Better Owner-Trainer Relations

The owner-trainer relationship is the core of racing. The owner supplies the horses, and the trainer supplies the know-how to manage them. It's a simple concept, but sometimes things go awry.

Some owners go through a succession of trainers with barely time for the horses to settle into a new routine before moving them again. If the owner has more than a couple of horses, the move is disruptive for the trainer, also. And the owner may develop a reputation as a difficult client who could pull the horses at any time.

Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg had 220 horses snatched from him one day because he was charging $25 a day and a young trainer, whom Van Berg had mentored, offered owner W. O. Bridge a $20 day rate.

"I won 368 races for them in 1974 and on January 1, 1975, they took 220 horses away from me. My friend took them over," Van Berg said.

The racing icon devotes an entire chapter to the incident in his book, Jack: From Grit to Glory.

Asked about owners who habitually change trainers, Van Berg said, "That's their prerogative to switch where they want to, and they'll see a trainer get hot and win a few races, and they'll want to put their horses over there."

Terry Finley, founder and president of the racing syndicate West Point Thoroughbreds, said owners have the right to manage their horses however they choose. Some changes are for the best, some are not.

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