Updated on 09/17/2011 11:55AM

Look at trainers to find a mudder


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Rain is an inconvenience in most sports, a cause to delay a game or cancel one. In racing, rain can lead to opportunity.

While foul weather still ruins good seats along the rail, it can give an experienced mud handicapper an edge. It can turn a puzzling turf race into an off-the-grass race with a mud standout. And it can transform an also-ran on a fast track into a winner in the slop.

The problem with handicapping races for the mud, at least from a value perspective, is the prevalence of mud statistics available to gamblers. This has negated the advantage of knowing mud sires or a horse's wet-track history. If a horse has excelled in past tries in the slop, it is reflected in his off-track record. If a horse is by a fine mud sire like Distorted Humor, his Tomlinson mud rating jumps out in this publication.

These horses win frequently, but the prices are not what they used to be. How does a player gain an advantage over the betting public? By looking where the public is not - at the trainer.

Certain trainers have a knack for having their horses win on off tracks. Their horses handle the footing better than their counterparts' horses, and in some instances, bettors can make money simply by betting blindly on horses trained by successful off-track trainers. Best yet, the trainer's wet-track record does not stick out in the past performances.

In the accompanying chart is a list of 15 profitable wet-track trainers who regularly run horses at Churchill Downs. These trainers' horses consistently produce at a high level when racing in the mud and slop, and the relatively high sample size of their mud starters suggests the trend should continue.

At first I did not quite want to believe the statistics, thinking they might be skewed because a trainer had one or two wet-track freaks in his barn. My initial belief was that such a trainer was not any better with mud horses than another guy. He simply had the good fortune to have mud horses in his barn.

That thinking was wrong. Although it certainly helps to train a horse with established mud form, there is more to it than that. Some trainers run their horses with shoes designed for traction in wet tracks. Others scratch proven mud losers, essentially telling bettors the ones they keep racing are solid on wet tracks. And other trainers have horses with pedigrees geared toward success in the mud.

Trainer Neil Howard is one such example. His horses consistently win at a high percentage under virtually all conditions. His horses tend to be heavily bet, however, because his horses are well bred and ridden by popular, winning riders.

So it is surprising to see that a sizable profit could have been made by betting his wet-track horses. Since the start of 2000, his horses have won at a 20 percent clip on off tracks, and a $2 wager on each would have generated a $2.37 return on investment.

In Howard's case, his success with wet-track horses can in part be attributed to the horses' pedigrees. He trains a number of horses bred by Will Farish of Lane's End Farm. Several of these Farish-bred horses are descended from Mr. Prospector or a proficient mud sire such as A.P. Indy (more than 20 percent winners on off tracks).

Other trainers, like Tom Amoss and Chuck Simon, appear skilled at placing their horses when rain is in the forecast. They entered main-track-only runners in a turf race Wednesday and were rewarded when the race was taken off the grass. Simon won the race, the fourth on the card, with Mail Call.

Perhaps it is the experience of training at Fair Grounds in New Orleans - where in a typical year 30 percent of grass races might be lost to inclement weather - that has given them an understanding of when to enter and race a mud horse.

The reasons for their success in the mud are secondary to the mere fact that they are successful. As long as the trend continues, I'll be there to support them. With rain in the forecast for Churchill Downs on Saturday, the next time might be as early as this weekend.

Trainer Mud Record Win% ITM% $2 ROI
Tom Amoss 179-57-39-22 31 65 $2.18
David Carroll 54-11-12-7 20 55 $2.17
Mark Danner 28-6-5-4 21 53 $2.47
Akiko Gothard 44-12-9-4 27 56 $2.30
Neil Howard 59-12-14-10 20 61 $2.37
Don Hughes Sr. 47-8-8-5 17 44 $2.23
Forrest Kaelin 75-15-13-10 20 50 $2.69
Eddie Kenneally 63-15-4-7 23 41 $2.10
Richard Kohnhorst 47-7-6-7 15 43 $2.23
Wayne Mackey 54-8-6-8 14 40 $3.60
Wayne Mogge 121-19-23-18 15 49 $2.11
Martin Rouck 29-9-8-4 31 72 $2.43
Chuck Simon 66-17-4-7 25 42 $2.68
John Ward Sr. 42-15-7-7 35 69 $2.65
Ronny Werner 125-28-19-17 22 51 $2.83

* Stats from 1/19/2003-11/11/2003