Karl Broberg is running away with the title of most wins for a trainer in the nation this year, currently topping his closest competitor by 157 victories. But he wants more. He wants to get bigger, win more races, win more important races, more training titles. How many horses does he have? "Not nearly enough," he replied.
Broberg may be the most driven man in horse racing and he admits he is intoxicated by winning. As of Dec. 23, he had 418 wins on the year and was well on his way to wrapping up his second straight title as the top trainer in the nation in terms of wins. This year, he has been the leading trainer at Evangeline Downs, Delta Downs, Louisiana Downs, Lone Star Park and Remington Park. He hopes to add titles next year at Prairie Meadows and the New Mexico racetracks to his record and said his goal is to increase his 2016 win total to at least 500.
He has an insatiable appetite for success and some of his numbers are almost unfathomable. Which is why many wonder whether Broberg is simply that good or simply too good to be true. The suspicions come with the territory any time a trainer wins at the rate Broberg does. He's a 30 percent winner on the year and won with a ridiculous 43 percent of his starters this year at Evangeline Downs. Some of his horses don't run, they run out of their skin. That's what Leestown Marty did on Nov. 20 at Delta Downs when he won by 22-1/4 lengths in his first start after the Broberg claim.
Broberg counters that people who accuse him of wrongdoing simply aren't paying attention, that the primary reason he wins at such a high percentage is because he always puts his horses in a spot where they can win.
"It's so old, hearing that," he said of accusations that he's a cheat. "I do hear it all the time. I am a horseplayer, so I get the cynicism, I get the criticism. I know where people are coming from. I encourage people to look at where we spot the horses, the type of horses we claim. Every horse is claimed with a future race in mind. I've got one running at Delta that I claimed for $10,000. He didn't turn out to be what I wanted him to be, so he's in for $4,000, where he can win. That's the nature of the business."
Broberg has a number of infractions on his record, but most are minor violations, the majority of them for overages of legal drugs. He has not had any medication violations since 2013.
"I made a ton of mistakes early on," he said. "At the time I was getting those violations I didn't understand the big picture. I didn't understand how important these things were to people. I screwed up and we were sloppy. The last couple of years, I've made this a focal point, we cannot have any overages, any violations."
Well before he started training, Broberg came into the game as a gambler. He said he approaches training and claiming horses with the mentality of a horseplayer, which he said is a primary reason he continually beats his competitors.
"I think my background [as a gambler] has a ton of to do with why we've been successful," he said. "Not to downplay the great job our team does, but it's amazing how many lifelong horsemen there are who, when you put a Racing Form in front of them, are lost."
That's Broberg, a trainer, but racing's ultimate outsider.
Just six years ago he was still running an advertising agency. When his agency, End Zone Athletics, which specialized in high school sports, started to have some success he bought a few cheap horses and gave them to John Locke to train. When Locke decided to take a break from racing, Broberg stepped in and said he would take over training the horses he owned plus any others that Locke's owners wanted him to have. His entire body of experience amounted to a brief time he worked as a groom in another lifetime.
"I made it very clear to my team that failure was not an option," he said. "If we did not have immediate success the entire thing was going to blow up on us. I entered very aggressively from Day One. I ran them where I thought they fit. We started winning and just kept going. I owned a lot of them myself so they had to pay their way. If they didn't pay their way the result would be failure."
Broberg sent out his first horse as a trainer Nov. 7, 2009 at Retama Park and it lost. He then won with his next four starters. His success was immediate and it never waned. Today, he has 150 horses and wants to expand to 200.
"It's like any other business," he said. "If you're not growing you are dying."
It would seem that he's on the verge of building something too big, something that might become unmanageable. He doesn't see it that way at all.
"This isn't work to me," he said. "Before I got into racing I always worked 70-80 hours a week, so the time I spend doing this is not an issue. It's all about winning. That's what I love, winning."