11/10/2008 12:00AM

Once potent stable rebuilds with emphasis on quality


ELMONT, N.Y. - Billy Badgett Jr. has taken the slow and steady approach to building his clientele and stable since his return to the training profession last year, and he seems on the verge of receiving more attention.

"We currently have 28 horses in training at Belmont," Badgett said, "and probably six or seven of those will be making one more start before they are turned out for the winter. We'll try to maintain a string of about 20 for the winter in New York, and are in the process of building our stable with a stress on quality over quantity."

Badgett has a wealth of experience and success on his resume. A staple on the New York Racing Association circuit, Badgett-trained runners earned more than $1 million in purses in all but one year from 1994 through 2000, and he ran about 200 horses per year.

"It was a tremendous ride," Badgett said when asked about his success of the late 1980s through the 1990s. "With the caliber of horses we were given, due to our owners, you have to come up with some good horses. We trained for many breeders and with mares and stallions of quality, and as a trainer you are only as good as your stock.

"I mean, how many times can you be around a horse like Go for Wand? We were lucky enough to have her."

Go for Wand, of course, won Eclipse Awards as champion 2-year-old filly in 1989 and 3-year-old filly in 1990, but sustained a fatal injury in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Since then, much has changed for Badgett, and in Thoroughbred racing.

"In 2004, I had some personal matters that needed my time and did some work in racing but not in terms of training," said Badgett, once an assistant trainer to Joe Cantey and Woody Stephens before he launched his own career in the early 1980s. "We got back in the swing last year, and of course I'm not totally satisfied with what I've done because I'd like to win more races, but we are headed in the right direction. We are at the point now where we can be a bit more selective with where we run and get some more wins.

"The building process can be a bit slow, but it is not bad. I've had to turn down more horses to train than I've taken in because you need the quality to survive. We'll have some nice 2-year-olds coming in next year and we'll concentrate on picking up young stock."

Badgett, 56, once trained for powerhouse entities such as Greentree, Loblolly Stable, and Christiana Stables, the owner of Go for Wand, but has made adjustments in today's very different Thoroughbred market.

"It's an unbelievable experience to train for successful breeders, but many are no longer in the game and have given way to today's syndicates and partnerships," he said. "Today, the game is much more a business than a sport, but there will always be good young horses to find and that's our goal. I love the yearling sales and focusing attention on trying to develop a horse."

Badgett won seven races last year, produced a positive return on investment ($2.66) with limited starters, and has won 16 races from 129 starters this year with more than $700,000 in purses earned. His best work has come with young stock and shouldn't go unnoticed by potential clients and bettors - his stats indicate top work with beginners, juveniles, and maidens.

Highlights for Badgett this year include Chestoria's win in the Mariensky Stakes at Belmont in July, and Elusive Bluff's maiden win ($67.50), which he followed with a score in the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes.

"Chestoria was a good addition to our stable, and she'll be a nice turf mare to have in the barn next year," he said. "Seek On won her debut for us and she's a New York-bred filly with potential, and Elusive Bluff was a nice one for us who has been sold. We won his maiden and sold him prior to the Pilgrim, but we had him in our care for that race, which was real nice."