04/03/2015 3:05PM

Hovdey: Proctor goes acoustic at Fair Hill


Tom Proctor, the latest trainer to hang his shingle at the idyllic Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, had one serious concern.

“I was afraid it might be too quiet,” Proctor said.

This was a funny line since anyone who spends time in Proctor’s orbit knows that long, brooding silences are not exactly his game. He laughs large, tells you what he thinks, and when he wants to relax at home, he plugs in his guitar and gets his Stevie Ray Vaughan on.

But you knew what he meant. Practically raised on the racetrack, Proctor is a product of the track’s built-in energy, and he has learned through the years that horses – just like people – tend to reflect the intensity of their surroundings.

“You want to know if you’ve really got a good horse?” Proctor said. “Take them away from the track and see if they show you the same ability. They can get out there on the racetrack and get all pumped up with what’s going on, which can sometimes fool you.

“But this place is busier than I thought it would be,” Proctor said. “There’s a lot of horse traffic on these paths going back and forth to the track. I had five sets go out this morning and ended up walking with four. The one time I was in the car, I was afraid I might hit something.”

As the home of horses like Animal Kingdom, Barbaro, and Main Sequence, Fair Hill would seem to advertise itself as the kind of place any trainer would want to try. A tour of the property is like an adventure through the looking glass, with large, private barn complexes nestled in their own wooded glades, linked by a network of horse trails leading sooner or later to one of three training courses: dirt, turf, and Tapeta.

“I’ve only been here a few days, but for an old country boy, it’s kind of neat walking along behind your horses through these forests,” Proctor said.

Proctor lords over one of the game’s truly national stables, with barns at Santa Anita, Tampa Bay Downs, and Keeneland in addition to Fair Hill. His purse totals have increased in each of the last seven years, to a personal best of $4.3 million in 2014. And while his 2015 pace is a shade behind the pace of last year, Proctor has been known to send out winners in waves, from coast to coast.

On Saturday, for instance, the Proctor runners were going to be represented at Tampa Bay Downs in the Turf Classic with Old Time Hockey, at Oaklawn Park in the Fantasy Stakes with Include Betty, at Santa Anita in the Thunder Road with Enterprising and in the Providencia Stakes with Show Stealer and Jaded Glory, and at Keeneland with the maiden Heart of Midway. As much as he travels, it’s a marvel that Proctor usually gets on the right flight.

“That’s the advantage of having good people, though,” he said. “I can head for the airport and change my mind and still know the job’s going to get done.”

One of those people is Tony Reinstedler, the former public trainer who has taken a position with Proctor’s Fair Hill operation.

“I call him my head traveling lad,” Proctor said, lapsing into a moment of horseman’s Euro-speak.

From all indications, Proctor will be making Fair Hill his semi-steady base of operations. He has rented a local apartment and is acquiring a list of local restaurants. As a rough-edged racetracker, though, he is a little worried about adapting to the rhythms of the countrified locals.

“Guys like Graham Motion and Michael Matz are really nice people,” Proctor said, citing two of the better-known Fair Hill squires. “But who knows? Maybe being around them will smooth me out a little.”

And maybe one of them can sit in.

“I’ve already got Gary Stevens on drums,” Proctor said. “But we do need a bass player.”

Two hooves up

It is no fair to those of us with a truly twisted sense of humor that we must wait several more months until Season 2 of the Netflix animated series “BoJack Horseman” returns in all its demented glory. For those unfamiliar – and good for you as a sign of good taste – think “Mr. Ed” as written by Hunter S. Thompson.

Season 1 left off with the cliffhanger that BoJack, a half horse-half man, washed-up sitcom star, was about to take on the role of a lifetime as Secretariat, his childhood hero. Fans of Disney’s “Secretariat” will want to avert their eyes.

In the meantime, there is a chance that “Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance” will be available soon in some format and hopefully in limited theater release. It’s a documentary about the people of a down-and-out Welsh mining town cobbling together enough to breed and race a horse who goes on to win the Welsh Grand National, one of the United Kingdom’s cherished jumping prizes.

“Dark Horse” won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, so that happened. And if your taste turns to classic underdog tales, this one makes California Chrome looked like he was raised by Maktoums.

Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
And he had a nice win with Include Betty, by one of my favorite sires. I think training away from the track is totally advanced and allows real horsemen to flourish.
Janie Rupp More than 1 year ago
He will love Fair Hill, most of the good trainers there are just as hands on as he is. I remember having a good friend working for him at Keenland years ago.It is a very intense job.