Chad Brown’s First 100 Grade 1 Wins: Individual Management, Imagination Fuel Meteoric Rise

Since 1973, when the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association began designating the best American stakes as Grade 1, 2 or 3, no trainer has won his first 100 Grade 1 races – the sport’s most prestigious  –  faster than Chad Brown.

Brown registered his first Grade 1 victory on July 30, 2011, when Zagora won the Diana at Saratoga. His 100th came less than nine years later, on July 11, 2020, when Guarana won the Madison Stakes at Keeneland. The four-time (2016-’19) Eclipse Award winner as outstanding trainer added his 101st Grade 1 win that same afternoon when Rushing Fall took the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland.

Thirty years earlier, D. Wayne Lukas put the pedal to the metal almost as quickly as Brown would do, winning his first Grade 1 with Codex in the Santa Anita Derby March 30, 1980, and crossing the 100 mark a little over nine years later. Lukas is the all-time leader by Grade 1 wins, with 219, followed by Bob Baffert, who won his first Grade 1 with Thirty Slews in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Baffert didn’t reach 100 Grade 1s until 2010, some 18 years later. He has been the most productive trainer at the Grade 1 level in the last decade, winning 111 in the U.S. from 2010 until the present, putting him second behind Lukas, with 207.

At 41 years old, Brown is the youngest trainer to reach the century mark in Grade 1 victories.

Based on available data compiled from Equibase, only seven trainers have exceeded 100 American Grade 1 victories in their careers.

They are:

Wayne Lukas…219
Bob Baffert…207
Robert Frankel…171
Todd Pletcher…158
Charles Whittingham…138
Shug McGaughey…129
William Mott…122
Chad Brown…101

Caveats: The list does not include Grade/Group 1 victories in Dubai, Europe or Asia. Because Equibase does not list any graded stakes prior to 1976 on trainer profiles, Ron McAnally (with 94 from 1976 to present) may be the ninth trainer to make that list.  For the purposes of the above list, stakes results for Charlie Whittingham from 1973-’75 were taken from the Jay Hovdey biography, “Whittingham: The Story of a Thoroughbred Racing Legend,” and added to what Equibase includes on his trainer profile page. Not included are pre-1973 races that would become Grade 1 fixtures once grading of stakes began.

Brown, a native of Mechanicville, N.Y., has come a long way in a short time since saddling his first winner, Dual Jewels, in a $5,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 23, 2007. His first graded stakes winner came in 2008 when Maram won the Grade 3 Miss Grillo. The filly would give Brown his first Breeders’ Cup victory later that year while winning the inaugural Juvenile Fillies Turf, a race would that would become a Grade 1 in 2012. It was the first of his 15 Breeders’ Cup championship races.

Brown was accustomed to working with Grade 1 winners years before he hung out his shingle as a public trainer, having worked for two Hall of Famers, Shug McGaughey and Bobby Frankel. The latter spent much of his career dominating the claiming ranks, but once he proved what he could do with good horses, there was no looking back. Frankel was voted Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer five times (1993, 2000-’03) and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.

Brown was an assistant to Frankel in 2003 when the latter established an all-time record for most Grade 1 victories in a single year: 25.

“It seemed like we were winning Grade 1s every week,” said Brown, who spent time that year with Frankel strings at Hollywood Park in California and Belmont Park in New York. “We had a murderer’s row of great horses, and I learned a lot. It was hard to believe all these horses were in the same barn. You try to take it all in, every day. He and  Humberto (longtime Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio) trained you to be so focused on your task every day.

“I remember Frankel carefully managing each horse individually,” Brown said. “It’s where I started to learn about managing horses at the top end, how he did it on an individual basis, and recognizing how important it is to do it that way. We were winning Grade 1s on dirt, turf, long, short, male, female, young and very old. It really stuck with me to really pay attention every day, every hour, every minute.

“Bobby was a perfectionist. He set high goals for himself and had an incredible feel for horses and animals in general. The other thing with Bobby that I saw in managing horses was this: Anyone can say I wish I had that guy’s or that girl’s horses. But when you have them, you find out they’re not all easy. With Bobby, when I say I learned so much, the one thing I feel I have in common is imagination. Bobby had an imagination to see into the future, how things were going to turn out. When you train horses at this level, that would be a common trait, that you have an imagination.

Ghostzapper was not always a great work horse,” Brown said. “Bobby knew that this was the best horse he ever trained. He said it all the time, before that horse became who he was. I couldn’t figure it out, not until the Iselin, when he finally showed how good he was.” The Grade 3 Philip H. Iselin, Ghostzapper’s eighth career start and his second race at 4 when he was voted Horse of the Year, was followed by Grade 1 victories in 2004 in the Woodward, Breeders’ Cup Classic and the 2005 Met Mile.

“I caught him at the perfect time,” Brown said of Frankel. “He had the best horses and he was the smartest trainer. I was a huge beneficiary.”

Fast forward to the present, where Brown has applied the many lessons learned from Frankel, who died in 2009.

“Our system, our roster of horses has been built over time to compete in all categories,” he said. “I want to be able to individually train and manage horses across the board. Frankel was very rare to be able to do that.”

Has Brown set Frankel’s single-season record of 25 Grade 1 victories as a goal for his stable?

“I am a goal-oriented person, just conceptually to motivate me and my team to try and get somewhere, not for personal recognition or satisfaction,” he said. “We try to do better than in the previous year. That record did cross my mind the last two years, only because it was Bobby. When we got to the high teens, I thought we had a chance. I always thought this was a record that no one could ever hit, but then I saw a couple of scenarios: if, if, if …”

Each year Brown maxed out at 20 Grade 1 victories.

With all the disruptions to racing in 2020 from the coronavirus pandemic (including several Grade 1 races not being run), it’s highly unlikely anyone will approach Frankel’s record this year.

But success begets success, and Brown has a steady pipeline of high-end racing prospects and proven imports coming his way from some of the sport’s leading owners.

In a sense, he’s just getting warmed up.

“I’m lucky to have an amazing team,” said Brown. “We’ve built a talented roster of teammates, co-workers. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a team effort.”

The post Chad Brown’s First 100 Grade 1 Wins: Individual Management, Imagination Fuel Meteoric Rise appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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