04/22/2007 11:00PM

Trainer claims key to his success is a "balanced string of horses"

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Trainer Chris Hartman made a fast impression when he moved a stable of horses to Lone Star Park for the first time in 2005 and won with 23 percent of his starters. This year, he could top his initial meet. Hartman went 2 for 5 over the first week of Lone Star, and will have more than double the amount of horses stabled there than he had in 2005.

"This meet here, I think I've got by far the best group of horses I've had," said Hartman, 34.

Hartman will have a total of 50 horses at Lone Star following the close of Sunland Park, where he is battling perennial leader Henry Dominguez for the title. The season there ends Sunday.

Hartman came to Lone Star at the request of owners in 2005, and won 15 races from 63 starters. He returned in 2006 and went 18 for 84, a 21 percent win rate. This year, he brings his largest barn to the track, and it includes 2-year-olds, claimers, allowance horses, and stakes performers like Skip N Go, Wait in Line, Guiding Hand, and a promising 3-year-old filly named Tiger Love.

"I'm going to have to fill up on some turf horses," said Hartman, who is lacking in the category because there is no turf racing in New Mexico.

"Trying to keep a balanced string of horses is always my goal. It keeps your running numbers up. You're running horses on a continual basis, and if you have the right kind of horses and you place them properly, it should lead to a high percentage trainer."

Hartman excels at the claiming game, and wins often with runners making their first start off the claim for him. Among his owners who claim are Brian Mundell, who is the current leading owner at Sunland.

"Generally, when I'm claiming a horse I have a game plan for that horse already mapped out before I ever get him," Hartman said. "I try to get a horse that will fit well in the barn; something that's not going to run up against the other horses that I have in it."

Another strong angle for Hartman is the success he has with horses running back on short rest. One of his most notable stories is Sweepingly, who in the span of nine days last year won an overnight race and the $100,000 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint at Lone Star.

"Sweepingly won on a nine-day rest, from a claiming race to a stakes, but that horse was real sharp at that particular time," Hartman said. "There's not a lot of horses that you can do that with. I think there's certain horses, they do run well right back. It's just finding that horse that fits the bill, and then just capitalize on it. You've got to get the right type of race back."

Hartman, an Arizona native, is a lifelong horseman who hails from a family of trainers. His father, mother, and two grandfathers all trained. Following the Lone Star meet, he will race at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, and Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M.