Feb 28, 2023

The high-school principal's stinging words were meant to put down a teen-age student, J.R. Caldwell.

Article By: Hal Lundgren

"You'll never be anything but a horse trainer," he told Caldwell.

The principal's abruptness could be questioned, but not his
long-range accuracy.

"We're approaching $17 million in earnings," horse trainer Caldwell
ran through his career numbers. "We've had more than 6,000 wins. It
looks like things turned out the way that man said they would."

Caldwell's skills are obvious at Sam Houston Race Park. The Idaho native
holds a slight lead over fellow trainers Steve Asmussen and Bret Calhoun
at the track's thoroughbred meet, which ends April 8. No other trainer
seems within reach of them.

Caldwell's secret to winning more than 6,000 races?

"Hire the best help you can find," he said. "We have about 15 people
here at Sam Houston," plus 54 horses. "We concentrate on one barn
(track) at a time. We don't have lots of horses at other places,"

Concentrating on one track at a time, Caldwell said, enables him and
his staff to focus on choosing the right races for their horses. That
effort, he said, "Makes our horses better, our people better and me better."

Caldwell had a good reason for leaving Idaho years ago and coming
to Texas.

"I was broke," he put it straight. "I needed to make some money."

In addition to making money at SHRP, there's another reason to like
the local track.

"We (trainers) get treated right here," he explained.

"Everybody knows how good Sam Houston's grass and dirt tracks are.
But there's a lot more to like than just the surfaces. Sam Houston people
cooperate with us. They get along with us.

"We go to some tracks and get treated like criminals. Here, people are
always open to working with us."

When SHRP's meet ends, Caldwell will ship his stock to Lone Star Park,
then Remington Park. Toward the end of 2023, he might ship a few of his
top runners to Kentucky.

Today, Caldwell said he had no superior young horses that he cared to
tout. By next fall, who knows what his skills might bring out in
a promising 2- or 3-year-old? Like that principal predicted, Caldwell has
turned into quite a horse trainer.