03/08/2010 12:00AM

Trainer Profile: Chris Grove


Chris Grove over the last several years has consistently won races predominantly on the Maryland circuit. But there is winning races, and there is winning big races.

On Feb. 15 at Laurel Park, Grove sent Greenspring and Sweet Goodbye out to win consecutive races on the program that happened to be the General George and Barbara Fritchie handicaps, both Grade 2 races.

"That was large," said Grove, 40, a native of Frederick, Md. "We felt really good going into the races, especially with Sweet Goodbye, even though she was the one of the two at longer odds, because we had gotten some good training in with her before the time we missed due to snow. In her prior win, we had gotten her to come off the pace and finish up and relax a bit better than she had in her races last year. She showed up for the race on her game, J.D. [Acosta, her jockey] found a hole with her inside the quarter pole, and she did the rest. J.D. is a heck of a rider that many people don't know about, and he's done a great job with this mare."

Greenspring, a 5-year-old son of Orientate, didn't make his racing debut until last June and now owns a lifetime mark of 6 wins and a pair of seconds from 8 starts.

"The horse is just a freak - he always has been," Grove said. "He's a very talented and very smart horse who knows what to do to win. He set a track record - granted over a very fast track - and put in a big race.

"He's a horse who bucked shins as a juvenile and later bowed a tendon to the point where they thought it wouldn't hold and were on the verge of giving him away as a riding horse.

"Ultimately, stem-cell treatments were done over about four months in late 2008 into 2009, he came in to me after that, and he's been good since. He's run brilliantly, even in his two defeats, and with a couple of breaks his way he could possibly be undefeated."

Grove currently has 45 horses in his care, with 35 at Bowie Training Center and the remainder at Charles Town. He is currently tied for second with 14 wins on the year at the current Laurel Park meet. Since 2006, when he won 42 races with $1.02 million in purses on the year, his number of wins and purse earnings have increased every year to a peak last year (90 wins, $2.11 million). He has connected with 18 percent of his runners in each of his last three years, and right now he's at 17 percent this year.

"I'm very driven, and while I'm happy with our success, my goal is always to be at least 20 percent, so I'm not totally fulfilled," Grove said. "We have a great staff and owners behind us where we get a good mix of horses. I guess most of our clients are breeders, and we don't claim as much as we once did, but I like working with the claiming horses as much as the nice ones. And, we do have some owners for the 2-year-old sales, and I like that, too."

Bettors should obviously pay attention to Grove when he leads one over for a big race (24 percent in stakes from a limited sample), and with categories such as turf/dirt (25 percent), route/sprint (27 percent), and sprints (19 percent).

"Our stakes numbers are important to me," he said. "You want to lead a nice one over to make a name for yourself, not to be a 50-1 shot to be able to say, 'Hey, Chris Grove has one in the stakes today.' Overall, we believe in training our horses and leading over a fit horse. There are a lot of trainers who jog 'em maybe four or five days a week, and that's not for us."