05/11/2009 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Jeff Thornbury


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - A milder-mannered man than trainer Jeff Thornbury is unlikely to be found at the racetrack. But despite the decided lack of Type A in his personality, Thornbury's career arc is ascendant. First listed as a trainer way back in 1981, Thornbury won eight races his first three seasons. The victory total increased mildly in subsequent years, but from 1991-1993, Thornbury won only 13 times. In 1997, he notched three victories.

But in 2007, Thornbury's win total hit 26, and he exceeded that number last year with a career-best 33 wins. Already in 2009, Thornbury has 15 victories, and with about 60 horses currently in training, his stable has grown to its largest size.

But understand one thing: the position of "trainer" represents only the tip of Thornbury's connection to racing. Thornbury's father, John - who passed away less than a year ago - was the longtime partner of Dr. Robert Copeland, a noted equine surgeon. For 20 years, Jeff Thornbury "scrubbed up" with Dr. Copeland, serving as his chief surgical assistant. And long before he was listed as a trainer, Thornbury was breaking young horses and giving them early training at his family's Sunnyside Farm in Paris, Ky. Now, Thornbury basically is the master of 200-acre Sunnyside.

There, Thornbury can utilize a five-furlong turf training track and several grass gallops as he brings horses along. These work well as Thornbury readies young horses that often go to trainers on major circuits, but they also are serving Thornbury well as his own racing presence increases.

"Year round, we have stalls at both Turfway and Keeneland," said Thornbury. "We bring them from the farm to one of those two places."

Thornbury also keeps 20 stalls at Arlington and Fair Grounds, and has been racing regularly at those meets. Last Saturday, he won two races at Arlington, and he won eight races at this past winter's Fair Grounds meet.

The quality of Thornbury's stock has improved, but he still is apt to train horses that central Kentucky breeders are unable to suitably sell at auction - problem children of one sort or another.

That makes Thornbury's increasing success all the more impressive, and bettors are well advised to attend to Thornbury runners these days. From 36 Daily Racing Form trainer-stat categories, Thornbury is showing a positive return on investment in 15 of them. Thornbury starters show a flat-bet profit in maiden-specials, maiden claimers, and in claiming races in general. In other words, his stable is placing young horses where they belong, and generally getting the most out of whatever talent the animals possess. And, if the right Thornbury-trained horse can be readied to win first time out, the horse is likely to pop. After debuting Fleet Dyna scored last weekend at Arlington, Thornbury's first-starter win percentage stood at 22, with an ROI of $4.06.

Stakes-class horses Mad Flatter and War Tigress are on the way back from injuries, while Southern Anthem - who also won Saturday in Chicago - could be headed to the Arlington Classic later this month. Thornbury also has 2-year-olds that he will actually get to train, rather than send to someone else, after readying them for racing this year, meaning the summer of 2009 should do little to slow Thornbury's steady recent climb.