12/09/2013 12:02PM

Jay Bergman: Trainer Jose Godinez becoming a household name

Sean Hamrock
Pan From Nantucket has gone from a claimer to a legitimate Open contender.

It’s hard to become an overnight success. No matter what the field of endeavor, climbing the ladder to reach the top generally requires time and effort.

In horse racing, names appear on the program that are initially unfamiliar. However, over time when trainers become recognized they become part of a gamblers vocabulary and inspire future wagers.

Jose Godinez is a trainer rapidly climbing the ranks of the highly competitive Yonkers Raceway scene in 2013. At last count he’s now eighth on the richest year-round circuit in North America and has added power and depth to a stable that started with just a couple of inexpensive horses in 2008.

“I started out in thoroughbreds,” said Godinez, a 31-year-old who came to this country at age 16 from his native Mexico. “Steven Crevani gave me my first opportunity with standardbreds.”

As is the case with many trainers on the rise, it takes a good deal of luck and always money to support the purchase of horses. The partnership with David Litvinsky’s Blindswitch Racing Stable has made a world of difference to both over the last two years.

“I claimed a horse one night and the horse came off the track in pretty bad shape,” said Litvinsky, “Jose trucked the horse back to the farm. I thought the horse had broken down. Jose was able to care for the horse and I was lucky the horse got claimed the next week.”

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The chance meeting led Litvinsky to get more seriously involved in the business. He had claimed a horse with a couple of friends back in 2000. “The horse was Raque Balboa and I think we claimed him for $25,000 and John Brennan trained him. He won his first and only start for us before being claimed again,” said Litvinsky.

Litvinsky and Godinez both recognized that in order to succeed or even survive at Yonkers they needed to have a better quality horse. That’s why on March 17, 2012 they stepped up to the plate and claimed Pan From Nantucket for $62,500 out of a $50,000 claimer at Yonkers.

“I’m not so sure that Jose wanted to go that high, but I think I convinced him,” said Litvinsky.”

Godinez explained what his concerns were, “He had a bad suspensory and a bowed tendon,” Godinez said. “Sure you’re concerned with any horse that has those conditions but I think that’s why you have to do everything to care for the horse.”

Pan From Nantucket earned $81,767 in 2012 following the claim and this year has emerged as an Open pacer for Godinez with an annual bankroll of $232,540 while racing 34 times.

“He’s getting better all the time,” said Godinez. “I think they mature and become even better horses going from five to six years of age.”

That seems to be the hope of owner Litvinsky as well for Pan From Nantucket. “It’s been a tremendous amount of fun. I hope he continues to improve and if so we might try him in the George Morton Levy series,” said Litvinsky.

The Godinez stable has nearly doubled its number of starters in 2013 from 2012 and has banked more than $1.4 million going over seven figures for the first time. Clearly that hasn’t been done with one horse, yet what’s interesting is that the stable’s top three horses all had roots at one time in the Casie Coleman stable. It’s generally thought that trainers try to find horses in the stable of less experienced or advanced horsemen and claim horses with the belief they can do a better job.

So why claim from Coleman?

“You’re taking a chance every time you claim a horse,” said Godinez, “What I like about Casie Coleman’s horses is that I know she spends a lot of time and money in taking care of these horses. She does things the right way and in the best interest of the horse. So when I claim one from her they all look and feel good.”

That’s why Godinez was willing to step in this past July to claim Rock To Glory for $40,000 from Coleman.

“The horse had missed nine months before coming back,” said Godinez, well aware that the time away was likely the result of a serious injury. “They had given him the time and he looked good.”

Rock To Glory has gone on to earn $109,805 in a little more than the five months Godinez has had him.

While B Js Guy, the third member of the “A” team that trains at Golden Shoe Farm in Bullville, New York, had only a short stay in the Coleman stable this year as he traversed between trainers in the $40,000 claiming ranks, the four-year-old has found a nice home with Godinez.

B Js Guy has earned in excess of $125,000 in the seven months he’s been racing for Godinez, and he’s performed consistently and effectively.

“You just have to give these horses the best care,” said Godinez. The results are clear that when you take a claimer and make them into condition horses there are going to be bumps in the road. That has been the case for Godinez as horses rise in class and are less competitive and then fall some and get the job done.

Owner Litvinsky credits Godinez for his successs. “Jose is up at 3:00 a.m. and works all day,” Litvinsky said.

Godinez said that there are days, much like this past Saturday when he trucked down a pair to race at Yonkers that he doesn’t get back to the barn until 2:00 a.m. “I’ve got very good help, you can’t make it in this business if you don’t have good people to help to take care of these horses,” Godinez said.

While the stable has maintained a strictly New York presence this year, Litvinsky is hopeful that he and Godinez will find other investors to help the stable expand its breath. “I’m hoping we can race some at the Meadowlands and Pocono next year,” said Litvinsky, who admitted that he had plunged into the yearling market this past fall and purchased a pair of trotters.

“I’m excited at what’s going on with the new grandstand at the Meadowlands,” said Litvinsky, “This is a great sport and I’d love to see more fan interest.”

Clearly more harness fans have become aware of Jose Godinez this year and that interest is likely to grow in 2014.

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