Belmont Stakes & Bag of Donuts
June 8, 2024
Jan 4, 2023

Trainer Gelner's Goal: Keep Horses Happy

Article By: Hal Lundgren

Those 18 Thoroughbreds Jayde Gelner brought to Sam Houston Race Park are more than "horses" or "trainees."  He considers them teammates. 


That's why his stable rounds usually include a chat or neck rub with a few of the runners he conditions.  


"I want to keep them happy," said Gelner, 22. "When they're happy, they run better. That makes us all happy."


Gelner's instincts are accurate. A Thoroughbred has the IQ of a preschool child, and it responds to familiar human voices. 


"I think they also read your body language," he said. "They know if you're happy with them."


More horses will get acquainted with Gelner as the third-generation trainer's reputation grows. In his first full year on his own, 2022, he won his first stakes race. He nailed down four additional stakes wins, including a $100,000 score at Remington Park. 


Here for Sam Houston Race Park's Friday, 1 p.m. opener of a 43-date Thoroughbred meet, Gelner arrives with bold intention. 


"I want to be the youngest trainer to win a Breeders' Cup race," he said. 


That honor belongs to Joseph O'Brien, who triumphed in a BC race at 26. 


"I've still got time," Gelner said with no trace of arrogance. 


And he uses that time well. Back at Delta Downs, where Gelner stables his other 17 runners, the young trainer has been finishing first or second in about 40 percent of his races.


"We're a team," he said, spreading credit to associates. "It takes exercise riders, hot-walkers and other people to take care of these animals. They're all important."


The man in charge, Gelner, learned the business under his father, Scott Gelner, a Delta Downs trainer, as well as his late grandfather, John Gelner. Jayde assisted his father until breaking out on his own last year. 


"They were good teachers," Gelner assured. 


He has no runners in the Friday card. He has entered Perfect Star and Marvins' Warrior in the 1 p.m. Saturday program. 


Asked about hobbies, Gelner said, "This is it. Training is my job and my hobby. It's never planned, but some racing people will suddenly make up their minds for us to go play golf. That's about all I do that's close to being a hobby."


Striking a golf ball well is a thrill. But it can't compare with being the youngest trainer to win a Breeders' Cup race.