Trainer Jason Barkley and owner Thomas Todd's Oakview Stable both earned their initial triumph when Stella Nova won Friday's fourth race by 2¼ lengths. The victory, the third consecutive win for the 3-year-old filly by Astrology, was part of Barkley's strategy to obtain his trainer's license after growing up in Thoroughbred racing.
“My whole game plan was to break out at Keeneland,” he said. “There are a lot of eyes on Keeneland and to do it opening day was huge. All my friends piled into the winner's circle and I lost my voice screaming for her at the top of the stretch.”
As grandson of a trainer and son of trainer Jeff Barkley, he spent plenty of time at the track before graduating from University of Louisville's equine business program. He also spent a total of two years working as an assistant to trainers Wesley Ward and Joe Sharp and was an all-around stable hand for Larry Jones.
“I skipped a lot of classes (at U of L) to come to the races at Keeneland,” he said.
Barkley was such an accomplished horseman at an early age that Jones left him in charge of a 40-horse stable for several days when Jones took horses to out-of-town races. The short-term promotion convinced Barkley he could one day oversee his own barn.
Barkley said he combines his family's old-school techniques with modern horsemanship. He has five horses bedded down at Keeneland and is so hands-on that he does all of the work except for riding. His day begins well before sunrise and concludes in early evening, but he had plenty of energy to celebrate over dinner with Todd and friends on Friday.
“I don't think it has really hit me but I have no voice from screaming so loud at the top of the stretch,” he said.
Barkley said he expects to claim a few horses at Keeneland and would run his next starter closer to the end of the Fall Meet.
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