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Passion for horses

RACHELLE AGARD, [email protected]

Passion for horses

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IF EVER you take a walk anywhere near or around the Garrison Savannah, one person you are sure to find is Victor Cheeseman.

He has had a passion for horses as far back as he can remember, and he talked about it with MIDWEEK SPORT at last Saturday’s race day.

This year, Cheeseman won his fourth consecutive trainer’s title, with earnings of $628 689 from 152 starters. He secured 26 wins and a win percentage of 17.

The veteran has been in the business of training horses for the past 20 years, and said that despite his father trying to steer him away from that life, he did all he could to end up exactly where he wanted to be.

“I used to come around the Garrison as a youngster, but my father didn’t want me to be around the horses and would run me from the Garrison,” he recalled. “He took me to learn to build coffins. I never really did like it and used to lie down in the coffins and sleep. After he saw I was not interested in that, he sent me to do wrought iron work. I didn’t like that either, and when I was old enough I left and came straight to the Garrison.”

The champion trainer, who hails from Paddock Road, a stone’s throw away from the Garrison, began his career as a groom on the encouragement of veteran trainer Debbie Hughes, whom he lauds for the prod in the right direction.

victor-cheeseman“Debbie encouraged me to become a trainer and secure my training licence. I told her I didn’t want to be a trainer and that I would put the horses in somebody else’s name, but I will do the work. She told me if I didn’t go and get my training licence she would stop bringing the horses. From there I didn’t look back.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication, getting up early on a morning, making sure that everything is in order before the horses come and work and we go from there,” he said, while watching the horses enter the track before the start of the first race.

Recently, Cheeseman, who also won the Barbados Guineas with Aston Martin and Nekitta, tried his hand at breeding and now has three horses of his own.

One of the horses, three-year-old Northern Star, has brought Cheeseman and co-owner Mervyn Rollins great success over the last year.

“Northern Star has been quite a success. I don’t think anybody has ever won three big races in a row with one horse,” he declared proudly of this year’s Massy United Insurance Barbados Derby winner.

However, a check of the archives revealed that Sir John Chandler achieved a similar feat in 1943.

Northern Star also won the Midsummer Creole Classic and the Bryden Stokes Limited Breeders Classic last year.

Very challenging

According to Cheeseman, despite the highs of the game, there are also lows that one must not focus on.

“The job is very challenging with the various people and the different opinions, and sometimes you have to go with that, but if you put one and one together and fight your way through, everything usually turns out fine. Dedication and hard work is what makes me successful. I do my best and even though there are ups and downs, I recalculate and go from there,” he said.

As to how much longer he would continue training horses, he said he would keep on pushing until there was no more life left in him.

“Right now I am a youngster. I will have to get sick or something, but I am at the top of my game and I thank the Lord for it. I have no aches and pains; every day I get up and keep doing this because I love it. I have a young son, Keshawn Greenidge, who seems dedicated to the horses. He’s 12 years old now and is focused on his books, but I will groom him to take over eventually,” he said.

However, 56-year-old Cheeseman has one wish before his time in the industry comes to an end.

“I would like to see another track, but I don’t know that I would live to see that; that may not happen until after I die. We have one track here and the amount of races that are run on it, the track should be much worse now. I think [the Barbados Turf Club] do very well to keep it the way that it is, but it would be nice to see another track on the island,” he said.