11/23/2009 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Bob Pincins


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When a trainer wins with 20 percent of his starters, it is well above average. Twenty-five percent is considered really doing something, and 30 percent, well, that is just off-the-charts good.

So consider this - in 2009 trainer Bob Pincins has won with 12 of 30 starters, or 40 percent. And yet, to many horseplayers and owners, he is a relative unknown.

Unlike most high-percentage stables, Pincins doesn't have a barn that is overflowing with horses, with some ready to take the place of an injured horse or one in need of rest. He has three horses in training, all at Churchill Downs Trackside, Churchill Downs's offtrack training center.

Pincins, 58, said he jokes with his wife, Dani, that "I could win with 99 out of a 100 and I wouldn't pick up an extra horse."

Not that Pincins wants a small army of runners.

"We do things old school," he said, meaning giving horses a lot of hands-on attention and care.

He admits that things fell into place for him this year, which has contributed to his percentage being so high.

One horse responsible for 3 of 12 victories this year, Yikes, showed an affinity for the Churchill Downs surface, where Pincins runs most of his horses. Another, Black Crow, got on a summer roll before getting injured. And Nickel Pickle, he has been just a flat-out trier through the year.

Nickel Pickle ran Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs, closing to be second in a turf allowance going five furlongs, a distance shorter than what he prefers. A skilled synthetic runner with all his allowance conditions left, Nickel Pickle should be poised for a strong Turfway Park meet.

As for Yikes and Black Crow, they won't be adding to Pincins's lofty statistics, at least in the short term. Yikes was claimed for $5,000 off Pincins earlier this meet, and Black Crow is recuperated from injury.

In addition to training, Pincins and his wife own a farm in Shelbyville, Ky. - handling their own lay-ups and those for other trainers.

Pincins is quick to credit his crew for the stable's success.

"We don't cut any corners," he said. "The horses get everything they need."

It shows in his long-term statistics. He won with his first starter, in 1977, at Lincoln Downs in Rhode Island. And since 1996, he has won at least six races or more a year, despite running a small stable. His win percentage since 1996: a solid 16 percent.

Most of his runners, at least of late, have been acquired by claiming. He made one such claim this fall at Churchill Downs, taking Hold'em Tiger for $15,000 on Nov. 13.

Although he ran poorly the day he was claimed, running eighth, Hold'em Tiger is a horse with back class. He also returned from a lengthy layoff the day he was claimed by Pincins.

A better effort should be on the way at Turfway. Having won on dirt and turf, Hold'em Tiger appears to have the versatility to take to Polytrack.

In whichever race he returns next, Hold'em Tiger figures to be in a good spot.

"I run them where they belong," Pincins said. "I try not to run them over their heads."