‘It’s More Than I Ever Dreamed Would Happen’: Latest Career Milestone ‘Huge’ For Trainer Kieron Magee

All things considered; Kieron Magee has done remarkably well at a job he never really wanted.

Nearly two decades ago, working as a salaried exercise rider for trainer Dale Capuano after having freelanced on the Maryland circuit for years since coming to the U.S. from Ireland, Magee knew a career change was coming.

Training horses? It wasn’t at the top of his list. In fact, it wasn’t even on his list.

“I galloped horses since I was a kid but my heart was running out. I broke my back twice and I was scared. I was 43 or 44, somewhere around there, and my heart was coming to an end quickly,” Magee, 62, said. “One of my owners, a guy called Bo Williams, said to me, ‘Kieron, it’s time you started training horses.’ I said, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do that.’ He asked me what I was going to do and I said, ‘I don’t know, but it ain’t training horses.’”

Williams and Magee’s wife, Kelly, thought differently and their persistence in changing his mind paid off. What has followed is a career that includes multiple meet titles at historic Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, being Maryland’s overall leading trainer three times, more than $20 million in purse earnings and, most recently, reaching the 1,000 victory mark.

Magee’s latest milestone came Aug. 27 during the Maryland State Fair meet in Timonium when Moshe Mark’s Viking Queen, ridden by Carol Cedeno, got up in the final strides as the 1-5 favorite. It was the sixth career win for the 4-year-old filly, who Magee claimed for $5,000 two starts earlier.

“It felt like it took forever, but I’m glad to put it behind me as they say,” Magee said. “It’s more than I ever dreamed would happen, believe me. I didn’t want to do this when it was presented to me. I’d watched so many people struggle doing this and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ So, to hit the thousand mark is huge. Huge.”

His father was working for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis when Magee was born, but after a few years they returned to County Wicklow in his native Ireland, where he passed the love of horses on to his son. Magee eventually came back to the U.S. and landed in Maryland where, starting at Timonium, he worked as an exercise rider for hire.

“[I rode for] everybody. Anybody who’d pay cash. I was a cash kind of guy. Toward the end I went on salary for Dale Capuano for four or five years. There were some others I galloped for along the way, but mostly I freelanced,” Magee said. “I started galloping here in 1983. It was $5 a head at the time. Times have changed.”

At the same time, Magee said, he was battling substance abuse issues that landed him in rehab more than once before getting clean. He saddled his first winner, Cry of the Loon, July 16, 1999 at Monmouth Park, but wouldn’t turn to training full time for another eight years.

“I thought maybe I’d get a job driving a truck or something like that. I kept saying there’s no sense in my doing this. I’d watched people struggle all their lives with this and not win many races and go broke along the way and I just can’t do it,” Magee said. “[Williams] said, ‘That doesn’t mean you’ll be like that.’ I didn’t want to do it. I had a wife and a daughter and didn’t want to do it.

“Well, he talked me into it and my wife talked me into it. She said, ‘You know what? It’s time to do something. I’m tired of being married to an exercise rider.’ So, I took one horse for him. I had one horse I was breaking for him and he told me to just keep the horse. Then a couple days later he sent me three more and I called him and said, ‘What’s with these horses?’ And he said, ‘You can’t make a living on one horse.’ That was the beginning. Then Helen Marshall, one of my oldest owners, was the next one to join me and it went from there.”

Magee saw his starters, wins and purse earnings steadily climb, topping $1 million for the first time in a season in 2014. He averaged 117 wins over the next three years capped by a high of 127 in 2017 to go along with more than $2.5 million in purses earned, also a career best.

From 2014-16 no trainer won more races in Maryland than Magee. He owns or shares 10 meet titles – four at Pimlico, which he has called home since the early 1980s, and six at Laurel including its spring stand that ended May 7.

Magee worked hard and paid attention as he worked his way up, particularly during his time with Capuano and Scott Lake. Between 1993 and 2010 Capuano, who retired this year, and Lake won nearly four dozen training titles in Maryland. Together they have combined for more than 10,000 wins.

“I have to say I worked for some good people and not so good people and sort of combined it all,” Magee said. “I learned a lot from Dale Capuano. I did a short stint and worked for Scott Lake for a little while. He’s not a big galloper, he’s a big jogger. When I worked for him, he was winning a lot of races. That was in the mid-90s when he was rolling.”

Though his success has primarily come with claiming horses, Magee has trained several stakes winners and multiple six-figure earners. His best was Artful Splatter, a mare he claimed for $16,000 in 2019 at Laurel who would go on to win Laurel’s Geisha and Delaware Park’s George Rosenberger Memorial in 2020.

Line of Best Fit won her first start after joining Magee in the spring of 2016 and the following year ran third behind two-time champion and 2023 Hall of Famer Songbird in the Delaware Handicap (G1). Two starts later, Line of Best Fit capture the Shine Again at Laurel.

Another of Magee’s hard knockers was Struth, who he claimed for $20,000 out of a May 2017 win at Pimlico and later that year won the Hockessin at Delaware and the Howard Bender Memorial at Laurel.

“I claimed them all,” Magee said. “Artful Splatter we took for $16,000 and she won around $400,000 for us. She was a fun horse. She loved the mud.”

Currently, Magee’s top horse is Super C Racing Inc.’s Classier, who he claimed for $40,000 out of a March 19 win at Laurel. At one time trained by Bob Baffert, for whom he won the 2021 Los Alamitos Derby (G3), Classier was a winner of an off-the-turf Henry S. Clark April 29 at Laurel and most recently ran seventh in the Aug. 25 Russell Road at Charles Town.

“He’s made [$124,282] since the claim,” Magee said. “We won the stake and a couple allowance races. He’s a nice horse.”

Magee continues the quest for the next 1,000 wins at home, during Pimlico’s boutique nine-day fall meet that runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 8-24. Eight months into 2023, he had 54 wins and $1.4 million in purse earnings from 237 starters.

“When they’re supposed to win it’s not a big deal, but when you don’t expect anything and something good happens, that makes it so much more fun,” Magee said.

“Let me tell you, there were many times along the way where we struggled to make payroll, pay our bills and everything else. It hasn’t always been easy,” Magee said. “The only sad thing is that my mother is not here to watch it all. She would have loved to have been on this ride.”

The post ‘It’s More Than I Ever Dreamed Would Happen’: Latest Career Milestone ‘Huge’ For Trainer Kieron Magee appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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