Byron “Scooter” Hughes: Kentucky-based Trainer of Record-Setting RAHYSTRADA
Thursday, August 15, 2013 Share on Facebook RSS Feeds

Byron “Scooter” Hughes was raised in the Thoroughbred industry. Both his parents were actively involved in the business, and Hughes was raised first on Greentree Farm, and then on Dr. and Mrs. Elsie Asbury’s Forest Retreat Farm near Carlisle.  Hughes’ father, Gail, was the manager of Forest Retreat, and after a long and distinguished career, he was honored as Farm Manager of the Year in 1987. Greentree Farm is where Hughes garnered the nickname “Scooter,” thanks to baseball-loving farm workers who were fans of the popular Yankee shortstop Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto. Hughes’ mother, Ruth, also had a life-changing influence on her son.  A rider and horsewoman, Ruth handled the conditioning of the young horses in Forest Retreat’s training division. It was through helping her that Hughes discovered his passion for developing Thoroughbreds. He credits his mother for inspiring his career which has spanned over two decades.

Currently based at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Hughes has some 20 horses in his charge and believes in being hands-on with each individual.  He takes a self-described “old school” approach to his operation allowing time off when needed and giving horses the chance to develop at their own rate. Hughes admits that one of his favorite aspects of his job is being able to watch a young horse develop and then to see it continue throughout their career. With that in mind, it’s only fitting that two of his most distinguished runners, Rahystrada and Solo Cat, were both thriving and succeeding at age nine. Hughes’ career is also a bit of a family affair.  He currently has four horses in training that he owns in partnership with his wife, Tracy, and with his children, Sydney and Byron.  Like Hughes, his children have chosen to continue in the family business.  Daughter Sydney is in veterinary school at Auburn, and son Byron is an assistant with trainer Todd Pletcher.

The signature horse in Hughes’ barn is Rahystrada, a 9-year-old gelding who last month won the Arlington H.-G3 for record-breaking third time.  Bred in Kentucky by Jamie Carrion, Rahystrada was stakes-placed as a 2-year-old while racing for his breeder.  An injury forced Rahystrada to be sidelined for a large part of his 3-year-old season, and he was sent to Hughes’ barn the following year.  Carrion, a long-time client of Robert Courtney Sr.’s Crestview Farm in Lexington, had made the decision cutback his Thoroughbred holdings, and Courtney’s son, Robert Jr., bought Rahystrada hoping that he and Hughes could have “some fun” with the horse. In the five years since the purchase, they have certainly had some “fun.”  Rahystrada has raced 34 times and has been on the board 24 times, amassing more than $1.2 million in earnings. In addition to his three wins in the Arlington H., Rahystrada has won the River City H.-G3, the Kentucky Cup Turf S-G3 and the Colonial Turf Cup S. Last year, he finished third in the Arlington Million-G1, and this year, he is expected to make a record-breaking fourth start in that race.  Should Rahystrada get to the winner’s circle in Chicago, he would be the oldest horse since the great John Henry to win that important race.

Other notable horses trained by Hughes include Kentucky-breds Solo Cat and Seniga.  Bred by Shawnee Farm and raced by Jay Brunker, Solo Cat was a stakes winner who won or placed in 23 races over eight seasons and earned $260,000. Seniga, a homebred racing for Dominique Tijou, was a multiple stakes-placed winner who won or placed in 13 races and earned nearly $190,000.

Hughes readily admits that he is happy to be able to make a living training horses, and that having a horse like Rahystrada is the highlight of his career.  “It’s always fun to have a really good horse,” he said with a smile.

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