09/25/2006 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Randy Matthews

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"I have a stalker," trainer Randy Matthews joked, while seeming both amused and irritated by the idea. "Somebody is betting about $400 to win on a lot of my horses, money that shows up on the first flash of the tote board. Some of them open at 1-5 odds. If the person is going to bet, I wish he would at least wait until later in the betting so it wouldn't stick out so much."

The concern is that this bettor is spoiling the payoffs on some of the winners trained by Matthews that would otherwise pay attractive prices. Even so, Matthews, 47, still trains a good number of winning longshots.

The attention some bettors are giving Matthews's horses probably has something to do with the success he has enjoyed this year - a 19 percent win rate and a $2.27 return on investment.

Matthews started out by walking hots for trainer Billy Ashabraner. He later made a deal with Ashabraner. Matthews bought two 2-year-olds, then gave them to Ashabraner to train with the understanding that Ashabraner would use them to help teach Matthews how to become a trainer. Matthews proved to be a good student, and earned his trainer's license in 1999. When Ashabraner retired, Matthews picked up many of his mentor's horses and clients. He is now based at the Trackside training center, near Churchill Downs.

Matthews has dealt mostly with claiming horses, but the quality of his stock is on the rise following the acquisition of a number of horses in 2-year-olds in training sales over the last three years.

Since most of his clients are on a budget, Matthews can't afford to overpay for the horses he buys at auction.

"Too much money is spent on pedigrees," said Matthews. "There are many useful sires out there like Slew City Slew, Gold Case, Evansville Slew, and Lucky Lionel. They produce runners, and they are affordable."

Bettors who wish to be more selective than the "stalker" who wagers on most of the horses trained by Matthews can benefit by checking his statistics and noting his strong points.

When a horse Matthews trains returns from a break of between 45 and 180 days, he will probably be set to deliver a strong performance second time back. Matthews shows 38 percent winners from a group of 13 starters in that category, with a $2.12 ROI. Matthews is also strong with horses who run in claiming races. He has won with 23 percent of 93 claimers, while showing a healthy ROI of $2.94.

The route-to-sprint distance switch has been very profitable, with 30 percent wins and a $4.92 ROI. Two-year-olds are another specialty. Don't count on them first time out, but Matthews shows 20 percent wins with them overall, with a huge $8.42 ROI. Of course, you should not expect that ROI to continue at that level, but the 20 percent win rate is good. It should be mentioned that a big longshot winner inflated the most extreme of these ROI's. Apparently it was a 2-year-old maiden special runner who was stretching out from a sprint to a route. Based on the one win from 12 runners on the sprint-to-route switch who yielded a $12.38 return, that winner paid approximately $148 (12 multiplied by $12.38), so discount the high ROI's in the sprint-to-route, maiden special, and route categories.