By Krisy Gashler
Just moments after winning the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational last July, Lady Eli—a mare who won all six races that she entered in 2014 and 2015—stepped on a nail. A diligent and patient approach to overcoming the painful, possibly career-ending inflammation is a hallmark of trainer Chad Brown ’00. Brown, an animal science alumnus, is already one of the top thoroughbred racehorse trainers in the world. In 2015, his stable earned $20 million and raced to 203 victories.
Brown grew up in Mechanicville, N.Y., near the Saratoga Race Course, which first sparked his interest in racing. He came to Cornell planning to become a veterinarian, but a summer job with Shug McGaughey, a Racing Hall of Fame trainer, changed Brown’s plans. He later took a job with another all-time great trainer, Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel. On the day of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup championship, Frankel, who was devoted to his animals, left the race to go home to California and care for his sick dog. Brown took Frankel’s place and led the mare Ginger Punch to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
“I learned a great deal from Bobby,” Brown said. “He had tremendous patience with the horses, tremendous vision, mapping out a horse’s career. He had the ability to detect problems in the early stages in a horse, and he was able to stop them early enough to save the horses’ career, the horses’ health. I learned about managing a large business, all sorts of stuff. Cornell was my undergrad; working for him was like going to graduate school.”
In November 2007, Brown started his own stable and quickly began picking up accolades of his own. He’s already won seven Breeders’ Cup races and been named a finalist for the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer twice.
Larry Goichman ’66 owns two horses that Brown is currently training: Swear By It and Kathryn the Wise, named after CALS Dean Kathryn J. Boor. Goichman praised Brown’s tremendous care of the horses he trains and his honesty with the horses’ owners.
“Chad Brown is a master caregiver,” Goichman said. “What separates Chad Brown from other trainers is injury recall. He remembers, for years, the particular horse and where the injury is located. As he inspects horses before exercise he examines the area that was a source of discomfort.”
Brown is also blunt with owners when he believes a horse is no longer able to compete at the highest levels, Goichman said.
“A number of trainers are happy to keep a horse in a stall to collect the day rate,” he said. “That is not Chad Brown.”
Brown and his team continue to work to restore Lady Eli to health, and Brown has hope that she may someday be able to race again.
“She’s probably the most talented horse I’ve ever trained. She has a remarkable heart,” Brown said. “It takes a lot of talented people and a special horse to overcome something like that.”
Brown’s hopes for the future include continuing to provide good service for his clients and good care for the horses themselves.
“We had a remarkable year last year. If we could have a year like that every year, I’d be happy,” Brown said.