Patrick Shepherd always dreamed of training

07:00 AM 12 Apr 2014 NZST
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Patrick Shepherd, harness racing Shepherd Family, harness racing
Patrick Shepherd always dreamed of being a trainer
The Shepherd klan, left to right, Patrick, Steve, Robert and Dad, Harold
Photo by Frankie Houdini L

Growing up in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Patrick's dream was to train harness racing horses. Patrick is working hard to make good on his dream, currently having 22 horses in his care after moving to Ontario just over 3 years ago, the biggest province for harness racing.

"I wanted to be a driver when I first came here (to Ontario). I wasn't real successful at it and didn't set the world on fire by any means." Patrick says. "I was driving the long shots and driving my own horses... some horses were really nice and some weren't. That's why I decided I was only going to train horses."

When Patrick decided to focus only on training that's when results started to roll in, going from training 2 horses to 22 in a relative short time frame. Speaking with Patrick, it's quite surprising to find out he's only 21. The way Patrick carries himself; you would think he's 30 or 35. To the point, he's very mature for his age.

"I want to do things successfully" says Patrick. "I try really hard all the time and my goal is to win. I want to win. I will drive 5 hours to Rideau Carlton, (Ottawa, ON), to win a horse race.... I want to bring owners in."

There can be so much said for what Patrick aims for and the biggest element is Patrick being able to bring in more owners, this is how the sport will grow end over end. In a way it reminds me of compound interest, earnings will be made on prior earnings.

What is most gratifying to Patrick is seeing one of his horses win, more so knowing the time and work he put into working with that horse and seeing the fruits of his labor pay off. Patrick expresses how much he enjoys working with each horse, tinkering with the small things that other trainers may not notice.

Back in PEI, Patrick trained horses with his father, Harold. "He taught me a lot" says Patrick. "I owe him pretty much everything. He had a full time job and I went to school and there was a time we had ten horses and we did them after work and after school, being at the barn until 11:30 at night. Then going home and doing school work. We trained horses and I was (listed) as the trainer of them. He helped me, but if I wanted to change something, he would always say, 'You're the trainer'. My dad is the one who helped me out the most, taught me how to change shoeing; he's the main man behind it all."

"There were times when I did change stuff (with the horses) and it back fired. Then he would give me advice that I should have done it this way or that way. That is what helped me out a lot." Patrick explains.

Listening to Patrick, his dad taught him that mistakes will be made, but what you learn from those mistakes is what matters most. We all make mistakes at one point or another, but do we take the time to learn from our mistakes?

"I have a business now with help from my family, my dad, my mom and my brother Robert who pretty much got me set up here in Ontario. (Robert) got me here, he bought me a car, and he's the one who put a roof over my head. He's been good."

Back in PEI, working with his dad, Patrick found working with horses to be fun despite the long hours. Patrick admits it became tougher for him once he moved to Ontario. Here in Ontario the competition is steep and fierce. Woodbine and Mohawk race tracks are the two premier tracks in the province of Ontario, however the competition at any one of the other tracks is just as fierce.

"You go to Flamboro Downs and you're driving against Jody Jamison, there's Doug McNair in London (The Raceway at Western Fair)... you're always going against the top drivers anywhere. Then when I started training, I was training against the best trainers, like Richard Moreau. It was my dream to train horses and that was the hard part, facing trainers like Richard Moreau and Victor Puddy, guys that put up really big numbers."

Being humble, Patrick knows he is not as established as trainers like Casie Coleman, Richard Moreau and Anthony Montini but he is willing to put in the work to reach that level of success.

"I won't lie, when I first got here I thought I was a rock star" admits Patrick. "I drove in with the nice shoes and tried to live the 'life'."

"I was working hard, but not putting money away. When you look at the bank account and I am walking around with nice shoes on, nice training suit... and a car my brother bought me. I paid him back as we went along but I could have paid him back (quicker). It was time to get my head on straight and let's get it going. If I am going to do it, I am going to do it now."

There would be times when Patrick would be at the shopping mall and he's on his phone talking to his mom or grandmother and they want to know why he wasn't saving his money. Patrick said his grandmother gave him a great piece of advice, 'it doesn't matter how much money you have so long as your bills are paid.' That's a motto Patrick is trying to live by, day in and day out.

"It's night and day" Patrick explains. "I am a different person than I was. I'm the person who was working hard in PEI with my dad. I'm not the guy who came here and thought I could just live the life. You get a reality check when you come here cause everybody else here is trying to be successful. They're trying, doing everything they can and I had to pull myself to that level."

"That's the stuff I'm thankful for. My family might be in PEI but I can always talk to them. They help me get my head around, even when I am having a bad day at the track." Patrick says "...they always keep me on the straight and narrow. That's what keeps me motivated."

Robert Shepherd, who is Patrick's oldest brother is someone Patrick fondly looks to for advice, whether it was back when Patrick was still in school in PEI or to present day. "When Robert was in Alberta and I was still at home in PEI, he'd always be there for me to talk to or to give me advice." Patrick says, "I have another brother Stephen, but me and Robert are close. I could always pick up the phone and call him... He's been a big brother that put me on the map."

Back when Patrick was in school, instead of hanging out at the bars with friends on Saturday nights, he was at the farm working, tending to the horses. "I worked, lived and did everything at the barn" is how Patrick describes his life back then.

"My mom always kept my (busy) growing up, playing hockey or curling, but I stopped all that early... because I was getting more and more into the horses. I didn't care if all my friends were going to a beach party; I was going to the races. If I was not at the races, I was in bed and sick."

"There's probably one thing I missed out on and that was my prom and graduation." Patrick goes on to say, "I wish I was there for my prom and my graduation. I had everything ordered and I was supposed to be there but... I finished high school early. I had all my credits and I moved here to Ontario with half a year to go. I got here, started driving, working to get some money going."

"Ya I missed my prom and graduation, but I still graduated. My mom wanted me to come back, but at the time I wanted no part of that. I wanted to stay here."

Since arriving to Ontario, Patrick admits he's been quite fortunate to have owners who are willing to invest in him. Especially given the timing of his move to Ontario and what has transpired with the provincial Government and now the long term uncertainty of what lies ahead for the industry. However, this doesn't seem to faze Patrick, and it's his confidence in his abilities to persevere is what I believe draws owners to him. Owners who are willing to buy more and more horses and equipment such jog carts to ensure he has all the tools to be successful.

Patrick notes that any interaction is all about respect. It doesn't matter that he is 21, all that matters is he's fully committed and handles himself and all his affairs professionally. Sure he could go out on Saturday nights with friends, but knowing that he has horses racing the next day at Flamboro Downs (Hamilton, On), Patrick has come to learn what is a priority and what can wait. Patrick will see you at Flamboro Downs.

Fellow trainer Richard Moreau is someone Patrick looks to as a role model when it comes to training horses. "He does his own thing. You don't hear Richard yelling and screaming or anything like that. He's a very quiet guy, very loyal guy. I want to be like Richard and win races and win the O'Brien awards."

Patrick's plan for the 2014 peak summer season is simple. It is to win, but not just win; Patrick wants to put up massive numbers. "I want things to be on the up right and keep winning, I have 22 horses now but I'd like to have 42 horses." Patrick says.

There is no reason to believe Patrick can't have a stable of 50 or more and I wouldn't be shocked that one day soon Patrick will have a stable of horses numbering in the triple digits. With his mind set and desire to succeed, the sky is the limit for Patrick yet my inclination is Patrick is striving for the stars and beyond. There are plenty of reasons why I can see Patrick's name amongst the stars of the game in the near future.

By: Roderick Balgobin www.supernovasportsclub.com   Twitter: ScSupernova

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