04/04/2010 11:00PM

Trainer Profile: Gerry Carwood

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Gerry Carwood, a 33-year-old native of County Wicklow, Ireland, originally made his mark in U.S. racing over the jumps, riding steeplechase runners for four years in the states. Now, years later, he is making an impact with flat runners, this time as a trainer.

Carwood, a former assistant to Eddie Kenneally and Jeff Thornbury, is off to a promising start as a trainer, winning at a 20 percent rate since saddling his first starter at his home base of Keeneland on April 10, 2009. His runners also have hit the board 57 percent of the time.

In a statistic all horseplayers can appreciate, the return on investment on his runners is $4.97, in part because of Indian Footsteps paying $83.20 when she gave Carwood his first winner with his second starter last April.

Although runners from such high-percentage trainers are often well backed at the betting windows, Carwood's starters have been unnoticed at times, perhaps because he runs a small stable of horses. He trains eight horses, and expansion of his stable has been difficult in a soft national and racing economy.

"Basically, times are hard," Carwood said. "There are not a lot of people buying horses. They're cutting back, watching their pennies."

What Carwood lacks in numbers, he makes up for with strong clientele. He trains for a number of prominent owners, such as Jack Smith, Dell Ridge Farm, Helen Alexander, and David and Ann Hanley.

Much of his stable will be racing this month at Keeneland, including the claimer J'Boy and Tristen's Mambo, an allowance-level runner on grass.

Both horses, like the rest of his stable, wintered at Tampa Bay Downs, where Carwood trained 3 winners, 4 runners-up, and 4 third-place finishers from 18 starters. The competition there was particularly challenging on the grass, he said.

"It's a beautiful track with zero money, and yet everybody wants to come in and run," he said of Tampa Bay, noting the fine condition of the turf course and how horses seem to exit the races there in good condition.

Carwood plans to use the Keeneland meet as a gauge for his summer plans for his horses. If they handle the Polytrack, he may opt to run mostly in Chicago this summer at Arlington Park, which also has a Polytrack surface. Alternatively, he could remain based at Keeneland and ship out to Churchill Downs and Indiana Downs.

The ability of his horses, not his own preference, will determine his summer plans.

"They'll tell me where I'm going," he said

One day he hopes they tell him to head back to Saratoga, where spent eight summers before beginning his training career. The track and atmosphere there leave him longing to return.

For now, though, merely winning a race at Keeneland, where the competition is so difficult, would leave him encouraged for the future.