March 29, 2023
Ricky's Story: 'Horse Racing Saved My Life'

The recent-headed boy from Weston Street and Finch was heading down a harmful highway.

Ricky Dookeran noticed this virtually all over the place he seemed, realizing that temptations would lead him astray, however generally he felt too powerless to withstand them.

“Rising up there was completely different,” mentioned Dookeran of the neighborhood, which is about half-hour northwest of downtown Toronto. “There weren’t many alternatives for me again then, I did not acknowledge them if there was. Both it is you on the streets or the streets take you in. It was like that again then. I used to be going that method. , getting caught up on this way of life.”

Within the early 2000s, Steven Flats, a pal of Dookeran’s, requested him to go to a spot he had by no means been earlier than.

The pair of flats drove 20 minutes west Woodbine Racetrackthe place coach Steve Owens works as a groom in his secure.


As they approached the gates to the large again brace, Flats turned to Dookeran, who was then in his early 20s, and mentioned, “This is the place I have been telling you about, and here is your probability to make one thing of your self.”

“I wanted one thing in my life, one thing good,” Dookeran recalled.

Shortly after his first go to to the racetrack, the place he met a number of equestrian individuals, he began life as a scorching walker for coach John Dalton.

It wasn’t a satisfying job, no less than initially, however the alternative introduced sure advantages that resonated with the big-eyed Dookeran.

“At first I assumed it was boring, however I favored horses. At first I did not like horses. I simply liked the setting. It was one thing completely different for me. Individuals, being exterior and ending a job early, all that made me completely satisfied. Waking up early was one thing I used to be used to. It gave me life. It gave a objective. I liked all of the individuals and it was such a pleasant feeling to be exterior.

He ultimately fell in love with horses.

The hours he spent every day with Thoroughbred Brits grew, and with it, his bond along with his protégés.

“I did not know their names as soon as, but it surely made me completely satisfied to exit and stroll with them. Then sooner or later I spotted that every thing, together with the horses, made me very completely satisfied to be in that world. I knew I wished to groom the horses.”

Lower than a 12 months after his time at Woodbine, one other alternative arose, a suggestion to work for Owens.

For Dookeran, it will be a transformative expertise, the place racing and life classes mixed, offering him with the aim he had lengthy sought however had all the time neglected.

Dookeran discovered mentoring and kinship with the equestrians whereas working for Owens and with the then-groom Barbados-born Leroy Trotman.

“Working for Steve modified my life. It truthfully and actually modified it. It was there that I met Leroy. Steve, Leroy and Steven (Flats)… these three males saved me. Even to at the present time I say Steve, ‘I owe you my life.’ I do not know the place I might be with out them. The typical life expectancy for a kid rising up in Weston and Finch in these days was most likely 24, or no less than it felt prefer it. However I took an opportunity. Working for Steve and my life is what I’ve all the time dreamed of. For the primary time in my life I’ve one thing to stay up for.”

The as soon as aimless youth was now a centered younger man.

Picture: Michael Burns

Leroy Trotman

Dookeran embraced each dialog he had with Owens and Trotman. He additionally heeded each recommendation that got here his method.

“Ricky actually listened to what we needed to say,” Trotman recalled. “He was a younger man again then, and like all of us, he had his ups and downs, however he was open to something we shared.”

Owens echoed this sentiment.

“He works laborious. He exhibits up and tries day by day. Over time you’ll be able to see how vital work and horses are to him.”

Dookeran was grateful for his coaching in horses.

“I used to be a sponge. These guys taught me every thing I do know right this moment. They took the time to show me the fundamentals from scratch. Steve would come to the sales space and present me firsthand what I wanted to know. It was laborious for me but it surely was as a result of he cared. He wished me to succeed. He additionally wished leroy and “I noticed his work ethic too. I actually appreciated the effort and time that Leroy put into me. I noticed how laborious he labored. Be like him. I bear in mind pondering sooner or later that every thing in my life was wanting good.”

All the pieces modified on the evening of August 4, 2002.

A hearth in Barn 7 claimed the lives of 32 Thoroughbreds, together with Owens’ 14 horses.

Among the many lacking have been Authorized Inheritor, a local Owens skilled for his household’s Empress Stables, and Highland Legacy, one other Empress runner who turned Canada’s 2-year-old colt champion in 2000. Authorized Inheritor gained the ultimate race at Woodbine the day earlier than the fireplace. .

Along with Owens, coaches Danny O’Callaghan, Cliff Hopmans and Earl Barnett additionally misplaced their horses.

“We gained the race with Authorized Inheritor the opposite evening and we went out to rejoice,” Dookeran recalled. “Once we took the waste and went to the barn, I noticed smoke and fireplace. I am so sorry concerning the horses, Steve, of us. I simply stood there and could not speak.”

Numerous ideas roared by way of Dookeran’s thoughts as he watched the flames rise into the virtually black, starless sky.

“For the primary time in my life I had a course however questioned if it was throughout. It was tough. I used to be nonetheless younger however I might see the look in Leroy and Steve’s eyes. They love horses they usually love their job. I used to be misplaced. I did not know what to anticipate.

“After the fireplace, I used to be in Florida with Steve. It was virtually like a revelation. We have been in the identical home as this man I began working with, and we actually began understanding one another. I had respect for him, I spotted how vital this man was to me. I might do no matter he wished. The person I wished to be. He put a number of effort into my being. I used to be so grateful for that.”

Dookeran confronted an unsure future when he returned to Woodbine.

The workforce in Warehouse 7 was no extra.

Owens labored tirelessly to rebuild his operation; it was an enterprise that will take time to get again on observe. Trotman and Dookeran had no alternative however to look elsewhere for enterprise.

As soon as once more, Dookeran felt swept away.

“Once we received again to Canada, Leroy had continued to work at one other barn. That impressed me too. I could not think about working wherever with out Leroy. He was such a mentor to me and it meant a lot to have him round. When he was gone, I did not know what to do. “After that, our whole workforce disbanded. For the primary time on the racetrack, I felt actually alone. I all the time had the steerage of Leroy and Steve round me.”

A grieving Dookeran carried what he had realized from the 2 males into teacher John LeBlanc, Jr.’s secure.

Hope got here within the type of a humble chestnut castrated animal, with Schossberg’s sturdy son being raised and owned by Joan Agro.

“After I received to the barn, John had a horse named Sophia’s Prince that ran formidable races. There was one thing I favored about that horse. I wished to show to myself that I might be sturdy and do it. No, I might have had to return to Weston and Finch. “At that time, I did not wish to return to that way of life. I had a number of mates who have been dying. Weapons, medicine, and gangs.

So is Sophia’s Prince.

The Ontario-born, who had some success within the claiming, allowance and betting rankings, began to progress on the finish of the 2004 season.

After two fall runners-up finishes, Sophia’s Prince closed her marketing campaign with one win, once more claiming one, the beginning of a four-race successful streak, together with a record-breaking efficiency on the Shepperton Stakes on August 7, 2005, with common rider Simon Husbands at anchors .

“Spending time within the secure and with Sophia’s Prince was the best factor. It gave me peace of thoughts. Simon got here as much as me sooner or later and mentioned, ‘I’ve by no means felt higher than this horse.’ I might spend all day grazing this horse. John put it in Shepperton and I felt this might be an enormous day. That day was superb as a result of as he took over he hung his head and the reins began coming off. He had his head on his neck and was so able to race that he simply set a report with 6 1/2 furlongs on the previous Woodbine grime course (1:14.56). “Then they invited him to race in Atto (now often called Woodbine) Mile in Woodbine (G1T). I used to be surprised and really humble. He completed seventh, however he by no means gave up regardless that the chances have been towards him.”

Ricky and daughter Vivian Sophia hug at Woodbine
Picture courtesy of Woodbine

Ricky and daughter Vivian Sophia hug at Woodbine

Similar to Dookeran, who named her daughter Vivian Sophia as an indication of her love and admiration for Sophia’s Prince.

Now 45, he has spent the final 25 years of his life on the racetrack that now appears like residence.

Trotman, the assistant coach of now retired Corridor of Fame conditioner Reade Baker, is now a profitable jockey agent directing the books of Patrick Husbands and Şahin Civacı, who’re having the very best season of his profession.

Owens remained a staple within the Toronto oval again stretch. final 12 months its Poulin at OT He gained 4 races, three of which have been bets, and was acknowledged as a finalist for the 2-year-old male Sovereign Award in 2022.

Poulin wins 2022 Frost King Stakes at Woodbine in overtime
Picture: Michael Burns

Poulin wins 2022 Frost King Stakes at Woodbine on OT with jockey Patrick Husbands

As for Dookeran, he went again to the person who had began him as a groom.

“I went again to Steve. It isn’t for the cash. I might work for him without spending a dime. He had a big impact on my life. Steven Flats saved my life by bringing me to Woodbine. Leroy would all the time come through the years and verify me out. If in case you have any questions, Leroy “I went to . I nonetheless go to at the present time. I owe every thing to those guys. Horse racing saved my life.”

Dookeran’s affinity for horses has by no means been stronger.

When a number of bets are winners go to Greeley handed away final October, took to Fb and paid a heartfelt homage to his son, who was raised in Ontario. Horse Greeley Winner of three shares in a row in 2013.

“I really like them. I actually adore it. That is the entire setting… the racetrack. I take pleasure in being there and might’t think about myself (wherever else). I am completely satisfied after I get up. I really like being there and doing it. I really like all of the working and the way enjoyable it’s. This It’s a testomony to Woodbine and horse racing. There may be a lot equality of alternative. There may be equality of alternative it doesn’t matter what race or gender you’re. We’ve got that too. I really like being amongst individuals of various nationalities and attending to know everybody. After I get up, I say ‘Time to go’. The place? I am excited to know I am gone.”

He did not neglect the laborious occasions earlier than the horse races, the times when he awakened and questioned what his future could be, or even when it will be.

The person from Weston Street and Finch beat odds.

“My life might have gone considered one of two methods. I used to be going within the fallacious course, however individuals helped me discover the best method. I will keep there.”

This press launch has been edited by the BloodHorse Workforce when it comes to content material and elegance.

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