by Teresa Genaro
In the opening number in Rent, the cast queries, “How do you measure a life?” If the late Jonathan Larson, who penned that musical, were writing at Saratoga this summer, he might have to ask, “How do you measure a meet?” and the person he’d be asking would be Chad Brown.
“In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee…” wrote Larson.
But let’s try this instead:
In career wins, in meet wins, in stakes wins, in intangible accomplishments? (Not quite as catchy, but stick with me.)
The numbers are easy, and this is how Saratoga 2016 shaped up for the trainer who grew up not far from Saratoga and who used to hang out—and still does—in the backyard with his family, absorbing the magic and fascination that is Saratoga in the summer.
Meet wins, before closing day: 39, a record, breaking the one set by Todd Pletcher in 2011.
Career wins: 1,006 and counting, the milestone of 1,000 coming at Saratoga on Aug. 24.
Saratoga meet titles: one, likely the first of many, breaking Todd Pletcher’s streak of five in a row.
2016 Saratoga graded stakes wins: seven, including the Grade I Diana and Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational.
Brown’s record-breaker came, fittingly, with a horse trained by Juddmonte Farms, for whom he trains Flintshire, who won two stakes races here this summer, and who had horses with the late Bobby Frankel, under whom Brown learned his craft.
“For it to happen with a Juddmonte horse that probably would be with Bobby (Frankel) if he was alive is just the cherry on top,” said Brown, standing in the winner’s circle. “I’m lucky to have had the opportunity now to train for Prince Khaled. It’s a great feeling when a person and an organization like that realize your talents and your team’s talents to give you an opportunity like that. It’s made the whole meet, really.”
With a stable of about 200 horses and divisions at Saratoga, Belmont Park, and Monmouth, Brown employs about 150 people, whom he was quick to credit for his success.
“I’m really just like the lead singer of a band; the people behind me make the music,” he said. “I’m here right now giving the interview but I have 150 employees and every single one of them I find to be highly skilled and highly dependable in working as a team. I have several employees who do things that I can’t do and I do some things they can’t do. But we all pitch in and do our job and this is truly a team effort. I’m just a lucky guy to be able to wake up and go to the barn and have them working with me.”
It was that staff back at Belmont Park, including his assistant Cherie Devaux, who helped nurse Lady Eli back to health after she was injured last summer, and it was Lady Eli who might have provided the emotional high point in a summer full of memorable moments, finishing a determined second in her comeback race, the Grade II Ballston Spa on Aug. 27.
“It’s tough to bring up one highlight,” he said. “I’d have to go with the 1,000th win because this is all where it came about for me. Right here in the picnic area at Saratoga—that’s where horse racing first captured me and changed my whole life. From that point forward, it’s been a way of life and not just a job. For me to reach this success with my team right here at my home track at the very place that changed my career ambitions—it’s just a dream come true.”
How do you measure a life? Or measure a meet?
For the 38-year-old Brown, whose career is just reaching a peak with no end in sight, we might need to find new ways to count.
Chad Brown photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography