01/21/2008 12:00AM

Strong claiming trainer blends scientific, practical skills

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Chris Richard spent his formative racetrack years working as an assistant to trainer Tom Amoss, but his resume has a twist compared with most young horsemen. Richard, 36, has a bachelor's degree in equine science and a master's degree in equine nutrition and exercise physiology. The degrees complement his hands-on horse background, and three years into his training career the numbers back it up.

Richard had a breakout meet at Oaklawn Park a year ago, at one point winning with six consecutive starters. This year, he is off to another fast start, having won with his first starter of the meet on the opening-day card Jan. 18.

Richard served as Amoss's assistant from 2000 to 2005, among his duties overseeing divisions at Arlington Park and Keeneland. His degrees came from Texas A & M, where he was a 1998 graduate. He said the secular education has served him well in his training profession.

"I think it gives me a lot of scientific background that I can apply to the everyday practical part of training," he said. "I think you've got to have both this day and age. You've got to be on top of nutrition, and at the same time, you've got to have experience with the horse.

"If you don't have the practical knowledge, your technical knowledge will do you no good. But when you can combine the practical knowledge with the technical knowledge, I think in certain situations it can give you a competitive edge."

Richard, a native of Lake Charles, La., struck out on his own in 2005. He brought six horses to Oaklawn that year and won 5 races from 21 starters. He returned in 2006 and had a banner season, winning 20 races from 62 starters for a 32 percent win rate. Richard finished third in the Oaklawn standings, behind Steve Asmussen and Jorge Lara, a former assistant to trainer Cole Norman. This meet, Richard has 25 horses at Oaklawn.

"To repeat last year would not be realistic," he said. "Those kind of meets just come along once in a great while. I think we'll have a good, productive meet. I have basically the same kind of horses as last year; for the most part the stable is composed of claiming horses, a few good allowance horses. I feel like I'm going to be in some very good spots. I've got some horses that are going to fit here."

Richard is active at the claiming box, backed by clients such as Maggi Moss, who was the nation's leading owner in wins in 2006. Some of Richard's best claims include Hello Ladies, whom he took for $8,000 on behalf of Al Larsen and Dan Passaglia, won three races, and lost for $20,000.

"I think my strength at this point is definitely the claiming game because I came from one of the top claiming outfits in the nation, from Tom Amoss," said Richard. "We're very selective on what we claim. I like to at least watch them one race, and we pick up steam as the meet goes.

"We end up with a lot of sprinters, because those are what the majority of the races are. For the most part, our game is somewhere between the $10,000 and $30,000 range."

Richard said he also enjoys developing 2-year-olds, but at this point he has very few young horses in his care. His first stakes win came in a 2-year-old stakes with Biglie Smallworld at Prairie Meadows. Following the Oaklawn meet he will base in Chicago, first at Arlington Park, then Hawthorne.