Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 3 of 3
1

Paul Stafford always believed it was only a matter of time before he operated his own harness racing training stable. He just didn't know how much time it would take before it happened. But after 15 years as an assistant for barns in the Midwest and East, he seized his chance in August 2018 and couldn't be happier. Stafford, a 39-year-old San Francisco native, trains 27 horses for owner Tom Ceraso Jr. at central New Jersey's Gaitway Farm. In his first full season, Stafford won 71 races and $1.22 million. His stable's earnings, accrued mostly at Yonkers Raceway, fell just outside the top 50 for trainers in North America. Prior to accepting Ceraso's offer to train his horses, Stafford spent eight years at Gaitway working as a second trainer for, first, Tony Alagna and then Julie Miller. "I didn't foresee it taking me 15 years to have my own barn, but I wouldn't take the 15 years away because of all the things I learned along the way," Stafford said. "I've had the luxury of working for some good stables and I learned a lot of different things from different trainers. "There was a point in time when I knew that I could do this on my own, but it took me a long time because I needed to have the right opportunity at the right time. It didn't need to be 27 horses, it just needed to be the right opportunity to put myself in so I could do it my way and give myself the best opportunity to succeed. Tom was the guy to offer that." Stafford's relationship with Ceraso goes back a decade when Stafford trained a horse for Ceraso in Chicago. The two remained friends over the years. "I'm blessed to have Tom," Stafford said. "He's been in the business for a long time and he likes to race good horses." As a trainer, Paul Stafford enjoys the challenges of getting a horse to improve. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo. Stafford did not grow up around harness racing, although he was around horses. His father was involved in the Thoroughbred industry years ago and Stafford had riding horses during his younger days. His cousin, though, is driver Ryan Anderson, which provided Stafford's introduction to the sport. "As much as I knew about harness racing was when I would go visit Ryan in Chicago and go to the races or to the farm and hang out," Stafford said. Stafford became immersed in the sport while an equine science major at the University of Kentucky. He lived in an apartment across the street from Red Mile racetrack and worked helping veterinarian John Cummins. "Going to the track and working on the horses, you're surrounded by it and it just takes over," Stafford said. "It sucks you in. I knew this was what I wanted to do." Paul Stafford, a 39-year-old San Francisco native, trains 27 horses for owner Tom Ceraso Jr. at central New Jersey’s Gaitway Farm. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo. As a trainer, Stafford enjoys the challenges of getting a horse to improve. His youngest horses are 3-year-olds and none are stakes horses. "We have some horses that are projects, that you have to tinker with and figure out," Stafford said. "It's always gratifying to see a horse cross the wire first, but sometimes it's gratifying just to have it work. A horse might finish third, but you know what, he behaved himself. That's what is satisfying for me. "This business has never been about the money. It's always about the money at the end of the day because you have to pay your bills, but I love doing this. This is my passion. Because it's never been about the money, it has to be my passion, otherwise I'll go do something else. If I'm not excited coming to work, or doing this for a living, it's time for me to do something else." Ceraso and Stafford focus on buying 3-year-olds with limited starts that fit lower-level conditioned races with the idea of racing them up through the ranks. Stafford, who as a second trainer gained a lot of experience with Grand Circuit horses, wouldn't mind adding a yearling to the stable with the hopes of developing a stakes star. He sometimes jokingly drops hints to Ceraso about doing so. "I like the home run angle," Stafford said, adding with a laugh, "We'll get him. Eventually." Sometimes, it just takes time. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Stormy Kromer will make his first start of the year Saturday night (March 7) in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway. The Dejarmbro son rose through the harness racing ranks last year, earning eight wins and $154,195 in 2019, and became competitive in the weekly trotting features, exceeding the expectations of his trainer, Paul Stafford. A private trainer for Tom Ceraso, Jr. since Aug. 2018, Stafford manages a 26-strong stable at Gaitway Farm. When the duo shop for horses, they have Yonkers Raceway in mind. Such was the case when they acquired Stormy Kromer last spring. “I’ve known Tom for probably 10 years, maybe a little longer,” Stafford said. “I had trained a horse for him in Chicago and we’ve been friends ever since. Never really had any discussions about training his horses out here, but opportunity presented itself, and here we are. “We race primarily at Yonkers,” Stafford said. “We like to race at Yonkers. It’s the best money. We try to buy horses that can go around a half-mile racetrack.” Stormy Kromer raced for Pete and Melanie Wrenn in the Midwest and at Pompano during the winter. Stormy Kromer won his last three starts for the Wrenns, including two legs and a final of a late-closing series at Hoosier Park in April 2019, all on the front end and all by open lengths. His victory in the $16,000 series final came by 8 3/4 lengths. “He looked like a nice horse on the track,” Stafford said. “It’s tough to adjust times off a five-eighths or a seven-eighths to a half, but we knew were buying a horse who obviously had a ton of gate speed because the horse was always on the front for Pete when he was good. It was just a matter of if he was going to be OK for the half.” Stormy Kromer made his first start for Stafford at Yonkers Raceway May 3, 2019 and removed any doubt. Starting from post seven in a $23,000 overnight, the gelding made the lead and never looked back, cruising to a 1 3/4-length win in 1:56. “When I talked to Pete, it was ‘what you see is what you get.’ The horse wears almost no equipment. It’s nice to take a horse that you’re going to race on a half-mile racetrack and not have to put any additional equipment on,” Stafford said. “First impressions were maybe he wouldn’t be able to go the other way, maybe he would just be able to go on the front, but about five or six starts in for us, he raced out of a hole and he was good and it was like, ‘OK, maybe we have a horse who can do it both ways now.’ " After his triumphant Hilltop debut, Stormy Kromer was unplaced in two Open Handicap tries before posting a pair of seconds in $29,000 overnights. Ten starts after his initial victory, Stormy Kromer found the winner’s circle again in an $18,500 overnight July 30 after posting a 13 1/4-length win in 1:54.4. By late-fall, Stormy Kromer became competitive in the higher classes. He finished second in a Preferred Handicap Nov. 9 and rode a pocket trip to a 1:54.0 victory in the same class two weeks later. Stormy Kromer earned checks in two of three Open Handicap tries late last year. “We thought we were buying a middle condition horses, non-winners of $10,000, non-winners of $20,000, maybe jump up in (non-winners of) $30,000 every once in a while, but Stormy Kromer has decided otherwise for us that he wants to be an Open trotter,” Stafford said. “I think he’s maybe a step below the top, top trotters, but he’s definitely shown us that he can compete either way. He can go on the front or he can race off the pace, which those horses are tough to come by.” Despite his acceleration off the gate, Stormy Kromer doesn’t get headstrong and settles for his driver after a quick opening quarter. “Once you get in the Opens and the Preferreds, you’re not going to be able to have your own way on the front like he was in those lower classes,” Stafford said. “Those are great horses that make a lot of money up there because they’re going to come after you, they’re not just going to let you stay up there. “One of the luxuries of ‘Stormy’ is when he leaves the gate, he comes right back to you, which is another thing you don’t usually see with horses, especially trotters. Usually, if you get them wound up a few weeks in a row, you have to reel them back in otherwise they get too excited behind the gate thinking they’re going to leave every week. ‘Stormy’ isn’t like that. He can leave in :27 with the car or he can duck and get away sixth if you need him too.” Stormy Kromer raced through the end of the 2019 season at Yonkers and got three weeks off before resuming training. He had one qualifier with regular driver Brent Holland in preparation for his return Saturday, winning the trial gate-to-wire by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:56.4 at Yonkers Feb. 28. “So far, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I thought he qualified really well. Brent was happy with him,” Stafford said. “When you start talking about a horse that you know is going to have to go into an Open in his first start, you have to get them a little tighter. I spent some extra time at the farm and trained him fast one more time because we knew we had to go a little quicker qualifier than you normally would like because of where he had to go.” Stormy Kromer drew post two and is a 5-1 morning line in his return. He will face five other trotters, including Melady’s Money, who was handicapped the outside off a 1:54.3 victory in the Preferred Feb. 22 and Weslynn Dancer, who looked like her old self winning a $27,000 overnight by 5 1/2 lengths Feb. 29. Elysium Lindy was beaten a nose by Lean Hanover in last week’s Open and drew post one. Arabella’s Cadet and Mostinterestingman complete the lineup. “I think he should be OK. He got a tough bunch. I know it’s only a six-horse field, but that’s a nice group of horses that we’re in with,” Stafford said. “He did draw the inside. I think with the qualifier and the way he came out of his qualifier, I think he’s competitive in there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M Life Rewards Series for Ladies and Gents continue with their second legs Monday and Tuesday night, respectively. The Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will return Friday, March 13 and the Borgata Pacing Series starts Saturday, March 14. First post time is 7:05 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Stormy Kromer will make his first start of the year Saturday night (March 7) in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway. The Dejarmbro son rose through the ranks last year, earning eight wins and $154,195 in 2019, and became competitive in the harness racing weekly trotting features, exceeding the expectations of his trainer, Paul Stafford. A private trainer for Tom Ceraso, Jr. since Aug. 2018, Stafford manages a 26-strong stable at Gaitway Farm. When the duo shop for horses, they have Yonkers Raceway in mind. Such was the case when they acquired Stormy Kromer last spring. “I’ve known Tom for probably 10 years, maybe a little longer,” Stafford said. “I had trained a horse for him in Chicago and we’ve been friends ever since. Never really had any discussions about training his horses out here, but opportunity presented itself, and here we are. “We race primarily at Yonkers,” Stafford said. “We like to race at Yonkers. It’s the best money. We try to buy horses that can go around a half-mile racetrack.” Stormy Kromer raced for Pete and Melanie Wrenn in the Midwest and at Pompano during the winter. Stormy Kromer won his last three starts for the Wrenns, including two legs and a final of a late-closing series at Hoosier Park in April 2019, all on the front end and all by open lengths. His victory in the $16,000 series final came by 8 3/4 lengths. “He looked like a nice horse on the track,” Stafford said. “It’s tough to adjust times off a five-eighths or a seven-eighths to a half, but we knew were buying a horse who obviously had a ton of gate speed because the horse was always on the front for Pete when he was good. It was just a matter of if he was going to be OK for the half.” Stormy Kromer made his first start for Stafford at Yonkers Raceway May 3, 2019 and removed any doubt. Starting from post seven in a $23,000 overnight, the gelding made the lead and never looked back, cruising to a 1 3/4-length win in 1:56.0. “When I talked to Pete, it was ‘what you see is what you get.’ The horse wears almost no equipment. It’s nice to take a horse that you’re going to race on a half-mile racetrack and not have to put any additional equipment on,” Stafford said. “First impressions were maybe he wouldn’t be able to go the other way, maybe he would just be able to go on the front, but about five or six starts in for us, he raced out of a hole and he was good and it was like, ‘OK, maybe we have a horse who can do it both ways now.’ ” After his triumphant Hilltop debut, Stormy Kromer was unplaced in two Open Handicap tries before posting a pair of seconds in $29,000 overnights. Ten starts after his initial victory, Stormy Kromer found the winner’s circle again in an $18,500 overnight July 30 after posting a 13 1/4-length win in 1:54.4. By late-fall, Stormy Kromer became competitive in the higher classes. He finished second in a Preferred Handicap Nov. 9 and rode a pocket trip to a 1:54.0 victory in the same class two weeks later. Stormy Kromer earned checks in two of three Open Handicap tries late last year. “We thought we were buying a middle condition horses, non-winners of $10,000, non-winners of $20,000, maybe jump up in (non-winners of) $30,000 every once in a while, but Stormy Kromer has decided otherwise for us that he wants to be an Open trotter,” Stafford said. “I think he’s maybe a step below the top, top trotters, but he’s definitely shown us that he can compete either way. He can go on the front or he can race off the pace, which those horses are tough to come by.” Despite his acceleration off the gate, Stormy Kromer doesn’t get headstrong and settles for his driver after a quick opening quarter. “Once you get in the Opens and the Preferreds, you’re not going to be able to have your own way on the front like he was in those lower classes,” Stafford said. “Those are great horses that make a lot of money up there because they’re going to come after you, they’re not just going to let you stay up there. “One of the luxuries of ‘Stormy’ is when he leaves the gate, he comes right back to you, which is another thing you don’t usually see with horses, especially trotters. Usually, if you get them wound up a few weeks in a row, you have to reel them back in otherwise they get too excited behind the gate thinking they’re going to leave every week. ‘Stormy’ isn’t like that. He can leave in :27 with the car or he can duck and get away sixth if you need him too.” Stormy Kromer raced through the end of the 2019 season at Yonkers and got three weeks off before resuming training. He had one qualifier with regular driver Brent Holland in preparation for his return Saturday, winning the trial gate-to-wire by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:56.4 at Yonkers Feb. 28. “So far, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I thought he qualified really well. Brent was happy with him,” Stafford said. “When you start talking about a horse that you know is going to have to go into an Open in his first start, you have to get them a little tighter. I spent some extra time at the farm and trained him fast one more time because we knew we had to go a little quicker qualifier than you normally would like because of where he had to go.” Stormy Kromer drew post two and is a 5-1 morning line in his return. He will face five other trotters, including Melady’s Money, who was handicapped the outside off a 1:54.3 victory in the Preferred Feb. 22 and Weslynn Dancer, who looked like her old self winning a $27,000 overnight by 5 1/2 lengths Feb. 29. Elysium Lindy was beaten a nose by Lean Hanover in last week’s Open and drew post one. Arabella’s Cadet and Mostinterestingman complete the lineup. “I think he should be OK. He got a tough bunch. I know it’s only a six-horse field, but that’s a nice group of horses that we’re in with,” Stafford said. “He did draw the inside. I think with the qualifier and the way he came out of his qualifier, I think he’s competitive in there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M Life Rewards Series for Ladies and Gents continue with their second legs Monday and Tuesday night, respectively. The Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will return Friday, March 13 and the Borgata Pacing Series starts Saturday, March 14. First post time is 7:05 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

1 to 3 of 3
1