Walder’s success has come with a mix of different horses, many of which he claims during the meet. Walder claimed 19 horses at Gulfstream last year for a total of $436,000. While he’s become a favorite with patrons, who regularly make Walder’s horses the favorite, he’s not always popular with the horsemen he claims from.
During Gulfstream’s 2011 season, Walder will blog here at Gulfstreampark.com on his meet, the craft of claiming, and the ups-and-downs of being a trainer at one of the world’s premier thoroughbred meets.
It seems like everyone wants to be at Gulfstream Park, and I’m very appreciative to be here.
I really gear up for Gulfstream. Coming out of here with good horses can set you up for the rest of the year. The quality for what you’re getting here is better than anywhere else in my mind. I came here with 11 horses, had people send me a few from Philly and New York, and I’ve claimed six at Calder. As of now, I have about 25 horses. If I leave here with 15 of those, I’d be surprised. It’s just the rotation. There’s a saying if you’re not scared to lose your horse, you’re not running him in the right spot. Early on, you’re aggressive and you run them where they can win. As the meet goes on, you tend to protect a little more. A horse that was worth $15,000 at the beginning of the meet is worth $25,000 toward the end because everyone is protecting.
I have my base clientele and I’ve picked up a couple new owners. I have owners in different categories. Some guys are looking for $10,000 claimers and some guys are looking for $50,000 claimers. I’m all over the place. I’ll work with any horse.
For me, when I claim, the Daily Racing Form has been around 100 years. That’s my primary tool. I use the Ragozin’s as a secondary tool. What I do is look at a horse in the Form. I’ll get the numbers. If the numbers line up, I’ll watch videos. Videos are very important. Then I’ll look at the horse. If we claim him or her, they usually get three weeks, a month off to get used to our program. Then I’ll look for a race. My personal belief is if you run a horse back sooner than three weeks, you’re running him back on somebody else’s training. A lot of people like to run the horses they claim off me back fairly quick, and that’s their prerogative. But that’s not the way I do things.
When we get horses keeping them happy mentally is something you have to do. When you claim you want a horse that is physically sound, but when we get them at our barn we want to start working on them mentally. Of course, we do all the normal stuff – check their teeth, check their blood, thyroid levels….it’s a no-brainer – but we spoil them rotten. Right now I’ve got five bags of mints, 10 bags of carrots. Our grooms are great. I ever see anyone lift a hand to them and they’re fired.
Horses are like us. If you leave home happy, you’ll go to work happy. If you’re miserable, you won’t be productive.
The one thing I constantly hear is I’m a great claiming trainer. It’s a nice compliment. But the bottom line is if you can train a horse, you can train any horse. I don’t like being labeled a claiming guy. I just haven’t had the opportunity to train horses like Todd or Nick and any of those guys.
There’s a craft to claiming a horse or working with some of these horses. Believe me, some of the horses I get over here I amaze myself. I very rarely turn down a horse someone wants to turn over to me. I took a horse a few years back with four 0 Beyers in a row at Charles Town. My girlfriend asked me why I took him. I told her it’s a challenge. And, you know, that horse actually finished second for me in his first time out under our care.
Hopefully, we can have a good meet and bring home some nice horses and some winners.