02/22/2010 12:00AM

Trainer Profile: Ollie Figgins III


Trainer Ollie Figgins III came into 2010 realizing that he could no longer count on his two best runners from the past couple of seasons.

The 5-year-old mare We're in the Money, a four-time stakes winner, has been retired. Rouse the Cat, a Grade 2-placed turf sprinter whom Figgins took to the Breeders' Cup in 2008, injured a stifle and is unlikely to race again.

But things are far from bleak. Although most of the horses that Figgins has in his 30-horse barn at Charles Town run for claiming prices of $10,000 or less, he's getting the most out of what he has and looking forward to developing a few young horses with good potential.

Through the first seven weeks of the new year, Figgins has won with 16 of 44 starters, producing a profitable $3.77 return on investment. At his home base, Figgins has done even better, going 15 for 38 (39 percent) to lead the Charles Town standings, two wins ahead of Jeff Runco, who has started more than twice as many horses as Figgins.

Figgins, 35, said there's no real secret to his dramatic improvement from 2009, when he finished fifth in the Charles Town standings with 58 wins and hit at an 18 percent win rate from 364 overall starters.

"Better horses, entering horses a little more aggressively, and good timing," Figgins said. "Everything has kind of been clicking so far."

Figgins, who credits a staff led by his brother Jason for helping his operation run smoothly, said his basic premise is to train his horses hard so that when they are entered, they are ready to run and don't need to be raced into shape.

"I try to make sure that when I lead a horse over to the track it's a good, healthy horse who's prepared to run," Figgins said.

Figgins's father, Ollie Figgins Jr., was a longtime rider at Charles Town who now breeds and trains horses. The younger Figgins tried to follow his his dad's footsteps, but gave up riding after going 0 for 29 during two seasons in the mid-1990s.

"I had some talent, but I was too big" to be a jockey, Figgins said. So he galloped horses for various horsemen until going out on his own as a trainer in 2005. His modest stable has earned more than $1 million each of the past two seasons.

Figgins is hopeful a couple of 3-year-olds, Evening Concerto and Silver Pioneer, can step up and replace past stable stars We're in the Money and Rouse the Cat.

Evening Concerto, a $50,000 purchase at last April's Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's 2-year-old sale, won his maiden going two turns at Charles Town in January and last week finished third in the $50,000 OBS Sprint Stakes in Ocala, Fla.

Figgins said he believes Evening Concerto will fit well going long in stakes on the Maryland circuit.

Silver Pioneer, still eligible for a first-level allowance, is a West Virginia-bred who finished second last fall in the West Virginia Futurity and will be a candidate for statebred stakes this season.

Figgins, whose two main clients are Ray Pennington and Robert T. Hall, hopes to upgrade his stock in March and April by purchasing one or two horses at the sales in Ocala and eventually would like to move on to a bigger circuit than Charles Town.

For now, he's content to work with the stock he has on hand and winning races by finding good spots.

Figgins does some his best work with maiden claimers, where he shows a 14-for-48 record (29 percent, $2.30 return on investment) the past two seasons; horses returning from layoffs of 90 days or more (27 for 75, 36 percent, $3.63 ROI); and horses who go off at odds of 2-1 or less (39 for 77, 51 percent, $2.25 ROI).