12/14/2009 1:00AM

Trainer profile: Dee Curry


Dee Curry's statistics date back to 1996, but it wasn't until about 1999-2000 that she fully applied herself to the training trade. Her numbers since had been consistent and average, or perhaps a touch above, until a noteworthy spike last year and through 2009.

Last year, Curry won with 21 of 147 starters (14 percent) and posted career-best numbers with in-the-money percentage (46 percent), return on investment ($2.65), and purse earnings ($535,769). In 2009, she has won with 25 of 154 starters - one more win would equal her best mark from 2000 - and finished in the money with 46 percent of her starters, kept a positive return on investment ($2.13), and improved her career-best earnings mark ($838,152).

"I think it has just been a matter of having better stock in the barn the last couple of years," said Curry, who trains a string of 20 at Philadelphia Park. "It's about the horses, and my clients have gotten more serious about breeding quality in the last few years. I train predominantly for breeders. We knew slots were coming to Philadelphia to fuel purses, and they wanted to be prepared to try and take advantage."

For Curry, born in New Mexico and raised in England and Germany until the age of 12, it seemed early that horse racing would be in her future. She grew up around horses - a grandfather was a trainer in England and great uncle, Jack Dowdeswell, was a jockey - but her dreams of becoming a jockey were squashed when she grew to 5 feet 10 inches tall.

"I'd long thought about becoming a vet for small animals," said Curry, who, settled in New Jersey by way of Europe as a youngster. "I loved dogs and such, but always had an interest in horses, too. I did the show-horse thing when I was young, always loved racing and sports, and ultimately galloped horses at the track. I dabbled in horse racing all along, went to school for degrees in communications and speech communications, wanted to pursue broadcasting, did some modeling, and for a while it was just about figuring out my future along the way."

Curry, in 1999-2000, received her biggest push and incentive from Jeff Bowen, who breeds and races as Gryphon Investments LLC, out of Kentucky, when he bought five horses for her to train. Four went on to become stake-placed, and Curry's career took flight. Bowen is still a client.

"Upgrading stock and having owners who want to develop a horse has helped," Curry explained. "I like to think we try to see the big picture, and more often than not myself and my clients are thinking alike. Knowing a horse's family history can help you as a trainer - you can see the personalities and see things in foals and runners that you may remember from the mare. You are working with living creatures and can learn something every day from them if you keep an open mind."

Curry's stable star is Key Lime Baby - a 3-year-old daughter of Champali out of Cheeksandpeanuts, by Pioneering - who is a homegrown product for Gryphon Investments LLC. She won her maiden by 16 lengths when asked to route for the first time in her third lifetime start earlier this year and has since won an allowance race, finished second in another, and most recently finished third at odds of nearly 60-1 in the Cotillion Stakes.

'She is out of a mare who was part of that first group of horses for Jeff," Curry said. "She was a very nice horse who won a couple of stakes but was injured and retired after just her fourth start. With Key Lime Baby, we thought we had a nice horse all along who would want two turns. She's run hard for us, had a long campaign, and it was nice to pick up stakes placement in that last start. We sent her sound for a winter freshening to South Carolina, to not push the envelope now, and we are really looking forward a nice 4-year-old season with her next year."

Curry's numbers indicate a proficiency for having horses ready to go a route of ground - see sprint-to-route (17 percent, $2.91 ROI) and routes (18 percent, $2.75 ROI) - and it's probably not by accident.

"My owners want to breed for distance," Curry said. "If you have a talented horse, being able to get a route seems to give you options on more places to go, and those types also seem they can last longer than sprinters, who take more of a pounding.

"Plus, in Philadelphia, it seems like every sprint you will hook horses who will whip through 21-, 44-second fractions, and the competition is very tough from sprint horses and sprint trainers."