Horse trainer Gourneau wins third award in four years

Assiniboia Downs names Belcourt native Trainer of the Year

This past Wednesday, a Belcourt native was recognized for his excellence in the world of training race horses.

Jerry Gourneau captured Trainer of the Year honors at Assiniboia Downs, a Canadian horse race track located in the Winnipeg suburb of St. James-Assiniboia. It is operated by the Manitoba Jockey Club and is the site of the annual Manitoba Derby. This marks the third time in four years that Gourneau has won the award.

At Assiniboia, the horse racing season runs from May through September and features roughly 350 races per year. In order for a trainer to win the yearly award, he must accumulate the most race wins for a given season. In 338 starts, Gourneau racked up 58 wins with 61 second and 59 third-place finishes according to statistics provided by equibase.com. By comparison, the next highest win total at Assiniboia was 40.

In addition to his pace-setting win total at the track, Gourneau’s season’s earning totaled $600,257, nearly double the second-highest total of $333,771. According to the veteran trainer, his high earning total provides the most satisfaction.

“At the end of the day, this is a business, so your goal should be to make the most amount of money as possible,” Gourneau tells The Minot Daily News. “These horses are an investment, and nobody wants to lose money on their investment. The best way you can ensure your clients gain a profit is by continuing to win. That is what I take the most pride in.”

A former school administrator and youth basketball coach, Gourneau reveals he has always had a passion for horses and has been around these majestic animals for mostly all his life. Back in the early 1990s, Gourneau, along with his brothers, began training horses as a family hobby. With a small stable of about nine or 10 horses at the time, Gourneau’s mother and father also got involved in the family business at various points.

Around the turn of the century, the avid horse trainer says he started to add more clients and began to branch out the business. Currently, Gourneau states that he has 15 total clients with the most active client owning over 40 horses.

Of all the horses he has trained over the decades, Assiniboia’s three-time Trainer of the Year says his most memorable animal was a family-owned claimer and allowance horse named LD Ribot. The North Dakota bred race horse was given the initials LD in honor of Gourneau’s late father Larry, and his late brother Dave.

“All of the horses I train are terrific in their own way, so I can’t necessarily pick a favorite, but LD really stands out in my mind. Every time he would race, there would always be at least 50 people in the photo and our family really loved watching him. Those were some special memories,” Gourneau adds.

Now 59 years of age, the race horse enthusiast has made the rounds traveling the country while doing what he loves. From Louisiana to Arizona, and various points in between, Gourneau has trained horses across the United States. As for his future plans in the business, he feels another 10 to 15 years at the track would be an ideal way to cap off a fulfilling professional career.

“Of course it’s hard to say when you will retire, but I’d be very satisfied with another decade or so,” he said. “The family memories and the love and excitement for the sport has made this journey such an enjoyable one.”


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