Doucet On Top Of The World

Published: January 5, 2021 07:30 pm EST

"A lot of people will say 2020 was their worst year, but for me, it's been one of my best years."

With a lengthy parental leave from his 'day job' giving him plenty of time at home with his new son and the unique chance to pursue what turned out to be an absolutely remarkable year in the race bike, 39-year-old Redmond Doucet has every reason to look back fondly upon the past year.

Doucet, who towered atop the driver standings at Inverness Raceway with 46 wins from 104 starts — good for a 44.2 per cent strike rate and a .611 Universal Driver Rating — more than held his own at other Maritime tracks as well. All told, he amassed 90 wins in 313 starts last year, he finished third or better with 64.2 per cent of his drives, and his .459 Universal Driver Rating was tops among all Canadian reinsmen and best in North America for drivers with 300-500 starts.

"I didn't really put much thought into what people would be saying, but now you're getting calls from this, that and the other," Doucet told Trot Insider. "I just kept doing my thing, and if it worked out, it worked out. I had an unreal year and I'm happy with it."

And while his 90 wins and $170,307 in purses were single-season personal bests for Doucet, there was one milestone in particular that eluded him:

"It would have been nice to get 100, but it's pretty much impossible for me, where we're at, to have the opportunity to get 100 wins. It's tough."

Doucet, who lives in Inverness, N.S., found a unique opportunity to expand his reach beyond one of Atlantic Canada's smallest tracks when the April birth of his son yielded a lengthy parental leave from his 'day job' as a customer service technician for a major telecommunications company ... but it made for numerous long commutes throughout the summer and fall stakes season.

"For me to go to Summerside, it's about a 5-1/2-hour drive," Doucet related. "Charlottetown, between the ferry (which connects Caribou, N.S., and Wood Islands, P.E.I., and is a 75-minute trip one way) and getting there, it's like five hours. Truro is two hours and 45 minutes, and Northside is an hour and a half to an hour and 45, so, I was putting the kilometres on."

While those drives are gruelling to begin with, the inconvenience of travel amid a pandemic compounded the difficulty. Doucet, however, quickly found a routine that worked to keep himself — and his young family — safe:

"When I travel around, I kept my distance from people, especially people I didn't really know. I would wear a mask, wash my hands, tried not to stop too many places on the road, and pretty much just go Point A to Point B without any contact, do my thing and come home."

That said, there was one horse in particular made Doucet's long hours on the road all the more bearable. Rotten Ronnie — whom Doucet drove all season long for his dad, Redmond Sr., and co-owner Andy Stewart — won three times in 13 tries last season, and only missed Maritime standout Woodmere Stealdeal by three-quarters of a length in the $21,000 Atlantic Breeders Crown on Oct. 11 at Red Shores Charlottetown.

"It definitely made it easier to drive those five hours when you know you were getting to drive some good horses."

Within his own province, Doucet racked up 26 wins at Truro Raceway — good for third in the standings there — and another 10 at Northside Downs. Those figures aren't bad at all, especially considering that most horsepeople in the Maritimes — Doucet among them — are in the sport for the sheer love of it more so than for a living.

"For us, at Inverness, we're pretty much all hobby horsemen — there's nobody doing it for a living," said Doucet, who has been active in the barn since he was 11. "I mean, there's a few guys in PEI and Truro that do it for a living, and they're tough — but they're very good horsemen. They could probably go anywhere and race, and they make a career out of it in the Maritimes, which is very tough. Hopefully the purse structure changes here and it makes it more accommodating for the people who do it full-time."

Until then, Doucet is grateful for his family and for his other employment — which will once again keep him busy until racing resumes in his home province this spring.

"I'm very fortunate to have a full-time job. Some people aren't working and don't have the opportunity to go to work right now, especially seasonal workers."

And while the trips outside his home province may be fewer in number in 2021, he still hopes to maintain a stronghold in the Nova Scotian driving colony.

"I'll have to try and hit Truro when they start up," said Doucet, adding that their Friday night and Sunday afternoon racing schedule coordinates well with his non-racing work schedule. "I'd definitely like to get there in the spring before Inverness starts up and get some rust off."

If his dominance this season was any indication, it shouldn't take long for Doucet to pick up where he left off in 2020.

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