Farm to Stable: Gary Boulanger Takes on Farm Manager Role at CamHaven

Farm to Stable: Gary Boulanger Takes on Farm Manager Role at CamHaven

Stall rest and Gary Boulanger do not go hand in hand.

After announcing his retirement from racing last September, the multiple graded stakes-winning jockey wanted to decompress, mentally and physically, before turning his thoughts to the next chapter in his horse racing career.

One thing, however, was a certainty: he didn’t want to be idle for long.

“I don’t like to sit still much,” said the jockey who amassed 3,685 career wins, 90 of them stakes, over his distinguished career. “That has never been me. I need to be active.”

Eventually, Boulanger’s thoughts turned to his future.

He hoped to find something that aligned with his experience and connection to Thoroughbreds.

It was around three weeks ago when he saw the listing, the one seeking a farm manager for CamHaven Farms, a state-of-the-art training, equine rehabilitation, post-surgical recovery, and fitness development facility located on 50 acres of land in Caledon, Ontario.

The longer Boulanger read about it and the more he discussed it with his wife Jennifer Petricca, the more he felt it could be exactly what he was looking for.

When he went to CamHaven and was interviewed by owners Tony and Shirley Camilleri, Boulanger was convinced it was meant to be.

So too were the Camilleris, whose successful Thoroughbred string runs under the same CamHaven Farms name (it was previously known as Malta Manors Stable). Steve Flint is the trainer.

On March 13, CamHaven sent out a release announcing Boulanger would hold the reins as its farm manager.

Part of the release read, ‘With Gary’s extensive knowledge, professionalism, and expertise, he will be spearheading all aspects of our farm pertaining to rehabilitation, post-surgical recovery, breaking young stock and fitness development for all breeds. Please join me in welcoming Gary Boulanger to CamHaven Farms.’

“It has been amazing,” said Boulanger. “This place is second to none – it’s unbelievable. The barns are gorgeous, there is a covered arena with a great surface, and so much more. Tony and Shirley love their horses and they want them cared for. That is wonderful to see.

“I know it has only been a short time, but from the first day on the job, I knew this was going to be special. I’m grateful to Tony and Shirley for the opportunity. I am happy to be part of the team.”

In Boulanger, CamHaven has a respected and accomplished horseman, who enjoyed great success over a career that included no shortage of highs and lows.

His riding career got out of the gates in 1987.

The Alberta native quickly established himself as a talent, winning three straight titles at Longacres (Washington State) and then becoming a top rider in Florida before moving his tack to Woodbine in 2000.

His most notable wins would come at the Toronto oval.

In 2001, he partnered with the great Sam-Son homebred filly Dancethruthedawn to victory in the King’s Plate and Woodbine Oaks.

“It is a moment that will always stay with me,” said Boulanger of the Plate score. “If you ask any rider what race they want to win in Canada, that’s the one. It takes a little bit of everything to win it and when you do, it is the greatest feeling.”

Perhaps his biggest personal triumph came in the aftermath of a spill at Gulfstream on January 30, 2005.

Boulanger suffered fractured ribs, a ruptured spleen, torn elbow tendons, a blood clot, and brain damage that required doctors to remove part of his skull to ease the swelling.

On two occasions, he flatlined on the operating table.

Somehow, Boulanger found his way back into the saddle in 2013.

It came with a new perspective on the industry and its equine athletes.

“I felt more in tune with the horses, having more of a connection with them than I ever had.”

In 2017, Boulanger received the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award.

The award is given to the person, Canadian-born, Canadian-raised or regular rider in the country for more than five years, who has made significant contributions to the sport and is named in memory of one of the sport’s most heralded and loved performers.

“It’s one of the most treasured moments in my career. To be recognized by your peers and to be part of a very select group is something I am truly grateful for.”

Boulanger, inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2020, feels the same way about his riding career and the relationships he formed over the years.

“These people in our industry work hard – the trainers, the grooms, the exercise riders, the farriers, everyone,” said Boulanger, who won the 1996 Fountain of Youth (G2) with 143-1 Built For Pleasure.

“There are a lot of people that have jobs they don’t want to be at. I always couldn’t wait to get to the track. Who will I see? What horses can I see? What will today bring? It’s something I always looked forward to.”

Now he has something else to look forward to.

Working for CamHaven and with the outfit’s horses has Boulanger once again feeling right at home.

“I remember driving in that day for the interview and something just felt right – that this is where I was meant to be.

“Everything is second nature to me and there is so much to look forward to. Whether it’s breaking the babies, working with the young horses, helping horses after rehab – I’m happy that it all worked out.”

As are the Camilleris.

“As soon as my husband and I met Gary, we knew he was the leadership that we had been lacking for the past three years,” said Shirley.

Boulanger’s role is not unlike his riding days – early mornings, long hours, and planning out a winning path for each horse.

It’s the ideal job for the active type.

“Absolutely,” he said with a laugh. “Perfect, actually.”

Just don’t expect Boulanger to get a leg up on the horses who call CamHaven home.

He has another thrill ride top of mind.

“They have purchased some very nice horses and bred some of their own as well. Someone asked me if I would get on any of them and I told them no. I have had my day and now it’s time to help other riders, to teach them some of the lessons I was taught and to share my knowledge.

“Helping develop the horses and helping other horse people is what drives me now.”

It’s one of many reasons Gary Boulanger, farm manager, wakes up with a smile each morning.

“You jump up, get out of bed, and can’t wait to get there. I’m very happy.”

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms 

Grace Martin
Grace Martin Communications Specialist, Woodbine Entertainment
Horse Racing - TB
About Woodbine Entertainment

Woodbine Racetrack is Canada’s home the biggest and most exciting thoroughbred races. Located in Toronto, Woodbine Racetrack typically operates thoroughbred racing from April through December. Premier races include the longest continuously ran horse race in North America, The Queen’s Plate, Breeders Cup win and you’re in races the Woodbine Mile, Summer and Natalma Stakes, along with the fan-favourite Canadian International Stakes. 

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