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 trip that’s become old hat to trainer Greg Compton. Compton has split his year between Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Delaware Park annually since 2017.
Yet while his barn has been mostly 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 at Delaware this season, and the $300,520 in purse earnings they have generated are good for 13th in the trainer standings and represent his most prolific season locally.
The Compton barn won three of five starts during the racing week ending October 1 to earn The Racing Biz trainer of the week title from Delaware correspondent Mike Valiante.
“The thing that’s changed is I’ve got a great client who’s backing me who’s very interested and aggressive in claiming horses,” Compton said. “He’s made the right claims, and we’ve won shakes on the right horses and lost shakes on the right horses. That’s really the key is you have to have somebody backing you.”
That backer is Danny Brown, and Brown, Compton, and Charis Brenneman have teamed up this year to win 16 races – almost the entirety of Compton’s career-best 19 this year. His purse earnings, nearly $740,000, also are a career best.
The trio has teamed up to own Delaware allowance winners like Windcracker, Full Authority, and Shacks Way, all obtained via the claim box.
“I’d say five or six [of the claims they have made this year] have been really good claims, and then there’s some others that, you know, they’re okay,” 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 that he was, even at a young age, “always interested” in racing. But, without any family connection to the sport, that was as far as it went.
He graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a degree in “sports medicine/athletic training,” he said. And then…
“I had a job I just really didn’t like, and I just decided I wanted to work with horses,” he remembered.
He went to work at Oaklawn for trainer Bobby Barnett before getting a job working for Silverton Hill Farm, where he stayed for five years breaking babies, rehabbing horses, and training a few off the farm.
He went out on his own in 2009, winning three races that year and one the next before winning with 11 of 60 starters in 2011. Three years later he won 19 races, a number he has not yet topped but is likely to this year.
Compton, 50, mostly raced in Kentucky after Oaklawn’s season until 2017. That year, after being prodded by folks with Delaware connections like Pat Pope, Lenny Rera, and Jed Doro, he took his horses to Delaware after Oaklawn’s spring closure. He’s been racing here since.
“It’s worked out really well,” the trainer said. “I enjoy Delaware Park and try to run here as much as possible. But when you do need to ship, it’s probably the best location of anywhere here in the Mid-Atlantic because it kind of seems like the hub.”
It was with a horse that he shipped out, in 2020, that things almost went sideways for Compton. Coach Adams, a horse he owned and trained – and one he’d named for a close friend – came back with a lamotrigine positive after winning a December race at Penn National.
“I never heard of lamotrigine in my life,” Compton recalled. “I had to Google it.”
Marketed as Lamictal, lamotrigine is used to treat epilepsy and stabilize moods in bipolar disorder. It is considered a Class 1 drug, meaning one that should never be used on a horse. It could, in other words, have been a complete nightmare and a career-killer.
Eventually, after an investigation that continued for most of the following year, the Pennsylvania Racing Commission on September 14, 2021 affirmed the disqualification but ruled that the fine and suspension initially handed out to Compton should be “held in abeyance as long as Mr. Compton has no medication violations.”
“It was ruled an environmental contamination,” Compton said.
That single positive is the only one Compton has gotten in a career now spanning nearly 1,100 starts.
With the Delaware meet nearing its November 5 conclusion, Compton has to think about the transition to Oaklawn, which is a tougher meet with higher-end horses than Delaware. While some of the horses he has now will fit just fine at Oaklawn, others will not.
He said he hopes to “replenish, reload” with new claims at Churchill Downs and Keeneland this fall and to return to Arkansas with a stable of 16-20 runners. That figures to include some claiming and allowance types and perhaps some Arkansas-bred babies.
Whatever happens, Compton will try to stay ready for any eventuality.
“With this job, you never know. You never know if the help is going to show up or you’re going to be short-handed,” he said. “You never know what’s gonna happen. So you kind of have to stay fit and ready.”