Meet Trainer Tom Swearingen!
Trainer Tom Swearingen is an example of one of my favorite sayings: Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. When an opportunity arose, Swearingen was prepared to seize it.
Swearingen was born in Kansas City in 1959 and raised near Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas (KU). His family lived on a farm with a variety of animals, including Thoroughbreds that raced at the Nebraska tracks.
Swearingen is a product of Lawrence High School (the Lions), Class of 1977. Even though his father, Tom, Sr., was Director of the Museum of Natural History at KU, Tom enrolled at Kansas State University. “I had relatives who were veterinarians, and I was thinking of becoming one, and K State had the pre-veterinary medicine program,” explained Swearingen. He graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science.
Swearingen’s first job out of college was manager of a ranch in western Kansas. A chicken ranch. “The job really didn’t suit me,” Swearingen admitted, “so I left after one year, returned to Lawrence, and became a welder. All the time, though, I missed the animal world.”
At 24 a fortuitous encounter happened for Swearingen. “I went to see Dr. Richard Radke, an orthodontist in nearby Olathe, Kansas,” Swearingen explained. “In the course of my treatment, Dick offered me a job at his farm, taking care of the stock and breaking horses. I was ready to get back to that!”
In the course of working for Radke, another encounter became a “lucky” one for Swearingen. “On a trip to Chicago, I met Richard Hazelton who trained Doc’s horses. In the course of getting to know him better, and discussing such things as what I wanted to do in the future, Richard made suggestions for broadening my skills and experience with Thoroughbreds.”
Swearingen did just that by going to work for high-powered operations in Kentucky. First, it was working for Hal “Bubba” Snowden at Roseblade Farm for two years. Then came a job offer at Gainesway Farm, where Swearingen spent a year before moving on to Jonabelle Farm for another year.
Apparently Swearingen was more well-rounded to Hazelton’s liking, since the latter hired Swearingen as his assistant in 1988. That relationship lasted for four years and was followed by Swearingen’s one-year stint as assistant to Tim Muckler.
Swearingen was now prepared for the next “lucky” opportunity. “Tom Driscoll and Robert Bockel suggested that I go out on my own,” related Swearingen. “They became my first owners, and later I added Peter Abruzzo and the Greco family, particularly Pat Greco.
“As luck (there’s that word again) would have it, Jim Levitch retired from training and I took over his horses,” Swearingen added.
Swearingen does consider himself very fortunate. “I’ve received a lot of helpful advice and training from great mentors, which I really appreciate,” he readily offers. “Also, I’ve had a number of good horses to work with, thanks to good owners who have given me quality stock to develop.”
Swearingen’s list of good horses contains such recognizable names as Galaxy Girl, Nervous Moment, Lockstocknhouse, Secret To My Success, Keys To Astro, Jaguar Key, Barely Union Scale, and Sharp Drums.
While Swearingen has 35 horses at the track, he has more at Swearingen Farm, a 247-acre spread located between St. Charles and South Elgin. “I own the farm in partnership with the Greco family, with Pat Greco as the main man,” explained Swearingen. “We’ve been in operation for 10 years now.” Swearingen lives on the farm with wife Kristy and daughters Kaylee (14) and Skyler (13).