Stakes purses were down this season across North America, but some of the top trainers still consistently brought home the cash.
Steve Asmussen leads all trainers across the U.S. and Canada in 2020 earnings, with $19.73 million banked through Sunday night. Reflecting COVID’s effects on the sport, that figure is down from the $27.5 million his runners posted in 2019, when he ranked second to Chad Brown ($31.11 million).
Brown led the North American earnings list each year from 2016 to 2019. He is fourth on the current 2020 list ($16.24 million) behind Asmussen, Brad Cox ($18.71 million) and Bob Baffert ($18.45 million).
Baffert is among the notable climbers on the money list. The Hall of Fame trainer ranked ninth in earnings last season but cracked the top three this year, thanks to wins in lucrative Grade 1 events such as the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (Mucho Gusto) and the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic (Authentic).
Other top trainers who have scaled the earnings list from 2019 to 2020 include Christophe Clement (20th to 9th), Wesley Ward (23rd to 12th) and Bret Calhoun (29th to 14th).
Horse Racing Nation compared the 2020 trainer earnings list to its 2019 counterpart to see which conditioners climbed this season. Ten North American-based barns were identified in the top 50 on the 2020 list who increased their positions the most from last season.
1. Barclay Tagg
2020 (through Sunday): 37th, $3.11 million
2019: 131st, $1.55 million
Up 94 spots
Top 2020 earner: Tiz the Law ($2.39 million)
Tagg, trainer of 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes hero Funny Cide, completed a personal Triple Crown when Tiz the Law won the Belmont Stakes. The Sackatoga Stables runner also scored Grade 1 victories in Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby and Saratoga’s Travers Stakes and was second in the Kentucky Derby. Other Tagg standouts in 2020 included Gulfstream stakes winner Highland Glory and Belmont Park allowance victor Doswell.
2. Josie Carroll
2020: 40th, $2.92 million
2019: 89th, $2.19 million
Up 49 spots
Top 2020 earner: Mighty Heart ($922,870)
Carroll’s charges dominated top events for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds. Carroll’s duo of Mighty Heart (Queen’s Plate Stakes and Prince of Wales Stakes) and Belichick (Breeders’ Stakes) swept the 2020 Canadian Triple Crown series, and Curlin’s Voyage won the Woodbine Oaks. Carroll and other Canadian horsepeople lost chances to further increase earnings when Woodbine canceled the final 12 race cards of its season because of local COVID restrictions.
3. Ralph Nicks
2020: 49th, $2.3 million
2019: 94th, $2.1 million
Up 45 spots
Top 2020 earner: Shivaree ($334,355)
Shivaree started his season in January with a Gulfstream stakes score for Nicks, then bookended it by winning a stakes race Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs. The Florida-bred made two Grade 1 starts, finishing second in the Florida Derby and seventh in the Travers. Nicks’s other top performers included two-time Gulfstream stakes winner Breeze On By, Gulfstream maiden winner Seazan and Tampa stakes victor Liam’s Lucky Charm.
4. Kelly Breen
2020: 32nd, $3.39 million
2019: 75th, $2.51 million
Up 43 spots
Top 2020 earner: Firenze Fire ($376,500)
Firenze Fire moved into Breen’s barn after the Grade 1 winner’s former trainer, Jason Servis, was indicted on federal doping charges. The 5-year-old has stayed sharp for his new conditioner, winning Belmont’s True North Stakes (G2) and Vosburgh Stakes (G2) and running third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Breen saddled Royal Urn to three Monmouth Park stakes scores and has a 2-year-old to watch in Nashua Stakes (G3) winner Pickin’ Time.
5. Robert Gorham
2020: 47th, $2.45 million
2019: 87th, $2.2 million
Up 40 spots
Top 2020 earner: Drillit ($137,560)
Gorham racked up winners this season across the Buckeye State. The trainer’s top earner was Drillit, an Ohio-bred filly who scored stakes wins at Mahoning Valley Race Course and Thistledown. Other Gorham runners to win added-money events at Ohio tracks included Happy as You Go, It’s Official and Edge of Night.
6. Cipriano Contreras
2020: 48th, $2.33 million
2019: 88th, $2.22 million
Up 40 spots
Top 2020 earner: Inthemidstofbiz ($269,650)
Another conditioner based in the Midwest, Contreras’s biggest win of 2020 came with a filly who climbed through the ranks. Contreras claimed Inthemidstofbiz for $20,000 in October 2019 and then saddled her to a victory 12 months later in Keeneland’s Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2). Cipriano saw Saracosa run second in the Delaware Handicap (G2), Nun the Less take a pair of Turfway Park stakes and Luna Fortis win allowance events at three different tracks.
7. Ken McPeek
2020: 16th, $5.04 million
2019: 42nd, $3.52 million
Up 26 spots
Top 2020 earner: Swiss Skydiver ($1.79 million)
McPeek never shied from running Swiss Skydiver in high-profile events from coast to coast. The filly delivered with a thrilling Preakness upset of Authentic, an Alabama Stakes (G1) romp at Saratoga and other graded stakes wins at Gulfstream, Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita. Simply Ravishing earned McPeek another Grade 1 victory in Keeneland’s Alcibiades, while the Falls City Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs highlighted Envoutante’s pair of graded wins.
8. Ron Moquett
2020: 38th, $3.04 million
2019: 63rd, $2.86 million
Up 25 spots
Top 2020 earner: Whitmore ($1.43 million)
Whitmore brought an extensive resume into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint but left the gates for his 38th career start at 18-1 odds. The 7-year-old handsomely rewarded those who backed him, flying up from ninth to earn trainer Ron Moquett his first Breeders’ Cup triumph. Moquett saddled Man In the Can to a pair of Oaklawn stakes scores and added a trio of allowance wins with Seven Nation Army.
9. Dale Romans
2020: 35th, $3.3 million
2019: 58th, $3.08 million
Up 23 spots
Top 2020 earner: Mr Freeze ($956,490)
Mr Freeze pocketed more than $500,000 by running best of the rest behind Mucho Gusto in Gulfstream’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) to start his season. The Romans trainee swam in Grade 1 or 2 waters all year, winning the Gulfstream Park Mile Stakes (G2) and Keeneland’s Fayette Stakes (G2). Romans saddled a trio of Grade 3 winners in Girl Daddy, Sally’s Curlin and Sittin On Go.
10. George Weaver
2020: 42nd, $2.61 million
2019: 62nd, $2.86 million
Up 20 spots
Top 2020 earner: Vekoma ($456,675)
Vekoma earned Weaver a pair of Grade 1 scores this summer at Belmont, winning the Carter Handicap and the Metropolitan Handicap. The 4-year-old was poised to compete for another big purse as the morning-line favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint but spiked a fever and was scratched. Weaver saddled Majestic Dunhill to a Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) win at Belmont while a second-place finish over Big Sandy in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) highlighted Point of Honor’s season.
Visit HRN again Thursday as we examine 10 North American jockeys who have climbed the riders’ money list.