By Katie Merritt
Patrick Fields may be relatively new to the game that is horse racing in terms of training, but he’s certainly familiar with the racetrack and the lifestyle that comes with it. His father, a jockey, met his mother in the racing office, where she worked at the time, so Fields grew up on the track. Patrick was born in Oklahoma, where his dad was riding at the time, grew up in Michigan (where both of his parents are from), graduated high school in Mississippi, and went to college at William Penn University in Iowa on a football scholarship. When you ask him where he’s from, you’ll get a response typical of most ‘race trackers’ – “I’m from all over!”
Growing up, Fields accompanied his dad to work more often than not, since kids were allowed on the racetrack and not in the card casino where his mother dealt poker. “When he was breaking babies, I would saddle them and make sure everything was ready,” he explained. “When he was galloping at the track, I would saddle his horses too,” he added, “And I would go to the rail and watch him ride and look to see if I could see if the horse was off anywhere. When he came back to the barn, I would ask him and he would tell me if I was right or wrong.” As a trainer, a keen eye for soundness issues is important, and Fields began developing his at a very young age – a benefit of spending so much time at the track.
When Patrick went to college to play football, he met his wife, Rita, who was there on a soccer scholarship. Rita graduated early, and he had sustained a couple of minor injuries, so they decided to go ahead and go to Phoenix, Arizona. Patrick left school knowing exactly what he wanted to do. “The only two jobs I really ever wanted was either train horses or coach football,” he said with a smile. Patrick and Rita made their way to Arizona with everything they owned packed into a Jeep Grand Cherokee and big dreams.
Patrick worked as an assistant for several years before he took the plunge to go out on his own. “I worked for Kevin Eikleberry as his assistant for about five years,” he explained, adding “The first time I came here (to Canterbury) was as his assistant. We really enjoyed it. It’s a great family atmosphere here!” The following year, he came back for the summer as an assistant for Vic Hanson while training a couple of his own horses on the side. When they returned to Turf Paradise in Arizona that winter, he decided to dedicate himself whole-heartedly to training on his own.
When it comes to training horses, Fields believes the trick to success is keeping them happy. He doesn’t operate a strict training regimen that every horse must follow, but instead treats each one as its own entity. “I train each horse on an individual basis and try to figure out what works for them,” he explained. “The biggest thing is just to help them feel good, feed them well, know when a horse needs to sharpen up, or when you need to back off on them. You just have to pay attention to the horse.” Judging by his training statistics, Field has been paying close attention to his equine charges.
So far this year, from 48 starters, Patrick’s horses are winning at over 20%, a testament to the knowledge and skill he’s gained from a lifetime spent around racehorses. “We’ve been very blessed so far,” he recognized. With the success, their barn has grown steadily, and as his barn has grown so too has his family, with the births of sons Brayden and Grady. Patrick always knew he wanted to train horses or coach football. “Now I have two sons,” he grinned, “So there’s a chance I can do both at some point in time!”