(Trainer Kim Hammond / Photo From Twitter Feed)

It takes a special breed to race in Kentucky during the winter months.

A special breed of horse, to be sure. Hearty. Tough. Fierce. Competitive.

A special breed of horseman, and horsewoman, to be certain. Heartier. Tougher. And, equally as fierce and competitive. The only warmth on some nights will come from the fire in your belly and the spirit in the soul.

While some are wintering in Ft. Lauderdale, or New Orleans, or Hot Springs, more than a few are toughing it out in Lexington and Louisville and Florence — and, nearly, all parts in-between.

And, while it may not be as comfortable, it is turning out to be profitable.

For some.

For a lot.

With the purchase of Turfway Park by Churchill Downs back in the Fall, there came a commitment to improve. Improve the purses. Improve the track. Improve the entire grounds. Improve the, er, climate of racing if not the climate of the temperature.

And, as soon as the current meet comes to an end in March, construction equipment will replace the horses. Horsepower of the diesel variety will replace the horse power of the animal kind. The old will give way to the new. New grandstand and clubhouse. New venue for Historical Racing Machines to roam the lot. New hotel planned in the future. New and improved barns, track surface and other amenities for the sport.

But for now?

The purses are already much better.

The horse population has never been better.

And, the race to be the best is at an all-time best.

In the recent Holiday Meet, which ran from Dec. 4 to Dec. 31, Mike Maker inched out Wesley Ward at the wire to win the “Trainer’s Title.” Maker had 9 wins in 37 starts. Ward had 8 wins in 25 mounts. And, they are two of the most notable and accomplished trainers that call Kentucky home. Any time of the year.

Now, the race is on for the Winter/Spring Meet. And, the battle to be the top trainer is shaping up to be another close one.

After Saturday’s races were concluded, Kim Hammond — who has long been a stable staple in Indiana and has amassed nearly 2,300 wins in her stellar career — has inched her way to the top of the leaderboard along with fellow horsemen Eric Reed and Ward. All of them have 3 wins each so far this meet.

Just a win behind with Rey Hernandez, who has a sparkling record of 2 wins and a second in 3 starts so far this meet.

Here’s a look at the Top 20 Trainers at Turfway since the New Year began:

 

1 Kim Hammond 7 3 2 0 $52,500 43% 71%
2 Eric R. Reed 5 3 0 0 $44,210 60% 60%
3 Cipriano Contreras 4 1 1 1 $37,216 25% 75%
4 Ethan W. West 6 1 1 2 $34,030 17% 67%
5 Wesley A. Ward 8 3 0 4 $31,220 38% 88%
6 John Ennis 1 1 0 0 $27,600 100% 100%
7 Ronald G. Brown 4 3 0 0 $22,300 75% 75%
8 Rey Hernandez 3 2 1 0 $18,600 67% 100%
9 Ben Colebrook 5 0 1 1 $17,930 0% 40%
10 William D. Cowans 3 0 1 0 $12,680 0% 33%
11 John A. Hancock 5 2 0 0 $12,587 40% 40%
12 Michael J. Maker 2 1 1 0 $12,200 50% 100%
13 Tracey Young 3 1 0 1 $10,720 33% 67%
14 Alexis Cordero-Lopez 3 1 0 0 $10,410 33% 33%
15 Barbara J. Riley 1 1 0 0 $9,900 100% 100%
16 Thomas Drury, Jr. 1 0 1 0 $9,300 0% 100%
17 Larry E. Smith 5 1 1 1 $9,100 20% 60%
18 Michael Evans II 2 1 0 0 $8,687 50% 50%
19 Daniel E. Sanner 2 1 0 0 $8,565 50% 50%
20 Peter Miller 2 0 1 1 $8,050 0% 100%

(Stats Compiled by Equibase)