01/16/2008 12:00AM

At 83, trainer has no plans to quit


Arlene Phillips still knows the way to the Turf Paradise winner's circle. The 83-year-old trainer walked that path again here Jan. 7 when her homebred first-time starter Little Loca won the seventh race. Little Loca, a 5-year-old mare by Coarsegold Creek, relished the sloppy going, opening up early and increasing her margin from there to win the $5,000 maiden claiming race by 5 1/4 lengths at 10-1.

Phillips began her training career at Rillito Park, in Tucson, in 1957 and began training at Turf Paradise in 1977. She won four training titles at Prescott Downs in the 1970s (for combined winners, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse) and was the leading Thoroughbred trainer there in 1979. She's also run horses at the New Mexico tracks of Albuquerque, Ruidoso, SunRay, and Zia Park.

She saw success at the higher levels, too. She won a pair of stakes with Nikki's Angel here in 2002 - the Ann Owens Distaff and Excess Energy.

Her family's Phillips TB Horse Ranch was located in Phoenix for decades. In 2004, the family moved the farm to Roswell, N.M.

Even at 83, Phillips remains hands-on. She may not have the numbers she once did but she still does the grunt work of a trainer for the four horses she maintains at Turf Paradise, from saddling to bandaging, right down to mucking stalls.

"I raised these horses, so I'm right here with them from the time they're babies," she said. "I liked being around them as a kid and I still do. And I'm not a kid any more."

She does not intend to slow down, either. "I'll keep doing this until I can't come to the track any more," she said.

As far as Little Loca's future, Phillips hasn't mapped out anything specific.

"She came out of the race pretty good, except she must have hit the gate doors with her chest and shoulder," she said. "She came back [with] a big welt or bruise about the size of your palm and it was all swollen. Hopefully, it will clear up all right. If it does, I might look for something for her in another couple weeks."