06/30/2017 2:30PM

Former trainer Autrey finds success behind the scenes

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The M & M Racing operation of Mike Sisk is making an impact at Belmont Park, and working behind the scenes on behalf of the new owner is a familiar name. Cody Autrey, the longtime trainer who now resides year-round in Arkansas, is the racing manager for the Texas-based Sisk.

Autrey last started a horse as a trainer in May 2016 at Prairie Meadows. He decided to search out other opportunities in racing and has carved out a niche working with Sisk and trainer Robertino Diodoro, who this year branched out with a division in New York.

“In the last couple of years, I cut down on horses, and I just didn’t want to travel anymore,” said Autrey, 37. “We’re living in Hot Springs. I’ve got two boys, one of them 9 and one of them 5. The oldest one plays every single sport, and he’s a pretty good athlete. I was starting to realize traveling all around the country was not worth me not seeing my family on a regular basis.”

Autrey made some real-estate investments in Arkansas and formed a working relationship with Diodoro. He helps the busy horseman search out racing prospects for clients, whether buying privately, through the claim box, or at auction. Diodoro is the fourth-leading trainer in wins in North America this year and in addition to New York races in such locales as Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Minnesota.

“We work together buying horses for his stable,” said Autrey. “I love the buying-and-selling aspect of the game. I’m doing bloodstock work, and I own some horses, and I manage horses for clients. It’s just as much work as training horses. You’re just not going to the barn.

“I’m getting a lot of fulfillment – and I haven’t missed a ballgame!”

Autrey said it’s been rewarding to see Sisk get off to such a good start in racing. He met the businessman behind the Low T Center chain of low-testosterone treatment facilities through a friend last summer when Sisk was visiting Arkansas. At the time, Sisk wanted a few horses to race during Oaklawn. M & M Racing now has 15 horses in New York with Diodoro, said Autrey.

“We’re going to try to double that number in the next six months,” Autrey said of expanding Sisk’s stable. “He loves it. He’s having the time of his life. He’s a real good guy, a phenomenal [businessman].”  

M & M Racing had won five races from 16 starts at Belmont through Thursday. Sisk won an additional race at the meet in his name with Set the Trappe on opening day April 28. M & M Racing’s charges have earned $198,708 at Belmont, where the stable ranks among the top 10.

“That’s hard to do,” Autrey said. “That’s big-time racing with big-time money, and to go in there and win those races in a 60-day span, that’s very hard to do.”

Autrey said one reason Belmont was targeted with Sisk’s stable was because it’s the owner’s favorite track. The purse structure and the ability to race in New York year-round were additional factors, Autrey said. The stable plans to be active this summer at Saratoga and Del Mar. This coming winter, M & M Racing will have a larger presence at Oaklawn.

Sisk also had a recent starter at Indiana Grand. Mind Reader finished second by a neck in the $100,000 Hoosier Breeders Sophomore on June 21. The horse was purchased out of California, said Autrey, and the Indiana-bred has been left to race in his home state with trainer Randy Matthews.

As an owner, Autrey races horses in his name and in partnership with Lucky Dog Stables. As a trainer, he won 782 races from 2000-16 from 3,612 starts. Those starters earned a collective $15 million.

One of Autrey’s strongest years came in 2007, when he won 133 races from 528 starters for stable earnings of $2.5 million. He has won stakes with such horses as Rivers Run Deep, Tanzanite Cat, Premier Dance, and My Star Runner.

Valid, a millionaire, now based at Arapahoe

The millionaire Valid will start from the rail Sunday in the $30,000 Front Range at Arapahoe Park. He will be making his second start at the Colorado meet in the six-furlong race, having run second in a June 10 allowance for Tom Thurman and trainer Stacey Rushton.

Valid has won seven stakes, including the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup in 2014. He is a 7-year-old gelding by Medaglia d’Oro.

• Lone Star Park is on a holiday schedule this week and will have live racing Monday and Tuesday. There is a twilight post of 5 p.m. Central. Fireworks will be held following the last race each night, said Lone Star spokeswoman Diantha Brazzell. 

• Speightstastic, a full sister to multiple stakes winner Bayerd, starts as a chief contender in Sunday’s featured seventh race at Lone Star. Bayerd has earned more than $572,000.