12/21/2009 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Mike Burgess


Mike Burgess was a Quarter Horse jockey for many years, beginning at age 16, so he's used to getting from point A to point B in a hurry. No wonder his current career as a Thoroughbred trainer has advanced rather quickly.

Burgess, 41, got his first win as a trainer in 2005. He struggled for a year or so, training only a couple horses and galloping for other trainers to help pay the bills. But it did not take long for Burgess to amass stock sufficient to gain a decent training toe-hold. Now, he has 25 horses stabled in a corner barn at Fair Grounds and 16 soon-to-be 2-year-olds coming down the pipeline.

Gamblers who follow Louisiana racing would do well to become acquainted with Burgess. Through mid-December, he had 32 wins in 2009 with an overall 18 percent strike rate. But Burgess, without sporting gaudy win percentages in any major categories, produces flat-bet profits all over the place. A look at Daily Racing Form trainer stats reveal Burgess to have at least a $2 return on investment in 13 different categories. And while there are some small-sample niche areas here (for instance, 1 for 2 in first-timers debuting at distances longer than a mile), Burgess sports a $2.48 return on investment from 144 route starters and a $3.64 ROI from 89 recent grass runners.

That's right - the Quarter Horse guy is making hay in turf and two-turn racing. Go figure.

Burgess never had any intention of training Thoroughbreds when he was finished riding Quarter Horses.

"The minute I quit riding Quarter Horses, I went to work for Jack Van Berg," Burgess said in a recent telephone interview.

Burgess also was an assistant to trainer Kenny Smith and spent the six years before striking out on his own working for Steve Asmussen, whom he knew as a child in New Mexico.

"The hardest part for me coming from Quarter Horses to Thoroughbreds was getting adjusted to training on these horses the way they needed to be trained," Burgess said. "Quarter Horses, once you get them fit, you don't do a whole lot with them. Keeping a horse on a regular pattern with the training they need was the hardest thing. But after six years with Steve, that kind of sunk in."

Burgess's ownership base slants heavily toward Texas, but he races almost exclusively in Louisiana. Burgess said he stocks his barn by "claiming a handful here and there," but mainly relies on developing young horses from the start of their career.

"I like the young horses, and we seem to do good with the young horses," Burgess said. "A lot of my owners come from Quarter Horse business, and obviously they're big into 2-year-olds."

Burgess's 2-year-old win rate currently sits at 14 percent, but here again he's got a high $3.74 ROI.

Burgess's horses might not win all that more often than the average trainer, but they do win consistently, and when one pops, it is not typically obvious to the betting public.