Nicholas Oakes calls them, owns them, trains them, drives them and even writes about them. In just 21 years of life the Prince Edward Islander (PEI) has achieved more in harness racing than many accomplish in a lifetime. But even so its attaining journalism degree at the University of PEI that is his main priority.
When most horsemen leave University for a career in harness racing Cornwall (PEI) born Oakes is doing the just opposite.
He might have training and driving duties at Charlottetown Driving Park tomorrow (Thursday May 19) – but with five training victories and one winning drive under his belt, Oakes still maintains getting a degree is paramount at this stage of his life.
“I’m only young. And even at this stage of life I have realised that driving and driving long-term won’t put food on the table. Ideally I would like to get my University degree and then perhaps get a race announcing job or something that is journalistically harness-racing related.
“Then perhaps when I’m older I could revert back to driving and training but I’ve already got a journalism diploma from Holland College and it is important to me to do two more years at the University of PEI and get my degree,” Oakes told Harnesslink.
Oakes has already called at about a dozen different Canadian racetracks including Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, Grand River Raceway, and Hiawatha Park.
He’s also written for some mighty harness racing publications including Harnesslink, Trot Magazine, Hoof Beats, Horsemen and Fair World, The Canadian Sportsman, Standardbred Canada and the local Charlottetown newspaper – The Guardian.
“I’ve had some memorable interviews over the years and Brian Sears and Ron Pierce stand out as a couple of personalities I won’t forget in a hurry. Actually speaking to you right now seems kinda weird. I’m usually doing the interviewing,” Cornwall-based Oakes said.
Oakes jogged his first horse when he was 15. Driving standardbreds was always on the cards after relatives on both sides of his family had been involved in the industry.
“Dad (Kent) raised horses, had broodmares and undertook breeding programmes for the Department of Agriculture in PEI while his father Charlie was also a trainer.
“Then there was my great uncle George who trained in New York State and on Mum’s side my great uncle Bob Creswell also owned horses.”
In fact it was ownership that brought Oakes his most satisfying moment in the sport to date.
“That was when the first horse I owned won at Charlottetown. His name was Township Blazeaway. He’s 10 now,” Oakes said.
His only driving success came at Charlottetown on June 20, 2009 when he steered Lofty Game – thegelding he also trained, to victory in a $3,000 claimer.
However he has had matinee wins prior to that. In fact when he was 19 he won a race in just his second race-day drive behind Lofty Game, also at Charlottetown.
Just recently he purchased Divot Hanover 4-year-old mare Revlon Bayama. He qualified her on April 23 and they will line up in the third event at Charlottetown tomorrow (Thursday). They have drawn four of nine and are quoted at 8-1 in the betting.
Oakes heads to The University of PEI after the summer break in September.
He said he intended carrying on driving and training Revlon Bayama until then.
“If she’s still racing okay then I’ll work my training around my study schedule. I’ve always had one in work but I don’t want the horses to get in the way of my studies for now. There will be plenty of time for racing later on in my life,” Oakes said.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
Nicholas Oakes in a race announcer contest at Grand River Raceway in July 2008: