11/26/2007 1:00AM

Well-placed horses producing positive results for small stable

EmailLOUISVILLE, Ky. - Competing with a relatively small stable of modest runners in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, trainer Tom Drury's racetrack achievements might sometimes go unnoticed by horseplayers.

But his horsemanship and training skills certainly are not lost among his peers. In addition to training on his own, Drury assists other trainers with preparing their horses for racing or for a return to racing. Bill Mott, Frank Brothers, and Shug McGaughey are just a few of the trainers sending such horses to him.

Of course, if Drury continues to win at a 30 percent rate, as he is doing this year, more than his fellow trainers will soon know of his training skills.

Drury, 37, currently trains 10 horses on his own and another 34 for other trainers at Skylight Training Center in Oldham County, Ky. - approximately 30 minutes outside Louisville.

To hear him describe his operation, he would not want it any other way. He said he enjoys the balance of having horses that race for him mixed with talented runners from other stables that he starts off in their training.

One horse he remembers helping Brothers with was Madcap Escapade, who won several graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Ashland in 2004.

"It's nice to work with the better horses - some of the pedigrees are incredible," he said. "I had the chance to have Madcap Escapade for Frankie as a 2-year-old, and to see her go on and being one of the first ones to know about her was a lot of fun."

At the same time, winning races with horses he trains provides a different type of excitement. He said he finds it rewarding to ship a horse to River Downs or another track, win a race, and take a break from the daily routine of training on the farm.

As for his banner year in 2007, he said his high win percentage is a reflection of training for a top group of owners, and appropriate placement. He is not opposed to shipping a horse to a track in Ohio or Indiana if that is where the horse fits.

"There is a level for all of them," he said.

Beyond his fine overall numbers, he has also shown an ability to prepare a horse to run off a layoff, something he said he picked up from trainer Ralph Nicks, a former Mott assistant.

"I don't believe in giving them races," Drury said.

It shows in his statistics. He is 5 for his last 12 with horses returning following breaks of 180 days or more, and 4 for his last 10 with those coming back on 61-180 days' rest.

Other statistical strengths are with horses changing distances, those seeking repeat victories, and those racing on dirt and synthetic tracks.

With both Turfway Park and Keeneland having Polytrack racing surfaces, Drury-trained runners will get plenty of opportunities over synthetic footing in the months ahead.

For that matter, they get experience over synthetic surfaces on a regular basis. Drury is one of five trainers that train horses over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Skylight Training Center. That surface replaced a dirt track there in mid-August.

Besides the surface itself, being at Skylight gives him more racing options, he said. Because he is based on a farm and not at a racetrack, he has more freedom to ship horses around to different tracks.

Although many of Drury's wins this year have come at small tracks, he has shown that with a good horse he can just as easily compete at Churchill or Keeneland. This fall, Star Over Malibu placed in a straight maiden race at Keeneland for him, and then won a maiden $50,000 race at Churchill on Nov. 9. She was claimed out of that race.

In contrast to trainers that use only leading riders, Drury rides lesser-known jockeys with success. Justin Vitek has become his go-to rider for the most part, piloting Star Over Malibu to victory at Churchill, as well as riding numerous other winners for him at Hoosier Park and tracks in Ohio.