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Gilles Barrieau To Relocate

Published: January 23, 2020 10:34 am ET

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Trot Insider has learned that 2019 O'Brien Awards finalist Gilles Barrieau will be leaving New Brunswick and making the move to Prince Edward Island.

The 'Maritime Magic Man' revealed the news in a discussion of his 2019 campaign, a season that garnered a possible second O'Brien Award for his mantle.

"It was a good year for me including catch driving and my own stable," said the modest horseman. "I had some nice horseflesh, two-year-olds, three-year-olds and open mares. We won quite a few races out of my stable with not that many starts either, so it was a good year."

From just 97 training starts in 2019, Barrieau trained 40 winners and horses to more than $178,000 in purse earnings and boasted a UTRS of .575.  On the driving side, he piloted 151 winners from 636 starts to more than $435,000 in earnings, giving him a .401 UDRS.

A winner of the O'Brien Award of Horsemanship in 2005, Barrieau could join a very select list of two-time Horsemanship winners than include Marc Campbell, Keith Clark, the late Bill Davis and Rick Zeron.

"Every year I try to keep my numbers up and it just so happened this year that my training side actually had more power this year," Barrieau continued.  "My two-year-olds stepped up; I had some nice two-year-olds that I raced. Everything just fell into place like anything else. Some years are better than others and it just so happened last year was a tremendous year for me."

One of the standouts for Barrieau in 2019 was pacing colt Red Dirt Boomer ,who finished the year with an eight-race win streak that included the Island Breeders Championship and the Atlantic Breeders Crown. After compiling a 17-5-3 summary from 29 starts at two and three and accruing more than $113,000 in purses, Red Dirt Boomer was privately sold to Rene Allard and Don MacRae.

"He was an exceptional colt, like I said if you can make $110,000 that’s pretty good numbers, and sell them for good money so that was pretty good," said Barrieau. "Rene had seen him as a two-year-old and he said he always wanted him after he was done racing and of course, after his last start, he came and got him; put a price on him and got him.

"I hated to part with him but what can you do here? You can’t race a horse like that for $1,000, so he had to go. Business is business."

That business-like approach to racing is prompting Barrieau to move from his base in New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. With prime racing opportunities drying up in his home province, he plans to situate himself in PEI going forward.

"[My wife] Kelly’s retiring a year from January, so we’re planning on relocating as soon as she retires," stated Barrieau. "I’m going back [to PEI] like in May and hopefully I won’t be coming back. Hopefully I’ll have stalls and everything will fall into place.

"I like racing and the opportunities at Charlottetown on the Island are good. You can race three, four nights a week versus here in New Brunswick you race once a week or two, three times a month. It’s business for me and I run a business all my own on the island, so they like to see me over there too."

While his clients and owners will be glad to see Barrieau closer to the track, the same might not be said for his on-track competition.

"They didn’t like me coming over, but now I’m part of the team so they don’t mind me now," noted Barrieau. "At first they were running me all over the place but now it seems like they’re accepting me so it’s not going to change. It’s good that way."

The consistency of Barrieau's stable is no accident. In the 15 years that bookend his O'Brien Award nominations, Barrieau has posted 11 seasons with a UTRS exceeding 0.400 and four seasons with a UTRS over 0.500. Those totals come from good horsemanship and a good team, who Barrieau was quick to credit with his seasonal success in 2019.

"Definitely my team. I have good people working for me and we make decisions together. You just try to keep the horses as fit as possible and work hard at it, that’s all."

Barrieau is a finalist in the Horsemanship category with Mario Baillargeon, and regardless of the voting outcome he's honoured to be a finalist and thrilled to attend the national awards gala.

"You always enjoy that kind of evening. You work all year to get to that point, and I was really surprised and thought ‘Oooh boy, I get to go again.’ I’m really looking forward to it."

The hard-working and hands-on horseman was too busy paying attention to his trade to watch the live O'Brien Awards announcement (Editor's note: we forgive you, Gilles.) He found out from his friends shortly thereafter.

"Friends on the Island told me. They saw it on Standardbred Canada; of course I was working and didn’t get to see it first but they called me and I said ‘Holy sh!t.’ It was all good...especially when all you’ve ever done is horse racing. You thrive on winning awards, that’s what it’s all about."

The 2019 O'Brien Awards Black Tie Gala is slated for Saturday, February 1 at the Hilton Meadowvale / Mississauga. Standardbred Canada has partnered with FitzRoy Dress Rental and Moores for discounts for O’Brien Awards guests.

FitzRoy Dress Rental Discount – Women can rent their dresses from FitzRoy Dress Rentals online or in-store and receive a 15 per cent discount with the promo code OBRIEN15. For an additional fee you can request to have the dress dropped off and picked up at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel. For complete information, click here.

Moores Tuxedo DiscountClick here for info and flyer.

Keep up to date on the O’Brien Awards and follow the 2019 O’Brien Awards Facebook Page.

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