01/01/2007 1:00AM

Trainer profile: Steve Specht


The 57-year-old Steve Specht, who saddled his first winner in 1969 at the age of 19, has no secret that accounts for his longevity and success.

"Training horses is not rocket science," he said. "You need to know what works best for you."

Specht approaches training his 34-horse barn with a combination of common sense and a belief in his methods based on previous success.

Specht said he likes to have his first-timers ready to run to their ability, rather than using that first race as a prep.

"I like to get them fit enough to run a winning race," he said. "They might not be good enough to win, but I want to know they're ready. I don't want to go into a race and finish third or fourth wondering if I could have won with another work.

"You have to put decent works into all horses," Specht added. "Some barns will 'give' a horse a race, and I understand, because a race is like five works. But I like them fit enough to win first time out. I think it's beneficial not to run a short horse. Too many things happen out there, and more can happen when a horse is tired."

Specht's approach has its roots in the Midwest. His father was a trainer in Illinois and taught Specht the importance of fitness. Specht gives horses plenty of time, as he builds up their conditioning level with breezes and gallops. He is not known for giving horses fast works.

"Eventually, you've got to set them down somewhat, but I'm not big on fast works," he said. "I try to get them fit before testing them."

Specht also enjoys success off claims, off two- to six-month layoffs, and with sprinters stretching out to routes.

He can develop horses and keep them going in good form. He shows a profit for handicappers betting him on the first and second starts off a claim.

"I look for younger, lightly raced horses," he sad. "I try to stick with younger horses rather than older horses that have been through a lot of people's hands.

"With older horses, if you think you're smarter than the guy that's got 'em, you'll probably lose your money. I'd rather gamble on a first-timer than a tough old runner because you're hoping something could improve them."

While he prefers claiming younger runners, he has claimed and re-claimed old veteran Swen, who has earned much of his $231,253 bankroll running for Specht and owners Jim Girgsby, Stacey Moon, and Sam Stephenson.

"I do have some people who like more established horses," Specht said. "This is our third time around with Swen, but he's always made us money."

Specht can help older runners as well as younger ones. One reason is another old-time, common-sense approach of finding out what a horse likes and then keeping him happy.

The best horse currently stabled with Specht is McCann's Mojave, a classy multiple stakes winner sent to him in hopes of regaining confidence with some victories.

"He's in excellent shape, although he's got a little age," Specht said of the 7-year-old horse.

McCann's Mojave has won two straight for Specht, including the Union Square at Golden Gate Dec. 26. Specht has been able to get him to sit a bit off the pace and stalk, a style that has paid off handsomely.

Specht takes no special credit and is the first to point out that McCann's Mojave is meeting softer competition than he met in Southern California. But he also has a fit, happy horse.

That is a winning design for Specht.