This article was published by the “Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred” Magazine in the March, 2015 Issue.
Northern California transplant Nations zooms off to quick start to new year
BY LINDA DOUGHERTY. PHOTOGRAPHS BY EQUI-PHOTO, INC
Off to a hot start during the frigid month of January was trainer Keith
Nations, who won five times from the first nine horses that he saddled at Parx
The 52-year-old Nations came from Northern California in late 2013, moving
cross-country in search of better money and opportunities.
Unfortunately for Nations and his wife, Cheryl, what followed was the worst win-
ter in the Mid-Atlantic region in nearly acentury. The Seattle-based couple was not
accustomed to such extreme amounts of snow and ice, but it didn’t dissuade them
from making the Delaware Valley their new home.
“It was the winter from hell,” Nations said with a laugh. “I said to myself, ‘what
did I do?’ We had a synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields and never missed days
of training, while here I had to learn how to get a horse ready to run despite all the
cancellations. It was tough on my psyche.”
When Nations arrived in Bensalem, Pa.,he had five horses. In 2014, his first full year
at Parx, he won 26 races from 90 starts for a 29-percent strike rate. Thanks to several
old clients and some new ones, Nation’s stable has expanded and he expects to be
conditioning about 60 horses by summer.
One of his top clients from California was Hank Nothhaft, a Pennsylvania native
who lives in the Golden State but is a board member of the Pennsylvania Horse
Breeders Association and owns part of several stallions at Northview PA, as well
as plenty of young homebreds foaled there.
“Hank influenced me to go to Parx, ” Nations said. “A big attraction was the
purses and that Pennsylvania-breds get an extra 40 percent.”
Nations started his career in Washington, saddling his first winner at Emerald Downs
in 2001 before moving on to the Northern California circuit. He stopped training on
his own in 2004, becoming an assistant totrainer Tom Wenzel, who won the 2007
Longacres Mile-G3 with The Great Face.
After resuming his training career in 2009, Nations developed Bailoutthe-
minister, a stakes winner owned by his other major clients, Theresa and Edward
DeNike. Nations’ best year came in 2012, when he won four stakes and popped with
26 wins from 99 starts. Among his top horses that season was Control Seeker,
who won the Bull Dog Handicap at Fresno and the Joseph T. Grace Handicap at Santa
Rosa and finished the season with a second in the All American Stakes-G3 at Golden
Despite the trials of winter in the Mid-Atlantic, Nations now believes the move
was the right thing to do. “By far, it was the best move I’ve ever
made,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity here, and it’s kind of cool to be able to
travel around to all the different racetracks in the area. The people at Parx have treated
me great, and my wife and I are enjoying ourselves taking in all the historical places
in the region. The stable started out small,but it’s growing and now there are West
Coast people wanting to send horses tome. It was a great decision.”