07/26/2009 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Charlton Baker


A lot of trainers got their start at Aqueduct in Jamaica, Queens. But Charlton "Charlie" Baker was introduced to Thoroughbreds at Caymanas Park in St. Catherine, Jamaica, where his father was a trainer.

"We lived across the street from the racetrack," recalled the 42-year-old Baker, who has been a mainstay at Finger Lakes in Canandaigua, N.Y., since 1997.

"We migrated to New York, and I didn't go to the track at first, but when I got around the horses again at Finger Lakes, it got back in my system."

And how! Baker has developed a laundry list of hard-knockers over the past decade or so. And while Woody Stephens has a plaque in the Belmont Park press box for winning five Belmont Stakes in a row from 1982-86, Baker won five consecutive runnings of the George W. Barker Handicap with Top Shoter (2004-05) and Johnie Bye Night (2006-08).

Top Shoter, who battled chronic shin problems through a career that included 11 wins from 27 starts (and a Beyer Speed Figure high of 108), and Johnie Bye Night, still in training at age 7, both amassed earnings in excess of $300,000.

"Top Shoter had more natural speed," said Baker when asked to compare the two, though Johnie Bye Night was the horse of the meet at Finger Lakes in 2006 after sweeping the Barker, Wadsworth Memorial, and Leon Reed Memorial.

Johnie Bye Night, who set the pace and held on to complete the exacta behind Funny Cide when Funny Cide won the last race of his career in the 2007 Wadsworth, turned in a trio of bullet works in May while prepping for another run at the Barker, "but he got shod a little too close and wound up a little foot-sore," Barker explained.

The 7-year-old returned to the work tab with two drills in early July.

"He's not the same horse he was a couple years ago, but we'll find a spot for him," said Baker, who saddled Manteca to four straight wins at Belmont and Aqueduct in 2008-09, and also developed the good fillies Her Royal Nibs and Talking Treasure for Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

Her Royal Nibs won 7 of 19 starts and nearly $250,000. Talking Treasure was a perfect 3 for 3 at Saratoga the past two years in New York-bred stakes.

Baker also sent out second-time starter Warm Country ($25.80) to win a maiden claimer at the Spa last summer. The year before, Baker won three races - with only seven starters.

"We'll have eight stalls at Saratoga, and ship a few in," said Baker. "I've got a couple of maidens that are okay."

Before and after last year's Spa meet, Baker won turf races at Belmont in July and September with Kettle Two, at 8-1 and 9-1. That 5-year-old gelding seems to be rounding back to form after a fourth-place finish on closing weekend at Belmont second time out this season.

"He needed those races," said Baker. "He's coming around now."