04/02/2007 11:00PM

A bet on all his starters would have produced a profit


If you've been flat-betting all of trainer Stephen Mick's runners since 2002, you've turned a handsome profit, so I will apologize in advance for letting the horse out of the bag here. With the exception of 2005, when his horses produced a $1.85 return on investment, a bet on every Mick-trained horse would have netted you a profit at year's end in every year since 2002. The highest ROI of $2.63 came in 2004 when he won at a 29-percent clip from 108 runners.

Mick has been sending out more horses and more winners from his Philadelphia Park base, where he trains a string of 17.

"I came to Philadelphia Park about eight years ago with two horses and basically tried to rekindle my career," said Mick, 55.

He is originally from Steelton, Pa., and developed his interest in racing as a bettor. He gravitated to Penn National where he took a job as a groom in 1979.

"Eleven years ago, I had an accident where I lost an eye and scaled down a bit," he said. "But we've been able to build our clientele in recent years and it has been a slow and steady growth."

Mick takes great pride in his numbers - he's a career 19-percent trainer who hits the board at 50 percent - and his integrity in the business.

"I think the strength of our barn is that we are fundamentally sound," said Mick, who is quick to credit his barn staff, which includes his wife, Michele, and his owners for his success. "I've been in the game for a while and was lucky to come into it at a time where there were some real good, old-fashioned horsemen that I learned a great deal from. I've been with the old, have kept my mind open to the new, and go with a blend of it. I'm very proud of the integrity we have in the business - in all my years, we haven't had one infraction against us.

"I like to see myself as a Cal Ripken Jr. in this game as I show up every day and our horses train every day, weather permitting. I like to lead the barn by example and am very hands-on. I'll show up in a pair of sweats, ski cap, and work boots and pick a horse's feet, walk them, stay on top of their legs. We grind it out and I love it - I wouldn't know any other way. If bettors can make money on our runners, that's great. Maybe some of them will become owners some day and come our way."

In 2007, Mick has a record of 13-5-5 from 50 runners (26 percent) and is on pace for his best year since he took out his trainer's license in 1983.

Just Sailing, Kittery Point, and Settimo Cielo - the first two race for Fox Hill Farms of Round Pond, Rockport Harbor, and Hard Spun fame - are good examples of Mick's capabilities.

Just Sailing, a daughter of Cat Thief who brought $70,000 at auction, previously raced for top trainers John Servis and Kiaran McLaughlin and has won 3 of her last 5 starts; Kittery Point, a 3-year-old filly, easily won her maiden on March 31 and has improved from race to race; and Settimo Cielo has a win and two second-place finishes from four starts since Mick claimed the mare from Jayne Vaders, leading trainer at Philadelphia Park.

"Just Sailing came to me with a minor ankle issue and her career just kind of teeter-tottering," Mick said. "We worked on her, she got better, and has really blossomed of late. Kittery Point is an Include filly who should have a future at a distance of ground. She's raced behind Control System, who won the Cicada Stakes, and I think her best is still ahead of her. Settimo Cielo is a warrior. She's a gorgeous mare and probably has a future as a broodmare at the end of her racing days."

Mick cites the career of Wing to Wing as a career highlight.

"I claimed Wing to Wing in the mid-1980's at a time when he'd won about five or six in a row, and he went on to win a handful more," Mick said. "His streak of 11 in a row is still a record at Penn National and at the time I only had two or three horses in my barn - it's something I'm very proud of. His owner retired him to a nice home at the end of his career. He must have won something like 30 races, and went out a champion in my eyes. The last I'd heard, he was about 30 years old and in a well-deserved retirement."