Lone Star Trainer: Karl Broberg Claims the King of Sport

As the Lone Star Park 2021 Season gets underway on Thursday in Grand Prairie, Texas, HorseRacing.net/us examines the role that leading trainer Karl Broberg will play. His impact on the sport and abilities are something horse racing sorely needs. See why, in this fascinating 'Feature' . . .
As the Lone Star Park 2021 Season gets underway on Thursday in Grand Prairie, Texas, HorseRacing.net/us examines the role that leading trainer Karl Broberg will play. His impact on the sport and abilities are something horse racing sorely needs. See why, in this fascinating "Feature" . . .

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The glass door swings effortlessly with its thick tubular handle. Those that grip it, trigger a digital sounding bell that alerts those present of someone new on the premises. Each time he’d see them, even if it was fleeting, it was like rubbing elbows with some “celebs.” He wasn’t shy, never has been anyway, so it was natural to solicit information from them . . . wanting to know, “How about that colt you’ve got running today, doesn’t he try harder in a spot like this one?” Or he’d query, “You know that one tends to break slowly, don’t you think?”

In this instance, Karl Broberg, a high school dropout, wasn’t keeping company with the tipsters at the Bar & Book or as a railbird observing the riders strolling by; rather he was at his local QuikTrip Gas Station off of Hwy360 in Arlington, Texas. He didn’t hang out at the local “QT,” waiting to casually run into future Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen or randomly bump into then up-and-coming jockey Corey Lanerie or steadfast veteran rider Roman Chapa. No . . . he was there for quite a different purpose.

It was just after 1999, and back then, Broberg actually managed one of these exceedingly clean and nicely appointed establishments that has several locations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Area. To hear him tell it, it really wasn’t another lifetime ago. Less than a decade later, after coming down to the Metroplex from Tulsa, Oklahoma for this managerial position, Broberg‘s career entered the world of Thorougbred racing. Not as a bettor, he’d already been betwixt that lot; it was instead about stable ownership. This was his own ship, and it’s not trite to say, that it was a dream come true.

When I spoke to him by phone this past week, he recalled that, “I heard about this transfer, and thought to myself, that’s near Lone Star Park, one of my favorite tracks, and way better than Fair Meadows, so it was a pretty inviting prospect to make the move.” That’s Broberg for you, a man who sees an opportunity, and embraces a broader vision for what can be. But he’s much more than that, as he is like all of us, a person with a complex personality. For instance, there is a public-side and a private-side to the Texas-based trainer that you might have encountered.

The public “Broberg” can be an outspoken critic of the sport’s hypocrisy, making statements that vary from the muddled drug testing policies across states to the lack of support from members of the turfwriting cadre. His visibility on social media (including, Rodin-esque poses in winner’s circles) are part of his vocab. He has drawn the ire of tracks (Remington Park comes to mind), and grief from industry elites for other unorthodox behavior. However, that’s only one side to this conditioner. The more private “Broberg” is a guy who is incredibly approachable and giving with his time. He knows racing through and through, and continues to be an ardent student of the game. I’d liken him to an architect, who didn’t go to graduate school, but learned how to build through trial and error. He might have read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and that did more to inspire him, than working under a particular master like Frank Gehry or I.M. Pei.

No, Broberg’s true character deep down is more introspective than you might imagine. Don’t judge the book . . . If you ask him a direct question, you get a direct answer. To be sure he is unabashed and full of enthusiasm, but he is exceedingly loyal to those that return the sentiment. Born a horseplayer, he is that at heart, and is not ashamed to admit it. “Horseplayers know things that trainers don’t,” he has argued in the past, sticking to it, “I think that gives them an edge when it comes to looking at the form of a horse.”

Ever since he took out his trainer’s license back in 2009, Broberg continues to be progressive when it comes to growing his stable in unique ways. Of course, his “bread-n-butter” stock continues to be claiming horses. That fact permeates stories about him, and is well-documented by the turf media, almost qualifying in the realm of ad nauseum. But his operations are way more diverse and extensive with over 145 charges in his keep. He enters a bevy of different types of runners across surfaces, and along the axis of the Southwest Circuit (Oaklawn-Lone Star-Sam Houston-Delta Downs-Fair Grounds), all the way to New York, and other environs along the way. Amassing a Top 5 “win-rating” since 2016, he regularly starts over 1500 runners annually. With career earnings in excess of $62 Million, he clearly deserves a seat at the circular table of the elite trainers in America.

Lone Star Park Picks, Entries & Results

The claiming business is very much like being a horseplayer, especially when it comes to looking for value. Broberg has his hand on the pulse of the game at tracks across the region because there are runners that can become good stock. People just don’t see it as they are the ones that are “blinkered.” That is where this leading conditioner is at his best. Of course, it doesn’t always work to perfection, but he has learned over the years to parry risk, and take the losses in stride. “I’ve developed my horseplaying senses,” he mused, “and that has served well in certain situations when clients are looking for a certain kind of horse.” To be involved in this business of claiming you have to know what is coming down the pike, and be ready when opportunities arise. Broberg spends countless hours researching like he is preparing for the Confucian civil service exams. It takes that kind of commitment.  

As he is quick to point out though, “I don’t do it alone.” After all, he cannot be everywhere at once. His able-bodied staff of forest rangers are well-skilled in battling wildfires, and representing Broberg’s interests. As he says, “We are part of a family that backs each other up . . . 24/7 . . . no matter what time of day or night it is . . . stables don’t sleep!” In other words, his issues are their issues, and vice versa. That kind of buy-in is embraced by a schedule that is about to shift gears, as mid-April passes the ½ mile pole.

With his team at the ready, they are his unsung reps, who are not on “social” or out offering up “soundbites.” They are out there every day minding the flock. Ever heard of Abel Ramirez who will manage the Lone Star ops? How about Artemio Ramirez at Prairie Meadows or Kevin Martin at Louisiana Downs? You shouldn’t forget about Clemente Montoya at Canterbury Park and Darwin Quevedo at Evangeline Downs. Cindy Dunlap, who roves near Arlington Park, and Herbirto Cedano, aka “Ocala,” up in New York, rounds out this salty crew. Broberg is constantly communicating with all of them, and is at the ready, to travel whenever and wherever he is needed.

When it comes to racing Thoroughbreds in Texas and Louisiana, his zeal for Delta Downs and in particular, Lone Star Park is second to none. “Those 2 tracks are near and dear to my heart,” the Dallas-based conditioner said, “I think the world of what they do, and I want to support them to the fullest extent.” And support them he has. The reciprocal at Delta has yielded yet another Training Title, which he just secured last week at the conclusion of the Meet. “There are people that have a negative viewpoint of Delta, but they are wrong,” said Broberg, “I’ve found some absolutely unbelievable people, and it’s more than a bullring.” Delta is a gem, and its purse-structure is simply unheralded.

As for Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, which is about to open its new 2021 Season on Thursday Night, the trainer is even more effusive. A 4-time leading owner (with his own company called End Zone Athletics) and 5-time leading trainer at the Meet, Broberg continues to maintain his lodestar status. That’s quite an accomplishment considering the power that Steve Asmussen has commanded over the years. “I have the utmost respect for Steve and all he has done for Texas Racing,” he said candidly, “but, I want us to be at our best going into the Lone Star Meet.” That competitive spirit will be on full display Opening Night in the first race, when Broberg’s star pupil, the 5-yr-old mare Ima Discreet Lady, sprints in the Bluebonnet Stakes for 75k in Race 1. A versatile runner on both dirt and turf, whose career earnings amount to $358,715 over 24 starts, she is quite simply the darling of Broberg’s outfit. “I am really looking forward to seeing her continue to progress this year,” the trainer beamed. It will be a fabulous start to the Meet, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. “You want to start quickly and authoritatively from the get-go and frontload,” Broberg strategized, “But, I always want to look at the bigger picture too because I have found that owners are more likely to come on board once success is realized.”     

What makes Lone Star Park so inviting for a horse’s connections is a menagerie of conditions that includes a strong stakes schedule. That purse structure is now higher than ever, bolstered by the state of Texas. A plethora of turf events are the icing on the cake, as the lawn swelters under the Southwest sun. Broberg hopes to bring another of his prize runners, Hunka Burning Love, a 7-yr-old out of Into Mischief, back to Grand Prairie for another series of attempts, as he has in the past. He was relatively coy when I asked him about the “cards” he is holding for the impending LS Meet. But that is not surprising. Like he says, “You never know what budding superstars are going to come to the surface.” An unknowing hand dealt . . .

What you uncover when you talk to the Texas trainer from DFW about his “young stock” is that Broberg possesses a refreshing candor and humility that most miss. He is also a realist when it comes to this so-called “industry.” When I asked him about future plans, trajectories, and developing models, he offered part editorial and part prophecy. “The guys like me . . . our days are numbered because all that will remain are the boutique meets,” he soberly stated. He expounded on that when he said, “I think you need to look no further to a place like Louisiana where ownership by trainers continues to rise, which is in no way a positive sign.”

Broberg understands intimately these types of inner workings, since his own company End Zone Athletics owns some of the Thoroughbreds he trains. What he deems as “too many.” I thought he put it deftly when he said, “This sport slowly but surely is reverting back to being ‘The Sport of Kings,’ and that is precisely who will dominate it—royalty.” Broberg will not be a part of that blue blooded reign. Since it will be too costly to maintain such efforts, he has even gone so far as to dissuade his own daughters from entering the business because it looms so large in his own mind. 

Thus, the public and the private-side of Broberg merge rather nicely. One defends the frontier against a tide of ill-timed change, while the other offers a success rate that is top of the food chain. It is an impressive and calculated business, run by a person who is more complex than you might have previously assumed. As the 2021 Lone Star Park Season looms, its most important trainer is ready for action. His numbers and will is strong, despite the challenges of whatever the next race brings.

Still, what a far cry from running that QT some 20 years ago, eh? Little did Steve Asmussen know that he was giving tips to someone who would become his most formidable Southwest opponent. That’s only one of the many reasons why we need Karl Broberg, and should claim him . . . as a genuine Lone Star trainer and true "King of Sport.".

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***To catch Karl Broberg, and all the other impressive conditioners who will compete for the Training Title throughout the Lone Star Park Meet, racing begins this Thursday April 22. The 4-day a week schedule will draw and run throughout April, May, and July. In June, racing will typically be contested Friday through Monday. Post times on Thursdays are at 6:35pm (CST), while it's 2:35pm (CST) on any of the other days.

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