03/19/2007 12:00AM

Small stable consistently produces big ROI


A few moments after Forgotten Cat ($17.60) came from off the pace to upset a group of $14,000 claimers in the March 15 opener at Aqueduct, Mike Farrell, who covers the New Jersey beat for Daily Racing Form, made the following observation: "Scott Volk is one of the sharpest guys nobody knows anything about."

That is music to the ears of handicappers looking for the small percentage of trainers who consistently get the job done, and yet still fly beneath the radar of casual fans.

Volk, coming off a banner season in 2006 that produced 23 wins from just 82 starters, fits the description. Forgotten Cat was making his third start off a $10,000 claim. Last November, Go Fernando Go was a romping maiden winner at the Meadowlands in his second start off a trainer change to Volk, and came right back to upset a New York-bred allowance, paying $15 for a nose victory at Aqueduct.

But the exploits of Extra Bend, My Husband, and Pushed, who all wintered at the Ocala Training Center, were the highlights of last year for Volk.

Volk claimed Extra Bend ("Probably my best claim ever," he said.) for $50,000 at Aqueduct last March, and won the Spend a Buck Stakes with him at a $27 mutuel at Monmouth Park. He also had runner-up finishes in the Woodlawn and the Lamplighter, and a third-place finish in the Jersey Derby.

My Husband was haltered for $25,000 and won a second-level allowance before finishing second in the Bernie Dowd Handicap.

Pushed, a $35,000 acquisition, won four in a row from August through October before the streak came to an end with a sixth-place finish in the $75,000 Rutgers Handicap.

"I gave them some time off, they ran pretty hard," said Volk. "They're turned out in Florida and getting ready for Monmouth; they'll go there as soon as they open for training around April 10."

Volk grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and was introduced to racing by his uncle. After spending the better part of three decades training at Finger Lakes, Volk trained for Sarah and Ken Ramsey for a number of years before relocating to Monmouth Park in the mid-1990's.

"I've been around a long time," said Volk, 55. "I run them where they can win."

Through St. Patrick's Day, Volk-trained runners had rung up profits in an impressive 21 of 34 categories in Trainer Form, notably a strong $3.35 return on investment from a 95-race sample of dirt runners and an otherworldly $11.92 ROI second time off the claim, with 3 winners from 5 such starters. Other lucrative areas include distance switches, whether sprint to route ($5.62 ROI), or route to sprint ($4.89).