Mike Machowsky: in profile

 In Southern California, the San Gabriel Mountains serve as the backdrop to Santa Anita Park, the home of many top trainers, including Michael Machowsky Stables. Machowsky has been based on this circuit for 34 years, from the time he worked as assistant trainer and stable foreman for Richard Mandella for almost six years before he went out on his own. Recently, Hall of Famer Mandella recalled Machowsky’s early days: “Mike was a young man when he worked for me. I was a younger man, too! He was a very devoted, hard-working young person who had nothing on his mind but racing horses. I have watched him grow through the years, he’s still that way and always puts his horses first. I’m in the Hall of Fame because of people like Mike Machowsky and so many others. They have propelled me to where I am now,” Mandella said. “Machowsky has a very good feel for horses, which is innate. He proves it year after year. It’s not something you can acquire. You have it or you don’t, and Machowsky has it!”      Although Mandella was speaking in serious tones, a sense of pride was evident in his words. Machowsky credits his mentor with teaching him patience, and Mandella deflected the compliment from himself by saying, “We all learn patience from the horses.” Patience is not all that Machowsky took away from his time with Mandella. “I learned everything from him,” he said. “Detail, leaving no stone unturned on the horses -- those traits stayed with me. Mandella taught me it’s the little things that matter.” --------------------------------- The Sunday after Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, Machowsky trainee Make It a Triple won a claiming race. Machowsky’s smile was as wide as any of the people representing owner Richard Barton in the winner’s circle. Afterwards, Machowsky celebrated his victory at the restaurant 14 Hands. The 5’ 11” trainer was sitting at a table, wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt, jeans, and  the same smile from the winner’s circle. He stated, ”I always expect to win. We put everything into these horses: conditioning, proper diets, daily care. It’s my position to decide what type of race they should enter for a win. If things do not go right, I blame myself, as I should because I am with these Thoroughbreds every day and know them inside out.”       Machowsky took out his trainer’s license in 1989 and saddled his first winner, Bidadip, on New Year’s Day at Santa Anita in 1990. Almost two years later, on December 22, 1991, Native Boundary became his first stakes winner, while Dancing Rhythm, winner of the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes in 1998, was his first graded stakes winner. In 2009, he won the $900,000 Sunland Derby with Kelly Leak, over future Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in fourth.       Born September 19, 1965, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Machowsky was two when his family moved to Southern California. He became interested in horses through his physician father’s ownership of Quarter Horses and, later, Thoroughbred racehorses. When the popular, nearly white colt Vigors -- winner of the 1978 Santa Anita Handicap -- caught Machowsky’s attention, he never looked back. He knew he had found his calling and would be relentless in its pursuit. He began working as a hotwalker and mucked stalls for trainer Clay Brinson after school and on weekends. At 15, he traveled to Del Mar with Brinson and stayed in a motorhome across the street from the track. He worked as a groom for trainer Henry Moreno for two years before moving to Mandella’s barn.    Machowsky lives in Monrovia, California -- about a 10-minute drive from Santa Anita -- with Dana, his wife of 17 years; two daughters; and two stepdaughters. Besides being a real estate agent, Dana handles the business end of the stable and has always been a source of strength for her husband. As the daughter of a veterinarian, she has a unique understanding of the career she married into and is well aware of the ups and downs of the sport, and she takes each with grace. Bedtime for Machowsky is 8 P.M. He rises at 3:45 and makes his way to the coffeemaker for his first cup of java, arriving at Barn 17, less than an hour later, ready for work. “It’s a team effort here.”  He elaborated, “It does not matter if it’s a stakes horse or a claiming horse, every horse gets the same unique individual care for whatever issues they are facing.” Most of his employees, who total nine grooms and two exercise riders, have been with him for many years. Heather Alvarado is Machowsky’s assistant and gets on horses -- usually her favorite ones -- for works. Hector Rangel is the barn  foreman and helps the operation run smoothly. Maria Falgione still rides Machowsky’s horses in the mornings but last August at Del Mar fulfilled an ambition to ride races. In her very first start, Machowsky legged her up for a win on Barton’s Tee Em Eye last August at Del Mar. Falgione has gone to the post eight more times, with a second and a third. This is part of the reason Machowsky maintains such loyalty from his employees. Although the horses come first, he wants his employees to follow their dreams and will do everything in his power to make it happen. That kind of devotion commands loyalty.      Over the years, there have been an array of unconventional treatments to settle a horse or just to make the horse happier. One filly was frightened and edgy, so Machowsky purchased a goat, who has an affinity for sour apple-flavored Jolly Rancher candy. Machowsky said, “Maggie, the goat, follows our hotwalker around like a dog because he pets her often.” Caracortado, a gelding Machowsky bred in California, had a taste for a different kind of candy, Skittles, as well as beer. Once the cheeky gelding’s many fans became aware of his love for Skittles, the stable began receiving the candy from all over the U.S.       “Cara,” as Caracortado was affectionately known, got his name from a scar on his head. Machowsky had originally sent in the name “Scarface” to The Jockey Club, but it was declined because of the movie with the same name. Machowsky discovered that the Spanish word for scarface is “caracortado,” and that name was accepted. The chestnut gelding by Cat Dreams out of Mon’s Venus is a half- brother to 2017 Smarty Jones Stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic participant Pavel. Caracortado was on the Kentucky Derby trail and raced for five years, winning the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in 2010, the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap in 2011, and the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes in 2012. It was this last win, in the Daytona contested on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course on January 8, 2012, that was arguably his most thrilling.  The dazzling gelding came from out of the clouds after announcer Trevor Denman had counted him out, calling, “Caracortado did not fire today!” But Caracortado did, indeed, fire; it was estimated that the gelding ran his final sixteenth of a mile in five seconds or less.  After the Daytona, Caracortado was away from the races for a year and a half, coming back with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Eddie D. Stakes before another setback saw him spend another 10 months on the sidelines. He made two more starts before retiring with a record of nine wins, two seconds, and four thirds in 22 starts, with earnings over $885,000. Machowsky lamented of Caracortado, “He was such an unbelievable horse…he could run on any surface, short, long, and downhill, and I’d planned on running him until he was 10 or 11 years old, but he developed foot problems. He even lost a frog on one of his front feet. We had an amazing farrier, and that is one of the main reasons he kept coming back to race. I had hoped to run the gelding for many more years but did not want to risk injury because of his foot issues.” He began looking around for a proper home for his beloved horse who his Lo Hi Stable owned with Blahut Stables LLC, Donkey Island LLC, and Kagele Brothers Inc. He did not have to look far. One of his former exercise riders, Jacqueline Kandalaft, had begun rehabbing OTTBs. She and her girlfriend took over the next stage in Cara’s career. He excelled at jumping, then they decided to try a new discipline, dressage, and Cara has found his niche. Machowsky occasionally drops by to see the progress his former stable star is making in his second career.       Michael Machowsky does not do this just for his stable stars, but for any of his horses at the end of their racing careers. He does his best to find a rehab facility for each of them, knowing that for our sport to thrive, we must take care of our athletes before, during, and after they leave the track.      Before Caracortado, there was another horse, Southern Image, who put Machowsky on the national scene. Southern Image won six-of-eight starts and, in the 2003 Malibu Stakes, provided the trainer with his first Grade 1 win. Southern Image gave Machowsky more Grade 1 success in the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap and Pimlico Special, earning more than $1.8 million along the way. Having grown up nearby, winning the Santa Anita Handicap was quite special for Machowsky. It was a case of the local boy making good. Ironically, the two favorites going into The Big ‘Cap were Southern Image and Mandella trainee Pleasantly Perfect. The match pitted Mandella’s former assistant against his mentor. Unfortunately, Pleasantly Perfect spiked a temperature and was scratched, but Mandella still saddled a runner in Olmodavor.  That day, Machowsky’s horse won -- but perhaps the result may have been different if their paths had never crossed.
By Mary Dixon Reynolds

In Southern California, the San Gabriel Mountains serve as the backdrop to Santa Anita Park, the home of many top trainers, including Michael Machowsky Stables. Machowsky has been based on this circuit for 34 years, from the time he worked as assistant trainer and stable foreman for Richard Mandella for almost six years before he went out on his own.


Recently, Hall of Famer Mandella recalled Machowsky’s early days: “Mike was a young man when he worked for me. I was a younger man, too! He was a very devoted, hard-working young person who had nothing on his mind but racing horses. I have watched him grow through the years, he’s still that way and always puts his horses first. I’m in the Hall of Fame because of people like Mike
Machowsky and so many others. They have propelled me to where I am now,” Mandella said.

“Machowsky has a very good feel for horses, which is innate. He proves it year after year. It’s not something you can acquire. You have it or you don’t, and Machowsky has it!”

Although Mandella was speaking in serious tones, a sense of pride was evident in his words. Machowsky credits his mentor with teaching him patience, and Mandella deflected the compliment from himself by saying, “We all learn patience from the horses.”

Patience is not all that Machowsky took away from his time with Mandella. “I learned everything from him,” he said. “Detail, leaving no stone unturned on the horses -- those traits stayed with me. Mandella taught me it’s the little things that matter.”
The Sunday after Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, Machowsky trainee Make It a Triple won a claiming race. Machowsky’s smile was as wide as any of the people representing owner Richard Barton in the winner’s circle. Afterwards, Machowsky celebrated his victory at the restaurant 14 Hands. The
5’ 11” trainer was sitting at a table, wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt, jeans, and the same smile from the winner’s circle. He stated, ”I always expect to win. We put everything into these horses: conditioning, proper diets, daily care. It’s my position to decide what type of race they should enter for a win. If things do not go right, I blame myself, as I should because I am with these Thoroughbreds every day and know them inside out.”


Machowsky took out his trainer’s license in 1989 and saddled his first winner, Bidadip, on New Year’s Day at Santa Anita in 1990. Almost two years later, on December 22, 1991, Native Boundary became his first stakes winner, while Dancing Rhythm, winner of the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes in 1998, was his first graded stakes winner. In 2009, he won the $900,000 Sunland Derby with Kelly Leak, over future Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in fourth.

Born September 19, 1965, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Machowsky was two when his family moved to Southern California. He became interested in horses through his physician father’s ownership of Quarter Horses and, later, Thoroughbred racehorses. When the popular, nearly white colt Vigors -- winner of the 1978 Santa Anita Handicap -- caught Machowsky’s attention, he never looked back.

He knew he had found his calling and would be relentless in its pursuit. He began working as a hotwalker and mucked stalls for trainer Clay Brinson after school and on weekends. At 15, he traveled to Del Mar with Brinson and stayed in a motorhome across the street from the track. He worked as a groom for trainer Henry Moreno for two years before moving to Mandella’s barn.

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Part II: The industry in the digital age

Rejuvenation and uncertainty in Maryland

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