ELMONT, N.Y. – – The plethora of win pictures that fill up the wall of trainer Chad Brown’s office serve as reminders of the memorable champions he’s conditioned. The mementos also serve notice that the mark of success encompass both quality and quantity.
Over the past decade, the 42-year-old has achieved success at the highest level in racing, especially in the highly competitive New York circuit. Brown, who is approaching his 2,000th career win [1,967 as of June 1], will soon reach another milestone, as the eight-time leading trainer at Belmont Park is poised to capture his 100th graded stakes victory at the historic racetrack.
Brown, who currently boasts 97 graded stakes wins at Belmont Park according to records kept by Equibase, will look to add to his totals during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival which kicks off on Thursday, June 3 and will include 17 stakes races in total with eight Grade 1 races to be contested on Belmont Stakes Day on Saturday, June 5. The four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner has 16 horses entered across seven graded stakes at the star-studded festival.
Brown, a graduate of Cornell University, took out his trainer’s license in 2007 and saddled Dual Jewels to victory on November 23 of that year at Churchill Downs for a $5,000 tag. The following October, he earned his first graded stakes triumph when Maram captured the Grade 3 Miss Grillo [now a Grade 2] at Belmont Park and subsequently provided Brown with his first Breeders’ Cup winner, taking the inaugural Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita.
The old adage of success building on success was embodied by Brown, who followed by saddling Grade 1-winners such as Stacelita, who already was a multiple Group 1-winner in her native France before joining Brown’s barn. The daughter of Monsun won the Beverly D. at Arlington Park and the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park en route to honors as 2011 Champion Turf Mare.
Flash forward 10 years and Brown has already campaigned 14 Breeders’ Cup winners and 11 Eclipse champions. Among these stellar athletes are Peter Brant’s Sistercharlie, who captured the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2018 on the road to capturing Champion Turf Female honors, as well as Sheep Pond Partners’ 2017 Champion Turf Female Lady Eli, whose 10 lifetime wins include the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational and Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park.
“It’s amazing how many great horses that have come through my barn in such a short amount of time,” Brown said.
Brown is approaching the century mark of graded stakes wins at Belmont Park in record time. He trails only Hall of Famers Shug McGaughey and Todd Pletcher, who boast a respective 107 and 116 graded stakes wins, according to Equibase records, at a track that first opened its doors in 1905. It took McGaughey three decades to reach his hundredth graded stakes victory at Belmont, while Pletcher, newly named to the Hall of Fame, accomplished the feat in 18 years.
So how does a trainer notch so many top-level wins at one of America’s most prestigious racetracks?
“Managing the horses, taking care of them, and trying to get the most out of their careers from start to finish is something that I take a lot of pride in,” Brown said. “It takes patience, care and good management. We pride ourselves in doing right by the horses and identifying small problems early on and fixing them once we see them. I have a loyal group of owners that really buy into the program and follow it with us.”
Michael Dubb, whose turf sprinter Silver Timber became Brown’s first multiple graded stakes winner, is among those loyal owners. Via ownership groups, Dubb and Brown campaigned 2019 Champion Turf Mare Uni, multiple Grade 1-winner A Raving Beauty, 2015 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint victress Wavell Avenue, and New York-bred graded stakes winner Fourstar Crook, who won the Grade 1 Flower Bowl in 2018.
“I knew from the moment I met him he was destined for stardom,” Dubb said. “I was one of his first owners. We started out buying inexpensive horses and claiming horses like Silver Timber, who we got for only $25,000. He has a very logical and businesslike approach to the game. I expect that he’ll win hundreds more graded stakes races.”
Bob Edwards of e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, who owned Brown-trained Breeders’ Cup winners New Money Honey [2016 Juvenile Fillies Turf], Good Magic [2017 Juvenile] and Rushing Fall [2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf], said he considers the conditioner a close friend as well a business partner.
“During the Saratoga meet, if you ever see me out on the town, chances are I am with Chad,” Edwards said. “We’ve had such phenomenal success with Chad over the past few years. He takes care of my horses like they’re his own. A lot of times I’ll call him up and at first, we won’t even talk about racing. That’s the level our relationship is on.”
Edwards credits Brown with managing the career of Rushing Fall, who won six Grade 1 races reaching such caliber at age two, three, four and five. One of the only other American horses to accomplish at least one Grade 1 victory for four straight years was fellow Brown alumni Lady Eli.
Rushing Fall, a champion daughter of More Than Ready, won at the top level over four different turf courses, including Belmont Park, where she captured the Grade 1 Longines Just a Game in 2019. She completed her career last November when a close second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, retiring with a remarkable 15-11-3-0 career and $2,893,000 in lifetime earnings.
“He did such a phenomenal job with managing her career, even during the pandemic,” Edwards said. “Chad will often position his top horses for a comeback at Keeneland in the spring, and when they cancelled their spring meet last year due to COVID, he was able to regroup and give her another great year. That’s the great thing about him, he’s able to keep his good horses sound and keep them performing at a high level for several years at a time.”
Brown’s ability to keep horses sound has been identified by multiple others in his inner circle, including bloodstock agent Mike Ryan, who scouted Rushing Fall as a yearling at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale. Ryan bought the future champion for $320,000 from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment.
“It’s not a one season thing for him, he thinks long term,” Ryan said. “He is brilliant at managing a horse’s career, and what he did with Rushing Fall is a prime example of that. He’s very much into the big picture. He manages horses very well and he doesn’t over race them. He’s extremely successful in mapping out careers and planning races for horses. I remember the first time I met Chad, he had around 35 horses and about twenty of them of them were by [2002 Wood Memorial winner] Buddha, who wasn’t much of a sire. Today, he has among the best-bred stock in the world.”
Brown credits much of his success to his mentor, the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.
“I was extremely fortunate to land in a position under him at the height of his career and at the portion of his career where he was the wisest,” Brown said. “Then to be able to apply that to my stable and share with my team what I’ve learned has been extremely rewarding.”
Ryan expanded on Brown’s appreciation for Frankel.
“He was very lucky to work for Bobby Frankel, one of the greatest trainers in the last 50 years. He often says, ‘What would Bobby do?’ and one thing Bobby was good at was calling audibles,” Ryan said. “You have to be flexible in racing, when training, managing and entering horses. There are so many variables that go into it.
“He puts a lot of thought into everything,” added Ryan. “He doesn’t make rush decisions. He always thinks things through clearly and deliberately. His memory blows my mind.”
Brown shares praise with his assistants, foremen, exercise riders, grooms and hotwalkers as a highly instrumental aspect of his success, and is often heard crediting his team in post-race interviews.
“I’m extremely happy to share this with my team, they do all the heavy lifting,” Brown said. “It’s been extremely rewarding to watch over the last almost 15 years, to see all of the teamwork, and great horses come through the barn, and all the sacrifices that people have made. I’m not having this conversation right now if it’s not for them.”
Added Ryan: “His staff respects him. When the stable wins, everybody wins. The staff benefits from his generosity. I’ve noticed his low turnover. He has had the same top riders, foremen and assistants for many years. [Assistant trainer] Baldo [Hernandez] has been with him since the start. It just says a lot about the organization. We’ve been working together eight to nine years at sales now and he respects what I bring to the table and we’ve learned a lot from each other about management of racehorses. He is successful because he works very hard.”
Brown said giving a horse the time off that it needs is an integral ingredient to success which is confirmed by Ian Brennan, of Stonestreet Training and Rehabilitation Center in Ocala, Florida, who oversees many of the conditioner’s stock during their downtime.
“You have to give a lot of credit to him because the horses look really well when they come to me,” Brennan said. “Usually, when they come to me, it’s for a freshening for the following season. Especially with the fillies, you can only go so long with them and they come to a point where they need a break. He sends them back in great condition and very, very sound. It makes it easier for us as well.”
Brennan identified Bricks and Mortar as a horse who benefitted from Brown’s patience. After a close third in the Grade 3 Hill Prince in October 2017 at Belmont Park, the son of Giant’s Causeway was out of racing action for 14 months.
On his return, Bricks and Mortar won seven consecutive starts to complete his career, five of which were Grade 1 scores in 2019 en route to Eclipse Award-honors as Champion Turf Male and Horse of the Year.
“There aren’t a lot of trainers who would have given a horse like that as much time. His owners are good as well. They understand the game. They let Chad handle it and give a horse time if it needs time,” Brennan said. “In the case of Bricks and Mortar, he was a horse that needed a lot of time. He was immature physically and mentally and he had an issue with a hock, a bone bruise. Chad was very, very patient with that horse. There were a couple of times I started him back and I wasn’t happy with how he was moving. Chad told me to put the horse first and give him as much time as he needed. He never puts pressure to get them back.”
Rushing Fall also would spend time with Brennan during the winter months.
“Every year she got better and better but a lot of that is because Chad gave her a break after November, and she’d come back to me,” Brennan said. “He did a super job with her, and it was because he looked after her well and gave her the time she needed. She enjoyed the break, and she really enjoyed the farm. She freshened up really well. She just loved to get the break herself.”
The racing industry can humble a person no matter what pinnacle they may reach. Ryan said he credits Brown for always being receptive to learning new things about the game.
“The one thing that Chad and I do share is that we are always of the belief that we can be better,” Ryan said. “We work hard to do better and be better at what we do. We’re working hard all the time and never stop looking for improvement. It’s a constant learning curve. There’s always room to be better. We always try to be open minded. You never know it all. The horse business is so challenging and so intriguing.”
At the end of 2020, champion distaffers Sistercharlie, Uni and Rushing Fall closed the curtain on their illustrious racing careers. But despite losing key members of his starting lineup, Brown’s stable is showing no signs of slowing down, having netted over $5 million in earnings so far this year, including victories with Raging Bull in the Grade 1 Makers’ Mark Mile at Keeneland and Domestic Spending in the Grade 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.
“He’s the complete trainer. He can train any kind of horse,” Ryan said. “It’s only a matter of time before he wins the Kentucky Derby. I know the Derby and the Travers are very high on his bucket list. What he’s accomplished, it’s just amazing for as young as he is.”
Despite having garnered so much success in a short amount of time, Brown is acutely aware that having the right horse is paramount to being able to compete at an elite level.
“At the end of the day, the horses have to have the natural talent for you to be able to look at the big races, no matter how good a trainer you are,” Brown said.
Belmont Park Press Release
Photo: Chad Brown, (NYRA)
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