Special Eclipse Award: Dale Baird

In 1996, Dale Baird became the first trainer in history to win 7,000 races. In 1999, he became the first to reach 8,000. And in 2004, yes, he made it to 9,000. That alone makes Baird special, and a deserving winner of a Special Eclipse Award.

To the racing community of Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort, which Baird has called home for nearly 35 years, he is much more. Or perhaps much less; he is just Dale, a local trainer who sends out mostly claimers. But he has been meeting them in the winner's circle more than anyone else in the game before him.
Baird is modest, reserved, and at home on the backside wearing jeans. He is not that comfortable with the notoriety 9,000 winners brings.

A native of Martinsville, Ill., he won his first race in the summer of 1961 with a horse named New York. Through the years, perhaps the most amazing thing about Baird's winners is that besides training them, he has owned nearly all of them as well. He also owns a farm not far from Mountaineer in West Virginia's panhandle region. During many of the years in his heyday, Baird would buy and sell more than 200 horses each year.

Baird's father, John "J.I." Baird, was also a trainer, as is Dale's brother, John. Dale's son, Bart, and John's son, J.M., both train at Mountaineer. Baird's wife, Diane, is an integral part of the Baird stable.

Baird was the first trainer to win 300 races in a year, and he has now done that eight times. He has been the leading trainer by wins 15 times, and the leading owner by wins 17 times. In 2004, his horses won 131 races and earned $2,063,884.