Harold Ladouceur’s long winding trail from his First Nation’s home on the shores of Lac La Biche in Northern Alberta to the shed rows of Toronto’s Woodbine Race Track has been filled with the ups and downs experienced by many horsemen.
From French Metis-Cree Indian parents, and one of seven children, Ladouceur grew up hunting, fishing and riding Indian ponies in races with no saddle or bridle, just a rope around their necks, at places like Duck Lake and One Arrow in Saskatchewan.
Today, this personable, hard-working young horseman finds himself training a small stable of Thoroughbreds, including a sleek bay filly he plucked from the 2012 Woodbine yearling sales for $10,000. At a time when the Ontario racing industry was being decimated with political injustice, he saw a filly that he just couldn’t take his eyes off.
That filly is the now three-year-old Paladin Bay, who sports the unmistakable blaze of her great grandsire, the legendary Northern Dancer.
Money was short in those days and Harold offered a half interest in the filly to two of his friends. However, there were no takers for the rangy filly who went on to bank $361,888 as a two-year-old, with three wins, three seconds and two thirds and was a finalist for the 2013 Sovereign Award nominees for Champion two-year-old filly.
Paladin Bay, who campaigns in the white and blue silks of Harold’s wife, Jessie, rewarded the Ladouceurs with outstanding performances in her juvenile campaign. The well-conditioned, well-mannered lass turned in breathtaking efforts capturing the Ontario Lassie Stakes and the prestigious Princess Elizabeth Stakes. A gem of consistency, she was stakes-placed in the Nandi, Shadywell and South Ocean Stakes.
Jockey Gerry Olguin, who rode the filly in all of her nine starts says “she does everything that you ask her to do, and she never gets excited before her races. And, unlike other horses who gallop out an extra quarter mile following the finish of their races, she pulls up just beyond the wire because she knows that she has finished her race.”
“We are blessed, she’s our Cinderella filly, our dream come true”, says her proud owner, Jessie Ladouceur.
One of Harold Ladouceur’s credos is “keep your horses happy and they will please you”. These thoughts are echoed by Sid Gustafson, a veterinarian and equine behavior educator at the University of Guelph and a lifelong horseman, who says, “To teach horses you must know them. To know them is to adequately fulfill their nature. Fulfilling the nature of horses is the key to keeping them healthy and trainable. Horse folk who know how to please their horses have horses that are happy to please them.”
This is how Harold Ladouceur treats each member of his small public stable and Paladin Bay is a perfect example of his credo.
The second Ladouceur credo is, “when you need good advice, seek out a white-haired man.” As a young man growing up on the reservation at Lac La Biche, Harold always sought the advice of his aging grandfather when he needed help and direction. And when training his small string of horses he sought the advice of veteran trainer, Mort Hardy, one of the most respected horsemen on Woodbine’s backstretch.
Harold remembers seeking the sage advice of his grandfather and that of Mort Hardy. He also remembers the help and advice of Woodbine Chaplain Shawn Kennedy, and when Chaplain Shawn married him and his wife Jessie. Harold reminisces about Chaplain Shawn baptizing their children, Jacob and Sarah, and the great work that Chaplain Shawn has done and still does for all of the members of the backstretch community. The hundreds of hospital visits for those who suffered broken bones and worse in horse related accidents, and how he offered aid, support, guidance and sometimes just a friendly ear for those countless men and women working behind the scenes on the backstretch.
Harold and Jessie Ladouceur are thankful for their good fortune, for having an outstanding filly like Paladin Bay. They plan on sharing some of their good fortune with Chaplain Shawn and his Chaplaincy. Their Cinderella filly, who will face Canada’s best sophomore fillies in major stakes events this year, will play a major role in helping support the Racetrack Chaplaincy of Canada, a non-denominational, non-profit religious charity.
A portion of Paladin Bay’s purse earnings from her 2014 campaign will be donated to the Chaplaincy, and it is an even money bet that Woodbine’s backstretch community will be rooting for Paladin Bay in her every trip to the post . . . including her first season’s start in the 58th renewal of Saturday’s $144,000 Star Shoot Stakes at Toronto’s Woodbine (April 19).