Sunday, February 25, 2024

O’Connell Becomes North America’s All-Time Leading Female Trainer – Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

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Florida-based trainer Kathleen O’Connell sent out her 2,386th winner Sunday at Tampa Bay Downs, surpassing Kim Hammond as North America’s all-time leading female trainer.

The record-breaking win came in the track’s fifth race when My Eagle Soars captured the six-furlong event for $16,000 maiden claimers by a half length in 1:11.86. The 3-year-old Khozan gelding, ridden by Antonio Gallardo, is owned by O’Connell along with P and G Zambelli Inc. and returned $14.40.

O’Connell equaled Hammond’s all-time record of 2,385 wins Saturday in Tampa Bay’s sixth race with first-time starter Dream Concert, also ridden to victory by Gallardo.

O’Connell, who has about 60 horses between Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream, began training on her own in 1981. Her 17,315 starters through Saturday also account for 2,280 seconds and 2,154 thirds and $46,740,925 in purse earnings.

Thus far this year, O’Connell has a 16-18-16 record from 118 runners who have banked purses totaling $360,180.

She has won nine graded stakes, three from 1997-2000 with Blazing Sword, a product of the late Gilbert G. Campbell’s breeding and racing operation that became synonymous with O’Connell. Among her other graded victories were the 2011 Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, with Watch Me Go; the 2003 Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes, with Ivanavinalot; the 2019 Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes with Well Defined; and back-to-back runnings of the Grade 2 Princess Rooney in 2018 and 2019 with Stormy Embrace.

Hammond, who competes mainly in the Midwest, is still actively training but has yet to have a winner from 16 starters this year. Since launching her training career in 1980, her 15,706 starters have posted 2,178 seconds and 2,009 thirds and bankrolled $21,458,057 in purse earnings.

New York trainer Linda Rice follows Hammond and O’Connell on the all-time list, with 2,266 victories through Saturday.

Gai Waterhouse of Australia is acknowledged as the world’s No. 1 all-time female trainer in victories with more than 7,000, according to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

What was O’Connell thinking about when achieving the record? Maybe the resistance women faced in the industry early in her career, or the amazing stakes victories, or all the beautiful and lasting relationships she has forged in her chosen profession. And maybe her late parents Arlene and Joseph, who wanted her to go to college but supported her career choice every step of the way.

“Everything, and nothing. Because it’s just been a wonderful ride. It’s not only about the destination, it’s the journey getting there,” she said.

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