05/03/2009 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Justin Evans


Lone Star Park has spawned a handful of young, prominent, high-percentage trainers since its opening back in 1997, among them Steve Asmussen, Bret Calhoun, and Cody Autrey. The latest to fit the mold is Justin Evans, who in his initial season at the track is winning at a 36-percent rate.

Evans is just 27, but he has been training on his own since he was 18. He comes to Lone Star with a 19-horse stable after spending the bulk of his young career racing in Arizona, Minnesota, and New Mexico.

"I wanted to explore a new circuit," he said. "I just think Texas is on the verge of getting gaming, and it's a place I always wanted to go. It's tough racing, and it makes you a better trainer for it."

Evans has been up to the challenge. He has won 5 races from 14 starters at the recently begun meet which runs through the end of July, although a high strike rate is nothing new for the barn. Evans finished second in the Canterbury Park trainer standings at the meet that wrapped last September.

Among the weapons in his stable is Chickster. The horse went 11 for 15 last year to rank as the winningest horse in North America in 2008. Evans sent him out for nine of those wins from 10 starts, with the horse's lone loss for the barn a fourth-place finish in the $50,000 Claiming Crown Express.

"I claimed him for $3,000 in Phoenix, then we took him to Canterbury, and he won five in a row," Evans said of Chickster, whose rapid ascent up the class ladder included a first-level allowance win. "He's a cool story. You kind of work on them, and they repay you.

"I like those old class horses. Maybe you get one that's stuck in a rut and you work on them and make them feel good about themselves. They know what they are."

Evans, a native of Chino Valley, Ariz., who won his first race at Prescott Downs in July 1999, learned racing's ropes at a young age, as both of his parents trained horses. He has been a regular at Turf Paradise, and three years ago started racing at Canterbury, where his stable grew to 40 head at one point. Evans said he is at a rebuilding stage right now, with plans to claim fresh stock while at Lone Star and welcome some incoming 2-year-olds. Over the winter, he also bought some horses for clients out of Oaklawn Park.

"We're starting to get into some babies," he said. "We went to Keeneland the last two years, but right now, claimers are our biggest strength."

Evans likes to train sprinters, he said, and characterized his style as "West Coast" in his approach to workouts.

"I like them to work real, real sharp," he said. "I like those kind of works."

Magdalena's Chase had worked a near bullet leading up to her last start, which resulted in a $20,000 claiming win at Lone Star on April 30. She won an off-the-turf sprint by more than six lengths, and might see some stakes action later in the meet, said Evans.

She races for one of Evans's chief clients, SEJ Stables, which is active in claiming and also sends homebreds to Evans. Following the Lone Star meet, Evans said he might split his stable between Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M., and Retama Park near San Antonio.