The year was 2003 and Ben Hollingsworth was staying with his grandmother in Truro. He had decided to take a bike ride and stopped to have a look over the fence of the training complex belonging to Phil and Dale Pinkney. It was at that moment Hollingsworth, now aged 19, became hooked on harness racing.
“I had no ties to harness racing in my family but what the Pinkneys were doing intrigued me. I thought I could do this and from that moment on I have been hooked on harness racing.
“I ended up working for them weekends and eventually got my trainer’s license in 2009 and driver’s in 2010,” Hollingsworth told Harnesslink.
That bike ride has led to more than just a training and driving career for Hollingsworth. This summer he travelled throughout the United States with the Indiana-based Harness Youth Foundation’s Cobequid Educational Center luring youngsters into harness racing with five day camps on the east coast of the USA.
But that’s not all. In 2016 Hollingsworth hopes to become a fully qualified vet specialising in horses.
“I’m into my second year of my pre-vet course at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and ideally in about 2016 I would like to become an ambulatory equine vet that travels and treats animals rather than working out of a clinic.
“I have realised living in Truro you need a trade to fall back on. It’s very difficult to make a living solely out of harness racing here.
“But it’s something I will always do. I’m quite a big fella so the driving will probably eventually one day give way to training. But I would like to have a couple of horses or even a stable one day,” Hollingsworth said.
“But being a vet is my main goal for now,” he added.
Hollingsworth has three drives at Truro on Sunday (September 11). He will steer Cee Pee Joanne and Phightenphilly for Clayton Stevens of Pugwash (Nova Scotia) and Raceon Star for William Ellis of Truro.
Hollingsworth’s last win came behind the Donald Ellis (Truro) trained R M Petit Prince at Truro on November 7 last year so he’s keen to break his duck in 2011.
All up he’s had 77 drives for six wins and 21 placings ($9,051), while as a trainer Hollingsworth has had five victories from 56 starters and also placed 17 times for $7,447 in purses.
“I’m not the sort of person to go begging for drives – that’s not my style, but I did have four last week. Ideally I like to drive my own but people know who I am and I would always drive their horses if they asked me,” Hollingsworth said.
He said the best horse he had trained or driven was4-year-old gelding, Bakardi Arti (see video).
“Dale (Pinkney) got the horse for me to get my license and he provided me with my first training success. It was a special moment. I owe the Pinkneys a great deal – not only for introducing me to this great sport, but for also providing me with many highlights in my brief career to date,” Hollingsworth said.
“I really love breaking in and training young colts. That’s something I learnt off the Pinkneys. They are some horsemen, especially Phil. He’s not an O’Brien award winner for nothing,” he added.
He said the Pinkneys had had some nice horses over the years and he rated Dunachton Gale (see video) right up there with the best he had sat behind.
“He was a 2&3-year-old Maritime champion and former Horse-of-the-Year. He was awesome and just felt like a champion.”
As for the best horse Dunachton Gale had seen, well being from Truro you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work that out:
“of course. He’s the greatest I’ve seen and one of the greatest ever. However when I was in camp recently I did manage to get to Hambletonian Day and I got to see some nice horses like San Pail and Won the West race.”
The solidly built Hollingsworth said he had no regrets giving up football for a career in harness racing.
“I’ve loved harness racing since I was 11 and always will. I hope to always have horses and long-term I want to train as well as be a vet,” Hollingsworth said.
And for all you Trailer Park (TV) fans Hollingsworth is a friend of J Rock aka Jonathan Torrens. The 38-year-old was born in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island (see video).
“He comes to the track and we hang out during the summer. Jonathan’s a really nice guy – a top man,” Hollingsworth said.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
(1) Bakardi Arti with trainer Ben Hollingsworth in the bike winning on Gold Cup and Saucer Night 2010 at the Charlottetown Driving Park – two nights after running loose in the streets of Charlottetown:
(2) A track record performance by Dunachton Gale at Truro in July 2006 (Note: A young Ben Hollinsgworth is in the winner’s circle at the end of the race holding the horse’s head):
(3) Dunachton Gale winning at Summerside Raceway on October 16, 2004:
(4) Trailer Park Boys – the best of J Roc