From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:
Falling back on the knowledge he gained while serving as trainer Jimmy Jerkens’ assistant for three years, Kent Sweezey has been making a name for himself while competing in South Florida on a year-round basis for the first time this year.
“We’re doing old school stuff with the cheaper horses and, I’ll tell you, it’s working,” he said.
Fresh off a banner Gulfstream Park West meet, during which he saddled 11 winners from 31 starters, Sweezey visited the winner’s circle twice Thursday afternoon and on the first day of the 2020-2021 Championship Meet at Gulfstream last Wednesday.
“We’ve got a good group of horses. It’s been a learning curve. What we have now are a lot of the lesser-level horses, but they’re winners. We’ve got a barn full of winners,” said Sweezey, who will saddle Phat Man for a start in Saturday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream. “They’re lesser-level horses. They’re not maiden special weight or allowance horses. I’ve got a couple of those. The 2-year-olds we have did well in Jersey and down here. I hope they keep going and we get some fresh 2-year-olds coming in.”
Sweezey’s year-round success in South Florida has been very much a case of making the best of a very bad situation.
“When we stayed down here this year, the COVID thing was going on. I thought this was the one place that was staying open, would continue to run and had good purses,” Sweezey said. “I knew the place, I thought it was a good time to leave horses here year-round.”
Sweezey, who had a larger string based at Monmouth Park during the summer, wasn’t able to be as hands-on with his horses at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, as he would have liked.
“I expected to come down every couple weeks and check things out and try to grow my business a little bit, but with restrictions that were put in, we couldn’t travel like we wanted to,” he said. “I came down one time early on and had to quarantine for 14 days when I went back to Monmouth. I couldn’t keep doing that.”
Sweezey’s horses were left in very capable hands with assistant trainers Steve Moyer and Eddie Azate, who also had previously worked for Jerkens.
“The same things I learned is the same stuff Steve Moyer learned. With Eddie it’s the same way. We all learned the Jerkens Way,” Sweezey said. “We just need to get the grooms to buy into it. We already know it works.”
Sweezey grew up in Lexington, Ky., where his parents operate Timber Town Stable.
“I did the sales, foals and mares, and yearling prep. I did all that,” he said.
Sweezey went on to work for trainer Christophe Clement for a year, before venturing to Southern California to work for trainer Eoin Harty for three years and returning east to serve as Jerkens assistant for three years.
“As soon as I started at the racetrack, I wanted to work for the best people,” he said. “I wanted to win races. That’s what you get up for in the morning.”
Sweezey went out on his own in 2017 and has saddled 128 winners, including Phat Man, who gave him the first graded-stakes success while winning the Fred Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream Park last January.
Sweezey, who saddled Phat Man for runner-up finishes in last season’s Harlan’s Holiday and Gulfstream Park Mile (G2), is hoping to build on that success during the 2020-2021 Championship Meet and beyond at Gulfstream.
“We’re big-time looking forward to the meet and we love Palm Meadows,” Sweezey said. “We’re always trying to pick up new owners. We’ve had some calls, because they see us down here. This is a constant. The good thing about South Florida is it’s a constant.”