09/19/2006 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Kent Molinaro

Bill Vassar
Kent Molinaro was able to expand his clients by doing well with his father's horses.

ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Kent Molinaro has always been intrigued by horse racing.

Molinaro's father, Robert, owned horses when Kent was a boy and is his son's No. 1 client today. He took his son to the track for the first time and later cemented his son's bond with horses when he purchased a 20-acre ranch in Pleasanton, where he boarded horses.

Molinaro soon found he was fascinated by horses.

"That's how I got working with horses," he said. "I didn't play sports in school. I'd just come home so I could be out there working with horses."

Molinaro's interest in horses prompted his father to help him get a job with the trainer J.W. Robson. Robson assigned Molinaro to work with his foreman, Vicente Castro.

"You could tell he was a little reluctant because here was some horse owner's kid," Molinaro said.

But Molinaro quickly won Castro over with his work ethic and eagerness to learn.

"He taught me how to do most of the stuff I still do," Molinaro said.

The biggest lesson Molinaro learned and incorporated into his training was to monitor his runners closely.

"As trainers, everybody does pretty much the same thing," he said. "It's important to keep on top of problems when they arise."

Early in his career he trained almost exclusively for his father, but his solid record of success has helped him attract other clients.

As with most good trainers, his approach is a patient one.

"Being able to wait and run a horse when it's doing good is important," he said. "If you don't have good owners and good horses, you can't do that. I'm lucky to have both.

"It was easier for me at first training for my father. For me, it was beneficial."

Allowing a young trainer leeway is not always easy for owners, even if the trainer is related to them, but it paid off for Molinaro's father.

In 1994, Molinaro claimed Alki Joe for his father and pulled off a nice upset with the horse the following year in the Cal Cup Starter Handicap. Alki Joe was claimed from Molinaro two years later, but he underscored another Molinaro trait.

Because he has a small stable, Molinaro needs horses that can last. He prides himself on the longevity of his runners.

That was especially the case with Profound Secret, the best horse he ever trained. A gray gelding, Profound Secret raced from age 2 to 8, winning stakes at seven different tracks while earning $515,000.

"His last year was the best year of his career," Molinaro said, pointing to three stakes wins, including the Sam Whiting in his native Pleasanton, and $134,670 in earnings.

Patience and daily monitoring were keys with Profound Secret, who twice went winless during a calendar year. But Molinaro knew what to do to keep him going, when to give him needed time off, and how to get him ready off layoffs.

Getting horses ready off layoffs is a Molinaro specialty.

"Every layoff is different," Molinaro said. "Each comes with its own story. If a horse has been at a farm, it needs more time to get fit. I like not to have them come back too heavy, but sometimes farms really like to have horses looking good."

Molinaro said a key with layoff horses is to "treat them individually."

"I think it's a good guideline that it's better to take more time," he said.

Molinaro, whose career winning percentage is 21, with 54 percent in the money, wins at 41 percent off two- to six-month layoffs and 31 percent off longer layoffs. The second time off layoffs of 45 to 181 days, he wins at 36 percent

One reason for that success with layoff horses goes beyond having them fit.

"Mentally, sometimes they're not ready," he said. "You give them a gate work. You school them. You try to get their competitive edge back."

Molinaro is also good off claims. His first-start win percentage is only 13, but the second start is 35 percent.

"Horses get stuck in ruts because they keep running okay," he said. "After claiming, you want to try something different, surface, jock, but generally distance."

Molinaro is particularly adept at shortening horses from routes to sprints.


HorseAge/SexLast raceFinishLast 3 BeyersCareer recordEarnings
Thrill After Dark6M $50K optional claimer369648421-9-2-2$104,602
Double Lyph5M Allowance45086809-2-3-139,629
Shining Day3G $32,000 claimer473677312-2-0-334,370
Chasin' Chasan4F$12,500 claimer173676914-4-1-355,130
All Flags Flying5M$16,000 claimer350597113-3-1-351,723


1st race after claim230.130.74
2nd race after claim200.352.57
1st race with trainer250.120.68
+180 days since last race130.311.72
60-180 days since last race270.411.96
Second off layoff 45-180 days220.362.13
Second off layoff +180 days50.402.44
1st time starter40.000.00
2nd start as maiden40.000.00
Maiden special to maiden claimer10.000.00
1st time turf30.000.00
1st time blinkers40.000.00
Dirt to turf60.000.00
Turf to dirt120.421.82
Blinkers on90.110.51
Blinkers off70.143.00
Sprint to route160.121.79
Route to sprint160.311.30
31-60 days since last race410.271.89
Won last start310.291.21
Maiden claiming150.070.51
Maiden special weight20.502.00
Debut in a maiden claiming race30.000.00

Trainer statistics reflect North American starts from Jan. 1, 2005 through Sept. 17, 2006