It was a very good year for trainer Mike Keogh as the conditioner eclipsed $1 million in earnings. The horseman, who is based in the winter at the Aiken Training Track, has enjoyed a stellar career. And although he had only one stakes winner in 2012, Keogh’s barn featured a number of consistent performers.
“It was really satisfying,” said Keogh. “We knocked those types of winners out with those types of horses. Everyone worked really hard in helping to get it done. We didn’t have a horse that really carried the barn.”
The trainer of the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner and Aiken Trained Horse of the Year, Gustav Schickedanz’s Wando, Keogh’s 2012 stakes victory came with Christine and Dennis Windsor’s Welloiledmachine. The 4-year-old dark bay gelding scored by 1 3/4-lengths in the 1-mile Halton Stakes on the turf at Woodbine on Sept. 3.
However, Keogh’s success didn’t stop there, the conditioner who has won the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown on two occasions, the first time with Woodcarver in 1999 and the second time with Wando, had a starter in all three legs of this year’s Triple Crown, Brenda K. Selwyn Waxman’s Ultimate Destiny in the Queen’s Plate; Selwyn Waxman’s Ultimate Destiny in the Prince of Wales Stakes and the entry of Dogwood Stable’s Street Fight and Selwyn Waxman’s Ultimate Destiny in the Breeders’ Stakes. Ultimate Destiny would go onto place second in the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie on July 15.
“He (Ultimate Destiny) had a great season,” said Keogh. “He really stepped up in the Prince of Wales. He ran a huge race, and it took Dixie Strike to beat him. She’s (Dixie Strike) a really nice filly.”
Street Fight, a 3-year-old son of the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, finished his year in fine fashion, breaking his maiden in a 1 1/16-mile race over the Polytrack Elite surface at Woodbine on Oct. 20, winning by daylight with a 6 1/2-length score. He placed second in his last start on Nov. 17 at Woodbine.
“I was honored and very proud to train for Mr. Campbell,” said Keogh “It was a great experience. I couldn’t have wanted to train for a nicer man. He’s very much like training for Mr. Schickedanz. They’re two nice people. Street Fight ran well. I still think he has better in him. I think he just needs to grow up a bit.”
Keogh’s victories in the various legs of the Triple Crown, and his other major stakes victories have been very sastisfying, but the humble horseman is quick to acknowledge the contributions of his owners, staff, and those who have helped him and influenced his career.
The horseman from Epsom, England had a strong foundation in the Thoroughbred industry. The conditioner’s father was the well-respected horseman Norm Keogh.
“I just lost my father in November,” said Keogh. “He was a racing man all his life. Everytime you do something like that (having a Triple Crown starter), it makes you feel good because you know your father is proud of you, and he was very proud of me. He was a great man.”
Gustav Schickedanz’s stakes winner Artic Fern and Dennis and Christine Windsor’s Welloiledmachine are among the horses who will be training at the Aiken Training Track this winter.
“They’re enjoying some R&R” said Keogh. “They have the whole of December turned out, they don’t see tack at all, and then they start up in January.”
Keogh and Selwyn Waxman enjoyed a great weekend at Woodbine in November, capturing three races on the Nov. 17 and 18, with Inclusa, Ravenist and the Adena Springs bred Mount Brew.
A two-year-old Ontario-bred colt who is coming three, Mount Brew won his final start of 2012 on Nov. 30, a 1 1/16-mile race over Woodbine’s Polytrack Elite surface by 2 1/4-lengths.
“I was really pleased with him (Mount Brew),” said Keogh. “What I want to do next year is get him on the grass. The third dam in his pedigree is Chief Bearhart’s mother Amelia Bearhart. He moves like a turf horse. I just couldn’t get him there in time for a turf race this year. That’s what I would like to do with him next year.
“He’ll go all day. I think he’ll be an allowance horse.”
Keogh who finished one-two in the 2003 Queen’s Plate with Wando and Mobil, hasn’t lost the desire to have a horse fit and ready to start in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
“The funny thing is though, I’ve won two Queen’s Plates, and every year I want to win the Queen’s Plate again,” said Keogh. “I’m always looking for a Queen’s Plate horse. I would love to win the Triple Crown again.”
The veteran horseman lists winning the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown with Wando and capturing the 1997 Met Mile with Langfuhr as his two biggest career highlights.
However, there are a number of challenges associated with conditioning a horse with a tremendous amount of potential. Every horse is an individual, and they all have their quirks, said Keogh.
”You hear a lot of people say it’s easy to train the good horses, that’s not necessarily true,” said Keogh. “Wando had some serious quirks. He was a hard horse to train. He was very nervous. He used to get woundup in his stall. We had to do a lot of different things with him to try and keep him sound. I disagree with people when they say anyone can train a good horse. I don’t think that’s quite true.”