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Faces Of Racing: Mike Raymond

Published: July 21, 2018 9:20 am ET

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Standardbred Canada continues to profile caretakers from across the country in our Faces of Racing series as we head into the National Caretaker Appreciation Day event this weekend.

Twenty-six years ago, Mike Raymond paid a visit to the stable area of Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta and he hasn’t looked back since. “I was never in the industry and needed a job. I asked if anyone needed help and veteran trainer-driver Serge Masse was looking. That’s where I got my start looking after horses in 1992.”

Since he first stepped onto the grounds of Stampede Park all those years ago, Mike has worked for several trainers and has traveled to many tracks both in western Canada and the United States. For someone who had no previous exposure to harness racing for the first twenty years of his life, Mike has accumulated many stories and lessons during the time he’s been actively involved as a caretaker in the industry. In his opinion, one of the best tracks he had the opportunity to work at was Los Alamitos in California.

“Everyone I have worked for has taught me something along the way, but one guy I have worked for the longest and learned the most from is Doug Shaw. I spent 15 years working with Doug and we are still good friends. Now I work for his son, Preston.”

Raymond, 46, currently works for the Preston Shaw Stable based at Century Downs Racetrack & Casino in Balzac, Alberta. Mike’s versatility is reflected in his responsibilities which range from jogging and training to helping shoe the horses and mucking stalls. “I help with near everything in the barn,” he says.

One of Mike’s favourite times of the year in the harness racing industry is when it is time to break the babies and prepare them for their role as a racehorse. “Breaking babies is my all-time favourite thing to do. If I could just do that, I would love it. I love to see the progress.”

Sometimes progress takes time as Mike learned when he was helping to break a yearling and fell off the jog cart when the horse went for the outside of the track.

“I fell off and my whole helmet and head went first into the snow bank on the side of the track,” recalls Mike.

Seeing the horses in his care make it to the races and perform well make training moments like that worth it. Case in point was when Mike was caring for the then three-year-old pacing colt, Bombers Express in 1998 who was trained by his employer at the time, John Chappell. Bombers Express went on to win the award for three-year-old colt of the year, following a season that saw him pick up 11 wins in 25 starts, all under Mike’s watchful eye.

When it comes to race day, Mike is aware of how important the work he’s put in during the week is. “I don’t believe in good luck charms. Either the horse is good that week or they aren’t. Your work through the week makes the difference. You have to put the time into your horses that they need.”

His advice for the up and coming generation of individuals wishing to pursue a profession in the harness racing community is simple, “stay loyal to a barn and learn lots!”

Today, Century Downs, his home track hosts their National Caretaker Appreciation Day event to recognize and reward caretakers.

“I think it’s great to give the caretakers some appreciation, as we are the ones with the animals day in and day out.”

Standardbred Canada along with the horsemen’s associations and tracks across the country will partner on National Caretaker Appreciation Day the weekend of July 20-22 at racetracks across the country.

Previous Faces of Racing Profiles:

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