06/13/2010 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Bruce Alexander


Bruce Alexander won 15 races from only 73 starters (21 percent) at Monmouth Park in 2009, a solid meet, but he has stepped it up a notch in 2010, posting 5 wins from 18 starters through the first 11 days of racing. That's good enough for a tie for second in the standings with Rick Dutrow, behind only Todd Pletcher.

Alexander already has even won a stakes race with Lady Alexander, who won the June 5 Red Cross Stakes in game fashion. That was the fourth stakes score of her career, and she's the trainer's best horse since Emerald Earrings won four stakes for the barn from 2004-2006. Lady Alexander figures to add to her total in the near future, too.

"She's the soundest horse I've ever had," said Alexander, who has saddled more than 700 winners during his career.

Alexander doesn't train a lot of stakes runners, though he clearly makes the most of his opportunities when he comes across horses with that kind of talent. His success comes with lesser-quality horses. Since 2009, he has scored at 19 percent with claimers, but he wins with most every type of runner at a consistent, solid clip, virtually every year. Going back to 1994, Alexander has maintained a win percentage of at least 16 percent every year, but his strike rate has been as high as 31 percent (2002).

One area where Alexander does not look to excel is with debuting runners. His win percentage is decent (12 percent), but Alexander would just as well have his horses gain experience in their first start as opposed to gearing them up to win right out of the box.

"Well, you want to have them ready, but not at the expense of the horse," he said. "First off, it's much easier to get them to win second time than first time out. Also, it can be hard on them, and you might not be able to run your horse back for a while if that first race is too hard on them."

Alexander points to Mumbo, who gained a hard-fought win in his debut at this meet last year. That was in July. Mumbo developed some problems thereafter -- a direct result of that taxing first-out score, according to the trainer -- and he missed the rest of the summer. He returned in September but then was sidelined again, returning again only last week, merely his third start in a year.

"He was just superior to that field in his first start, so he was able to win, but he wasn't back for five months after that," said Alexander, who has won with 3 of 34 firsters going back five years.

Alexander has done well with a small sample of horses donning blinkers for the first time, winning with 5 such runners from 23 horses adding the equipment since 2005. He has won at 18 percent with horses taking the blinkers off, and in both cases Alexander has simple theories.

"When you see a lack of focus, or if they keep running second and third, you sometimes hope adding blinkers will move them up enough," he said. "I'll take them off if they need to relax, show a little less speed, and put them on when I want them to show more speed. That's it."

Alexander is more known for winning with claimers and horses on the dirt, but he also scores at a solid 20 percent rate on the turf. His success on grass is a bit of a surprise even to him, since it's not an aspect of the game in which he looks to specialize, but his best guess is that his methods in the mornings lead to triumphs on the turf in the afternoons.

"I can't tell you for sure," he said, "but I would guess my training style -- which is a "high-speed cruising style" -- probably gets them ready in a way that's suitable for grass racing."