By Chris Lomon
It’s no wonder why horse racing jack-of-all-trades Patrick Shepherd
is feeling like a million bucks these days.
The soft-spoken owner, trainer and driver has some big numbers to boast of in 2018, a year brimming with career-best numbers across the board.
On this particular November night at Western Fair Raceway, Shepherd spoke about the goals he had set out at the start of the season, and how he had to alter his expectations as the campaign unfolded.
“It’s been a good year, probably one of the best years I’ve ever had,” he offered. “I had a lot more horses this year and with that came more opportunities. We’re winning lots of races.
“My goal is to get over $1 million dollar earnings and try to get to 200 wins. Before, it’s typically 100 wins I set the bar at, so things have been pretty good.”
Actually, it’s been far better than good for the native of Prince Edward Island, who won this year's Grand River training title with 21 wins from 99 starts along with $96,446.
Although he’s reached the 100-win mark on three previous occasions, Shepherd had never been close to 200 triumphs. His previous record for wins was the 149 he posted in 2015.
As of December 18, he’s made 198 trips to the winner’s circle.
Shepherd, whose father Harold and brother Robert are also successful horsemen, has already hit the seven-figure mark in purse earnings in 2018, easily besting the $555,002 he put up in 2013, in what was his breakout season as a trainer.
That year, his Canadian win total was fourth best among all conditioners, as was his .384 training average. It was horses like Mach It Big and Rock On Moe who helped shine the spotlight on Shepherd.
“It’s always been a day-by-day thing for me,” he noted of his approach. “I come to the racetrack every night swinging. We always want to win. I should probably be a little less hard on myself, but I’m just like my brother Robert. He wants to win and that’s what I want, too. We’re hard on ourselves and we get down on ourselves at times, but the next day when you wake up, you get that adrenaline rush again. You can’t help it being in this sport.”
John Watkins photo
And you can’t help it when you’ve had the type of year Shepherd has.
There are plenty of reasons behind his success story.
“I have more owners this year,” started Shepherd. “It’s great to have owners who are willing to invest in the industry and have a passion for it. And I always have good help. We work well together. If you don’t have that, you’re nothing.
“I just try to keep everything as low-key as possible. I keep as mellow as possible. I think I go with the same attitude the whole year. We give our 100 per cent every time and so do our horses.”
In a year full of multiple-winning pacers and trotters, it’s an eight-year-old son of Art Major, a pacer that’s endured a tough season, who Shepherd speaks fondly of.
“I purchased a horse at the Meadowlands Sale, Fool Me Once, probably one of the better horses I’ve ever had in my barn,” he said of the 40-time winner and earner of over $1.1 million. “We haven’t had that much success with him tis year, so we turned him out.
“I’ve really taken a liking to him. He’s made over a million dollars and he’s gone in 1.48.1. He’s the type of horse you love waking up in the morning and then going to the barn to see. I just really like the horse. I hope he comes back strong in the New Year.”
Shepherd, who has 777 career wins, is looking to do the same.
“I started out the year with 12 horses and we have 35 right now,” he noted. “We’re heading in the right direction going into next year. And I’m already looking at next year a bit. Things are looking good.”