01/26/2009 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Allen Milligan


Trainer Allen Milligan believes it is essential to get his stable settled in at Oaklawn Park several weeks before the meet begins, and his philosophy, coupled with the significant growth his stable has experienced in the last year, has led to a fast start at the Hot Springs, Ark., track. His horses were on the grounds training a full month before the Oaklawn meet began Jan. 16.

"It's very important to get here early," Milligan said. "This is a deep, cuppy racetrack compared to what they've been running on all spring, summer, and fall. It's a totally different racetrack, and you have to work them at least twice over it just to get them legged up and fit. I think it's very much an advantage to getting here early and getting a couple of works on the racetrack."

Milligan struck on opening day with Kinetic Spirit ($38.80) and on the same card sent out 55-1 shot La Poli to run a big second in a high-end optional claiming route for fillies and mares. A day later, he won the first race with Red Thunder ($18.20), and he had a pair of second-place finishes on Jan. 19.

Milligan, a 42-year-old former assistant to trainer Frank Brothers, has emerged in the last year as a young horseman to watch, and owners on the Oaklawn-Lone Star Park-Louisiana Downs-Remington Park circuit have taken notice. His stable has doubled in size since he was at Oaklawn a year ago, with more than 60 horses this meet compared to 30 in 2008. Milligan has 36 on the grounds at Oaklawn and another 26 at a training center in Hot Springs. His chief owners include Allen Poindexter and new client Coby Tresner. Their different stable goals have been a benefit to Milligan.

"Coby Tresner, I think that kind of leveled me out," Milligan said. "He likes to claim older horses, and Mr. Poindexter likes to bring the babies along."

Last year, Milligan sent out the 3-year-old Force Freeze, who was co-owned by Poindexter, to win his debut at Oaklawn. The horse was later sold to overseas interests for $400,000 and earlier this month won a prep for a Dubai sprint stakes.

Milligan's 3-year-old ranks this year include My Spanx, winner of the $100,000 La Senorita at a mile at Retama Park in her last start Nov. 1. She is being pointed for the $50,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn on Feb. 15. Milligan also trains the 3-year-old Messy Marvin, who is stakes-placed at a mile. Both race for Poindexter and fit a pattern often seen with young route prospects from Milligan.

"I like starting one a couple of races short before I stretch them out to give them the experience of a race," he said. "I think the experience of a couple of races first really makes a difference."

Milligan also has had success claiming horses in the $10,000 to $30,000 range, with La Poli a prime example. She won three consecutive races after being taken for $10,000 at Lone Star last May.

"She was real nervous in the paddock, and I thought that she was a filly we could help," Milligan said, "and I love her breeding."

La Poli is by Hold That Tiger and out of the same mare as Grade 1 winner Devious Course. Milligan said he would point the filly to turf stakes at either Lone Star or Louisiana Downs later this year.

Milligan is a Texas native and the son of Eddie Milligan Sr., a longtime trainer who first came to Oaklawn in 1969. Allen Milligan began training in 1993 after working first as an assistant to his father and then as the Kentucky-based assistant for Brothers. He briefly left racing to earn a nursing degree but resumed his training career in 1998.