Justin Evans scored his 2,000th career training victory on Sunday, Feb. 17, at Sunland Park in New Mexico when A & A Equine and Paul Miller's Curlina Curlina took a maiden claiming race by 4 ½ lengths under jockey Luis Contreras as the 1-5 favorite.
The 6-year-old California-bred mare by Curlin out of Helen's Echo, by Swiss Yodeler, was winning for the first time in 34 career starts and in her fourth try for Evans since moving from the Southern California circuit to New Mexico. The milestone win came after Evans had saddled three consecutive second-place finishers dating back to Feb. 10.
Evans, 37, scored his first victory on July 27, 1999, at defunct Prescott Downs near his childhood home in Chino Valley, Ariz. Prior to taking out his trainer's license at his first opportunity when turning 18, Evans traveled around the Arizona fair circuit with horses owned by his parents. “I started working with horses when I was really young, going to fairs at Holbrook and St. Johns,” Evans said. “I claimed a few when I was 16 or 17 and got my license as soon as I could.”
Evans won his first training title at Yavapai Downs (now Arizona Downs) in Prescott Valley, Ariz., in 2001, and has been a leading trainer on the New Mexico circuit, with training titles at the Downs at Albuquerque, Ruidoso Downs, Sunland Park, Sunray Park and Zia Park. He also shared a training at Lone Star Park in Texas. He saddled his 1,000th winner in May 2013.
Evans counts Concord Fast, a West Virginia bred who won multiple stakes for him from 2016-18, as the best horse he's trained. His best year came in 2014 when he won 272 races from 1,022 starters, with 203 seconds and 138 thirds for total earnings of $3,607,260.
His career numbers now stand at 2,000 wins, 1,520 seconds and 1,190 thirds from 8,450 starts for total earnings of $24,384,250.
“It's a blessing to get to 2,000,” said Evans, who added that he is inspired by Steve Asmussen, the Hall of Famer with more than 8,300 wins and taking aim at the late Dale Baird as racing's all-time leading trainer by wins. “I admire a guy like him that works as hard as he does, and it doesn't matter if his horses are worth $5,000 or $5 million – he treats them all the same. And he just wants to win.”
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