02/25/2009 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Doug Shanyfelt


Bettors understandably tend to shy away from horses with ugly-looking past performance lines, especially in lower level claiming races. But when a strange horse who looks bad on paper shows up at Mountaineer Racetrack to make his first start since joining Doug Shanyfelt's stable, fans ought to run to the betting windows.

Shanyfelt, 49, flies below the radar despite putting up some sensational statistics since 2008 with a modest string of claimers who mainly run for claiming prices of less than $10,000.

He is especially potent with newly acquired stock - almost all of it obtained via private purchase. Of the 30 horses making their first start for Shanyfelt over the past two seasons, 14 won, a phenomenal 47 percent. The return on investment was a sparkling $3.62.

Examples of sharp form reversals by horses making their first start for Shanyfelt include Samurai Prince ($18.80), a 9 1/2-length winner last May; Chase Em, a 3-year-old filly who romped by 14 facing older maiden claimers on Feb. 15; and Olympus, a Feb. 14 maiden winner in his first career start on dirt after four failures on turf.

After winning just 13 races in 2006 and a mere eight races in 2007 while essentially racing only horses owned by himself or his mother, Marilyn, Shanyfelt expanded his operations last year. As a result, he won 41 of 107 starts, a 38 percent success rate. Even more importantly, from a bettor's standpoint, Shanyfelt's horses produced a $3.27 return on investment.

"I got a little sour on the game," Shanyfelt says of the 2006 and 2007 seasons, when he won a combined 21 races just a few years after finishing as Mountaineer's third leading trainer in 2003 with 45 wins. "I had some bad help and some people who didn't pay me. Then last year I put the word out that I wanted to beef up my stable."

He maintained a string of just 15 horses in 2008, and did extremely well with three old geldings owned by his mother. The 7-year-old Access to the City, and 9-year-olds Sunshine Bear and American Writer combined to win 10 of 23 starts and roughly $115,000.

Shanyfelt, whose father, William Shanyfelt Sr., still runs a few horses in his name at Beulah Park, held a numer of jobs at the racetrack before he opened a public stable in 1999. He worked on the starting-gate crew and served as a jockey agent for longtime Mountaineer standout Dana Whitney. The skills of persuasion Shanyfelt developed as an agent have helped him immensely in lining up a variety of new owners, including Joel Politi, who recently acquired two Florida-based horses previously trained by Shug McGaughey.

Shanyfelt currently has about 30 horses and is on a scouting trip to Tampa Bay Downs to look for fresh stock, intending to buy about eight to 10 horses. He has raced only sparingly this winter because of the harsh weather and frequent poor track conditions at Mountaineer, but still was tied for first atop the trainer standings through Feb. 22 with 6 wins from his first 16 starters.

Shanyfelt maintains just six stalls at Mountaineer. The rest of his stock is divided among two farms and stalls at Beulah Park.

Shanyfelt said he likes to look for horses who can run through their conditions at Mountaineer. He typically takes four to six weeks after a horse arrives in his barn to get the animal fit for a race. His regimen includes medication to ensure the horse can breathe properly and plenty of exercise.

"I train 'em a lot," Shanyfelt said. "When people ask me why, I tell them, 'Have you ever seen a fat track star?' "

In addition to his good work with newly acquired stock, Shanyfelt excels with runners making their second start off an extended layoff (42 percent, $2.68 ROI), sprinters (42 percent, $3.68), horses returning from a layoff of 31 to 60 days (37 percent, $3.23), and maiden special weight entrants (62 percent, $3.98).