At Christmas time seven years ago, Kieron Magee was in his mid-40's and working as an exercise rider at the Maryland tracks. Today, he ranks third in the Laurel Park fall trainer standings with 19 wins from 44 starters, an impressive 43 percent.
“I was getting too old to gallop horses for a living,” said Magee, now 52. “I broke my back twice and it was time. My heart was telling me it was time to do something else. Owner Bo Williams gave me Magic Maker and we went from there.”
Magic Maker won one-of-10 races for Magee in 2007 while earning $26,210 which helped the native of County Wicklow, Ireland get into the claiming game.
“The first horse my wife and I claimed (Simoom off John Fisher on Nov. 8, 2007), we maxed out three credit cards and I had to borrow $1,000 off my mother-in-law,” added Magee. “We won two races with her then eventually lost the horse for $10,000 at Philadelphia. My wife was in tears but I was excited because we could start building.”
Magee has increased the number of starters each year, from 24 in 2007 to 203 this year. Horses he claimed in 2013 are winning at better than 26% the first time in his barn.
One of those claims, Princess Perfect, won today's fourth race. Claimed for $8,000 last month, the daughter of Crafty Friend stepped up to the next level ($12,500) and won by a neck, getting up in the final jumps.
“She always runs on the front end but none of the longer races were going so we had to change things around,” Magee said. “I was a little worried at the head of the lane but she came a running and got the job done.”
Magee trails only Hugh McMahon (23 wins) and Jamie Ness (22) in the current fall standings. He has won races with 16 different horses.
“It has been a lot of fun,” Magee said. “There have been a lot of good claims. People will talk but we have been making some really good claims. The key has been the influx of new owners. All I could look at the last couple of years were $5,000 horses. I am now claiming up to $20,000, so it gives you room to maneuver.”
Magee will start a couple recent claims, Ken's Cape and Hope Still Springs, in Friday's fourth race.
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