Karl Broberg was not at Sam Houston Race Park when Sarge's Daughter won Friday's seventh race under Deshawn Parker, giving the Illinois native his 3,000th career victory since taking out a trainer's license late in 2009. Broberg was at his home in Grand Prairie, Texas, where he manages the multi-division stable that won 509 races in 2018 from 1,837 starts, most of any North American trainer. It was the fifth consecutive year Broberg led nationally by wins.
Sarge's Daughter, a $25,000 claim at Belterra Park last June for Broberg's End Zone Athletics stable, was his fifth winner and 10th starter of the day. He ran horses at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park in the afternoon and Delta Downs and Sam Houston in the evening.
Broberg estimates he's personally saddled less than 100 of his 3,000 winners.
“I'm blessed with great help everywhere,” said the 48-year-old single father of four young children. He lost his wife, Samantha, when she fell overboard during a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico in 2016 and was never found. Broberg sued Carnival, alleging negligence by the cruise line in overserving alcohol to his wife when she was clearly intoxicated. A federal judge ruled against him last month.
Of Broberg's 509 winners last year, 292 were with End Zone Athletics runners from 1,044 starts. He said his stable, which earned over $8 million in 2018 with predominantly claiming horses, is profitable.
“The phone stopped ringing when my wife died,” said Broberg, referring to owners who previously had been calling him to claim horses for them. “They figured, 'He's going to have to take care of his kids.' I'd always prefer to have a client operation.”
Broberg thinks he's proven he can multi-task as a father and trainer and said his client base is starting to grow again.
“I'd like to see a gradual flight to quality, where there's more balance,” Broberg said. “With that it means attaining more young horses, expanding the client base where it's not just owners who want to flip horses. I feel we have pent-up demand to do some bargain hunting at 2-year-old sales.”
As if on cue, his 3,001st win came with Usual Suspect in the $100,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-breds at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. The winner is owned by his breeder, Starsky Weist.
“We've done what we want to in quantity. Now we want to show that the same formula can be successful with quality. We're making baby steps in that direction.”
Broberg's rise to become one of racing's all-time winningest trainers (he currently ranks 31st, according to Equibase) is unconventional.
“I skipped school to go to Arlington as a kid and always loved wagering on horses,” he said. “But I never could figure out a way into the industry other than betting the ponies.”
Broberg worked in retail for a couple of decades and then opened an advertising agency that grew to the point it gave him a chance to become a fractional owner of some horses.
“That was around 2006,” he said. “From then on I was hooked.”
A couple of years later, Broberg took a break from the ad business and groomed horses for trainer Greg Frye for a short time at Oaklawn Park. That convinced him to give training a try.
“I was able to hand off day-to-day operations of my business to someone else and pursue this silly dream,” he said. “I still have the business, but I'm not involved.”
Broberg said he relies on DRF Formulator to evaluate horses he claims and studies condition books relentlessly.
“When we claim horses, we always claim for a spot,” he said. “I'm always taking advantage of 'a other than' allowance conditions. We take horses and put them where they need to run.”
Though he is yet to be suspended, Broberg has had what he refers to as “self-inflicted wounds,” including a one-year revocation of Jockey Club Stud Book privileges as a result of three medication violations in 2011 in Oklahoma and a fourth in Arkansas the following year. He claims, however, his horses run on less than medication than most other operations.
“Most of that stuff is nonsense,” he said.
Though based in Texas and focused mostly in surrounding states, he said he has plans to expand geographically.
“My dream is to go to New York,” he said. “I would do it on a very small scale with the understanding that it would not be profitable in the beginning. I'm also applying for stalls in Indiana.”
He has no plans, however, to become a “hands-on” horseman.
“For our operation to work the way it does, I have to have freedom and flexibility.”
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