News & Barn notes

Claudio Gonzalez Facing Multi-Pronged Challenge In His Quest For A Third Straight Training Title At Monmouth Park

May 07, 2024

As the training titles continue to pile up for Claudio Gonzalez one thing has never changed: His appreciation for every one of them.

Gonzalez will be seeking his third straight trainer’s title at Monmouth Park when the Jersey Shore track kicks off its 79th season on Saturday, May 11, and with 70 horses expected to be under his care on the backstretch the 47-year-old native of Santiago, Chile appears to be well positioned for a three-peat.

“We’re going to try to win the title again but it’s never easy,” said Gonzalez. “You need a lot of things to go your way. It seems like it gets tougher to do every year and it’s going to be very tough this year with new guys like Wesley Ward, Saffie Joseph and Mike Maker coming in.

“Our goal is to win the title again but it’s not going to be easy.”

Gonzalez has won a combined 18 training titles at Laurel and Pimlico, seeing his streak of six straight titles in Maryland end a year ago, in part because he has made Monmouth Park his focus for the summer.

From a meet-leading 148 starters at Monmouth Park a year ago he won 46 races, more than twice as many as runner-up Chad Brown. He led the trainer standings in both wins (32) and starters (171) in 2022 at Monmouth Park as well.

“You enjoy all of the titles. It doesn’t matter what track you are at,” said Gonzalez. “If you win a title it’s something you should enjoy as an accomplishment. I know it is something my whole team enjoys.”

The challenges to Gonzalez this summer will be a multi-pronged attack from a variety of trainers with plenty of horsepower coming into the meet.

Jorge Delgado, with 56 horses, looms as a major threat after winning 17 races from 86 starters a year ago.

Wesley Ward – who won the 1984 riding title at The Meadowlands — will have a string of 42 horses at Monmouth Park for the meet, while Joe Orseno will be back on a full-time basis with 45 horses. Maker (19 horses) and Joseph (23) are the other prominent newcomers to the stable area.

But plenty of familiar names will be armed to take a run at Gonzalez.

Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown will again have a strong presence with more than 100 horses combined, with Gregg Sacco, coming off a solid Tampa Bay Downs meet, having 49 horses. Dan Ward is back with 43 horses from Oaklawn while Mike Dini will have more than 50, most of them shipping in from Tampa Bay Downs.

Wayne Potts, who captured the Monmouth Park training title in 2021, will have 42 horses to start, with Jose D’Angelo having 30 and Juan Carlos Avila overseeing 34.

Kelly Breen, who has won three Monmouth Park training titles, will take residence with his string of 43 horses in Barns 11 and 12, as he has for years.

Lindsay Schultz has 41 stalls and Kathleen O’Connell, the winningest female trainer in North American racing history with nearly 2,500 career victories, has 32. O’Connell returns after winning the training title at Tampa Bay Downs for the third time.