BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Tim Kreiser can’t speak to horses. He can’t mysteriously communicate with them by peering into their eyes or by simply touching their manes. He is aware of no magic workouts.
In short, there is no hidden formula for making horses run faster. So what is the secret behind Kreiser’s overwhelming training success?
The key for Kreiser, at least, is putting horses in the best possible position to succeed. And he knows that a happy horse is more likely to run well than an unhappy one.
Kreiser, a native of Fredericksburg, is enjoying a career year at Penn National Race Course in Grantville. Not only is he the top trainer at Penn National, he’s one of the finest in the country.
“Basically, it’s like taking care of a dog or a cat,” said Kreiser, 49 and a graduate of Northern Lebanon High School. “You’ve got to feed them. You’ve got to water them. You’ve got to keep them happy. As far as training, you’ve got to go with what you think. I like to graze my horses 15-20 minutes every day. Twenty-three and a half hours is a long time to be cooped up in a twelve-by-twelve stall. We put in a lot of time outside, which is time consuming.
“I can’t teach horses how to run fast,” Kreiser continued. “They’ve got to know how to run fast. We have to get it out of them. You’ve got to get the right program for the horse. You’ve just go to find what makes a horse lively. And you’ve got to change things if something isn’t working. You’ve got to get as much run out of them as possible, and I’m better at that than just about everyone out there (Penn National).”
Kreiser is in the midst of an absolutely remarkable training season at Penn National. Of his 181 starts in 2013, he has 51 wins and his horses have been in the money 122 times, or 64 percent.
In 4,644 career starts during his 20-year career, Kreiser’s horses have won 1,029 races. His horses’ combined career earnings are approaching $16 million.
“Yeah, it’s been a great year,” said Kreiser. “I had 84 wins last year and I have 72 wins this year. So I’m 12 wins away from the most I’ve ever had. I’d say the reason is probably better quality. I made a lot of nice claims, like three or four in-a-row, and six more horses helps. It was like ‘boom, boom, boom.’ I probably couldn’t have done any better.”
“You try to figure them (claims) out by watching them,” Kreiser continued. “If you watch them in the stalls, you can figure them out. I claimed a lot of horses like that. And right before I leave them they get carrots and candy. That makes them happy, and if they’re happy they’ll run for you.”
Kreiser is one of the few trainers at Penn National who is based in Lebanon County. The horses he trains also race at Philadelphia Park, Delaware Park and Charlestown, West Virginia, Race Course.
“I’ve owned some of the horses,” said Kreiser. “In 1993 we ended up getting a horse and doing really well with it. Then we had two horses. Then we had three horses. Then we had five horses. That’s how we got started.
“Now I’ve got 39,” added Kreiser. “That’s the most I’ve ever had. This year I got six more stalls. For me, there is a limit. Some trainers have 100 or 150 horses. Forty’s plenty. That’s a lot. If I get more, it’s more hours, more out-of-town trips. The kids don’t know me now.”
Kreiser worked construction right out of high school, but was laid off after a couple of months on the job. He began working at Penn National cleaning stalls just to pick up a couple of extra bucks, and he never worked construction again.
“I didn’t even know that Penn National was there,” said Kreiser. “I had worked with cows, but never with horses. I worked there two or three weeks, and never went back to construction. I just liked it. Now I’ve been there 30 years.
“I had to make some money,” Kreiser continued. “All I was doing was stalls. I didn’t know anything about horses. I never walked a horse, or rode a horse. I just liked it. And I’d rather be working outside than inside.”
Kreiser has a competitive streak running through him a furlong long. But there are many aspects of horse racing that are beyond his control and out of his hands.
“I hate to lose, in anything, like more than you can believe,” said Kreiser. “But in horse racing, you’ve got to depend on your jockey. You put in two or three weeks of work, and one mistake in two minutes can cost you. You have to have good communication with the jockey.
“I’ve had a few favorite horses over the years,” added Kreiser. “They’re the ones who gave everything. We’ve had some heck-of-a-horses. And right now we have a couple who are really nice.”
If in fact that Kreiser is at the top of his training game now, it should be interesting to see how long he can stay there.
“I see myself doing this to my mid 60s, at least,” said Kreiser. “Since the casino was built, a lot of things got a bit stricter with security. Of course the purses are good. I get health coverage for everybody (member of his family) and there’s a retirement.”