LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen July  25, 2024


Top Louisiana horseman Kenneth Roberts, Sr. was honored on Saturday, July 8 with his eighth Delta Downs leading trainer trophy! Unlike last year, when he edged Michael Taylor by one win, Roberts was out in front for much of the season. He won 61 races and was also the top money earning conditioner with $1.5 million in purses. His top performer, TM Ranchís Heza Louisiana Dash won three stakes, culminating with an impressive victory in the $100,000 Louisiana Classic (G2).

Roberts was pleased with the success of his stable at Delta Downs, but acknowledged one other event on the final night of the meet that meant a great deal to him.

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser made an appearance in support of Louisiana racing. Not only did he participate in the LQHBA Youth Scholarship drawings, but the prominent Louisiana politician visited with fans and horsemen during the races. He spoke of his new initiative on behalf of the Louisiana Office of Tourism and his goal to keep Louisiana as a leader in the equine industry.

Nungesserís enthusiasm impressed Roberts greatly.

"For the Lt. Governor to come to the races and lend his support means a lot," said Roberts. "He saw, first hand, what this industry means to the people of Louisiana. Itís another step forward for racing and we could not succeed without our legislators."

Roberts is the backside representative for his fellow horsemen and is currently serving a four-year term on the HBPA Board of Directors. He is the lone Quarter Horse member, and is pleased to lend his time.

"Everyone is working together in Louisiana," added Roberts. "Itís probably the best state in the country to run horses."

Tony Patterson, executive director of the LQHBA, recognizes the loyalty that Roberts has shown to Louisiana Quarter Horse racing.

"We are very fortunate to have Kenny as one of our leading horsemen," said Patterson. "He is tremendously respected by owners, fans and his fellow horsemen. It was a pleasure to honor him again at our annual LQHBA Awards Banquet and to see the admiration that so many of our association members have for his excellence."

Inspired by Another Roberts

Roberts gives credit to Kenny Roberts Jr., a former football coach in Dayton, Texas, who breaks a lot of the Roberts runners on his farm.

"Weíre not kin," Roberts said. "But he is someone I respect and have learned from. Kenny knows horses and communicates what he sees; whether they tend to be aggressive or will need more time to mature. That makes my job much easier."

One common bond the two men have is football.

Kenneth Roberts was a high school athlete at Kashmere High School in Houston, Texas, and "Coach" Roberts was the guiding force with his students in Dayton.

"We have football in common, and whether you play or coach, you know you have to work hard and give your all," Roberts said. "I think it gave us both the foundation for what we do now."

Team Work in Mornings and Race Time

Jockey Donald Watson has tremendous respect for Roberts

"Kenny is a true horseman and always gives 110%," said the veteran rider. "The reason that he is so successful is that he works hard and knows his horses. And they know him!"

Watson adds that for the Roberts barn, it starts in the very beginning.

"When he first gets the horses, he monitors them very closely and figures out each as an individual," said Watson. "Same thing for morning works; Kenny is out there every morning, watching and making sure things are going well."

Itís a team effort for Roberts beginning with his owners, to his assistants, grooms and jockeys. Watson knows that his feedback on runners is important to Roberts.

"I will tell him if I feel a horse needs to shorten up, or with a horse like B and G Fast Dash, that he would really be good stretching out," adds Watson. "We work well together and sometimes two heads are better than one."

Sale Prospects

Roberts just returned from the TQHA Yearling Sale in San Antonio and will be very busy evaluating the 625 prospects in the annual LQHBA Yearling Sale in Kinder. He has a wealth of experience in helping his owners identify potential champions.

While his process might begin with pedigree, conformation and soundness, an intangible usually seals the deal.

"When I go look at a horse, I have to get a sense about him," said Roberts. "Itís a feeling that I get that makes me believe there is something special. Those are the horses I will tell my owners I really want."

Of course, once he begins to train his sale graduates, each has his or her own timeline in developing as a racehorse. Last year, Roberts and Steve Holland of TM Ranch selected the sale topper, Cant Catchacorona, a full brother to AQHA champion aged stallion Open Me A Corona. The $105,000 sale price for the colt, by Coronas Leaving You and out of the Mr Eye Opener mare In The Open, was the highest in the 2016 LQHBA Yearling Sale.

"He had a little problem and we had to back off and not push him," stated Roberts. "He made his debut in the Lee Berwick trials and ran a decent third. We gave him a race the last day of the Delta meet and now we are pointing to the LQHBA Sale Futurity in New Orleans."

The gray colt broke his maiden on July 8 at Delta Downs and will make his next start on August 18, which is opening day for the 2017 Quarter Horse meet at Fair Grounds. The card will be filled with trials for the $150,000-added LQHBA Sale Futurity.

Roberts acknowledges that each yearling is different in their development and stands firmly against rushing young horses. He is grateful to Holland for supporting his decision-making on when to race or back off for a few months.

"I respect Steve a great deal for that," acknowledged Roberts. "My goal is always to do the right thing for the horse and the owner. I want them to have their trust in me and am so blessed to have good owners who have faith in me."

Fair Grounds Bound

Roberts heads into August with 40 horses stabled at Fair Grounds for their upcoming live racing season, which begins on August 18.

"It's a shorter meet, but by that time of the year, you have a pretty good idea what you have in your barn," said Roberts.

The Fair Grounds meet wraps on September 9 with the final of the LQHBA Sale Futurity. Roberts has won the stakes five time, beginning in 1985 with Flashy Hemp, and most recently with Telarosa in 2015.

He is currently the leading AQHA trainer in wins for 2017 and will certainly keep his momentum going as he heads to Evangeline Downs.

We wish Kenneth Roberts all the best in the months to come and thank him for his many contributions to Louisiana Quarter Horse racing!

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.