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A 'Big' Boost For A Career

Published: January 9, 2017 9:45 am ET

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Driver Phil Hudon says the horse that changed his life taught him “how to race a good horse.”

In 2010 and 2011, the Guelph, Ont. resident was the regular driver for Big Jim, a pacer that earned over $1.5 million in his career with a record of 10-3-4 in 20 starts that included victories in the Breeders Crown and a 1:49.1 world record in the $709,000 Governor’s Cup at two.

Big Jim was also instrumental in elevating Hudon’s game, the driver said.

“When you drive good horses, you get more respect. If you could get a few of those a year, you’re going to do all right, I think. I was lucky enough to drive one. I don’t know if I’ll get to drive another one, but I got to drive him,” said Hudon, who has driven the winners of more than $52 million in his career, and posted more than 4,200 victories in 24 years in the sulky.

The late Jim Carr of Hamilton, Ont. purchased Big Jim as a yearling for $35,000 from the Hanover Shoe Farms consignment at the 2009 Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s sale in Harrisburg, Penn. The Western Ideal colt out of Bold Pink was sold under the name Bold Ideal Hanover.

Hudon, who will turn 42 at the end of January, said a simple act of friendliness led to him getting to drive Big Jim, who was originally assigned to Sylvain Filion. When Filion picked off the horse to drive for a more regular client, Big Jim landed in Hudon’s lap.

Big Jim and his connections following a victory at The Meadowlands

“I said ‘Hi’ to Jim Carr one day. I was just being friendly,” Hudon said. “He said that’s why he put me down...He stuck with me and that was a good deal.”

Hudon said Big Jim had incredible desire.

“He just wanted to beat horses. He saw them and he had his ears forward and he paced right down to the wire. He was just a great horse,” Hudon said.

The driver’s favorite moment was winning the 2010 Breeders Crown two-year-old colt pace with Big Jim at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

“It was awesome to experience (the Breeders Crown),” Hudon said. “I left out of there, sat in the two hole, let everyone go and then everything opened up, up the inside. I couldn’t have planned it any better.”

Big Jim, trained by James “Friday” Dean, is now a stallion at Seelster Farms in Lucan, Ont., but he will always retain a place in Phil Hudon’s heart.

“He was a great horse and a pleasure to drive,” Hudon said. “It would be nice to hook up a couple more of those before I retire.”

(Courtesy Ontario Racing)

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