01/18/2010 12:00AM

Trainer Profile: David Fawkes


In any business, growth is difficult to maintain year after year. Training horses is no different. Changes in the composition of a stable, caused by the loss of clients or top horses, can lead a trainer to have an off year.

Yet trainer David Fawkes has somehow avoided any recent downturn in his business, even in the midst of poor economic conditions within the industry. His stable has steadily grown since he began training in 1998, and he has advanced his yearly total of winners over the last eight years.

After winning 19 races in 2001, he won 26 in 2002, 32 in 2003, 36 in 2004, 48 in 2005, 51 in 2006, 55 in 2007, 56 in 2008, and 59 in 2009.

"I missed my goal by one last year," Fawkes said, referring to 60 wins. "But we had a couple DQs."

One big one in particular - that being when stable star Big Drama was disqualified and placed second for interference after crossing the wire first in the Grade 2 Swale last year at Gulfstream.

Not that Fawkes is complaining. He is a positive thinker, quick to laugh and quick to look toward the future.

His future seems bright. With Big Drama set to return to racing later this year, and with an up-and-comer in Duke of Mischief, recent winner of the Grade 3 Fort Lauderdale, in the barn, his stable appears stronger than ever.

He is already hitting on all cylinders in 2010. Through Sunday, he was 3 for 13 at the challenging Gulfstream Park meet, placing him in a three-way tie for second in the trainer standings behind clear leader Todd Pletcher, who has seven winners.

Fawkes also won a race Jan. 2 at Calder with maiden claimer Princess Grace - giving him four winners this year.

Fawkes, 50, credits his staff for the stable's success, helping him to maintain strings of horses at Calder, Gulfstream, and in New Jersey. His assistants and his wife, Celia, are an integral part of the team, he said.

He said for a trainer to be successful he needs to "go out and do PR work," pointing to meeting owners at sales and through other contacts.

"Then maybe he sends you one horse, and one becomes two," he said.

Then, of course, you need to win.

"You've got to keep your face on the front page if you can," he said.

Not that Fawkes is reliant solely on recruiting owners. He owns horses himself and in partnership with clients.

He said buying horses in Florida provides an opportunity to purchase "good blue-collar horses" at reasonable prices.

Although Fawkes has raced mostly in Florida throughout his career, the past two years he raced divisions in the Northeast, branching out his stable after purse cuts at his main base at Calder Race Course. In 2008 he had a string at Delaware Park, and this past year at Monmouth.

He maintained a steady win rate, and his stable's earnings grew, peaking at $2.08 million in 2008, followed by $1.81 million last year.

Bettors who backed Fawkes-trained runners at the betting windows last year were also rewarded. A $2 wager on all 342 of his starters last year would yielded a profit, with an average return of $2.04.

His layoff runners and debuting horses did particularly well, often outperforming the public's expectations by firing fresh at overlaid prices.

By often winning at first asking, some of his young horses seemingly took after Fawkes, who during a one-year stint as a jockey, won aboard his first mount at Arlington Park at age 16 in 1976.

"I was only galloping horses for a month before I rode my first race," he said. "And she ran off and won. You should have seen me, holding on for dear life."