Becker Bringing High-Percentage Midwest Outfit to Gulfstream
Dec 20, 2018
Multiple Meet-Leading Trainer to Establish Year-Round Presence
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL
– While his initial foray onto the South Florida racing scene has been minimal to start, expect to see trainer Scott Becker’s name much more often as the action heats up over the winter at Gulfstream Park, and beyond.
Both circumstance and opportunity have brought the 50-year-old Becker’s high-percentage operation to Gulfstream where sent out three starters Sunday, Day 2 of the 2018-19 Championship Meet, capped by 5-year-old mare Frozen Hannah’s second by less than a length at odds of nearly 10-1.
“I just have 10 horses right now at Gulfstream,” Becker said. “I got a little start running a few over at Gulfstream West this fall. Everything has been good. The people have been very nice.
“It’s nice to have some year-round racing in one spot,” he added. “My owner has purchased a lot of Florida-breds at the OBS sales, and that’s one of the major factors for being there.”
Becker trains for William Stiritz, the former CEO and president of Ralston Purina and current president of Westgate Equity Partners and the Westgate Group. Stiriz, 84, also owns Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Ill., where they have dominated the standings in the past decade.
A native of Belleville, Ill., located just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Becker has won multiple training titles at both Fairmount and Hawthorne Park in Stickney, Ill. and has also been competitive at larger, higher-profile Arlington Park – finishing fourth in wins in 2016 and 2017 and in the top eight in purses earned both years.
“He breeds some Illinois-breds at his farm in southern Illinois, so we get involved in that program. Then he’s always bought some open horses at the sales, but the open horses aren’t competitive in Chicago anymore,” Becker said. “I was in New Orleans the last two winters, which was good, but I’m looking forward to spend more time in one place.”
Becker won 17 of 99 starts at Fair Grounds over the past two winters combined, and previously had spent the season at Oaklawn Park. A former assistant and stable manager to Stiritz’s previous trainer, Terry Gestes, Becker went out on his own in 2009 and on Aug. 28 earned his 1,000th career victory with D’Rapper at Fairmount.
“I’ve had the same owner since 2009 and he lets me run them where we need to run them and qualify them where they belong,” Becker said. “We work good together. He lets me control everything and do things to the best of my ability. He trusts me and we haven’t had any problems.”
Though Becker will finish this year with his fewest wins since 2010, he has topped $1 million in purse earnings in each of his 10 years as a trainer with highs of 158 wins and nearly $2.4 million in 2015. That year he captured the most recent of his three graded-stakes victories with Shogood in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3).
Other graded wins for Becker have come in the 2009 Hawthorne Derby (G3) with Proceed Bee, and the 2013 Hanshin Cup (G3) with Hogy.
“I come from a racing family. I’ve had family members all the way back to my great-grandparents who had horses throughout the Midwest in the ‘30s and ‘40s,” Becker said. “I wasn’t a good enough hockey player, so this is what I ended up with. I still skate here and there, when I have the time.”
Becker made six starts at Gulfstream Park West’s Fall Turf Festival meet, winning a pair of maiden special weights, with 2-year-old gelding W W Springtime Nov. 24 and 2-year-old filly Wildwood’s Beauty Nov. 10.
Becker recently bought a condo near Gulfstream and said he will spend much more time in Florida, particularly after Hawthorne’s meet ends Dec. 29, and plans to maintain a string here year-round.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I have 30 Florida-bred yearlings right now on the owner’s farm in Belleville, Ill. Some are doing a little bit of light galloping at Fairmount Park right now. As they broke the horses they’ve been cycling through to the racetrack a little bit, a couple weeks, and then back home. Hopefully I’ll send some down to Ocala in maybe March and get them to the track in April and May. We’ve got a lot going on right now.”