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Faces Of Racing: Eddy Durbridge

Published: October 7, 2020 10:02 am ET

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Leading up to this year’s National Caretaker Appreciation Day virtual events, Standardbred Canada has been profiling caretakers from across the country in our Faces of Racing series.

The series continues with a profile on Eddy Durbridge of Dutton, Ont., in advance of National Caretaker Appreciation Day at The Raceway at Western Fair District this Friday, October 9.

Harness racing roots run deep for the Durbridge family of Dutton, Ont. It’s no surprise that Eddy Durbridge, son of Norm and Tammy Durbridge, and grandson of William Durbridge, was working in the barn at the impressionable age of 10 with his parents and grandparents’ horses.

Now 25, he completed his Bachelor of Commerce degree in Digital Marketing at Fanshawe College in 2018 but is currently employed full-time as a caretaker in the Standardbred industry, and loving every minute of it.

His parents were great mentors, showing him how to handle horses in different situations from working with them at the racetrack to helping to break young horses. He was also quick to credit his sister Nicole for encouraging him to work with the Richard Moreau Stable in the summer of 2014. That stint was the gateway to lining up a lot of catch paddocks at tracks in southwestern Ontario for many different stables.

On June 21, 2014, Eddy scored his first win as a groom at Mohawk with the Grinfromeartoear pacing gelding Hit And Giggle A, which also happened to be his debut paddock for the Moreau Stable.

“Being used to mostly working at small tracks, going to the big track was exciting, it also helped that he went in 1:49:2, my only time looking after a horse that went under 1:50 for me, which made it even more special for me,” he fondly recalled.

At the Durbridge home farm, Eddy looks after three horses while also paddocking for trainers Tyler Borth and George Robinson.

“One of the best things about working with the horses is the different personalities that they have,” said Durbridge. “No two horses are alike, so working with different horses you have a different experience and that keeps the work exciting and enjoyable. Seeing the horse win the race or just racing really strong, it makes me feel like the work that I have put in has not gone to waste.

“The one horse that has me ‘wrapped around her hooves’ would probably be a three-year-old filly we have called Shali B Innocent. I say this because she is a homebred, so I've helped raise her since she was born. During that time, she has seemed to pick me out as her favourite. From always being excited when I'm in the barn to trying to annoy me when I'm getting her ready to jog. She seems to like bugging me the most out of all the horses at the moment.”

Eddy recognizes that one of the biggest challenges for many caretakers in the industry is the travel accompanied by late nights when you work at multiple tracks throughout the week. “With doing a lot of catch paddocks, you end up going to different tracks throughout the week and the driving to them can take a lot out of you. With most tracks being an hour away like Grand River, Hiawatha, Flamboro, or Leamington, getting home late at night then getting up early in the morning sometimes can be a bit rough.”

Those challenges also serve as the catalyst for keeping Eddy’s adrenaline flowing and racing exciting. “As a caretaker who just doesn't work for my own stable, working for a different trainer can always keep me moving. From working with different trainers like George Robinson, Tyler Borth, Josh Mckibbin, Kelly Duval-Lacaille, and Richard Moreau, you learn new things from each of them and have different experiences with different horses. This keeps me excited to go to the track and see what the day brings.”

Eddy believes that knowing your horse, trusting other people at the track and having fun are the keys to being successful as a caretaker.

“If you know the horse you're looking after, that will help you with any problems that might pop up during an everyday scenario. If you can trust other people at the track to help you out if you need it or vice versa, it will make your experience run a lot smoother for you and the horse. Having fun is very important because if you don’t like what you’re doing, you are going to go from day to day and not enjoy your time with the horses.”

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