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Call Him Mr. 'Sheperated At Birth'

Published: April 3, 2020 6:31 pm ET

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If you're out and about and see someone that looks like Robert Shepherd not practicing physical distancing, there's a good chance you've mistaken him for someone else.

Shepherd and his doppelganger Justin Thomas were voted as the best Separated At Birth to appear in the pages of Trot Magazine. In the finals of the month-long March Madness-style bracket challenge, Robert Shepherd & Justin Thomas garnered 56.9% of the vote over Joe Thomson & Joe West.

“I love golf but I've never seen him [Justin Thomas] before. Or maybe I have and just never noticed or thought that he even looked like me,” Shepherd chuckled to Trot Insider after learning he and Thomas were victorious. “After it came out in the magazine a few people came up and told me they saw the resemblance. I follow golf and I’m an avid golfer but I guess I didn’t pay enough attention to it. It’s one of those things where you never think, 'hey that guy looks like me'. Unless someone said it, I’d never know the difference.”

A winner of more than 3,700 races with career earnings topping $26 million, Shepherd may have to catch up on some PGA replays during a time where many horsemen and women are finding it difficult to stay busy.

“We had a lot more horses than we have now but we have a bunch of babies and some three-year-olds coming back that still need to keep going so we’re trying to keep busy that way,” said Shepherd. “We have 11 two-year-olds in training and six or so three-year-olds training back and a handful of racehorses that we own that we are just turning out for now. The rest have been turned out until we have a better idea of what's going on.”

Shepherd is especially concerned as the father of two has two young kids at home with his wife, trainer Isabelle Darveau.

“We’re trying very hard to be careful but everyone has to. I have my family to protect and we all try to play a role so we can protect each other and be able to come to work everyday. I have two young kids at home [three years and three months] so I don’t take any chances of bringing anything home.”

For Team Shepherd/Darveau, having a larger stable comes with the need to maintain staff during a difficult time in the industry.

“We've tried to keep as much help on as we can. There's four of us in the barn including myself. Usually Isabelle is there too, but right now she’s not able to -- she can do the work of two people so we’ve all had to do a little extra here and there but everyone is really doing their part. We had to lay one person off when we lost eight or nine horses.”

Robert Shepherd guides Wildwild Men to victory at Hippodrome 3R

However, the lifelong horseman acknowledged the importance of having proper help when developing younger horses.

“I know that it makes it tougher to keep help on during this time but I said to Isabelle we have to keep our staff on because with the babies, you have to do it right. You can't be short-staffed and rushing around because that's how people get hurt. It is so easy to mess a baby up, you can teach them a bad habit from rushing around and skipping corners. When you have the right amount of staff on and you do the babies properly, they become better mature racehorses. I have great help and we’re very fortunate. Training days we’re working longer days but then there are days we’re done earlier.

“We have a lot of very experienced horsemen on our team and when you put in all the hours and the long days, come summertime when you have four or five really nice horses you don't even think about all those long days because you're just so proud of what you’ve done and proud that you all worked together as a team. It makes everything that much more satisfying. Right now we have a really nice group of two-year-olds. The pacers are doing well and the trotters aren't going as fast as maybe some of the others but they’re doing everything right and that’s what matters the most.”

The tragedy that has struck the world has without a doubt changed Shepherd’s perspective on the situation.

“We have to look after ourselves. This is one of those situations where, yeah, we can put in the long days and be tired and then go and race at night and then get up early in the morning and do it all over again and spend the entire day in the barn again but if you don't protect yourself against this and you get sick, you can't do any of the things you’d do on a day-to-day basis. If something happens and you get really sick, this thing could end your life. It really puts everything into perspective. This isn't just a regular cold.

“People think they’re strong enough that they won’t get it but you don’t know if you’re going to get it or not. You don’t know if your body is strong enough to fight it. Especially with having two little kids at home so that’s what scares me about being as careful as possible. I have two older guys that work for me also, so you have to think about everybody.”

Coming off of another multi-million dollar season in the racebike as one of Ontario's top drivers, Shepherd is gearing up for another season of greatness after putting in all the hours of hard work while taking extra precaution to keep his loved ones safe.

“We have a few acres on our property so social distancing isn't a problem. If we follow the rules and stay as safe as possible then we can keep waking up and going to work every day.”

And in Shepherd's case, maybe some added excitement to hit the links with an eye out for his twin.

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