Day At The Track

History in the making; Bruce Aldrich, Sr

02:26 AM 02 Jul 2020 NZST
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Bruce Aldrich, Sr. Mickey McNichol, harness racing Harness racing
Bruce Aldrich, Sr. (left) with Mickey McNichol
Marianne Ayers McNichol photo
Bruce Aldrich, Sr. holding Darty with fiance Linda Boyd
Jessica Hallett photo

History is about the past. It could be from years past or it could be yesterday.

Harness racing has a lengthy history. From world record horses and drivers to equipment changes and new race bikes, harness racing has evolved into the sport it is today and will continue to evolve as time continues to go on. Today and every day is history in the making; however, to really be part of history and to make history is one of the greatest accomplishments in a life time.

In harness racing, to make history is anything from winning a big race to setting a record through number of wins as a trainer or driver, lifetime earnings, or setting a track record. Each of these stories has a starting point.

In harness racing, the starting point is the first steps on the track where you first smell the fresh air, hear the thundering hooves against the ground, see the legs swiftly glide in a rhythmic pattern, feel the racing of your heart as the horses turn for home, and get a taste of the freedom that comes within the sport. However, no one just picks up a set of lines and wins the Hambletonian.

The historical victories begin with a pitch fork in hand and two feet on the ground, ankle deep in sawdust.

Bruce Aldrich, Sr. has been a part of harness racing history in the making for 58 years. His journey through harness racing began at the age of 12 because he lived in close proximity to a track in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. At Hinsdale, Aldrich cleaned stalls for Bob Tisbert.

Aldrich is not the only of his family in the horse racing business. He ran his own stable with his first wife, Linda, for over thirty years. His brothers Basil and Bernie are also horsemen as well as his son, Bruce Aldrich, Jr., and daughter, Michelle Hallett.

“My dad has taught me everything I need to know to be successful in this business,” Aldrich’s son, Bruce Aldrich, Jr. states.

“When I was younger, I won six races driving at Maine. On the seventh horse, I hit the gate and the horse made a break. That horse was a 3-5 favorite. Dad said I needed to pay attention. I never made that mistake again,” Jr. laughed.

Michelle Hallett agrees that she has learned anything and everything there is to know about horse racing from her parents.

“He always taught me that if you do it right the first time, you don’t have to do it again,” Hallett says. “These life lessons in horse racing were always repeated to me throughout my childhood. Some of those life lessons were hard lessons to learn,” she joked. “He would always send me out with a horse and tell me the horse was two fingers. Next thing you know, I’m on a dead gallop around the track and can’t hold the horse. But, these lessons made me into the horseman I am today.”

Today, Aldrich runs a stable of over ten head with his fiancé, Linda Boyd (whose name, ironically is the exact same as Aldrich's first wife). A year ago, after medical complications, Aldrich had part of his left leg amputated. Despite these challenges, Aldrich is still able to manage this stable of twelve horses with great success. He is at the barn everyday with Linda to ensure all of his horses are well taken care of and well trained.

“As surprising as you may find it, not that much has changed since the operation in terms of my participation in the harness racing business,” Aldrich claims. “I am unable to sit behind one in a race bike or jog cart, at least until I get my prosthetic leg. However, I am still able to run a successful stable of twelve horses with the help of my fiancé, Linda.”

As many horsemen stories go, Aldrich had no other interests in any other careers once he started in the horse business as he was hooked. This business gets in your blood.

Bruce Aldrich had worked as both a driver and trainer, traveling to numerous tracks across the country. He has traveled up and down the East Coast and West Coast for grand circuit races, including to Canada. His favorite track was Rockingham Park.

He has worked for John Simpson, Jr., Carl Allen, Mickey McNichol, and Joe Caraluzzi as a second trainer. He has now had numerous horses with Woody Hoblitzell. The idols Aldrich looked up to include Walter Case, Jr., Billy Parker, Mickey McNichol, and Carl Allen.

Dr. Marty Allen, one of Carl Allen’s sons, recalls memories his family had with Bruce Aldrich as a trainer for his dad.

“One time, there were these criminals that had broken into our new home. I saw someone running through the field and so, I took off after him. I was about to tackle him when he started yelling ‘it’s me! Bruce!’ Turns out, Bruce was chasing after those criminals, too. If he didn’t yell, I definitely would have jumped on him,” Dr. Allen laughed.

Rod Allen, another one of Carl’s sons, said that he remembered what a good horseman Bruce Aldrich was when he was with their family. “He worked so hard and my dad depended on him and his wife, Linda, for everything.”

Mickey McNichol stated, “Bruce Aldrich is an all-around great guy and all-around great horsemen.”

Finally, Walter Case said, “He is a great man. I have nothing but respect for him. He is always willing to help people. He has a heart of gold and gave me many wins. His horses were always ready.”

Aldrich’s first win was Sirus O Brien for his brother, Basil. His proudest moments in horse racing have been working with Jazz Cosmos for Mickey McNichol and Sundance Skipper for Carl Allen. His favorite horses were Samsawinner with over 64 wins and Witch and Famous.

“My first driving win with Sirus O Brien was surreal. This win, along with my first training win, were a couple of my proudest moments, too. They were the true breaking of the ice into harness racing as a driver and as a trainer,” Aldrich said.

Working in the business for as many decades as Aldrich, he has had the opportunity to see the transformation of history in the making. Harness racing has evolved from years ago in that before, the races were single file and no one moved out to two- and three-wide like they do today, Aldrich claims. Now, there is no hub rail and there is a passing lane, allowing more movement. The track surface is a much better and the equipment is lighter, allowing for faster horses today.

Back then, however, Aldrich describes that it seemed as though horsemen made more money as people on the racetrack were like family.

Aldrich believes, though, that the horse racing business is going as strong as it was in the past as he watches the sales of horses at $100,000 and climbing.

Today and every day, Aldrich and many other horsemen continue to write history through the lens of our horse racing business.

by Jessica Hallett, for Harnesslink

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