09/14/2008 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Gary Stute


Getting the most out of a surprisingly small pack of runners

The glut of statistical information has turned some trainers into virtual slaves to win percentage. They figure, why run if you are not a favorite?

Gary Stute, however, follows a slower beat. "Not everyone can be a 25-percent trainer," Stute says, with no remorse. Besides, his 12-percent career win rate tells only part of the story.

Horses trained by Stute make money the old fashioned way - they compete.

"I like to run them at least twice a month," he said. "I figure the owners have twice as good a chance of paying their bills."

The approach is distinct, considering handicappers and horsemen consider short layoffs beneficial. There is nothing like a fresh horse in the right race. And even Stute admits that once-a-month starters might run faster than twice-a-month starters, but only a tick faster.

"It might improve them a nose or a head," Stute says. "If I'm in the right race, I don't need that. That little 'extra' two [more] weeks might give them isn't enough to make a difference, if you have them in the right spot."

Then it should be no surprise that 17 of the 19 Stute winners this year (through Sept. 14) averaged only 18 days from their last start. The two others were layoff winners. Not all Stute horses who run back on short notice win, of course. But they will not be short on conditioning.

"My horses usually are fit," Stute said.

Stute-trained stakes winners include Roman Commander, Kimmy Potter, Awesome Lady, Tialinga, and Sea of Pleasure. But one of his best training jobs was a former bottom-level claimer with a bowed tendon.

Stute, and owners Daniel Martin and Black Diamond Racing (HRTV announcer Peter Lurie is vice president) claimed Trail Mix for $10,000 in November 2007. The veteran gelding proceeded to win 5 of his next 8 starts and earn $58,540 over 3 1/2 months before he was claimed away for $10,000.

"Most of my owners, the last five years, have all made a profit," Stute said. "I don't spend a lot of money on vets, and the most I ever spent on a horse was $50,000. I don't get real stuck."

Stute comes from a training family. His father is Hall of Fame-worthy Mel Stute, and the late Warren Stute was his uncle. Have they influenced Gary?

"I tried to take the best from each one," he said.

The weird thing about Stute statistics is they suggest he has more horses than he does, because of the number of starts.

"Most people are shocked when I tell them how few horses I have, that usually I only have eight to 10 horses," he said. "It's because I run a lot."

While Stute is due to break out of a 3-for-36 funk (Aug. 1 through Sept. 14), his career record paints a favorable picture. Stute may not care about statistics, but handicappers do. And since returning in 2001 from a five-year hiatus, during which he spent some of that time as a jockey agent, Stute has performed above average.

His runners produced a flat-bet profit four of eight years, and beat the (approximate) 15 percent takeout rate seven times. As for the current stable, Stute hopes Frank the Barber can spring an upset Sept. 21 in the Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap. It would make it four straight years Stute won a stakes at Fairplex. Frank the Barber won the Pomona Derby last year.

Stute's main clients are Black Diamond, which is primarily a claiming stable; Kendell Man; and Bo Hirsch, who sends Stute well-pedigreed homebreds. Hirsch's promising 3-year-old filly Magical Victory is sidelined until next year, but he recently sent in a pair of promising 2-year-olds, including Papa Clem, a half-brother to Magical Victory sired by Smart Strike.