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Faces Of Racing: Ashley Leslie

Published: July 10, 2019 10:55 am ET

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Leading up to the National Caretaker Appreciation Day events taking place on the weekend of July 19-21, Standardbred Canada will be profiling caretakers from across the country in our Faces of Racing series. The series is continuing with Ashley Leslie.

Ashley Leslie comes across her love for harness racing naturally. Coming from a family with deep roots in the industry, the 33-year-old credits her early introduction to the sport to her two uncles from the east coast. “My uncles own and train in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, so needless to say I caught the bug early,” said Ashley.

After fifteen years in the harness racing industry as a caretaker, Ashley is currently employed by the Ben Baillargeon Stable, located in Acton, Ontario at Ideal Training Centre. As part of “Team B” Ashley has had the pleasure of working with top standardbred contenders such as Run Director, and most recently, Tyga Hanover.

Ashley (second from L) with the connections of Run Director after winning the 2018 OSS Gold Super Final.

“A lot of people have helped me become the caretaker I am today. I can honestly say I owe a big ‘thank you’ to Rheal Bourgeois. He took me on at his stable and we had 10 great years together where I learned a lot and was able to do many things I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do elsewhere,” recalls Ashley.

Similar to many caretakers in the industry, Ashley’s responsibilities are abundant and do not run on a 9-5, Monday to Friday schedule. She finds herself in the barn early, feeding in the morning, cleaning stalls, and turning horses out. But her day does not end there. Throughout the rest of the morning and early afternoon she can be found with the rest of the Baillargeon team, jogging, bathing the horses, while finishing off her afternoon setting out feed and putting the horses in her care away for the day. She considers herself a jack of all trades, and a master of many, but she is quick to point out that the success of “Team B” is based on the fact that the barn runs like a “well-oiled machine,” where everyone works as a team, lending a hand whenever possible and sharing the responsibilities of the barn among all staff.

“As a caretaker one of the challenges we face includes a lack of sleep because we work long hours, and we work hard, but it is very rewarding when you see your horse race well because it makes the time and effort worth it in the end.”

As with many of life’s challenges, the positive outcomes that surface from the tough times make the process worth the while, and that is the outlook Ashley has when it comes to harness racing, including one of her most memorable moments in the sport.

On January 18, 2007, Armbro Decal, a then four-year-old Blissful Hall mare out of Ashlynn Seelster, was crowned the Blizzard Series Final champion for three- and four-year-old fillies and mares. “My uncle and I had Armbro Decal when she won the Blizzard Series at Woodbine and she won that race a year to the day his wife and my aunt passed away. It was very special,” reflects Ashley.

Ashley (third from L) with the connections of Armbro Decal after winning the 2007 Blizzard Final

With a sport that has its fair share of ups and downs, Ashley has been able to stay enthusiastic about the harness racing industry due of the horses she has the privilege of working with. “Standardbreds are so enjoyable to work with because they can adapt to almost anything and for the most part they are level headed and kind.

“I tend to look forward to the spring when it comes to the horses because that is when it is crunch time. We really get to see what these horses have and it is nice when you see the colts start to put it all together and see how far they have come since they were broke (to harness) in the fall.

“My advice for the next generation would be to love what you do. Work hard at it, have patience and respect, and to always have an open mind to learn something new every day,” says Ashley.

“To be successful as a caretaker, you need three things: patience, respect and a pitch fork,” she laughs. “I think National Caretaker Appreciation Day is a phenomenal idea. It is nice to be recognized for the hard work we do and to show people what goes on behind the scenes.”

Leading up to NCAD events during the weekend of July 19-21 at racetracks across the country, Standardbred Canada has organized a NCAD Photo Contest to recognize the hard-working caretakers in our industry and we want your submissions! Click here to learn more.

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