Perhaps the best one to talk about trainer Brian Lynch’s impressive thoroughbred success story is anyone but the man himself. It’s not that he doesn’t have the time to chat – he’ll always find a few minutes even on the busiest days – or that he isn’t adept at the art of conversation. For one of North America’s top conditioners, it’s simply a preference to let the ones competing on the racetrack talk the talk.
It was an approach Lynch learned from one of racing’s most decorated horsemen.
“The most important thing that I learned from Bobby (Frankel) is to stay low-key and let the horses do the talking,” said Lynch, who joined the Hall of Fame conditioner after giving up his public stable at Hollywood Park in 2004.
The great irony, however, is that Lynch, if he was so inclined, has plenty to talk about.
With 477 career wins (as of Dec. 31), highlighted by a stirring score with Frank Stronach’s Shaman Ghost in the 2015 running of the Queen’s Plate, the convivial man from Down Under is riding a wave of success in recent years.
Graded stakes wins, high-profile horses, representation in the Breeders’ Cup – Lynch has undoubtedly stamped himself as one of North America’s most consistent trainers.
“A lot of things have to fall into place to do well,” said Lynch. “The key is in preparation, to be meticulous in how you go about having each horse ready. You set the table the best you can and, hopefully, they are able to go out and run to the best of their ability. Things have gone well, but you never let that go to your head. You can’t do that when it comes to racing.”
Lynch earned his first thoroughbred win on Dec. 2, 1993 at Hollywood Park with maiden Arc’s a Flyin. It was Lynch’s lone victory at the meet in four starts.
Two years later, he celebrated his first stakes win courtesy of Riva Ranger on Aug. 2, 1995, in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar. Rexy Sexy was a double-stakes winner, as was Fire Sale Queen. One of Lynch’s multiple-winning stars was Only the Best, who took four stakes, including the Sunny Slope at Santa Anita in 2002.
“You love when you get those ‘firsts,’” noted Lynch. “But, making that walk to get your picture taken, that will never get old.”
After starts at various California tracks, Lynch won his second thoroughbred race at the 1994-1995 winter Santa Anita meeting.
In 1999, he would win 12 races, accompanied by a solid 15 per cent win average. In 11 stakes starts, his starters posted five in-the-money finishes, including one victory, when Firesale Queen took the CTBA Stakes. She would go on to win the Bay Meadows Oaks in 2000.
Notching just seven scores over a two-year span, from 2000-01, Lynch’s win percentage ascended to a new career-best in 2002, a year in which he won nine of 46 starts. In 2003, there were 13 trips to the winner’s circle, including the Anderson Fowler and the Select at Monmouth Park with Only the Best, a half-brother to Rexy Sexy.
It was two years later, though, that Lynch engineered a winning move of his own. Travelling from the Golden State to Toronto, more specifically, Woodbine, he took the reins of the Canadian barn of Frankel, the man at the helm of the Stronach string at the Toronto oval.
“It was an opportunity I felt was perfect for me,” Lynch said. “To have the chance to run the day-to-day operation, to be around high-quality horses – it was ideal. I was particularly grateful to know that people were in my corner and that they believed in what I could do. I really saw it as something that could be successful in both the short term and in the long term.”
In 2006, Lynch was given the title of trainer (his stats aren’t credited with any wins earned in 2005, while effectively Frankel’s assistant).
He would win 21 races in his first Woodbine campaign, followed by seasons of 21, 30, 27, 22, 32, 35, 26 and 33 victories.
From 2011-14, he finished in the top 10 in the win column at Woodbine.
Last year, Lynch starters won 42 races. His $4,261,199 in purse earnings was good enough for 29th overall in North America.
There has been no shortage of top-tier victories in recent times: multiple stakes winner Grand Arch, whose 2015 season included brilliant performances in the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile and the Grade 2 Fourstardave, Heart to Heart, Canada’s champion three-year-old of 2014, winning the Oceanport Stakes (one race before American Pharoah won the Haskell) in August, then coming back in the fall meet at Churchill to win the River City Handicap and Canadian-bred Solemn Tribute winning the last of the 2015 three-year-old stakes on the year, taking the Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream on December 19.
Shaman Ghost’s triumph in the Gallop for the Guineas remains a treasured accomplishment for the native of Brisbane, Australia.
“Growing up, I fell in love with the sport early just as I fell in love with the horses,” said Lynch, who sent out Coffee Clique to win in the 2014 Just A Game Stakes at Belmont Park, marking the trainer’s first Grade 1 score. “You don’t typically have much time to look back and see all the twists and turns, the ups and downs, that have brought you to this point in time. When you do, you sit back and think, ‘Wow.’
“It’s a tough game and it can be disappointing at times, but when your horse wins, there aren’t too many better feelings in the world. Fortunately, there have been some wonderful moments, including the Queen’s Plate. To see him (Shaman Ghost) winding up with a big run, come storming down the stretch and to hear the crowd roaring, it’s something I’ll never forget. Hopefully, there are more wins like that one to come.”
Which would mean there will be plenty more for him to talk about, right?
The last word goes to the 51-year-old Lynch. Or does it?
“You know how it is, mate,” he said with a smile. “We’ll let the horses take care of that.”