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Brown Cautiously Optimistic

Published: January 17, 2018 11:20 am ET

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Not often does a trainer work with two horses in the same division that both earn a million dollars, but such was the case last year for Brian Brown. In fact, Brown became the first trainer in 13 years to accomplish the feat with two three-year-old male pacers, Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon.

Those two stars are gone this year, off to perform stallion duties, but Brown is optimistic about his stable’s chances of enjoying another strong campaign in 2018. Brown set career highs in wins with 151 and purses with $5.79 million last year and was named Trainer of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. His earnings were fourth best in North America despite having fewer starts than any trainer in the top 16.

Now, the 53-year-old Ohio resident turns his attention to 2018.

“The scary part is replacing ‘Seaside’ and ‘Dragon,’” Brown said. “I’ve got Blazin Britches coming back and I’ve got some three-year-olds that I think have promise. I don’t expect them to be Seaside or Dragon, but I think they could be nice horses that could go out and earn $300,000 or $400,000 possibly.

“My two-year-olds, I’ve got so many that I can’t tell you that a particular horse stands out, but I’ve got a bunch that I really like right now. So we have a lot of optimism for this year. I just don’t have those two horses that I know are coming back that should make it a great year.”

Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon led the sport in earnings last year, with $1.60 million and $1.35 million US, respectively. They were the first three-year-old male pacing stablemates to finish the year with $1 million apiece since Timesareachanging and Western Terror for trainer Brett Pelling in 2004.

Downbytheseaside won the Dan Patch Award as the best three-year-old male pacer in the US and was joined as a Dan Patch Award winner by the Brown-trained Blazin Britches, who captured 11 of 15 races and was named the top three-year-old female pacer in the US. Brown was the first trainer to cash that double since 1995 when Joe Holloway did it with Jennas Beach Boy and Shes A Great Lady.

As for this season, Brown hopes three-year-old male pacer Done Well can do well to help fill the void left by Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon. Last year, Done Well was four-for-four on the Pennsylvania-restricted stakes circuit before being sidelined by a cannon bone fracture.

“I think he is the calibre of those horses,” Brown said, referring to Downbytheseaside and Fear The Dragon. “The problem is that he didn’t go a whole year to be able to prove he’s that good.

“But I think he’s a good horse. He has to stay sound, the same as everybody else. Where his crack was, in the cannon bone, once it heals up we should be in great shape. It’s not in a joint so I don’t have to worry about calcium buildup or wear and tear on that joint.”

Brown will spend the winter in Florida getting his stable ready for this year’s campaign. He has 113 horses there, with 75 being two-year-olds.

“They’ll show us pretty soon whether they even have a chance to be those kinds of horses,” Brown said. “Those horses are just hard to come by, so it’s hard to replace them. But when I’m starting with 70-some yearlings every year, I think I have a shot to do that. It just doesn’t happen every year because horses can still come up with problems.”

Brown, in addition to his career highs in wins and purses last year, had a career-best .402 trainer’s rating and has posted 10 consecutive years better than .300.

“What I’m most proud of my whole career is my percentage,” Brown said. “It stays above .300 most of the time. I think if you’re batting .300 you’re doing pretty good. To me, that means we’re still winning races where we have to race. To me, that’s the biggest barometer of how well you’re doing.

“Of course, this is a business and the money is the most important thing,” he continued, adding with a laugh, “If I had a .200 average and made $10 million instead of $5.7 million, well, I’m sure I’m going to be just as happy.”

Brown hopes to enjoy another season winning races on the Grand Circuit, but is grateful for trips to the winner’s circle regardless of the venue.

“Sure it’s more fun to win a Breeders Crown, the Jug, the North America Cup, but winning races is winning races,” Brown said. “It’s still a hell of a good feeling. For a lot of owners, there is an entertainment factor that plays into this. There’s something to be said for the entertainment value of winning races even though you’re not making several hundred thousand. It’s that same feeling we all get, otherwise we wouldn’t do this.”


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