10/22/2007 12:00AM

Extensive homework before making a claim pays off

EmailThere are trainers that are successful plucking horses out of yearling sales. Others find success with 2-year-olds by analyzing their workouts.

Trainer John Fahey III often acquires his stock another way - by aggressively claiming horses. And to this point in his young training career, things are working out well.

Fahey, 29, known as "Big John" due to his size, has developed a reputation as having a sharp eye for claiming horses, something backed up by his statistics. Fahey is 9 for his last 33 with first-after-claim horses (27 percent), and 4 for 15 with second-after-claim runners (another 27 percent strike rate).

Fahey said when searching for prospects, his process begins by looking beyond the past performances.

"I like to watch five or more race replays on the Internet, get an idea of their style and what the jock might be doing with them," he said. "Maybe they're sending them when they don't need to be sent, things like that."

Part of the reason for his success is that he is not afraid to take chances with a claiming horse, particularly when a horse appears strong for the class level, or for that matter, when he views a race as being above average. That was the case on June 2, when, in a racing rarity, Fahey claimed three horses from the same race - Coppertude, Kid Rigo, and Glittergem, winning Kid Rigo in a four-way shake.

Interestingly, he kept each of those horses for a single start. Brought back as contenders at similar or slightly higher levels, all three were claimed right back. In keeping with his general stats with claiming horses, one of the three won and another ran second.

Although those three turned out to be short-term investments for his owners, he has similarly fared well with those that have stayed with him for longer periods.

Kenai River, for example, whom Fahey claimed for $12,500 at Fair Grounds in March, won three races during the Churchill Downs spring meet and another at Ellis Park before running second in the Aug. 4 Claiming Crown Iron Horse. Fifth in a starter allowance at Presque Isle Downs on Sept. 5, he has been training forwardly at Churchill Downs Trackside in preparation for his return to racing.

"Some of my best horses have been horses shortening up after going long," Fahey said, pointing to Kenai River as an example.

Que Candy, an $8,000 claim, was another successful starter allowance star this past spring for Fahey. Que Candy won two starters at Churchill, once upsetting the nearly unbeatable starter dirt horse Golden Hare. He is currently being freshened for the winter racing season at Fair Grounds, Fahey said.

Although Kenai River and Que Candy were purchased for modest amounts, Fahey sometimes claims richer stock. He claimed Spanish Silver off Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher from a maiden $50,000 race for 2-year-olds this summer at Arlington. Spanish Silver, who ran greenly and finished sixth, has been training at Fahey's Churchill Downs Trackside base for his second start.

In looking through Fahey's statistics, he has other strengths beyond his accomplishments off the claim. He does well with horses transferred to him from other trainers, with horses cutting back from routes to sprints, with starters coming off short layoffs of between 31-60 days, and with horses seeking repeat victories.

His successful numbers are not surprising considering his background. Fahey spent seven years working for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, and three years with trainer Steve Asmussen.

"From Lukas I learned how to groom a horse, take care of them," he said. "Basically my training style I learned from Asmussen."