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Shepherd’s Stock Is Rising

Published: July 9, 2014 10:44 pm ET

Last Comment: July 11, 2014 6:23 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Robert Shepherd is on a big roll at Grand River Raceway. The quiet 34-year-old Prince Edward Island native is second at the Elora track in driver wins and money. He’s also Grand River’s second leading trainer in money and wins when combined with his girlfriend, Isabelle Darveau, who recently took over Shepherd’s stable.

“This year I’m a little more motivated,” Shepherd said. “I had some changes in my life. I kind of got past that and moved on … I’m driving a lot more. Last year, I didn’t drive as much.”

Shepherd said there’s a lot more to love about Grand River Raceway than being one of its leading horsepeople.

“Everyone’s happy to be there. Even the people there are excited for racing. It’s a great atmosphere. They want to race,” Shepherd said.

He said Grand River Raceway’s commitment to providing a great fan experience starts at the top with the track’s general manager Dr. Ted Clarke. In August, Dr. Clarke will be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame as a builder for his work turning Grand River Raceway into one of the best small tracks in the nation.

Shepherd said Dr. Clarke is always present on race nights and helping out where he can.

“Ted’s always part of it, which makes it great because when someone’s running something and you never see them, it makes you feel like he doesn’t care. But you can tell Ted cares, because he’s always there. Every night he’s one of the last guys to leave there,” Shepherd said.

This year, Robert Shepherd surpassed $15 million in career earnings as a driver. He recorded his 2,000th career win in the sulky near the end of 2013.

He said being both a trainer and a driver in an age when most people in the sport focus on one or the other, has given him an advantage.

“I guess training helps my driving because I sit behind a bunch of horses every day. So, I know when they’re good and when they’re not good… You drive them a little more conservatively if they don’t feel right to you,” Shepherd said.

“Lately, it seems to be working out great for me. I end up working out a great trip or something like that from the feel of the horse.”

Shepherd said the greatest Christmas gift he ever received was a set of blue, yellow and white training colours that his mother and father gave him.

“I got the training suit when I started training a couple of my own,” Shepherd said of the family colours that were started by his dad, Harold. “I think I might have been listed as a trainer when I was 19 or 20.”

He said his driving career received a huge boost 10 years ago when he won the 2004 Nat Christie Memorial at Stampede Park in Calgary driving The Bruster.

“When I won the Nat Christie it changed my life in driving,” Shepherd said. “I’d have to say The Bruster started it all.”

Today, Shepherd lives in Cambridge, which is a short trip to one of his favourite places to race. He’s hoping his success at Grand River Raceway will be a springboard to even bigger things.

“I’d love to win an O’Brien Award for the horseman of the year, if I could,” he said.

To hear more of the conversation with Robert Shepherd, check out Grand River Raceway's weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, by clicking the orange play button below.

(Grand River Raceway)

July 11, 2014 - 6:23 pmRobert Shepherd and "The

Ross Sharp SAID...

Robert Shepherd and "The Bruster". I lost my voice cheering for the underdog that of the better memories in Alberta Standardbred racing history.Wishing you continued success in the years ahead.

July 10, 2014 - 11:37 amrobert started a career early

terry gudz SAID...

robert started a career early in life at northlands, and was always a early riser and hard worker that is reaping rewards through his efforts,harold was always there to support him in his racing learning curve

July 10, 2014 - 10:36 amRobert Shepherd is the BEST!

Joe Travis SAID...

Robert Shepherd is the BEST! In this day and age of questionable practices, Rob is one person we feel we can completely trust. Smart, kind, and with expert ability he knows how to keep a horse alive, because he recognizes each horse’s individual characteristics, and knows how to win. It is a pleasure to know “Shep,” a man with personal integrity and skill we respect and admire.

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