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The very irreverent horse trainer
William Leggett
February 04, 1963
Arnold Winick says any reasonably intelligent young man can handle Thoroughbreds. This heresy, coupled with his own success, has not endeared him to some oldtimers
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February 04, 1963

The Very Irreverent Horse Trainer

Arnold Winick says any reasonably intelligent young man can handle Thoroughbreds. This heresy, coupled with his own success, has not endeared him to some oldtimers

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If you look over my horses," says Arnold Winick, the trainer, "you'd be pretty silly not to see that I've got just about everything. You name the kind of race you want a horse to run in—a $3,500 claimer or the Kentucky Derby, a three-furlong sprint or a race at two miles—and I've got a horse that can run in it and win. How did I get them? Some of them came to me because my reputation has grown so fast and some of them came to me because different owners started noticing that I work as much as 21 hours a day at my job. But I don't think a darned one of them came to me because I was 'just plain lucky.' "

This week, as the important 40-day meeting at Miami's Hialeah racecourse enters its second quarter, Arnold Winick is its leading trainer. Blue-eyed, handsome, confident, successful, natty, cheerful, brave, clean and irreverent, Winick is moving toward far more than the trainers' championship at Hialeah this year, however. At the age of 35 he has a very good chance of becoming the youngest trainer in racing history to saddle the winners of over $1 million in purses. Within the next 13 weeks he will be trying to win:

?The $100,000 Widener Handicap or the $145,000 Santa Anita Handicap with Sensitivo, the most improved distance horse in the country.

?The $100,000 Flamingo Stakes, the $100,000 Florida Derby and the $125,000 Kentucky Derby with two prize colts, Swapson and In the Pocket.

?The $35,000 Kentucky Oaks with Smart Deb, the top 2-year-old filly of 1962.

Though he finished second in the trainers' standings last year in money won, with $871,275, Winick has still not attained the fame that normally accompanies such success in Thoroughbred racing. In Florida, where last season he trained a record number of 51 winners, he is as well known to the tourists as pompano and key lime pie. He is well known, too, in Chicago, where he finished second (16 winners to 15) to M. A. (Mish) Tenney at last summer's Washington Park meeting. (It was Tenney, the cowpoke conditioner for Rex C. Ellsworth's powerful West Coast stable, who beat Winick out for the money-winning championship in 1962 and it is Tenney whom Winick must beat this year.)

There are some racing people who feel that Arnold Winick is not the complete horseman in the sense that Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Jimmy Jones or Mish Tenney are. These critics maintain that Winick simply hires excellent help and then rides along on their coattails. This is standard criticism, in racing, of someone who has achieved success at a young age; when it is said about Winick, however, there often is an edge to the speaker's tone. Perhaps the edge is there because Winick's self-confidence can be interpreted as cockiness, perhaps because the game of horseracing, a holy calling to many of its followers, is the target of Winick's irreverence. "I do not believe," he said recently, "that training horses requires more intelligence than any profession in the world or that the smartest men in the world are involved in it. I think that any young man of normal intelligence can be a tremendous success training horses today."

If such views offend some backstretch experts, they have not blinded a good number of the more discerning. About the time he was beginning to attract attention, Winick was walking alone over the sandy bridle path at Hialeah with a porkpie hat tilted on the back of his head. Five trainers were seated around Barn A, telling lies, and as Winick walked by, a few uncomplimentary remarks were whispered. Things like "Pretty Boy" and "Beau Brummel." When Winick was about 50 yards away from the group Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons raised his cane and pointed it at Winick's back. "Some of you fellows knock anything that looks like it might be good," Fitzsimmons said. "If some of you had your way they'd of never got Coca-Cola off the ground. I don't know where that kid's from but he has a sense with animals and he's going to be one of the biggest trainers around someday."

Arnold Winick is from Glenview, Ill. When he was 10 an uncle, who was a judge from The American Kennel Club, convinced Winick that he should become a dog handler. Working basically in the obedience and conformation classes, Winick won blue ribbons at shows in Chicago and New York by the time he was 15. In 1949 a dog owner paid off a $900 board bill by giving him a sore-legged Thoroughbred named Miss Navanod and Winick immediately began to train her.

"It took me three years," he says, "before I got a winner. Finally I sent a filly which I had saved $2,000 to buy—Kathleen R.—to the post at Sportsman's Park in Chicago and she won."

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