06/07/2010 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Ingrid Mason


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Ingrid Mason has been training a string of horses on a regular basis for less than a year. It's fair to say she hit the ground running.

Mason has sent out 83 starters in her brief training career, and 23 of them have won. That's a 28-percent strike rate, a big number for the most masterful of trainers, and pretty much unheard of from a newcomer. And bettors who latched on to Mason from the start? They have been rewarded with a $2.80 overall return on investment during Mason's training tenure.

The way Mason's horses have been getting bet lately, she will have to win at even higher percentage to maintain that ROI. Four of her last seven Arlington Park starters (she has won with 6 of 12 so far this meet) have gone off at 2-1 or less. Dark and Beautiful scored last week at 3-5, and Swains News was an overbet 3-2 finishing third in a turf race on Saturday. Mason's last good-priced Arlington winner was Double Jump, who scored at 7-1.

Mason, a Californian, wound up in Dubai as an exercise rider way back in 1992, during the very early phase of the emirate's sanctioned racing history. In the first few years of the 21st century, she rode sporadically all over California, winning 9 races from 213 mounts during her career as a jockey. While riding races and exercising horses in the morning, Mason also dabbled in the conditioning and daily care of the racehorse. She worked as an assistant trainer for a spell, and in 2005 she moved to Florida to try and strike out on her own. Mason said that the Florida venture fell victim to all sorts of ill fortune. For a time, she was unable to be licensed at the racetrack because of a suspension hanging over her in California.

By 2007, however, Mason had sorted out her affairs, and she was hired by Chicagoan Jim Divito, whom she had met at Gulfstream Park, to be an assistant trainer at Arlington. And in 2009, she was taken on as a head trainer by the owner Dr. George Ditola, who owns a hyperbaric chamber in Elgin, Ill. Mason said she makes extensive use of the hyperbaric chamber, a mechanism that highly oxygenates an animal placed in its confines.

Mason's ownership base has expanded the last several months: Vilasini and Kalarikkal Jayaraman, the owners of champion Summer Bird, have five horses in her care now, and she currently houses 14 horses in her Arlington stable, up from the five she had at Oaklawn Park this past winter. Another client is Coby Tresner, who owns a horse named Crooks Bodgit, Mason's foundation runner.

"He's the horse that made my barn," Mason said.

Crooks Bodgit was claimed for just $7,500 last June at Arlington, and won 4 of his next 6 starts for Mason, including a victory in the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes.

Unsurprisingly, Mason, the longtime exercise rider, still rides much of her stock during morning training hours.

"I get on most of them," she said. "It gives you an edge when you get on them every day. You can find every little pimple."

Whatever edge Mason is finding, it's producing positive results. She shows a positive ROI in 16 of the 25 categories covered by DRF trainer stats, and her ROI is greater than $3 in 11 of them. Because of Mason's short training history, and because her barn is so small, many of the trainer-category sample sizes are so small as to be virtually meaningless. But Mason has a $2.88 ROI in 48 dirt starts, a $3.88 ROI after 39 sprints, and a $3.06 ROI from 36 claiming races.

Those numbers seem nearly certain to decline over time. But for now, Mason-trained horses must be accorded extra attention by those playing Arlington races.