When an experienced man says he’s “seen it all”,says he’s “seen it all”, Jacques Beaudoin would know what he meant. He’s in the club of horse drivers by nature, having started with the Rideau Carleton Raceway 27 years ago. “It was busy everywhere, the stables, the tracks, everyone wanted their turn and the competition was exhilarating,” Beaudoin reminisced. “When I started, I was 18 years old. I won my first race ever.” Continuing, Beaudoin recounts how he raced at Rideau Carleton Raceway for five months a year, and at the old Connaught Park the other seven months. He lived in Aylmer at the time, and kept his horses there too. The Beaudoin team was Jacques, his father and his brother. A change in Quebec law restricting families from entering races together pushed Jacques to sharpen his skills, racing without his dad and brother.
Jacques Beaudoin got into the game at a time when the purse was big, when it was the horseracing that attracted the crowd and the racetracks installed slot machines as an add-on. “Back then, to have slots, we needed horses. Now, slots are popular and the slots help keep the track purse interesting.” Mr Beaudoin saw the world of horseracing evolve, refining his skills along the way. “Back when I started, there were twelve or fifteen young guys wanting to start racing all the time, there were always these young fellows wanting to get in on the race. You had to be really good to get noticed. Now, there may be a new racer on the scene every two years. It was a dynamic time when I got in,” he noted with a sweet touch of nostalgia.
When Connaught Park closed, he took his horses to the Toronto area for five years, but came back to Rideau when slot machines came back to the racetrack. He also spent a year racing in Buffalo.
Now at the age of 63, living in Manotick, he says he is impressed with what Rideau Carleton Raceway has become. “There are plenty of people at Rideau – it is one of the very best tracks. The grounds are well-kept, the stands are big and they are nice, the eating area is lovely.”
Jacques Beaudoin, when asked, will talk about horse care, about the horseracing industry and how it has changed, as well as how important the new generation is to the future of a healthy track. “I’ve been a headliner in my time, with some 4,500 wins under my belt,” he said in a matter-of-fact way. “Rideau has everything for drivers to succeed – I’m glad there is an opportunity for these young people to prove themselves. Some of these young drivers are very impressive.”
And these young horse drivers have everything to win by improving the races, pushing the industry forward. As Mr Beaudoin explained, “It doesn’t cost a family much to come spend time at Rideau Carleton Raceway, so the stands do fill up, which is great for drivers of every age. We love racing for a crowd.”