New York native Chad Brown wanted to be a veterinarian before venturing into a career training thoroughbreds, at one point studying at Cornell University during the school year and summering under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey at Saratoga. After briefly interning with a vet following graduation with his bachelors in animal sciences from Cornell, Brown moved on to assist another Hall of Famer, Bobby Frankel, in 2002. And he remained with Frankel for more than five years. On his own since 2007, Brown-trained runners have won more than 900 times from almost 3,700 starts and earned nearly $75 million.
So far, Brown’s only trip to the Kentucky Derby (GI) has been with Normandy Invasion, who finished fourth in 2013. But what the 38-year-old trainer lacks so far in Triple Crown race success he has more than made up for with dozens of other graded stakes winners, including seven Breeders’ Cup winners — Maram, Stepanie’s Kitten, Wavell Avenue, Dayathespa, Bobby’s Kitten, Zagora and Lady Eli. Zagora was named Champion Turf Female in 2012, and 2011 Beverly D. Stakes (GIT) winner Stacelita claimed the same honor the previous year under Brown’s guidance.
This year, Brown is Derby ready with two runners that have earned enough points to make the starting gate — Gotham Stakes (GIII) winner Shagaf and Blue Grass Stakes (GI) runner-up My Man Sam. Shadwell Stable’s well-bred homebred Shagaf was the Wood Memorial (GI) favorite after his grinding Gotham victory, but could only manage a fifth-place finish that day in his final Derby prep. Though he did bump a bit with a rival in the lane, he mostly just raced evenly and without the spark that he’d had previously. He arrived in Louisville on April 19 and has been training well under the Twin Spires after spending the past several weeks in New York.
My Man Sam enters the Derby off a very wide, yet respectable, second in the Blue Grass. Though he only owns one career win, he did so at a route of ground and by a whopping eight lengths, his only poor performance in his four-race career coming at the six-furlong sprint distance. He has his work cut out for him in the Derby but has an off-the-pace running style that may help his chances.