Barn Notes

Kathleen O'Connell Joins the Trainer Ranks

Posted Saturday, Aug 4, 2012

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With the meet just past the midway point, there is a new shooter on the backside. Florida-based trainer Kathleen O’Connell has arrived with a string of six horses and will remain until closing day.

            “We have a lot of turf horses and it’s been raining a lot in Florida,” said Brian Smeak, who has been her assistant for 12 years. “She carries 40 horses in South Florida and 40 at Tampa Bay Downs in the winter, and then we go to Colonial Downs (in Virginia). But it’s only a 32-day meet at Colonial. So instead of going back to Calder, we decided to come get our feet wet and see if Monmouth will be our summer place next year.”

            The success that other trainers who stable at Calder Race Course and Tampa Bay Downs have enjoyed at Monmouth was a contributing factor in the decision.

            “(Defending leading trainer) Jane Cibelli and Eddie Plesa, Jr. do great here,” said Smeak. “Now Jorge Navarro has come from Tampa and is doing well, and so is Anthony Pecoraro and some of the others from Florida. So we’re here and will give it our best shot.”

            O’Connell got her start walking hots at the now defunct Detroit Race Course in 1970 and last year she saddled Watch Me Go in the Kentucky Derby. She has won training titles at Tampa Bay and was the first female leading trainer at Calder’s Tropical meet. Her best horse was million-dollar earner Blazing Sword, whom she trained for principal owner Gilbert Campbell.

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