On his website, the first line of Adam Kitchingman’s autobiography is as unassuming as the man himself.
“I grew up on a horse farm in the mountains of Mansfield, Australia, best known for the movie ‘The Man From Snowy River.’”
The 38-year-old has led a fascinating life which has taken him from Australia, to Japan, and finally the United States.
Kitchingman has enjoyed an outstanding first half of the Betfair Hollywood Park Spring/Summer meet, winning with nine of his first 20 starters. He’s won with virtually every kind of horse, from $8,000 claimers to the $71,860 Came Home Stakes with Let Em Shine. His 19 victories in 2013 put him on pace for a career-best year.
But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Kitchingman. His first wife Vikki died of cancer in 2003, just when his career was starting to take off. It’s also been hard for him to attract new clients despite his consistently high win percentage.
Kitchingman learned horsemanship around the family farm. A local trainer asked if was interested in riding race horses and soon he was working for top Australian trainer Allen Bailey. When he was 21, Kitchingman received a lucrative offer and left to manage Haisai Farm in Japan.
“I did everything over there,” said the trainer. “I was breaking babies, taking care of the broodmares, pretty much managing the whole place.
“I went over there for the money. The exchange rate to the Australian dollar back then was like 3-to-1. I was sending money back to Australia ever month and getting three times what I was making. So, I’m 21 and making something like $15,000 a month.”
Japanese immigration rules eventually played a hand in Kitchingman’s future.
“After a certain amount of time, you have to leave Japan to get your visa extended,’’ he explained. “It doesn’t matter where you go, you just have to be out of the country. You could go to any consulate to get the extension.
”The only reason I came to the United States was because I saw an ad in the paper offering a return trip ticket from Tokyo to Los Angeles for $250. I asked a couple of friends if they wanted to go and off we went. I fully intended to go back to Japan.”
“So I came over here, fell in love with a girl and I ended up staying. My wife passed away 10 years ago. That was the girl I stayed for.”
Kitchingman had always wanted to train. When he arrived in this country, one of the first people he worked for was Charlie Whittingham.
“Tim Yakteen was kind of in charge over there,” recalled Kitchingman. “I was right under Tim. When Tim went to work for (Bob) Baffert, I started galloping horses for him.”
When he decided to go out on his own, it was a rocky start. From the time he took out his trainer’s license in 2000 through the end of 2002, Kitchingman was shut out
“Those first couple of years, I couldn’t win a race,’’ he said. “I didn’t do badly, though, with some seconds and thirds. I got up to three horses, but then one of them got hurt and the other two were sent to Northern California, because that’s where they belonged.”
“It was heartbreaking to have worked so hard, and then all of a sudden I’m out of business again.”
Little did he know, a fortuitous trip to Kentucky was about to change his professional life.
“(In 2002) I took a horse (Ocean Sound) to the Kentucky Derby for (trainer) Jim Cassidy and met up with a fellow called Kelly Michaels,” continued Kitchingman. “He and a bunch of his friends gave me money to claim some horses. At the same time, John Brocklebank, who was training for Bill Peeples, gave me a couple of horses as well. I got on a real good roll right away.”
In 2003, Kitchingman won 12 races from just 42 starters. His stable hasn’t grown much over the years, but a high ratio of winners has been a constant. According to Daily Racing Form statistics, Kitchingman, through May 31, had 225 victories from 1,195 starters, giving him a win rate of 18 per cent. His in-the-money percentage is an impressive 46.
Just as his business was picking up in 2003, Vikki became ill and it was difficult for him to concentrate on his stable.
“It was the hardest time in my life,” said Kitchingman.
Through his time of mourning, Kitchingman continued to have success. Though his percentage dipped in 2004, the trainer won 21 races. He saddled 26 winners the next year and had a career-high 29 in 2007.
Kitchingman partially blames his personality for his inability to broaden his stable.
“The biggest thing I’ve lacked is people skills,’’ he said. “People usually come to me before I go to them. It’s probably the reason I don’t have a bigger stable.”
Kitchingman met his second wife, Christy, 2 ½ years and the two were married last year. She’s now in charge of client relations and is helping him with the social side of training.
“She’s just awesome,” said Kitchingman. She does her own thing and is very supportive. She’s shown me quite a few things as far as how to deal with people and the marketing side of the business.”
One thing he’s never had trouble with is the job itself. He calls stable star Let Em Shine the best horse he’s ever trained and is especially happy that Peeples owns the Songandaprayer colt. Let Em Shine won his last three starts by a combined 16 1-2 lengths.
“I couldn’t be happier for Bill,’’ said Kitchingman. “He’s been the one client who’s been with me through thick and thin. From my wife passing away to me getting remarried, he’s been my backbone. Through good times and bad, he’s stuck by me.”
Kitchingman has always had a reputation for picking out young, talented and, most importantly, inexpensive young horses. Some of his noteworthy bargains include Chips All In ($4,500), Carabella ($5,500) and Bodaway ($2,000).
“I can’t tell you how many horses I’ve bought for less than $10,000 that have gone on to become stakes horses,’’ he said. “Unfortunately no one’s really picked up on it, at least not too many owners. I’d love to have some serious money to buy horses.”
The few times he was given an opportunity to spend money, Kitchingman made the most of them. He paid $80,000 for Zada Belle, who went on to win multiple stakes and sold privately for $3.5 million. Vikki’s Honor, named for his late first wife, was purchased at a 2-year-old in training sale for $30,000 and earned $310,672. Some of his other stakes winners include Indian Breeze, Miss Dixie Dancer and Dixie High.
WHITTINGHAM MEMORIAL, HONEYMOON FIELDS STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE
A probable field of eight is set for the $200,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, while seven to nine are considering the $150,000 Honeymoon Handicap.
Both are Grade II races and will be run Saturday, June 8.
Likely starters in the Whittingham, which will go at 1 1-4 miles on turf, include Slim Shadey (jockey David Flores), winner of the Grade II San Marcos earlier in the year and runner-up to Acclamation in the 2012 Whittingham; All Squared Away (Corey Nakatani), who missed by a nose in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap April 21; Sky Kingdom (Martin Garcia), the beaten favorite in the San Juan; Lime Rickey (Rafael Bejarano), second to Dhaamer in the Round Table Stakes May 12, and Niagara Falls (Martin Pedroza), an improving son of Giant’s Causeway.
Also scheduled to run are Lucky Primo (Tyler Baze), idle since winning the California Cup Classic last Oct. 13, Smart Ellis (no rider), third in the San Juan; and Tale of a Champion (Joe Talamo), winner of the March Madness Handicap March 30.
Charlie Em and Scarlet Strike, the 1-2 finishers in the Grade III Senorita Stakes May 11, are set for a rematch in the Honeymoon, which is scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on turf. With Garrett Gomez out of town, Victor Espinoza has picked up the mount on Charlie Em for Paddy Gallagher. As usual, Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Scarlet Strike for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Trainer Peter Eurton confirmed the starting status of Kyriaki (Joe Talamo), who finished 1 1-4 lengths behind the top pair in the Senorita. Others expected are Becky Lou (Tyler Baze), narrow winner in her U.S. debut April 18; Macha (Corey Nakatani), easy allowance winner May 17 and stablemate of Scarlet Strike; Sarach (no rider), pace setter in the Grade III Providencia Stakes; and Wittgenstein (Mario Gutierrez), who defeated Macha in an allowance race one start back.
NEAR MISSES IN PICK 6 SATURDAY BONUS
The Pick 6 Saturday bonus of a new Toyota Prius to a single winning ticket purchased at Betfair Hollywood Park or through Television Games Network (TVG) has been frustratingly close to a winner over the last eight days.
Saturday, May 25, there was a single ticket alive in the finale to Brown Boss, who finished second as the favorite. That ticket did not meet the qualifications for the bonus. There was a single winning ticket, returning $104,708, that was purchased through TVG, but it was two days later on the Memorial Day card.
Yesterday, the wheels on the slot machine finally seemed to line up right. There was a lone winning ticket in the Pick 6 – worth $140,026 – June 1. Unfortunately, it was not purchased on track or through TVG.
JOCKEY, TRAINER STANDINGS TIGHTEN UP
With nearly half the Betfair Hollywood Park Spring/Summer meet in the books, the jockey and trainer races are up for grabs.
Rafael Bejarano, who leads the pack with 28 victories, is serving a three-day suspension this weekend and the other riders are taking full advantage. Joe Talamo, who won five consecutive stakes earlier in the meet, has crept to within one winner of Bejarano heading into Sunday’s card. Edwin Maldonado is right behind with 25, followed by Tyler Baze (23) and Martin Pedroza (19).
John Sadler is atop the trainer standings with 14 victories, followed by Hall of Famers Jerry Hollendorfer (12) and Bob Baffert (11). Rounding out the top five are Peter Miller (10) and Mike Puype and Adam Kitchingman, who are tied with nine.
Meanwhile, Et Tu Walker, a son of Shakespeare, became the first three-time winner with a victory in the first race June 1.
SPECIAL FRIDAY NIGHT PROGRAM TO BE OFFERED JULY 5
Betfair Hollywood Park will have a special Friday night program July 5 in honor of the track’s 75th anniversary season.
What will be the final night card at the historic venue, which will cease racing at the end of the Autumn meet Dec. 22, was approved May 29 by the California Horse Racing Board. Post time will be 7:05 p.m.
“Hollywood Park was a pioneer for night racing and we thought this would be a good way to honor the past,’’ said Betfair Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau. “We’re looking forward to having one last Friday night.’’
Liebau added a concert – with a yet-to-be determined guest – will be offered at the North Park after the evening’s races are concluded.
MIZDIRECTION WORKS 5 FURLONGS ON TURF, SHIPS TUESDAY TO NEW YORK
Jungle Stable’s Mizdirection, winner of four consecutive graded stakes, worked five furlongs on turf in 1:00 1/5 Sunday at Betfair Hollywood Park in 1:00 1/5 in preparation for Saturday’s $500,000 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont Park.
Under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Mizdirection was timed in 23 3/5 for the opening quarter and 47 2/5 for a half mile, according to track clocker and morning line maker Russ Hudak.
Trainer Mike Puype, who caught the work in 59 4/5, said the Mizzen Mast mare will fly to New York Tuesday for the mile grass race.
CLOSING STRIDES —Clubhouse Ride, Liaison and Oilisblackgold, thr 1-2-3 finishers in the $150,000 Californian June 1, all came out of the race well. Trainer Craig Lewis said Clubhouse Ride will start next in the Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup July 6, Oilisblackgold is also headed for the Gold Cup, according to Craig Dollase. Liaison’s next appearance is undetermined, but he could join stablemate Game On Dude in the 1 1-4 mile race.……..Apprentice Irving Orozco rang up his first Betfair Hollywood Park victory Thursday aboard 12-1 shot Megan Eyes….Agent Tom Knust reported that a recent benefit showing of the film The Bar brought in $9,000. All proceeds went to injured rider Joy Scott. Beginning Thursday, internet downloads of the movie will be available for a $2.50 charge at The Bar Where The People Are The Mixer.com……. Pamela Erickson of Oakland won the $2,500 winner-take-all Show Me The Money contest May 30 at Betfair Hollywood Park………Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, involved in a spill aboard Two Blue Hens in Saturday’s seventh race, sent the following tweet to his followers later that night: “I’m A Ok. Thank God. Just talked to coach Lukas. I reminded him I fell 6 days before Winning Colors Derby in 88. Good result.”
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