10/30/2008 12:00AM

Former Quarter Horse trainer isn't just good with speed types

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It should be no surprise that it's a sprinter who put trainer Gary Sherlock in the spotlight.

While things didn't work out so well in last Friday's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint for his rugged 4-year-old filly Intangaroo, it has been her success all around the country that has brought him attention. Intangaroo was only able to finish sixth behind Ventura in the Filly and Mare Sprint, but she has wrapped herself in glory a number of times already this year. She won the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita last January, won the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard in May, and then won the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga in August. The three top-level seven-furlong wins qualify her as one of the country's best sprinting females.

Sherlock came into the game via speed. As with so many trainers it was family ties that got him involved. His parents were both deeply involved in the game, primarily in Northern California. His father was a long-time jockey, winning races for four decades (1930s-1960s). His mother served in many capacities, as a trainer, track photographer, and steward, and was racing secretary at Ferndale, one of the first women to hold such a post.

Sherlock, 62, began training in 1966, working with Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds at Los Alamitos. At the time when he made the move to go full-time to Thoroughbreds at Santa Anita in 1980 he was the third winningest Quarter Horse trainer in California history, so he knows a thing about speed.

Sherlock had an unplanned interruption in 1995.

The night racing was the first problem. "It finally got to me," he said. "I wanted to see my two boys grow up, see their baseball games, and I did." Then, a pain hit him, literally right between the eyes. "It was like a hatchet in my face," he said. Sherlock suffered a blocked artery in his brain, and the prognosis was not good. The treatment was to wait and hope, and no work. He ended up as part of that fortunate minority who survive, but he was still unable to train for the next 10 years.

He got back into the game once more and now has about 16 head under his tutelage, including prize pupil Intangaroo, whom he purchased for $37,000 at the 2005 Keeneland yearling sale.

When she won the Humana Distaff, Sherlock chalked up her 14-1 odds as simply being underestimated. "That race just legitimizes her," he said. And he was right, too.

Of course, it also legitimized Sherlock - as if he needed that stamp of approval. After all these years in the business he knows what makes a horse tick. His numbers aren't overwhelming, mainly due to his fairly small string. But they still show he knows what he's doing.

He has shown he can get his runners ready first time out (he won with 3 of his first 24, 12 percent). He has shown he knows when to make a change, as he's 2 for his last 8 (25 percent) with first-time blinkers. While speed was his foundation in the Quarter Horse ranks he hits at 10 percent sprinting, 6 percent routing, and has a balance in terms of class level - 11 percent with maiden claimers, 14 percent with straight maidens, 6 percent with claimers, 5 percent with allowance runners, 12 percent in stakes, and 50 percent (3 for his last 6, all courtesy of Intangaroo) in graded stakes.