Coach Greg Compton enjoying career year * The Racing Biz
It’s a long way from Hot Springs, Arkansas to Stanton, Delaware: nearly 1,200 miles by the most direct route.
But it’s a journey that’s old hat for coach Greg Compton. Compton has split his year between Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Delaware Park annually since 2017.
A routine that demands different challenges from the trainer: the different horse populations of the two tracks. The whims of finding good help. Rules vary from place to place.
But while his barn has mostly stayed under the radar over the years, he’s enjoying a solid 2022 in the mid-Atlantic. Compton’s runners have won 11 of 54 starts in Delaware this season, and the $300,520 in purse winnings they’ve generated is good for 13th place in the coaching standings and represents his most prolific season locally.
The Compton Barn won three of five starts during race week ending October 1 to earn The racing business Coach of the Week title from Delaware correspondent Mike Valiante.
“The thing that has changed is that I have a great client who supports me and who is very interested and aggressive in claiming horses,” Compton said. “He made the right claims and we won shakes on the right horses and lost shakes on the right horses. That’s really the key, you have to have someone supporting you.”
That supporter is Danny Brown, and Brown, Compton and Charis Brenneman have teamed up this year to win 16 races – nearly all of his career-best 19 at Compton that year. His pocket win of nearly $740,000 is also the best of his career.
The trio have teamed up to own Delaware allowance winners such as Windcracker, Full Authority and Shacks Way, all obtained through the claim box.
“I would say five or six [of the claims they have made this year] were really good claims, and then there are some others that, you know, are fine,” Compton said. “They’re solid horses and we’ll win a race or two with them: just try to be aggressive and put them in the right spot.”
Compton, an Arkansas native who grew up in North Little Rock, says he was “always interested in racing” from a young age. But without a family connection to sport, that was all.
He graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in “Sports Medicine/Athletic Training,” he said. And then…
“I had a job that I just didn’t like and I just decided to work with horses,” he recalls.
He worked in Oaklawn for trainer Bobby Barnett before getting a job at Silverton Hill Farm, where he stayed for five years, raising babies, rehabilitating horses and training some off the farm.
He started solo in 2009, winning three races that year and one the next before winning in 2011 with 11 out of 60 starters. Three years later he’s won 19 races, a number he hasn’t surpassed yet but will likely match this year.
Compton, 50, primarily raced in Kentucky after Oaklawn’s season through 2017. That year, after being spurred on by people with Delaware connections like Pat Pope, Lenny Rera and Jed Doro, he brought his horses to Delaware following Oaklawn’s spring closure. He has been racing here ever since.
“It went very well,” said the coach. “I enjoy Delaware Park and try to run here as much as possible. But if you need to ship, it’s probably the best location here in the mid-Atlantic because it kind of feels like the hub.”
With a horse he shipped in 2020, things almost went sideways for Compton. Coach Adams, a horse he owned and trained – and one he had named after a close friend – came back positive for lamotrigine after winning a December race at Penn National.
“I’ve never heard of lamotrigine in my life,” Compton recalled. “I had to google it.”
Lamotrigine is marketed as Lamictal and is used to treat epilepsy and to stabilize mood in bipolar disorder. It is considered a Class 1 drug, meaning it should never be used on a horse. In other words, it could have been a complete nightmare and career killer.
After an investigation that lasted for most of the following year, the Pennsylvania Racing Commission finally upheld the disqualification on September 14, 2021, but ruled that the fine and suspension originally imposed on Compton “should be held in abeyance as long as Mr. Compton has no drug violations.”
“Pollution has been detected,” Compton said.
That single positive is the only one Compton has gotten in a career that now spans nearly 1,100 starts.
With the Delaware meeting nearing its conclusion on November 5th, Compton must consider moving to Oaklawn, which is a tougher meeting than Delaware with higher class horses. While some of the horses he now has will do well in Oaklawn, others will not.
He said he hopes to “replenish, reload” with new claims at Churchill Downs and Keeneland this fall and return to Arkansas with a stable of 16-20 runners. These numbers include some claim and grant types and possibly some Arkansas-bred babies.
Whatever happens, Compton will try to be prepared for every eventuality.
“You never know with this job. You never know if help will come or if you’re understaffed,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. So you kind of have to stay fit and ready.”