Woodbine trainer Ladouceur inducted into North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame

Woodbine trainer Ladouceur inducted into North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame

TORONTO, January 4, 2024— On a night typically known for its revelry and roistering, Harold Ladouceur was, for a moment, left utterly speechless.

The atmosphere at the Ladouceur home, like most New Year’s Eve scenes, was one of celebration, reflection and gratefulness for the year that was.

This night, however, had a twist to it.

“It was one of the best things someone has ever told me,” recalled Ladouceur, of the moment his wife, Jessie, informed him that he had been inducted into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame (NAIAHF). “I was pretty speechless when I found out, but I can tell you that it’s a wonderful feeling.”

A week later, it still is. And not just for Ladouceur.

Having to keep the news a secret – she had known since early November – was hardly a burden for Jessie, who handles the reins of assistant trainer for Team Ladouceur.

“It was easy to keep Harold’s induction quiet. Dr. Ninham (who, along with his wife Susan, established NAIAHF) had requested that nothing be mentioned and that he and his wife would be doing the media release when everything was ready. So, I certainly didn’t want to be responsible for letting any information out after how hard they worked. Also, once they had the information they needed from me, thankfully, we were so busy that my mind just moved on to the next project. I’m not sure Harold realized the scope of it when I told him. Or he was just being really cool.”

The news became official on January 2nd when the NAIAHF announced its third class of inductees.

Founded in 2022, the NAIAHF honours and recognizes the indigenous sports cultures throughout North America by recognizing outstanding leadership and achievement in individual and team athletics.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Ladouceur. “My mom is so happy and so proud, and so are my kids (Jacob, 17, and Sarah, 13). To know how much it means to others, including my extended family in Western Canada, is so great.”

Raised in between northern Alberta and the Kikino Metis settlement and Saulteux and Moosomin Reserves in Saskatchewan, Ladouceur’s connection to horses has been part of his family’s identity for decades.

Whether the horses were working in logging or competing on the rodeo circuit, he marvelled at every equine that he crossed paths with.

From an early age, Ladouceur knew he was destined to work with horses. What that would be, exactly, he wasn’t sure.

“I have always felt a kinship with horses. No matter what I did, they would always be a big part of my life.”

It was through his later grandfather, Alec Poitras, that Ladouceur would discover his calling.

Poitras, who trained Thoroughbreds in Western Canada, was joined by a then-teenage Ladouceur, who started as an exercise rider and groom. The youngster also rode in races on tracks constructed in corn fields.

Eventually, Ladouceur made his way to Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg where he would meet Jessie.

A later move to Florida was integral in Ladouceur finding success in breaking yearlings for prominent clientele, who would then take them across America to the sales.

It was in the Sunshine State where the couple met highly regarded horseman, Thoroughbred owner Luke McKathan, who would play a key role in Ladouceur’s later successes as a trainer. Twenty-five years after they first met, Ladouceur still does business with the McKathan family.

But it was, fittingly, a horse who would be the game-changer for Ladouceur, who began his training career in 2004.

At the 2012 CTHS Canadian-bred Yearling Sale, one horse caught his eye, a bay filly with a somewhat diminutive makeup.

Although there was nothing that stood out above any of the other yearlings, Ladouceur saw something in Hip 98.

Whether it was a blend of intuition, luck, or anything in between, his instincts would prove correct.

Ladouceur campaigned the Ontario-bred, who came to be known as Paladin Bay, to great success.

The bay daughter of Sligo Bay (IRE) went 4-4-4 from 18 career starts, including three stakes scores. After winning the Princess Elizabeth and Ontario Lassie Stakes in 2013, Paladin Bay, owned by Jessie, and bred by Ericka Rusnak, won the Grade 3 Selene Stakes the following year.

By the time she was sold to Calumet Farm for $170,000 (U.S.), Paladin Bay had racked up over $607,000 (U.S.) in purse earnings.

“She was a beautiful horse,” recalled Ladouceur. “There was something about her at the sale that told me she would be special. She certainly was that and a lot more.”

Other notable names for the Ladouceur barn include Jurojin, Wake Up Maggie, Splendid Glory and Primo Touch.

In 2017, he won the Inaugural Turf Endurance Championship for longtime owner Kirk Sutherland with Tesseron, and finished third in the 2021 Canadian International with turf star Primo Touch.

This year, Shamans Girl, a homebred for Frank Stronach, pulled off a 23-1 upset in the Shady Well Stakes on December 2nd at Woodbine.

“It was exciting all year with her,” said Ladouceur in the winner’s circle. “We had setbacks. We’re just so proud of her today. It wasn’t a surprise, to tell you the truth. I’m just so proud of her.”

After such a memorable year on and off the racetrack, it might, at first blush, appear to be a tough task for Ladouceur to duplicate those successes in 2024.

But with more Stronach horses coming his way and Shamans Girl being prepared for her 3-year-old campaign, this year could very well be the best year of Ladouceur’s career.

Currently, he’s in Laurel, along with 10 Stronach horses, looking to kick off 2024 in winning fashion.

“We had such a wonderful year, thanks in large part to Mr. Stronach and his belief in us. Now, we’ll look to be even better this year. That’s our goal. I think we have a lot to look forward to.”

And not just on the racetrack.

In just over two months, Ladouceur will join other inductees – in athlete, coach, builder, media, official, and trainer categories, and seven teams – at the NAIAHF banquet on March 16th in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“I’m excited about it and I know my family and friends are too. To be recognized this way is very humbling. I am very proud of my heritage, where I came from and how it shaped me into the person I am.”

Something that Harold and Jessie Ladouceur have been reminded of often ahead of the special night to come in mid-March.

“Harold is very proud of his culture and heritage,” said Jessie. “So, I think this allowed him to take a minute and realize what he’s accomplished.” ​ ​

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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