Top 5 Horse Racing Trainers of the 2000's

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

July 6th, 2015

As with most decades, the 2000's had its share of amazing training accomplishments. The decade is interesting in that it was dominated primarily by 3 trainers:  Bobby Frankel, Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen. Frankel dominated the early years of the decade while Pletcher dominated the middle part of the decade and Asmussen dominated the latter part.  It's time to check out the 5 best horse racing trainers of the 2000's.

1. Robert J. Frankel, July 9, 1941 - Nov. 16, 2009

The late, great, Bobby Frankel dominated the early part of the 2000's by winning almost everything in which he had a horse entered. It was a somewhat amazing run for Frankel from 2000 to 2003 where he took home 4 straight Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Trainer. Among Frankel's charges were 2002 Belmont Stakes winning Empire Maker, the grand sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, the exceptionally talented Medaglia D'Oro and, of course, 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper (watch below). Ghostzapper's performance in the Classic is considered the best ever by many racing fans. He beat a terrific field that included Roses In May, who would go on and win the Dubai World Cup in 2005, and the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect. Ghostzapper won the 2004 BC Classic in 1:59.02, a record. After his passing his name would be associated with racing greatness as the horse named after Bobby, Frankel, went undefeated in a 14 race career in Europe and is now considered one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all time.


2. Todd Pletcher, June 26, 1967 - 

Like Frankel, Todd Pletcher won 4 straight Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Trainer. Pletcher took home his awards from 2004 through 2007. Pletcher also took home Eclipse Awards in 2013 and 2014, meaning that he's won 6 total. 6 and counting, more like it, since Pletcher continues to dominate. The thing about Todd is that he wins races at every level, from claiming all the way up to Grade 1 events, and he does it with 2-year-olds to geldings. There is no condition that Pletcher isn't a master of. He won a Belmont Stakes in the decade with Rags to Riches in 2007 (below). The filly beat Curlin in that race. Pletcher won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. Pletcher's most amazing accomplishment might be winning purses that totaled a record $27,670,243 in 2006. That's a lot of coin coming from one barn.



3. Steve Asmussen, Nov. 18, 1965 -

Steve Asmussen won back-to-back Eclipse Awards as Outstanding Trainer in 2008 and 2009. He also won U.S. Champion Thoroughbred Trainer by wins titles in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009. Asmussen will be forever remembered for training 2 of the top 5 horses that ran in the 2000's:  Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Curlin, a son of Smart Strike, won the 2007 Preakness Stakes and the 2007 Breeders Cup Classic. Curlin's Preakness victory, where he nosed out Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, has to go down as one of the greatest Preakness wins of all time. Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Preakness Stakes (below) by beating the boys. It's hard to describe how brilliant Rachel Alexandra was. She ran 6 furlongs in 1:11 in the Preakness and still held off the closers, including Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. She also beat American Pharoah's sire, Pioneerof theNile, in the Preakness. She also won the Woodward Stakes over the boys in 2009 when beating 2008 Belmont Stakes winner D'Tara.

4. John Shirreffs, June 1, 1945 -

Before anybody starts thinking that John Shirreffs is on this list just because of Zenyatta, we need to remember how many races Shirreffs won in the 2000's with horses not named Zenyatta. He won the 2007 Santa Anita Derby with Tiago. He won the 2006 San Felipe Stakes with A.P. Warrior. He even won the 2010 American Oaks with Harminous. Before Zenyatta, there was Giacomo in 2005 who pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Kentucky Derby history. But, Shirreffs will forever be linked with Zenyatta and rightfully so. The brilliant Zenyatta won 19 straight races during a 20 race career. Her lone loss was to Blame in the 2010 BC Classic. In the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic (below), Zenyatta beat the boys. Even if Shirreffs had only trained Zenyatta in the 2000's, he'd still probably end up on this list. That's how amazing of a job he did with arguably the greatest racehorse in history.

5. Bob Baffert, Jan. 13, 1953 -

Baffert didn't win an Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer during the decade, but he had his fair share of brilliant moments. He trained one of the best three-year-olds, if not the best three-year-old, of the decade in 2001 in Point Given. Point Given won the Preakness Stakes, the 2001 Belmont (below), the Haskell Invitational and the Travers Stakes in the same year. Also in 2001, Baffert took home the Dubai World Cup trophy with Captain Steve. War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby in 2002, paying $43 for the victory. He also won the Preakness Stakes before failing in the Belmont. Baffert conditioned Midnight Lute, who has turned into a top sire, to back-to-back wins the Breeders' Cup Sprint in 2007 and 2008. It wasn't Bob's most dominating decade, but it was a pretty darn good 10 years for the greatest trainer in horse racing history.