ARCADIA, Calif. -- Trainer Mel Stute won the 2,000th race of his career at Hollywood Park last Saturday, a win that caught him by surprise since he was unaware of the looming milestone.
The 83-year-old trainer was still glowing from the achievement Wednesday, largely because he is not sure when his next winner will arrive.
Stute has just five horses in his Santa Anita barn and plans to sell the horses owned by his wife, Annabelle, at Barretts in Pomona, Calif., in January. He will be left with just a few horses owned in partnership.
Stute won the first race last Saturday with Score for Fun, but it was late in the afternoon before he was honored in the Hollywood Park winner's circle. A few track's employees found Stute in a horsemen's lounge and urged him to come to the winner's circle with Annabelle.
"I was betting on some race and they said, 'We want you in the winner's circle,' " Stute said. "I didn't know what they wanted. I didn't have the slightest idea."
Stute spent Wednesday morning at his favorite haunt, Clocker's Corner at Santa Anita, the breakfast patio that overlooks the racetrack.
"I think I'm the oldest trainer around here," he said.
Even though Santa Anita recently installed a dirt track for its upcoming winter-spring meeting that begins Dec. 26, Stute said he has no plans to expand his stable. The track's three-year experiment with synthetic surfaces that ended this year did not work to his advantage.
"These new tracks buried me," he said.
Stute is best known for his success with Snow Chief, the champion 3-year-old male of 1986. That year, Snow Chief won the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, and Preakness Stakes.
The same season, Stute trained Brave Raj, the champion 2-year-old filly. In 1987, Stute won the Breeders' Cup Sprint with the female Very Subtle. But in recent years, his stable size has dwindled. His last stakes win came with Hurry Up Austin in the Kangaroo Court Stakes at Santa Anita in October 2008.
He said he will not walk away from the game.
"This is my love," he said. "Some people want to own a house on the beach. I enjoy this."