Louisiana native Mark Guidry,
who spent the majority of his jockey career as the dominant year-round
dean of Chicago riders, embarked on his new career as a trainer three
years ago – but will be
stabling his barn at Fair Grounds for the first time this winter.
“The Gid” saddled Rodney Verret’s
Lyd River to register a
two-length win when he led that horse over as his first starter of the
season in Saturday’s eighth race under a cleverly rated front-running
ride by fellow Louisianan
Kerwin Clark, and one would hope that Guidry has continued success as a trainer locally throughout the season.
saddled a few winners here since I began my training career,” said
Guidry, “but I shipped in with those. This is the first time I’ve
been stabled here at Fair Grounds.
going to give it my best shot (as a trainer) this winter at Fair
Grounds,” said Guidry, “but if I don’t do any good, I’m going to have
to give it up. It costs a lot of money to train horses, and I can’t
afford to keep going unless I start having some real success. Training
horses is a lot of work. It has been a learning process for me and I’m
still learning new things all the time. I spent
33 years as a rider and I learned new things all those years, but I
can’t afford to spend 33 years learning to be a good trainer. I have to
see some results soon for all the work I’ve been putting into it.”
a jockey, Guidry was a legendary figure to Chicagoans for many years,
but in the twilight of his riding career he took a major step up in
class to ride during the winter at Gulfstream
Park with success and also spent one meeting at Santa Anita to win the 2005 Grade I Santa Anita Derby with
He retired in November of 2007 with 5,043 wins as a jockey, but his
biggest win came in February of 2006 when he became the 57th winner of
George Woolf Award, presented annually to a jockey who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct on and off the racetrack.
was his actions as a human being following Hurricane Katrina the
previous fall that probably cinched Guidry’s selection as that year’s
winner. In the first hours after Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast,
Guidry, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, that never forgot his roots,
made an impassioned plea to other jockeys as well everyone associated
with Thoroughbred racing to help the victims, setting
an example with an immediate and significant cash donation as well as a
pledge of his purse earnings for upcoming stakes.
his tack still hanging at Arlington Park, he kept the drive going with
continuous televised pleas for public support, rallying his peers
and their families with further contributions of time and money toward
those most severely affected by Katrina.
Aided by friends and family, Guidry drove an 18-wheeler loaded with canned goods and clothing from
Chicago to Lafayette
with the intention of distributing its goods, only to have to off-load
and leave the distribution part to his family due to the approaching
“I had to drive to
Baton Rouge right after we off-loaded to fly back to
Chicago to ride
Perfect Drift in the Hawthorne Gold Cup,” Guidry said. “The
New Orleans airport was already closed down, and I had to make a decision in a hurry to get out or get stuck there.
knew all the donations would get distributed to the proper places,”
Guidry said, “because I left my mother and sisters in charge. They told
me not to worry about those things, that they’d take care of
everything, and they did.
had half a truckload of dresses for kids that we distributed to the
churches and half a truckload of canned goods and now I have a lot of
‘thank you’ letters from a lot of people. Some of those letters brought
tears to my eyes and still do when I reread them,” said Guidry. “They
pull your heart out.”
Other Woolf Award winners with Cajun backgrounds, incidentally, include
Ray Sibille (2007), like Guidry now training a string at Fair Grounds;
Robby Albarado (2004), a seven-time Fair Grounds jockey champion who will be returning this season;
Craig Perret (1998); Kent Desormeaux (1993), soon to be riding at Fair Grounds; and
Eddie Delahoussaye (1981).
think a lot of that has to do with the way we were raised,” said
Guidry. “We were taught to respect others, to treat others the way you
to be treated. That kind of stuff is pounded into you growing up but
the individual has to open up his heart and make the right choices. I’ve
made some mistakes in my life, but I’ve always tried to learn from my
mistakes and do the right thing.”
JOCKEY MARLON ST.
JULIEN ON COMEBACK TRAIL AT FAIR GROUNDS
There were a lot of warm hugs in the jockeys’ quarters after Marlon St. Julien
won his first race at Fair Grounds in nearly a decade in
Saturday’s fifth race. The 38-year-old St. Julien and veteran Texas-bred
Charles Edwin raced three-wide around the turn in a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint before closing steadily to get up by a half-length.
Although St. Julien has had a handful of mounts in
New Orleans the past few seasons, Saturday marked his first win at Fair Grounds since the 2001-2002 meet, when he won 10 races.
“Almost six years ago I left
Kentucky and came back home to
Louisiana,” St. Julien
explained. “I went through a divorce and I had a drug problem. I’m not
ashamed to say that; I overcame it, thank God. I piddled around and then
I was riding at Evangeline and Delta but it finally
got in my head that I needed to be back to where I was before.”
Following a successful meet at Louisiana Downs this summer, St. Julien ventured back to the
State, where he had once been a prominent
rider and in 2000 became the first African-American to ride in the
Kentucky Derby in 79 years.
this summer helped boost my confidence,” St. Julien said. “I was
winning and I went to Keeneland and I went to Churchill. People had to
gain trust in me again and I think there’s a handful
of people that still want to see if Marlon’s back.”
St. Julien credited his parents and his children for helping to get his life back on track.
dad, especially, helped get me focused on what I had to do,” he said.
“Being around home made me realize there’s a lot more things than
just women and drugs. I know for a fact that I can ride and I’m blessed
with talent. My family helped open my eyes.”
As St. Julien started to show a renewed interest in riding outside of his native Cajun country some of his old friends like
Robby Albarado and Shane Sellers helped to urge him on.
“I stayed with Robby when I went to
and we had a lot of one-on-one conferences,” St. Julien said. “If I
keep working I think I’ll get my career back on track the way it should