03/22/2009 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Mike Maker


Within a relatively short span, Mike Maker has separated himself from the pack among Kentucky trainers. Maker has become the dominant trainer on the circuit, having set a Churchill Downs fall-meet record for wins in November and on his way to easily winning the training title at the current winter-spring meet at Turfway Park.

So with the three-week Keeneland spring meet set to open April 3, Maker is intent on keeping that momentum going. Although his Turfway numbers were exceptional (22 wins from 55 starters through March 20), they were made all the more impressive by the fact that his best horses were in action at Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct.

Maker said that by the time Keeneland starts, he will have most of his horses consolidated back in Kentucky at the Trackside training center in Louisville and at Turfway. About 15 to 20 of his horses will stay through the Gulfstream meeting, which ends April 23.

"We'll run everything we can at Keeneland," he said.

Maker, 40, grew up in Michigan, where his father, George Maker, was a dominant trainer at Detroit Race Course and Hazel Park. He began working for D. Wayne Lukas in 1993 and became an assistant in 1997 before going out on his own in 2003. During his time with Lukas, he worked with such top horses as Thunder Gulch, Grindstone, Charismatic, Cat Thief, Span, Orientate, and Surfside.

During his first three solo years, Maker averaged only 21 wins a year, but since Ken and Sarah Ramsey became his top client in 2007, his statistics have skyrocketed. In 2008, he won 140 races from 472 starts for a gaudy 30 percent win rate, and the beginning of 2009 is promising, too, as he won with 35 of his first 127 starts (28 percent).

Many of the statistical training categories maintained by Daily Racing Form reflect these high percentages.

Maker, who is active at the claim box, mostly for the Ramseys, tends to strike right away with new claims, as he has won with 32 percent of them from 98 starts. This trend does not diminish with time, as second-time starters off the Maker claim have won 35 of 101 starts (35 percent).

He also has been quite effective with horses making the third start in their form cycle, post-layoffs (45-180 days, 25 percent; 180 days-plus, 27 percent), as well as in the various class categories: claiming, 27 percent; allowances, 25 percent; and maiden claiming, 24 percent.

The maiden special weight and first-timer categories appear to be two of the relatively weak spots for Maker, as he has gone 41 for 252 (16 percent) and 7 for 120 (6 percent), respectively.

In all 2-year-old races, Maker is 67 for 353 (19 percent). He named a pair of Ramsey homebred juveniles as being ready to go at Keeneland: Cater to Kitten and Scottkeith'skitten, both from the first crop of Kitten's Joy, the 2004 turf champion campaigned by the Ramseys.

Maker invariably turns to Julien Leparoux with his best horses. They have teamed to win 98 of 297 starts (33 percent).

As almost always happens with successful trainers, fans tend to back Maker's horses faithfully - perhaps more than is deserved. Nonetheless, his return on investment for every $2 wagered is an outstanding $2.03 for his entire career (397 of 1,676). Although the ROI stood at $1.71 for this year, it was above $2 in each of the last three years.

Clearly, the Mike Maker stable has become a force and will deserve particularly close scrutiny at the Keeneland meet.