Richard Moreau is more relieved than disappointed that he won’t have to don a tuxedo again this year for the O’Brien Awards, where he’s become a fixture with a ninth consecutive nomination as Canada’s outstanding trainer.
But the resident of Puslinch, Ont., admits he won’t be a whole lot more comfortable in a cowboy hat with Boots & Bling as the theme for this year’s virtual event on Jan. 31.
“I have one, from years ago when I went to the Calgary Stampede, but country really isn’t my thing. I like rock,” Moreau said.
His anthem could be Queen’s We Are The Champions. He has won the O’Brien as champion trainer seven consecutive years, and once again led the nation in wins and money in 2020, accumulating $3.6 million and 237 wins.
They’re not career-high numbers, but in a year interrupted by a shutdown due to a pandemic, they’re a source of pride for the 56-year-old Quebec native.
So was avoiding layoffs to any of his dozen employees. “It’s a choice I made. I didn’t want to lose them. They’re part of the system.”
Moreau said the way he runs his business — with an emphasis on overnight races at numerous tracks and 30 to 40 horses a month moving in and out of his 60-horse stable — once again proved effective, “although I’ve never worked so hard in my life. When we’re racing, it’s seven days a week.”
One difference this year is that horses had more time off than usual, and came back fresher, Moreau said.
It also marked the return of Sylvain Filion as the first-call driver for most of the stable’s horses, after a couple of years when Louis-Philippe Roy got the nod. “Sylvain is highly respected at Mohawk and strong in the stretch,” Moreau said. “Louis is still the backup on my horses, he’s a born talent, but Sylvain has more experience.”
Moreau had some lucrative victories in 2020 — the $250,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final with two-year-old trotter Fashion Frenzie, a pair of Ontario Sires Stakes Golds with $200,000 winner Tokyo Seelster, several preferred wins with Lit de Rose, an O’Brien finalist for top pacing mare — but Moreau said he has a short memory of victories past.
It may be because he’s had so many. In 2020, he became only the third trainer in North America to top 6,000 career wins, and also surpassed the $60-million mark in career winnings.
“Don’t ask me where it went,” he said.
Moreau wasn’t surprised by the O’Brien nomination: “I check the stats every Monday morning” – and sees it as an acknowledgment of the dedication, perseverance and results of his team.
On his Facebook page is a photo of legendary 79-year-old French trainer Jean-Pierre Dubois washing a sulky, with a quote attributed to him that translates as work in silence, success will take care of the noise.
“That’s how I feel too,” said Moreau.
The 2020 Virtual O’Brien Awards Gala takes place on Sunday, January 31, 2021 and will be available for viewing on standardbredcanada.ca from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. (EST).
(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Paul Delean)