The Result Of Instant Responsibility

Published: August 2, 2015 11:14 am EDT

“Over the last few years, things have been really different. I’ve been in the barn every morning; I have people to answer to all the time and more responsibilities. It actually made me grow up and mature a lot more. I took on everything he had, so I had to grow up. I couldn’t go out and party all the time; that helped me out a lot, for sure.”

For Travis Henry, his road to the Battle of the Belles started the day he was born. The name ‘Henry’ has been a dominating presence in the sport, and now Travis is looking to add himself to that list. His first exposure into sitting behind a horse, however, was by no means a smooth one.

“The first time I jogged a horse by myself, it was a Sunday morning, and his name was Malcolm Seelster. I was wearing my Dad’s big helmet and it was slipping down over my eyes so I could barely see. All of a sudden, the horse took off," said the 26-year-old Brantford, Ont. resident. “We were stabled in the first barn closest to the track and every time I’d go by I was screaming for my Dad because I was just a kid and I couldn’t hold him. Rob Jenkins Jr, who was also stabled there at the time, was the first person to run out and help me.

“They had to jump in front of the horse to get him to stop. It wasn’t really the best first experience. I learned a lot from that, my Dad always told me ‘they’ll get tired eventually, it’s a big circle and they’ll want to stop.’ I was pretty shaken up; I didn’t jog another horse for three or four months after that.”

Growing up in the industry, following in his family’s footsteps was not always Travis’ first plan. As he finished up high school and spent more time in the barn, that began to change.

“I’ve always been at the barn my whole life on weekends; when I wasn’t in school, that’s where I was. In the summer I would always go up to Arthur with my uncles, Wayne or Trevor, and stay there for a few weeks. I was always at the track helping here or there.

“Even though I was around racing all the time, when I was in elementary school and high school, I didn’t have the same level of interest that I do now. I got my first horse when I was in Grade 9 and spent my weekends at the barn.

“After high school, I got more and more into it. I graduated and I started considering what I wanted to do as a job and I ended up at the farm every day. I started hanging out with people around the industry which got me more involved and I started to step up in terms of learning the ropes.”

Coming from a family of experienced horsepeople, Travis was in good hands to learn the tricks of the trade. Under their tutelage, he learned the mechanics of the sport, including how to shoe a horse. His experiential education extended to the racebike, as his newfound aspirations of being a driver came to life.

“From harnessing a horse to getting one ready from the time they come in from the field to the racetrack, my Dad pretty well taught me everything I know now.

“He also taught me how to drive. I didn’t know a lot about driving when I started but he was always my coach. He’d tell me what I did wrong and I always remember him telling me ‘you have to have your mind made up by the time the gate leaves, otherwise you’ll be in a bad spot from the get-go’. It was some of the best driving advice he gave me.”

Tragedy struck last year, when Travis lost both his father and mentor, Paul, who passed away in January 2014 at the young age of 48. All of the best laid plans were no longer valid as things changed rapidly. Initially hoping to be a catch driver like many of the young men in the sport, Travis turned to the training side of things and picked up where his father left off.

“Once I really got into racing, I always wanted to just drive and then help my Dad out in the mornings in the barn. I wanted to have him training and I would do the driving. It was working good for us but when he passed away, things changed.

“When my Dad passed away, everything he left me was horses and owners. It came to me one day and I don’t even know if I was ready for it but I made myself ready because I had to. Deep down, maybe I was ready but I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of things I regret doing but I think that’s part of what has helped me grow up in the last few years.”

Stabled at Emerald Isle Training Center in Flamborough, Ont., Travis manages ten horses with two two-year-olds at the races so far. Initially wanting racehorses, he’s planning to aim for a few more yearlings with the fall sales fast approaching.

“I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I have, stay competitive and keep the owners happy. That’s pretty much it right now. I’d really like to have a stable of ten or twelve, with maybe one lower-end claimer. I’d rather be at Mohawk and have horses in the Preferred at the ‘B’ tracks, but everyone wants that.”

His recent focus on the youngsters is seemingly paying off. A trip to the Forest City Yearling Sale last fall found Travis leaving with a $10,000 bargain by the name of Tempus Seelster.

“I can’t take all the credit for getting her, I picked her out but I almost missed her. I was with James MacDonald and I was talking to someone and I almost missed her go through. He tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘hey, you’re going to miss this one’.

“He was almost going to drop the hammer at $8,000 on her and I raised my hand quick. I didn’t even know who he was talking about at first. I owe it to James that I have her today.”

Out of the Albert Albert mare, The Patriot, it was a surprise to see the filly draw such a reasonable price. The Patriot herself took mark of 1:53.4 as a two-year-old in 2002 before going on to a lucrative career, bankrolling over $600,000 in 29 starts. Her offspring picked up where she left off, with five of her eight racing eligible offspring taking marks of 1:55 or faster.

“I still don’t know why she sold so low. I’m just guessing it’s due to [sire] Big Jim’s first year and she’s a late foal. Her conformation wasn’t bad or anything.”

The filly brought together an ownership group consisting of Craig Wood, Benbar Stables and Glen Wark. Though he took over his father’s operation, Travis was left with only one owner after the transition.

“My owner Craig Wood, this is the first baby he bought. Craig is the only owner I inherited from my father’s operation and he has been an amazing owner to work with so I’ve been very lucky to have him. He’s a fantastic owner though, he did all the stake payments himself, and he stays involved. It’s great to have wonderful owners who want to reinvest and hopefully he continues to do so.

“I drove a horse for Benbar Stables [Erin Hall] in the Dream of Glory last year and they ended up giving her to me in the winter of last year. After that, I drove another horse for Glen Wark and I ended up with her to train too, so I was fortunate to work with both owners after that.”

Travis’ enthusiasm for Tempus Seelster is overwhelming. To train and drive a horse in the Battle of the Belles final is what he believes to be a step in the right direction, as a horseperson and for his career.

“She was awesome to train down for the season. She was good in the elimination, really good. She raced really tough, holding [Boozer Bruiser] at the quarter for a long time and she’s been perfect since the race.

“The Battle of the Belles elimination has been my biggest career highlight so far. Obviously I’m hoping the final will be the next one. Other than that, it would be winning the Dream of Glory at Hanover. My Dad was there that day with me and it was the biggest race I’ve won as a driver.”

The draw for the Battle of the Belles Final did the pair no favours, with Tempus Seelster starting from post position nine. Though unwilling to make any presumptions as to how the final will go, Henry's intentions are similar to many, as he hopes to get away as best as possible and follow one of the strong contenders.

“I’m not really sure how she’ll handle the nine; I think she’ll be fine. She’s been perfect everywhere else she’s been so she’s really knowledgeable. I could probably drive her from anywhere, with any kind of trip.”

After the Battle of the Belles, the Big Jim filly will return to Ontario Sires Stakes action after a two-week break. The remainder of her stakes calendar has yet to be determined, as both Travis and his owners are looking to play it by ear as the year progresses.

“I don’t know if I’d be here, with a filly in the final, if the last few years hadn’t been the way they were. I’ve been able to turn to Trevor and Wayne when I’ve needed them, but it’s been a big transition. On Monday, I’ll be hoping for a good trip and a little bit of luck.”

Industry Day will feature attractions for all ages as well as the much-anticipated Battle of the Belles and Battle of Waterloo stakes finals. First race goes to post at 1:30 and parking/admission are free.

There will be lots of activities happening trackside, including the popular ‘All-Access Kid’s Pass’ available for $5 which includes face painting, balloon artists, bouncy castles and pony rides. Fans will have the opportunity to enter in a draw for one of 25 ‘anniversary gifts’ valued at more than $5,000 including golf clubs, a BBQ and more. All of this and more will be a part of Grand River’s highly anticipated celebration.

To commemorate Industry Day, the I Love Canadian Harness Racing Fan Club will offer an online handicapping contest featuring an assortment of questions based on the Industry Day card of racing.

To view the entries for Grand River's Industry Day card, click one of the following links: Monday Entries - Grand River Raceway -- Industry Day Program Pages

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Hannah Beckett)



Travis, I want to wish you the best of luck today. I know your Dad is watching and your biggest supporter "Mom" is for sure there today!
Claude Brault

Travis you are doing such a great job! You have matured since we met you a few years ago. We all learn from are mistakes. We are proud of you and the can do attitude you have. All the best tomorrow, Enjoy!

Benbar Stables

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