09/20/2009 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Greg James


There are truisms in the training of horses that everyone mouths.

For example, is there a trainer anywhere who will not preach the virtues of patience?

But there are few trainers more patient than Greg James, who, with the help of his wife, Robin, and assistant trainer Mary Panian, has developed a routine that pays off for his horses and their owners.

James, 59, was a successful electrician who loved to watch races at bush tracks in Utah and Idaho.

"I always liked horses and races," James said.

A friend gave him a Quarter Horse mare, and, when she had a foal, James decided he wanted to try to race her and started training her after putting in a full day on the job.

What was an avocation and passion became a full-time profession for the past 30 years.

"I love horses, and I love racing," he said. "I love the competitiveness of the business, and I really love to win races."

James, who has a 35-horse stable at Golden Gate Fields, is money with new faces in his barn, winning at a 28 percent clip while showing a hefty $4.62 return on investment. He also shows a profit with runners in their debuts, particularly 2-year-olds.

James said he believes in building a solid foundation for his runners and credits his wife for bringing along horses at their Utah ranch.

This is particularly true of 2-year-olds. The Jameses use a program developed by a veterinarian to bring babies to the races strong and healthy. They work hard at building up shins, a common bugaboo for young horses.

"I can't give enough credit to Robin," James said.

The young horses receive "good nutritious food with vitamins," but the key comes in the preparation. The young horses build stamina, building up to one mile in slow gallops before works start.

They begin with one-furlong drills twice a week, going in 15 seconds. Then they progress to quarter-mile works in 30 seconds and finally three-furlong works in 45 seconds.

"This puts easy stress on them and really builds their bones," said James. "Then we drop them back to an eighth or a quarter and go fast."

The process also prevents youngsters from becoming speed crazy, which is a special concern James has about runners in 2-year-olds in training sales that are taught to go fast.

"All they're doing is training them to run one-eighth of a mile," said James.

The barn's process is similar with older horses rehabbing at the ranch, said James, although it is not as extensive with the short, slow works.

"I'm really patient," James said. "I would be a lot more patient, but the economy is so bad, owners do want to run more quickly now."

Though he understands, James also warns owners about the potential downside of doing too much too soon.

It's not just with new faces, debut runners, and layoff horses that James does well. He shows profits with his runners making their first starts in blinkers and running on the turf.

"I'm a blinkers kind of guy," said James, who likes the focus blinkers can give horses.

He takes no credit for his success moving horses to the turf.

"I just try horses on turf," he said. "One of my best owners, Lorraine Rodriguez, believes everything should run on turf."

James settled into the Northern California racing scene in 1990 but did venture south to run at Del Mar in 2007. He did decently (2-2-3 in 16 starts) and had an even better meeting at Fairplex (3-2-2 in 14 starts) but decided to return to Northern California when unable to get ontrack stabling.

"I was on the road traveling back and forth all the time and wasn't training," he said.

He has put together decent career numbers, with an overall winning percentage of 13 percent from nearly 2,500 starters.