Major milestones in Thoroughbred racing represent so much more than a number. Whether it be 1,000, 2,500, 3,000, 5,000 or the remarkable 10,000th win by Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen, each recipient has worked tirelessly for the achievement.
Trainer Chris Richard has paid his dues competing in Kentucky, Arkansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and his home state of Louisiana over the past three decades.
Richard grew up in Lake Charles and had friends who raced Quarter Horses at Delta Downs. He loved the action and was inspired by the powerful athletes. Education came first with Richard attending Texas A&M in College Station and earning a BA in Animal/Equine Science followed by his Masters in Equine Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. He was also a standout bowler and competed on the A&M Bowling team!
When he graduated, he moved to Kentucky and took on the role of private trainer for James McIngvale. The Houston-based furniture salesman, known as “Mattress Mack” is a nationally recognized supporter of breeding and racing and has played an important role in Richard’s career. The long awaited 1,000th win took place at Delta Downs on Friday, February 24 with Freebritney, a 3-year-old filly by Klimt, purchased by McIngvale at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $27,000.
Richard began 2023 just four wins short of the milestone. He had 32 starts this year at Fair Grounds, Oaklawn and Delta before finally winning his 1,000th race.
“It took a while,” acknowledged Richard. “Trying to get a milestone is like pulling teeth; you run second and third and wonder if it will ever happen!”
Richard shared his full circle path training for McIngvale.
“My first official win came in 1998 with Albadar for Mack who also owns the filly who gave me my 1,000th win! How cool is that?”
Each trainer has the daunting task of figuring out what it takes for each horse to be successful on the racetrack. Freebritney presented her share of challenges.
“She was a little bit ornery,” he explained. “I had to go slow with her. In her first work out of the gate, she broke well, but stopped abruptly and started spinning like a helicopter. She made one start at Canterbury and I felt she needed some time off. She figured it out at Delta; I’ve learned over the years that you have to be patient; have a plan B and sometimes a plan C!”
McIngvale was also the breeder of Richard’s top earner, Underpressure, a Louisiana-bred son of Birdstone, out of the Charismatic mare Charming Colleen. Richard had an immediate connection with the gelding and purchased him. He became a multiple-stakes winner for the Richard barn, earning $870,992 in 45 starts.
Richard, who turned 50 last year, was an assistant to top trainer Tom Amoss for five years. He is grateful to Amoss and a number of owners for their support.
“Stan Cole gave me a great opportunity in Minnesota and I trained for Maggi Moss at Prairie Meadows for eight years,” said Richard.
Native Ruler, a $25,000 claimer for Moss, won nine stakes and retired with earnings of $712, 296 and she also owned Outta Tune, who captured the Grade 3, Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park.
Richard’s seven-year tenure at Prairie Meadows was a solid building block for his stable as well as his personal life. That is where he met his future wife, Mallory Greiner, who was attending Iowa State University and had a job working in the Prairie Meadows racing office. They married in 2019 and make their home in Vinton. She devotes countless hours to re-homing the Richard-trainees as their racing careers wind down.
“I vet each prospective owner very carefully,” explained Mallory. “It’s never an easy process, but we believe in making sure our horses have a good home away from the racetrack.”
There’s never much time for celebration for horsemen and Richard was on the road from Delta Downs to Oaklawn Park the morning after winning his 1,000th career race.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he stated. “I’ve been very fortunate to have some real nice horses, loyal owners, a great crew and the support of Mallory. I am very appreciative of this!”