11/06/2008 1:00AM

Brown starts fast on big stage

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Not long after all the Breeders' Cup dust had settled, trainers Chad Brown and Jonathan Sheppard crossed paths in the Santa Anita stables. Congratulations ensued. Sheppard had won the Filly and Mare Turf with Forever Together, while Brown took the Juvenile Fillies Turf with Maram, his first Breeders' Cup starter.

"Well done," Sheppard said. "It only took me 23 years to get it right."

Brown, 29, was in good company. More than two dozen trainers have cracked the Breeders' Cup code in their first try, including Mel Stute, Dickie Small, Michael Matz, and Vincent O'Brien. Sheppard missed joining the club by only a nose in 1985 when Tasso tagged Storm Cat on the line in the Juvenile. Brown might have had the same sad tale to tell, but it was Maram's nose home by a hair ahead of the fast-closing Coolmore filly Heart Shaped. Just like that, a star was born.

If anyone is worrying about where the Sheppards, Stutes, and Smalls of the future are coming from, Brown is a good reason to have faith. Ten years ago, he was a racing fan, a Cornell University student, and a backstretch walk-on who convinced Shug McGaughey to give him a shot. Later, Brown went to work for Bobby Frankel, traveling with the stable stars. Upon arriving at Santa Anita with Maram, Brown had been training on his own for less than a year.

In theory, a Breeders' Cup win right out of the box should put a young trainer on the hot list.

"I have had some calls, not a ton, but some," Brown said. "I'm like any other trainer - you're always trying to improve the quality of your horses. I'd like to think I had a pretty solid stable already, because I was lucky to get a good start with quality owners. So if someone is willing to take a shot with me, I'll let the horses do the talking."

Brown has actually spent most of the last two weeks moving from Saratoga and settling into what passes for a permanent home near Belmont Park. Brown's family, back in Mechanicville (population 4,892) in upstate New York, has nothing to do with the game, but he married into a racing pedigree. His wife, the former Terrill Malone, is the granddaughter of retired trainer William "Red" Terrill. Their daughter, Ava Malone Brown, was born in August. It's been that kind of year.

As 2009 dawns, most of the runners in Brown's 40-horse stable will be at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, while the rest will stay in New York. Maram, the stable star, will follow the money.

"Bobby warned me when I left," Brown recalled. " 'You're not gonna have as good of horses that you've been around, so put them in the right spots. Make sure when you lead them over there, you get a check.' I've had good opportunities, but there's not a lot of room for error."

In terms of learning about handling the best horses, going from Hall of Famer McGaughey to Hall of Famer Frankel was like trading Princeton for Harvard.

"Bobby's people have been with him forever, so openings don't come up very often," Brown said. "I was very lucky. I spent the first six months with him at Hollywood. It takes awhile, but when I got to learn more about him, I found out he started out a lot like me. He didn't have anyone in the game to really bring him around, no one in the business that was family. We kind of had to force our way in.

"At first, people were kind of stand-offish with me, gave me a hard time," Brown added. "You try to learn something from somebody and they feel their own job is threatened. But sooner or later, they give up, because they see you're not going to leave."

Any lingering doubts were dashed when Maram's number went up on the board.

"Watching it live, I thought we'd won," Brown said. "Then they kept showing the replay in slow motion, and I'm saying, 'Can you believe we just got nailed for a million dollars?' I didn't look at the race all the way through until I got back home to New York. Then I watched it about 40 times. At one point, I said to Terrill, 'You know, we're gonna have to put this away, because one of these times she's gonna get beat if we keep running it.' "

Fat chance. Karma was swirling for Brown that day. Earlier in the week, he lost his 84-year-old grandfather, Elmer Maynard. The funeral was held on the day Maram ran. Among the fillies she defeated was Consequence, trained by McGaughey. The race just before Maram's event was the Filly and Mare Sprint, won by Bobby Frankel with Ventura.

"The next day, I saw Bobby with Joe Torre," Brown said. "Bobby says, 'Ehh, your filly's got a lot of heart.' "

He wasn't expecting a hug. Such displays are not in Frankel's repertoire. The accolades would have to wait until Brown got back to Mechanicville, where he was surely awarded the key to the city.

"Naw," Brown said. "But my younger brother Todd is a big racing fan. His buddies called me up and told me they were going to turn our childhood home into a museum."