06/18/2007 12:00AM

Mike Maker


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Like other former assistants to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Mike Maker has flourished since beginning his own training career. He is just doing it differently than other Lukas proteges such as Kiaran McLaughlin, Todd Pletcher, Mark Hennig, and Dallas Stewart.

Unlike their stables, which are filled largely with allowance and stakes horses, Maker's barn consists mostly of claiming horses. But the lesser quality of his horses is not slowing down his results.

Through Sunday, Mike Maker had won with 10 of 34 horses during the Churchill Downs meet, tying him for sixth in the trainer standings. The results are nothing new. Maker, 38, who left Lukas in 2003, consistently wins at a high percentage.

Having assisted in the training of such top horses as Charismatic, Thunder Gulch, Serena's Song, and Spain when he was with Lukas, he has learned how to train a good horse. But Maker also knows how to handle a low-level horse, too, having been around his share when helping his late father, George Maker, train cheap claimers in Michigan.

"I've been around the worst horse you could think of and the best horse you could think of," he said.

Seeing both ends of the spectrum have left him well prepared. Maker's horses are consistently well placed, even if that means they need to hit the road for a race out of town. Maker will regularly ship his horses from Kentucky to West Virginia to race.

"Realistically, if you have a 3-year-old here that is worth $25,000 you can run there in [allowances] and the competition is not as severe," he said.

There is more to Maker's training than simply putting his horses in the right spots. He is a good horseman, and he uses cutting-edge technology.

Some of his horses that have physical ailments utilize treatment in a hyberbaric oxygen chamber, a device credited with helping human and equine athletes recover from infections and other injuries. Maker said he has also been successful treating bleeders with it.

Korbyn Gold, a gelding who struggled with respiratory bleeding through the summer and fall of last year, is one horse that benefited from treatment in the chamber, Maker said.

With his bleeding under control, Korbyn Gold ran some powerful races for Maker, winning a six-furlong race for $32,000 claiming horses in 1:09 at Churchill Downs May 11, for example.

Claimed off owner Mike Huscroft and Maker that day, he returned to finish a distant sixth in a money allowance at Churchill Downs for Scarlet Stable and trainer W. John Bourke. Maker said the horse has since been returned to him to train.

His stable is not filled with only troubled claiming horses, however. He also has promising runners, perhaps none more so than Yonegwa.

A 2-year-old son of Kafwain, Yonegwa has raced twice, running third when debuting in early May. On May 26, he finished second to Kodiak Kowboy, who came out of the race to win the Victoria Stakes on Sunday at Woodbine.

Maker has also proven a dangerous longshot trainer in stakes races in recent years. In 2004 he trained Freefourinternet to a victory in the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup at 27-1. And in March 2006, With a City won the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park for him at 48-1. (With a City died a month later.)

Ron Peltz, one of Maker's top clients, who races as Equirace.com LLC, owned both big upset winners.