LQHBA Insider - By Martha Claussen June  20, 2024


The usually calm, cool and collected Kenneth Roberts, Sr. was a little on edge on Saturday, July 9. It was the closing night of the 2016 Delta Downs Quarter Horse meet and Roberts was tied in the trainer standings with last year's winner, Michael Taylor.

"He won't admit it, but he was nervous," said his brother Roy.

Taylor won the opener when Chaos got the head bob in a 400 yard maiden race. Roberts tied it up with a runaway romp by B and G Fast Dash in the $50,000 Live Oak Stakes. His newly minted 870 yard runner drew off by 5 1/2 lengths under rider Donald Watson, who piloted Robert's trainee Shining Presence to victory in the third race. Roberts was up by one win, but both horsemen had solid prospects in both the $244,360 Delta Downs Derby and the $690,295 Lee Berwick Futurity.

In the Derby, Roberts ran second with Jessa Louisiana Zoom to First Prize Denim and in the night's finale, longshot Watergirl B prevailed over the Taylor-trained Louisiana Jewels in the Lee Berwick.

So, with both great relief and gratitude to his team, Roberts accepted his seventh Delta Downs leading trainer trophy!

"I was really happy to win the title," admitted Roberts. "Mike teased me about it every day; just like last year when he beat me by one win, it went down to the wire. He has really good horses and we have always had mutual respect for each other."

Team Roberts

Roberts gives a lot of credit to his team, which includes his brother, Roy and a committed crew on the backside as well as on his farm in Mauriceville.

"I really appreciate everyone who works for me," acknowledged Roberts. "It's all about teamwork for the amount of horses that we run at each meet. I am blessed to have such good people on my side."

Roberts was a high school athlete at Kashmere High School in Houston, Texas, and his work ethic in basketball and football gave him valuable insights into training Quarter Horses.

"My coaches taught me the importance of never quitting," he said. "I was on one of the best high school football teams in Houston and I am grateful for everything I learned. It definitely gave me a foundation for what I do now."

But make no mistake about Roberts also being a "hands on" horseman. Check out the many times in the saddling paddock when it is Roberts, and not his groom, who hand walks a nervous runner. Sometimes you will see him simply stand beside the horse, often, without words, calming the athlete in his own special way.

"I've got horses that give my grooms trouble," explains Roberts. "But by me being tall, I look them in the eye, and the majority know not to do anything crazy."

You can sense the respect his trainees have for the veteran horseman, who has saddled close to 14,000 runners since he began his career in 1977.

An Eye for Yearlings

Roberts will attend the LQHBA Yearling Sale on August 12-13, with many of his owners counting on his expertise in spotting potential champions.

He truly enjoys evaluating yearlings. For Roberts, it is more than pedigree and conformation.

"A lot of times, I will pass by a horse and just get a feeling," said Roberts. "I will go to my owners and tell them that we have to have this one. I don't want to buy just to say we own the horse. I want to spot one that will turn out to be special, to be part of us."

Doug Traylor, who has been associated with Roberts since 2012 knows that Roberts has an exceptional eye for prospects at the sales.

"I remember a few years ago, I picked out a bunch of hip numbers from the catalog," said Traylor. "Kenny attended the sale and I called him and asked how many he bought for me. It turned out that he bought several, but none that I had marked."

However, there were no hard feelings on Traylor's part.

"For this year's LQHBA Yearling Sale, I just glanced at the catalog, but then admitted that there was no sense in me wasting my time," Traylor admitted. "Kenny will pick out the right ones!"

Traylor's success with Roberts includes multiple stakes winners, Dashin Gage and Telarosa. Dashin Gage won seven career races including the 2012 LQHBA Sale Futurity and the 2014 Louisiana Champions Day Classic (G2). Telarosa, a Jet Black Patriot filly, captured the $303,777 LQHBA Sale Futurity last September at Fair Grounds and the Vinton Stakes earlier this year at Delta Downs.

"Kenny has a plan for every horse," adds Traylor. "Last year, Telarosa was eligible to run in the Lee Berwick Futurity consolation, but he felt it was in her best interest to skip that and prepare for the Fair Grounds meet. Once again, he was right and she won the Sale Futurity!"

Owner and Rider Connections

Traylor is just one of the many owners who have enjoyed long and rewarding associations with Roberts. The trainer-owner relationship is not always easy as owners pay a lot of money, and with many runners, the results don't come overnight.

"I am blessed to have owners who have stuck with me through thick and thin," acknowledged Roberts. "They listen and understand when I tell them one of their horses is just not ready yet. Their faith in me means a great deal."

Roberts has supported the careers of many talented jockeys for almost four decades. Some of his notable veterans include Alvin “Bubba” Brossette, Charles McMahon, Randy Edison, John Hamilton, Lucas Constantin and Patrick Watson..

Watson suggested that Oscar Rhone's B and G Fast Dash could be a very good "hook" horse. He was certainly spot on as he won his 870-yard debut by four lengths and followed that up with an even greater margin of victory in the $50,000 Live Oak Stakes on July 9.

"Their input is important," said Roberts. "Over the years many of my riders have offered suggestions that have really made a difference. Just like with owners, it is a relationship and working together as a team is the only way we can be successful." .

Fair Grounds Bound

Roberts heads into August ranked fourth in the AQHA national Quarter Horse trainer standings. He expects to have approximately 40 horses stabled at Fair Grounds for their upcoming live racing season, which begins on August 17.

"It's a shorter meet, but by that time of the year, you have a pretty good idea what you have in your barn," said Roberts. "The really good part is seeing some late-developing runners blossom, like Telarosa did last year."

He has a dozen 2-year-olds eligible to run in trials for the LQHBA Sale Futurity.

Where's the Love for Louisiana Racing?

Roberts was born in Lafayette and was one of the top horsemen in Texas before setting up shop in Louisiana. He applauds the efforts of the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association and the state's lawmakers who have fought for extended meets at three of the four racetracks in Louisiana.

However, he shakes his head that so much more attention is lavished on horses competing on the New Mexico, California and Oklahoma circuits.

"It bothers me to an extent, but I can't let it worry me," stated Roberts. "The racing and breeding in this state deserves respect. Mr Jess Perry came from Louisiana and look at all the great horses from his line."

Roberts continues to be a proud supporter of Louisiana racing.

"I've had new owners approach me about buying Louisiana-breds," said Roberts. "The incentives are really good. For me, why do I want to go anywhere else when I can run in my home state and make a very good living?"

Tony Patterson, executive director of the LQHBA, is grateful to Roberts for his dedication to Louisiana Quarter Horse racing.

"Where do you start when talking about all the great accomplishments of Kenny?" asked Patterson. "He is a talented and dedicated horseman who is a tremendous ambassador for Louisiana Quarter Horse racing. On top of that, he is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet!"

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The LQHBA Insider is a monthly feature written by Martha Claussen for www.lqhba.com. She served as publicity director at Sam Houston Race Park for ten years. She continues to be active in writing, fan education and Quarter Horse racing publicity in Texas, Louisiana and other regions in North America.