turf four times with Conduit (twice), Kalanisi and Pilsudki; the Japan Cup twice, with Singspiel and Pilsudski, and the Hong Kong Vase with Daliapour.
He was last crowned as British champion trainer in 2009, the year that Conduit, Tartan Bearer and Ask pulled off a rare clean sweep of the top prizes in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a race Stoute won again in 2010 with the brilliant Harbinger.
Shergar, the runaway 1981 Derby winner who was later stolen and never found, was one of the best horses in Stoute’s career. Stoute also gained acclaim by training Kribensis over the jumps, and the gray became the only winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, the Christmas Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle, known as the Triple Crown of Hurdling, in the same season.
The Queen, Sheikh Mohammed, Juddmonte Farms, the Aga Khan and the Niarchos family have been among Stoute’s stellar owners. He was knighted in 1998, not for racing but for services to tourism in Barbados, where he was born and where his family has been based for 300 years.
Stoute, who turned 72 in October 2017, has a remarkable record at Royal Ascot after saddling 75 winners since his first in 1977, and he needs only one more to surpass the late Sir Henry Cecil as the all-time training leader at the prestigious event. He lists his favorite Royal Ascot victory as the Gold Cup captured by The Queen’s Estimate in 2013.
While growing up in Barbados, Stoute developed his love for horses as a regular attendee at Garrison Savannah racecourse. He moved to England at 19 and started as an apprentice to trainer Pat Rohan before working for Doug Smith and Tom Jones. He established his own stables in 1972.
Stoute is known for inspiring phenomenal loyalty in his employees, and many of his staff have been with him for decades.