Dennis is, in many ways, an “old-school” trainer. He restricts his stable to a very manageable size, allowing him to pay close attention to each horse, and note any day-to- day changes, no matter how subtle. Also, while certainly attuned to the importance of the bottom-line, he understands that the health of his horses, both physical and mental, is paramount, and that careful management typically pays dividends in the long run.
Quick fixes, including medications designed to mask problems, are not what he seeks when a symptom appears. Discerning underlying problems, and resolving them before minor symptoms develop into serious issues, is of overriding importance. Beyond the health of the horses, another benefit of this conservative approach is that vet bills tend to be modest, and especially when compared with those typically associated with larger stables.
Dennis has been training Thoroughbred racehorses for decades, but continues to learn. He knows that he hasn’t made his last mistake, and, while infrequent, when he does make one, he immediately faces up to it and adjusts accordingly.
Much like high-profile trainers Bill Mott and Barclay Tagg, Dennis learned his craft from the ground up, on smaller circuits, and initially with low-grade stock. Trainers with such backgrounds hold a distinct advantage over those who begin their careers with higher-class stock.
The reason is that when working with cheaper, often unsound stock, and mostly modest pedigrees, trainers are forced to learn how to manage in such a way that they can both get the most out of their runners, and keep them sound. That may sound obvious, and it may also be tempting to assume that all trainers aspire to do the same. But the fact is that, especially today, in an age in which “mega-stables” are more prevalent than ever, it cannot be taken for granted that most horses are developed to their full potential, nor that they are managed with long careers in mind.
These are some of the reasons why Dennis has, throughout his career, achieved remarkable results with older horses. And by “older”, I don’t just mean four of five – I mean winning stakes with horses racing at the ripe old ages of seven, and even eight!
In recent years, Dennis has consolidated his stable in Florida, and is now based at the Oak Ridge Training Center year-round. He races at both major Florida racetracks, and maintains a small division of runners at Gulfstream Park, under the watchful eye of long-time assistant trainer Nicole Roman. Typically, runners are shipped to Gulfstream soon before a race, and given the benefit of a brief acclamation period, as well as any necessary gate schooling, etc. When racing at Tampa Bay Downs, horses are shipped the morning of the race, and, as Dennis utilizes his own, high-quality trailers, costs are minimized, while the horses benefit from customized service.
The Oak Ridge Training Center confers many advantages to a racing stable as well, including a training turf course, ultra-safe track, turn-out paddocks, and much more.
It should also be noted that as President of Oak Ridge, Dennis has full control over the condition and maintenance of the tracks, assuring that all horses stabled on the grounds have the safest possible surfaces over which to train.
Finally, as communication is an issue that understandably concerns most owners, Dennis is happy to speak regularly with his owners, and/or their representatives, and is a strong believer in ‘telling it like it is’.
To contact Dennis, please click here.
Some of Dennis’ notable performers over the years include Valid Video, a high-class sprinter originally purchased for only $20,000, and winner of the 2003 Grade I King’s Bishop at Saratoga. It is worth noting that this was no ordinary edition of the King’s Bishop, as finishing a fast-closing third to Valid Video was Ghostzapper, Frank Stronach’s outstanding colt, whose only other career defeat came when he was injured in a race at two.
You can view Valid Video’s DRF PPs through the King’s Bishop by clicking here.
In the Blood-Horse article published at the time, it was stated that:
“Mack credited Manning and racing manager Aaron Cohen for Grand Hombre’s success. The gelding won the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park by 5 1/4 lengths and defeated top 3-year-olds Toccet and Dynever in the process.”
You can view Grand Hombre’s DRF PPs through the Pennsylvania Derby by clicking here.
Perhaps the best example of Dennis’ extraordinary skills as a trainer is Key Lory. An Elmendorf-bred half-brother to Blue Grass (Gr. I) winner Halory Hunter, Key Lory proved to be a very talented, though relatively unsound horse.
In spite of his infirmities, Dennis, with the support of his far-sighted and very patient owner, Mac Fehsenfeld, was able to keep Key Lory in training and winning at a high level on both dirt and turf from ages three through eight. The horse compiled a record of 10 wins in 21 lifetime starts, including two Grade III races, and earned over $400,000. Remarkably, his very last race came at Monmouth, where he won the Red Bank Hcp. (Gr. III) at age eight!
You can read about that victory in a Blood-Horse article by clicking here.
You can view Key Lory’s lifetime DRF PPs by clicking here.
Roman Tiger, purchased for $20,000 as a two-year- old, won the Gr. III Tampa Bay Stakes as a seven-year- old.
Victory Alleged also won the Tampa Bay Stakes, but as an eight-year-old!
While Dennis is a master with older runners, he is also quite capable with early developers. Snappy Landing finished second in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont, then third to the brilliant Arazi in the 1991 Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
In 2012, Crafty Unicorn, which was subsequently sold privately, won the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes in his career debut.