Fortner, Walden's Assistant, Opening Public Stable

By Kathleen Adams

David Fortner said Wednesday he is resigning his position as assistant to trainer Elliott Walden effective Dec. 31 to open a public stable.

Fortner, who has been an assistant to Walden for more than a decade, made it clear the split was amicable.

"If I'd worked for someone else, I might not have lasted this long," Fortner said. "Elliott made it hard for me to leave the easy way."

Walden recalled when he hired Fortner in the spring of 1993 the then 31-year-old was already a good horseman, "but he's really developed into being able to handle a large operation on a daily basis.

"I didn't try to talk him out of leaving. He deserves this opportunity," said Walden, who is the private trainer for WinStar Farm. "I want to have people working for me who have goals."

Fortner, who spent his childhood around horses while growing up in the Cincinnati area, knew from a young age. he wanted to be a trainer. Nonetheless, the decision to leave the stability of the WinStar barn didn't come easily.

"Elliott even kind of pushed me a little bit," Fortner explained. "He's like my big brother and I always knew I could trust him. He pointed out now is a good time to do it."

In addition to managing Walden's shedrow, Fortner also galloped horses. As a rider, Walden credits Fortner with calming tough horses, including Tiger Hunt, this year's fourth-place finisher in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).

"(Tiger Hunt) was green and skittish when he first came into the barn," Walden said of the two-year-old son of Kris S. "David was instrumental in turning Tiger Hunt around and that's a real asset."

For now, Fortner plans to base his training operation in Louisville. "Then I'll let the horses decide where we need to go," he said.

Over the next several weeks, Fortner will spend his time securing stalls at Trackside training center and looking for owners and horses. And his former employer has promised to lend a hand.

"I'm going to support him," Walden said. "He's supported me for the last eleven years."