Trainer Anthony Dougherty saddled his first career winner Dec. 28, sending out City of Trix to a 1 3/4-length victory under Matthew Straight in the eighth race at Turfway Park.
But City of Trix was not Dougherty’s first momentous victory this year. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in January, he underwent successful surgery on Valentine’s Day.
“I started the year with that news and ended the year in the winner’s circle,” he said.
Dougherty took out his trainer’s license in 2009 when a friend gave him an unraced 2-year-old filly, Diamond Dreamgirl. He oversaw her daily training but with his recovery from surgery still progressing, she was saddled by William Vandergrift for her debut, a runner-up finish at River Downs in July 2011, and she remains in Vandergrift’s care.
Dougherty currently has seven horses in his public stable, which is based at Afton Farm in Midway, Ky., and includes horses in training for Afton Farm’s owner, Betty Sue Walters.
A native of West Hartford, Conn., Dougherty grew up showing hunter jumper horses. He was graduated in 1985 from Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., and two years later completed his master’s degree in human development with a specialization in holistic counseling. He put those skills to work as a rehabilitation coordinator at Edgehill Newport, which he described as “an alcohol and drug rehab center for the rich and famous.”
Drawn back to horses by his lifelong love for the animals, Dougherty left Edgehill in 1993, earned certification as an equine trigger point massage myotherapist, and moved to Kentucky to work on racehorses. Within a year his skill at handling horses had taken him to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, where he worked as a vet tech.
After three years at Rood and Riddle, Dougherty headed back East, where he spent about a year galloping horses at Michael Moran’s Applestone Farm in Pennsylvania and Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. He next moved to Iron Spring Farm in Coatesville, Pa., one of the largest warmblood operations in the country, to be the farm’s assistant manager.
Dougherty returned to the Bluegrass in 2004 to manage the general operations of Darby Dan Farm under Wayne Sweezy. The following year he moved to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, where he continues to work as an admissions technician.
Owned by Serenity Spring, City of Trix was Dougherty’s 12th starter. Before the filly put him in the winner’s circle, the trainer had saddled one runner-up and one third-place finisher.