Horse Racing

I did everything coming down the highway, hot-walker, groom but I wanted to be a trainer – Charlton Baker

BY HURBUN WILLIAMS
Observer writer

Friday, November 22, 2019

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Trainer Charlton Baker was recently honoured for his contribution to horse racing as a trainer who plies his trade in the United States, at an awards dinner, which was held on Thursday, November 7, at the AC Hotel in Kingston.

Baker on the day when he was honoured had a record of 7,539 starts, 1,655 wins, 1,341 second-place finishes and over 500 third-place finishes for earnings of US$5,139, 999.

The Supreme Racing Guide spoke with Baker, who shared his experience as a conditioner for readers.

SUPREME RACING GUIDE – SRG

CHARLTON BAKER - CB

SRG: Tell us about your background?

CB: I grew up in Gregory Park, St Catherine, which is next to the racetrack. My dad (Carl Baker) was a trainer and his dad (my grandfather) was a rider and while attending the Gregory Park Primary School, horse racing was a big part of the community because that was the main thing in Portmore at the time. At first, I wanted to be a jockey but growing up I was too thick in body and then my choice switched to becoming a trainer. I always brought home a lot of newspapers with horse stuff and I always read the articles on horse racing; it was as if, I was preparing myself from a young age.

SRG: When did you leave Jamaica and tell of your time abroad?

CB: I left Jamaica in 1987. I worked with some very good trainers in the US and I have gained knowledge of the training of horses but from a different angle. I had to learn from my dad but what you get in the United States is a different stage, a bigger stage and so you get to learn a little bit more. I did everything coming down the highway, hot-walker and groom but my goal was to always become a trainer. I owned a couple of horses before I became a trainer. I bought a horse for US$1,000 for a start. I didn't have the US$1,000 at hand, so I gave the guy I bought the horse from US$200 and then I gave him US$100 a week until I got to pay him off. The first time the horse started he ran a bad race but the second time he hit the track, he was a winner. I wasn't a trainer then but I helped with the training of that horse. I got my assistant licence with a trainer I worked with and then I got my trainer's licence in 1997.

SRG: Which horse was your first winner as a trainer?

CB: I don't remember the horse's name that I won with but what I do remember is that I had claimed that horse for $2,500 and that was in 1997. I never trained in Jamaica, I went overseas to train.

SRG: Tell us about your major race winners?

CB: I have won the Vosburgh Stakes, which is the biggest race I have won and it is a Grade One race. I won a Grade Two race — the True North Stakes and I won a bunch of regular stakes races but the Vosburgh and the True North Stakes were the two biggest races I have won thus far.

SRG: Which is the best horse you have trained?

CB: I think the best horse I ever trained was Joking. Joking was the horse that I won the Vosburgh and True North in 2016. Joking, in his last year of racing in 2016, won four in a row which were an Allowance optional race; the Diablo Stakes and of course the True North and Vosburgh Stakes races.

SRG: Have you any regrets leaving Jamaica?

CB: No, not really. I mean, I fulfilled my goal of being a trainer in the US as that was what I wanted as my career.

SRG: What makes you special as a conditioner?

CB: I think that it is the love for it and having good knowledge of horses. It was like going out there and practically doing it. I put a lot of effort in studying, reading and getting to know all about horses. I mean, everybody works toward it, but I think that horse knowledge was something that I always wanted to get better at and even now, I am trying to get better in every part of the game.

SRG: Your thoughts on being honoured at this special dinner?

CB: It is a great feeling. As far as I am concerned, I am always representing Jamaica and that's just how I am. It is always good to come back home as here is where I started and here is where I got to learn the trade, plus my friends are still here, so it is always a good feeling.


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