When Phil Hauswald disbanded his small stable in 2006, he figured he would be back in business within a year with a barn of quality runners. His plan never materialized and instead he has found a comfortable niche as a Belmont Park-based shipping agent for Sallee Horse Vans.
From the late 1980s through the 1990s, Hauswald routinely won top shelf races for high profile owners. The roster included the 1987 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with Epitome, 1986 Blue Grass Stakes with Bachelor Beau and 1987 Arkansas Derby with Demons Begone.
Hauswald regularly wintered at Oaklawn Park and also was well represented during his career on the Chicago and Kentucky circuits and the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions. He downsized when he relocated his operation to Belmont Park around 2000 in a move that enabled his wife Mary to continue her longtime career in the executive offices of the New York Racing Association.
“I went from about 50 horses to about 30,” Hauswald said. “Looking back, that might have been a mistake. Maybe I should have left a satellite division in Kentucky. At the time, I wanted only what I could keep under my thumb and have a personal watch over. But now, 20 years later, trainers with 200 horses or more in three or four locations are not a rarity.”
The victories kept coming but at a slower rate with fewer horses and for less money. By 2006, Hauswald's string produced a single victory and he opted to regroup when the Saratoga season concluded.
“When I left the game I was down to eight or ten horses,” he said. “A few were the kind that gave you a chance to make a living. Half of them were struggling to be competitive at the New York level. It was tough to make a living with them.”
Hauswald grew up in New Albany, Ind., just across the river from Louisville. With family members who were trainers and his close proximity to Churchill Downs, Hauswald was attracted to Thoroughbred racing at a young age. After graduating high school, he detoured to construction. In less than two years in that business, he gravitated to the track. Around 1980, he went to work for Shug McGaughey. When McGaughey left the Midwest to be a private trainer for the Phipps family in 1985, some of McGaughey's clients, including John A. Bell III and John Ed Anthony of Loblolly Stable, shifted to Hauswald.
By 1986 Hauswald was firmly in racing's spotlight with runners like graded stakes winners Sumptious and Hail a Cab.
The following spring, Loblolly's Demons Begone stamped himself a Kentucky Derby contender by capping his three-race winning streak of Oaklawn Park's Derby preps with his Arkansas Derby victory. Two weeks later, he became Hauswald's second Run for the Roses starter following Bachelor Beau's 14th place finish the previous year. As the Derby favorite, Demons Begone bled and was pulled up.
As the year was drawing to a close, Bell's Epitome earned her first career victory. Three starts later, she rallied from the back to win the Juvenile Fillies by a nose at 30-1. Hauswald's trips to the winner's circle in graded stakes continued after that with winners Banker's Lady, Dual Elements, Barbarika, and Middlesex Drive.
Hauswald said those upper echelon triumphs are obviously among his favorite memories, but he especially enjoyed developing young horses into their full potential regardless of their talent.
“I miss dealing with the horses,” he said. “I get asked if I miss training and I really do but I see the struggles of others. Would I ever consider going back to training? It would have to be the kind of offer that would never happen.”
While focusing on recruiting new clients with reliable horses, Hauswald served as agent for Mike Smith. When Smith opted to return to Southern California in 2007, Hauswald was at a crossroads. So when Sallee Vans offered him a spot in their company, he accepted. Based primarily at Belmont Park, Hauswald spends much of the summer in Saratoga Springs and is posted in Lexington for the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“They take good care of me,” he said. “The job allows me to be at the track and with the people I am familiar with. It gives me the feeling of being a part of racing.”
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