06/22/2009 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Cody Autrey


Setting up a stable at a racetrack that's strange territory isn't easy, even for a trainer with a successful record elsewhere. Just look at Ron Moquett and Mike Stidham, two Midwest-based trainers who are a combined 5 for 80 through their first two months at Delaware Park.

On the other hand, there's Cody Autrey, who obviously needed little time to get acclimated to new surroundings.

After conquering Fair Grounds, Lone Star Park, and Remington Park in recent seasons, Autrey, 29, sent a large string to Delaware this spring. Based on early returns, he has quickly mastered the condition book.

Through June 18, Autrey had gone 16 for 60 (27 percent) to rank third in the trainer standings, one win behind Tim Ritchey. Autrey credits his familiarity with new racing secretary Pat Pope, who came to Delaware this spring after many years in Louisiana and Arkansas, for his stable's good start.

"Even before coming to race here, I had followed the racing at Delaware Park and I knew from working with Pat Pope what kind of races he would be writing," Autrey said. "We took horses we felt would fit well at Delaware. Everything's fallen into place."

Autrey has divided his time overseeing 40 horses at Delaware from Sunday through Wednesday and caring for an additional 20 horses the rest of the week at Churchill Downs. Once Churchill closes in early July, Autrey estimates he will spend 90 percent of his time at Delaware.

The bulk of Autrey's runners are blue-collar types that he acquires through the claiming box. His two principal owners, Jerry Heflin and James Driver, are friends who thrive on action and like to claim horses frequently.

In their first year as partners, racing as Heflin Driver Racing GP, they led the owner standings at Fair Grounds, Lone Star, and Remington.

At Delaware, Autrey's horses owned by Heflin Driver Racing have gone 12 for 37 (32opercent, $2.15 return on investment). The ROI was boosted by Cash McCool, who paid $21 after taking a $10,000 drop to the $20,000 level on May 30.

"They're both pretty aggressive," Autrey says of his clients, who are not reluctant to allow the trainer to place their horses where he thinks they can win.

Autrey estimates that he claimed between 60 and 70 horses during one meet at Fair Grounds. He has proceeded more cautiously in his first two months at Delaware, claiming just seven horses and being outshook for several others.

"We've taken things a little more slowly, trying to get a feel for the place and the other trainers who race here," Autrey said. "But once I get a feel for what's going on, I don't care if the horse is from the leading trainer or a low-percentage trainer. I claim based on taking a look at the horse and what I think after I watch the horse."

Autrey's main concern is identifying horses that don't have major physical issues.

"We'll look for sound, useful horses," he said. "We want to find horses we think we can improve or ones that we think we're catching that still have an upside. Once we get them, we'll place them aggressively. Any time you do that, you're putting yourself in a position to win. If the horses aren't sound, then they're soon gone."

Statistically, Autrey does far better with horses in their second start off the claim (29opercent) than he does first time (19 percent).

"That's probably because I'm impatient," Autrey said. "I like action, too. So after we claim a horse, I want to see what we've got and I'll run them. If he disappoints, then I'll give him a little time and come back in the right spot, something that's maybe a little less aggressive."

To benefit from that pattern, players should watch out for the 4-year-old filly Glitter's Forum and 5-year-old mare Bianco the next time they pop up in the entries, while giving one start to recent claims Regents Ridge, Bhutan, Chill Wind, and Genius Jones.

Other categories where Autrey does particularly well are with route horses cutting back to sprints (27 percent, $2.24 ROI), 2-year-olds (27 percent, $4.52 ROI), and horses returning from layoffs of more than 180 days (45 percent, $3.13).

Autrey said he would like to get more involved with juveniles and has already begun heading in that direction.

"We've only had about five or six 2-year-olds each year, but this year we have 10," Autrey said. He points out that of the first six that he started this season, they produced three wins and three seconds.

Autrey plans to go back to Fair Grounds this fall, but his early-season success has tempted him to keep a string of runners somewhere else on the East Coast after Delaware Park closes in early November.