08/31/2008 11:00PM

His horses are almost 'must use' in Turfway exactas

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With some trainers there is a specific track at which their horses consistently perform best. Perhaps it is a meet for which the trainer points his horses, or in other cases the track simply offers a surface over which the trainer's horses flourish, or it cards races that fit the conditions of the trainer's horses.

Turfway Park just happens to be a track where trainer David Pate wins with great frequency. Pate has ranked among the 10 leading trainers during the past three meets at Turfway, scoring at a win clip of more than 21 percent each time.

He went 12 for 54 during the winter/spring meet earlier this year, connecting at a 22 percent clip and finishing in a tie for fourth in the standings. He won 7 of 26 races during the Holiday meet late last year, placing second in the standings. And he won with 3 of 14 starters during last year's fall meet at Turfway, finishing in a tie for ninth in the trainer standings.

When they didn't win, many of Pate's horses were second. His horses were a part of the exacta 44 percent of the time in those three meets. Counting third-place finishes, his in-the-money percentage was 52.

They also proved to be rewarding wagers. A $2 wager on each of his runners would have yielded a $2.11 return on investment during the winter/spring meet of this year, a $4.64 return during the holiday meet of last year, and a $2.23 ROI during the fall meet last year.

Pate, 65, a former jockey, said his success at Turfway is due to having better quality horses in recent years, and the synthetic Polytrack surface at Turfway, where he is based.

"I love the Polytrack," he said. "I can't tell people how much good it does horses. It keeps them staying sounder. They can run back more often. And it is an excellent track to train over and race over."

Pate is also quick to point out that he has a great staff, led by his wife of 25 years, Peggy, who assists him and took over his stable last winter when he developed a life-threatening infection that left him hospitalized for five weeks. He has since recovered.

"When I went in the hospital, she won more races than I did," he said.

Pate appears poised for strong meet this fall at Turfway, which began its meet Sept. 3, having what he describes as "the best outfit I've ever had in my life."

Some of his better horses in the barn include Outta Tune, who earned a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure in winning an optional claiming race at Ellis Park on Aug. 16; Pola's Place, winner of the Queen Stakes at Turfway in March and coming off a runner-up finish in the West Virginia Secretary of State Stakes at Mountaineer on Aug. 2; and Mesa Gold, a 2-year-old Sky Mesa colt who ran second when debuting in straight maiden company Aug. 16 at Ellis Park.

Mesa Gold is one of about five highly regarded 2-year-olds in Pate's stable. Potentially the best of his juveniles could be Stan the Tap Man, a Pleasant Tap colt who is a half-brother to Deputy G, winner of the Grade 3 Bashford Manor for Pate in 2005.

This summer, Stan the Tap Man was "blowing everybody away," but has had his first race delayed by a minor stall accident that left him with some cuts and scrapes. He is on target to debut at Keeneland in October, Pate said.

In which case Pate's synthetic success might extend to Keeneland, as well.