Earlier this year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of HRP. Over that period time, we have seen some great trainers come and go, and possibly return again. In those first days of the game, it was Australia Wide that called himself the king of the game, and his numbers backed it up. After Australia Wide, the crown was passed over to Dynark Stables, who also had a period of dominance that was probably short lived. Each of those trainers were active on May 12, 2009, when a horse named Detective Stabler ran for a $5.500 purse at IND in a starter allowance. It was a race that not many people paid attention too, and maybe only the five trainers that were involved in it ever realized it happened, but it was a moment that would forever change the game as the first ever entry of Mb Stables. He had claimed the horse in April, and the simple fact that he waited over a month to run his first horse after having acquired shows that level of patience that has made him the gold standard in our game.
Australia Wide won 301 Graded Stakes over the course of his career. Others in the top five of career graded wins are Nakamura Stables (252), Maxmillion Farm (222), and D J C Racing Stables (213). All of them are greats of the game themselves, but if you add together all of their graded wins, you will still not reach the gaudy number that Mb Stables has attained. And now, as we head into Travers weekend at SAR, we may very well see a massive milestone: 1000 career graded stakes wins.
One thousand! It’s a number that would seem unheard of, especially when looking at it along the lines of what the other great trainers, past or present, have been able to do. Yet here we are. As of press time, Mb Stables currently sits at 996 graded wins, and with this being a pretty busy weekend, it is conceivable to think that we are just days away. If not this weekend, then it is certainly something that is imminent. Now, it is true that Mb Stables starts many more in these races, but that is also a product of his training, having the quality of horses in his stable that are consistently able to enter these races and run competitively. Many of these horses have been homebreds, a true testament to breeding operation, but is also able to find talent from other stables as well, and acquire them via private sales, the auction, or even a shrewd claim. In preparation for this article and seeing Mb Stables get closer to this milestone over the last couple weeks, I asked him a series of questions in looking back at his past.
To start, I asked what winning #1000 would mean to him, especially when all of us seem to be focus on the short term, and winning the races that are right in front of us or in the near future, rather than the career accolades as a whole. “It’s easier to wrap my mind around single events like winning a TC race or a BC race and I probably hold those sorts of accomplishments in a higher regard because of how difficult they are to achieve, but in terms of a career spanning total there isn’t much that is more important around here than winning graded stakes races. It’s a number I’m still trying to wrap my mind around, but it is pretty incredible to think that I’m closing in on 1,000 knowing how hard each and every one is to win. Looking at the leaderboard it does seem daunting but I’m sure some day another stable will be closing in on 1,000 it’s only a matter of time with how many great players we have playing the game today.” No doubt, there are many other great trainers in the game that have the ability to get there, but as long as they run into Mb Stables horses, getting to this number will be all the more difficult!
I had to ask him if he remembers his first graded winner, though also if he remembered how he felt when he got that win. Getting that honor would be Steel Ball, coming in the 2010 Jim Dandy, and that has certainly become a race that he has dominated ever since. He’s now won the Dandy six times, including each of the last five years. The trainer certainly does remember it, telling me, “Yes absolutely I remember it well! He’ll always be one of my favorite horses and he was so close several times before. I was at the actual Saratoga race track that day and I’ve always found it fitting that I won my first graded stakes race here at HRP at my favorite track in real life.” Just thinking about that makes you really have to think it would be fitting for him to get 1000 at SAR over Travers weekend, if not in the Travers itself.
For as many stakes as Mb Stables has won, there are always going to be ones that he is still looking to win for the first time. So, what are they? “There’s two that immediately jump to mind. First the BC Juvenile. I’ve come very close but have never won that one. And second would be the Haskell. I have a lot of success in the Jim Dandy but for some reason I hardly ever get even a decent performance in the Haskell.” I was actually surprised that he had never won the Juvenile, simply because it always seems as though he has great two-year-olds at his disposal. That may have also been because I was thinking about his wins in the BC Juvenile Fillies. At the same time, given his success in the Jim Dandy, you would think that he would have had one in the Haskell. What we do know is that we can count on him to produce more contenders every year to get those wins.
In thinking of the horses most easily associated with Mb Stables, Commanding is the one that comes first to mind likely because of not only his on-track dominance, but for being either the best or the second-best sire in the game of all time. But who have been Mb’s other favorites? “It’s difficult to split between them. I really enjoyed the triple crown chase with Howl Of The Hound there really isn’t much that can compare to that excitement, but I don’t think he was quite on the level of some of my best horses. Tactical was probably the best horse I ever trained I felt like every race he lost was my fault. Clockwork Chai was another who was so special not a lot of horses can win so far out of their comfort distances like he could. But I’ll always have a soft spot for the old gelding Spanish Showboat they don’t make many like him.”
Speaking of Howl Of The Hound and how close he came in 2021, I asked him if he could win the TC bonus, and if it came in a tight photo in the BEL, who’s he beating out? “Seeing as he stole the last one from me with a donkey who never ran as good of a race before and never ran a good race after, it wouldn’t be right if it was anyone other than Dave (Aer Stables). Though I hope the photo is wide lens I don’t know if I could take another nail-biting Triple crown bid haha.”
Another feat that Mb should achieve this year is winning career race #10,000. He wouldn’t be the first to do so, but that too is an impressive number. So, what are his biggest goals right now? “The number one goal is still to win the Triple Crown but really I just take it day by day trying to get the most out of every horse I can. I try not to get too far ahead of myself thinking about what is next. Winning big races or hitting big milestones is great, but there’s still a lot of excitement in just winning that big maiden race at Saratoga. Or working a horse a mile for the first time and thinking you have the next triple crown threat. The game has never been more challenging. Players have gotten so good you can’t let your guard down for even a moment. So, if I’m not on my game making sure that my horse is well prepped and ready for the next race at PRX what is to say I’m going to have them ready for the bigger challenges ahead?”
I want to thank Mb Stables for helping me out with this article, as it doesn’t happen without that assistance. As a smaller player in this game, one of the things I have always appreciated about Mb Stables is not only his passion for the game, but that he has always been modest in his successes and is very approachable. Who knows if he will ever get that TC, it’s something we all want, and I do think that it is possible within the game, though very difficult for reasons we don’t need to get into here.
Four more to go to 1,000! It will add extra excitement to one of the more exciting weekends in racing: Travers weekend!