Inside Track: Hometown Hero

Inside Track: Hometown Hero
Photo: Terese Karmel
Chad Brown

By Terese Karmel

On Aug. 5, as it is does from time to time for the community, Saratoga Race Course recognized the historic neighboring town of Mechanicville. For trainer Chad Brown, who comes from this small town southeast of Saratoga Springs, it was a chance to relax for a little while with high school friends and family, a break from the intensity of running an up-and-coming stable.

Brown, who is only 30, has had horses at the best tracks and in the best company, none finer than last October at Santa Anita when he won the inaugural Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with longshot Maram. Maram, undefeated in four lifetime starts and winner of the John Hettinger Stakes Aug. 8 at Saratoga, is among 24 horses Brown has stabled on the backstretch of the main track. An additional six horses are stabled on rented property nearby.

Last year he only had 10 stalls at Saratoga but made the most of his opportunities by compiling six wins and three seconds in 18 starts. So far in 2009, Brown’s horses have earned close to $1 million, and he is ranked among the top 150 trainers in the country.

In a way, Saratoga is a second home to Brown and his wife, Terrill, the granddaughter of retired trainer Bill “Red” Terrill. Her mother, Virginia Malone, was Terrill’s assistant, so like her husband she grew up around racetracks. As a kid, Brown sat with his parents and brother at a picnic table in the backyard near the horse path. His parents still sit there, preferring it to a box in the clubhouse. Recently, he and his wife, who have a 1-year-old daughter, bought a home in Saratoga, and, for locals, he’s become something of a hometown hero.

“When we were buying furniture for our house, the salesman said ‘Are you the trainer Chad Brown?’ ” said Terrill Brown.

“People stop me on the street and say ‘You’re doing good’ or ‘We’re going to bet your horses,’ ” said Chad Brown. “This is my favorite track.”

Brown began working with Thoroughbreds in Saratoga when he hotwalked horses for trainer Shug McGaughey during summer breaks from Cornell University. He graduated from Cornell in 2001 with a degree in animal science and debated going to veterinary school before deciding he didn’t want to commit to the time it would have taken to complete that degree. At that point Brown decided to become a trainer.

After college Brown worked for five years with Bobby Frankel, eventually taking charge of some of Frankel’s top horses. In 2007 Brown decided it was time to go it alone.

“I was aware of the risks, but I had strong support from the Ramseys and the Wests,” Brown said of successful owners Sarah and Ken Ramsey and Mary and Gary West. “They told me we’re going to help by sending a handful of good horses.”

Brown started with a small stable at Churchill Downs, “then slid over into New Jersey,” where he was quite successful. But his sights were always set on New York.
“I know it’s deep water here, but I wanted to be in New York,” he said.

Especially Saratoga, where just 10 days into the meet, Brown hit the board three times in seven starts. These days his horses walk past that picnic table where he sat as an 8-year-old, perhaps even then dreaming of the day when horses would be in his own barn. Those dreams are coming true for this local boy who made good.

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