SARATOGA SPRINGS — Aggressive, but cautious, and with a great eye for knowing when to take action.
Stock broker? You should be so lucky. It’s thoroughbred trainer Joe Sharp, and through the first 20 days of the Saratoga Race Course meet, he has six wins, two seconds and a third from 16 starts for a winning percentage of 38 percent. The wins have come over a variety of conditions: turf and dirt; 2-year-olds and 3-and-older; maidens, maiden claimers, regular claimers and allowance horses.
Sharp worked for Mike Stidham for 5 1/2 years before moving to trainer Mike Maker, with whom he worked for a bit more than three years. In 2014, his final year with Maker, he was at Saratoga and Brad Grady asked Sharp to claim a couple of horses for him, and they developed a professional relationship.
“When I was with Mike my last year, I had, like, five horses of my own that were running under Mike’s name that I was training,” Sharp said. ”Then I talked to my wife (retired jockey Rosie Napravnik), talked to Mike and we all just decided if there was ever a time, that was the time.”
Sharp’s first win came in early 2015. More followed and it became clear that no matter which meet he was at, Sharp must be paid attention to.
“I think one of the things that contributed to us being successful right off the bat was my timing, waiting until I had money and support, not moving too early as far as owners are concerned,” Sharp said.
With mostly claiming horses at first, Sharp wasn’t afraid of losing them.
“I always operated with the mentality there would be more, so I wasn’t afraid of being aggressive, which is not very common with young trainers,” Sharp said. “You know, I just knew if I kept my win percentage up that more would come, and just trusted in that process and it worked out.”
Sharp now has between 85 and 90 horses, with the maximum 30 for his one Saratoga barn on the Oklahoma Training Track side of the track. He said he has a full spectrum of horses.
“I’m not too proud to train anything, honestly,” Sharp said. “We’ll find a spot to win no matter where we have to ship them, and I think that’s been a huge part of our success. People think, ‘oh, you have horses everywhere.’ It’s not that, we’ll take them anywhere to try and win a race for the owner.”
Sharp said he has learned from his last two summers at Saratoga, where he’s won a few races each year. Now he feels more comfortable knowing what type of horses fit at the Spa.
“And obviously racing luck is a huge part of it,” he said. “Last year we had a bunch of seconds. This year you turn them into wins and people think you’re on fire, you know what I mean?
“The first couple of years we brought up a bunch of 2-year-olds, thinking you’re gonna swing with the heavy heads for 2-year-olds,” Sharp added. “And you better have one that’s special. I think that’s one of the things we learned and helped us a lot this year.”