FOR TRAINER DAVID WALTERS, 1,500 WINS A FAMILY AFFAIR
When it comes to training horses, David Walters could be said to be something of a “ladies’ man,” since some of his most successful runners have been distaffers. So it was fitting that Walters attained his 1,500th victory January 13 with a filly named Urkillingmebeth.
Walters, who has saddled nearly 8,300 runners in his career with lifetime earnings of $14.4 million, reached the milestone with a filly who had been idle since running fourth in her September 2019 debut at Gulfstream Park. Urkillingmebeth suffered a mild foot injury in her initial outing and got plenty of rest, arriving in Walters’ barn in August.
She proved fresh and fit while taking the one-turn maiden claiming dash, a distance that the conditioner thought would be too short for her liking.
“In a way, her win kind of surprised me,” Walters said of Urkillingmebeth, who scored as the 8-5 second choice. “She had not raced in a long time and I really thought she was going to need the race. I honestly thought she would be better going 6 1/2-furlongs. She was able to sit close to the leaders down the backside and then she finished up well.”
Walters began training in the late 1970s, earning his first victory in 1979.
“Getting that milestone meant a lot to me,” he said. “When I started training horses 40 years ago, I never thought about any goals. I just wanted to be able to survive and make a living.”
Along the way, Walters has more than just simply survived. He’s won 24 stakes since 2000, according to Equibase. He’s won eight West Virginia Breeders’ Classics’ races. He’s built a solid barn that punches above its weight class.
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Three of his top four money earners were fillies or mares that won the West Virginia Cavada Breeders’ Classic, named for the lone filly to topple the boys in the big race on WVBC night.
The Walters-trained Carnival Chrome, who won the 2007 edition of the Cavada, concluded her career with 10 wins from 16 starts and just shy of $490,000 banked, making her Walters’ richest trainee. In addition to winning the Cavada, she also captured the Sadie Hawkins Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares on four occasions.
Walters’ first Cavada win came in 2001. Longfield Star took that year’s edition of the Cavada and was second in her title defense in that event one year earlier in the final start of her career. Another heroine of the Sadie Hawkins, Longfield Star concluded her career with an 8-8-4 slate and just over $250,000 banked from 41 outings.
And in 2015, Walters sent out Cuppa Mocha Mojo to capture the 2015 edition of the Cavada. She won the first five starts of her career and later concluded with a 7-2-3 slate and nearly $220,000 banked from 17 lifetime tries. Another talented Walters-trained distaffer, Chrome Mine, won both the Sylvia Bishop Memorial and Sadie Hawkins during her career.
“You know, I can’t really explain why I have done so well with fillies over the years,” said Walters. “I really think the fillies don’t need as much training as the older boys. They seem to run better when you don’t push them too much. I’ve been lucky to have some really good ones. Carnival Chrome was really special. She seemed to run well every time I sent her out there.”
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Walters, the son-in-law of late longtime local trainer Robert Hilton and Ann Hilton, is quick to credit his success to one female in particular – his wife of 40-plus years, Ellen. The couple virtually grew up together at the Hiltons’ barns at Charles Town and Shenandoah Downs. David and Ellen have two daughters, Vanessa and Samantha, and now have two grandchildren.
“I could not have done it without my wife,” Walters said. “She was there with me for the first winner and she was there with me for the 1,500th. I learned a lot from her dad when I was a groom and walking horses over from the barn to the track. I’ve enjoyed more success than I ever thought over the years. And I owe a lot of it to my wife. She was there with me every step of the way. I could not have done it without her.”