If there’s anybody that knows the ins and out of the horse racing game it’s Leroy Trotman. Working in the industry over the last four decades, you’ve most likely seen Trotman on horseback, in the shedrow or somewhere along the daily hustle and bustle of Woodbine’s backstretch.
The Barbadian horseman with the broad smile and the time to chat recalls the first time he was exposed to horses at the tender age of 15.
“It just so happened one day walking to school I heard these horses while I was passing by this stable close to my house and it just drew me in. So I went in there and just discovered what it was all about. It was a lifetime experience that changed me and changed everything for me and brought a lot of happiness to my life,” said Trotman who was born in Barbados and raised in the parish of St. Thomas.
That initial experience in Trotman’s terms as a ‘lightweight’ would be the start of a lifelong career in the racing world, first on the island and then in Canada.
“A lightweight is a guy that just goes and hangs around the barn and the guys that work there put you to work. Sometimes the guys would reward you with a little pocket change or teach you how to ride and my reward was teaching me how to ride.”
In 1990, looking to broaden his horizons, Trotman left the island in hopes of making a living in the horse racing industry in Toronto. That same year, he found himself working for Hall of Fame trainer Gord Huntley at Woodbine. Continually curious and wanting to learn every faucet of the industry, Trotman went on to receive his assistant license with Woodbine trainer Steve Owens. After the barn fire, Trotman became a vet assistant for Dr. Bonder and Peter Vatcher.
In 2005, on the advice of a friend, Trotman submitted his resume for an assistant trainer position at Reade Baker’s outfit. He landed the job and stayed with the stable for the next 11 years. During Trotman’s tenure at Baker’s outfit he worked with a handful of notable racehorses including 2015 Prince of Wales champ Breaking Lucky.
Three years ago, Trotman decided to pursue a career as a jockey agent. The first book (i.e. jockey) he picked up was veteran rider Patrick Husbands. Well known on the Canadian racing circuit, the Barbadian jockey has received his fair share of riding titles, including eight Sovereign Awards for outstanding rider at Woodbine over the last two decades.
“It was a godsend opportunity that came at the right time. I said, ‘Well, this game has been so great to me. It’s put me in a different position in this game as a groom, as an exercise rider, as an assistant trainer, as a vet assistant’ and then the next door that opened for me was being an agent.”
Trotman and Husbands have been friends for several years, yet the agent couldn’t help but feel blessed when the jockey decided to work with him when he transitioned into his new role.
While it’s easy enough to Google the stats and see photos of his jockey winning races, what you don’t see is the hard work and the long hours an agent like Trotman puts in behind the scenes. An agent’s job is not 9 to 5. Rather, it begins just as early as the first set of horses hit the track for morning training. Walking or driving from barn to barn, Trotman makes connections with trainers in hopes of getting his jock a call on various horses on the afternoon racing card.
Last season, Trotman also had the opportunity to represent rider Sheena Ryan.
“It was great working with Sheena. We became close friends and helped each other. When times were tough with her I was able to keep her spirits up and go from there,” Trotman said.
Without a doubt, working as an agent requires time and patience, but when the right horse and rider come together it can translate into a hard-earned win and yet another possible mount for their jockey down the road.
As with any job, there are peaks and valleys.
Last season, Husbands captured three Grade 3 stakes wins: the Selene Stakes with Miss Mo Mentum, the Ontario Colleen Stakes with Got Stormy and the Whimsical Stakes with Let It Ride Mom – all Mark Casse trainees. However, on Nov. 5, the jockey broke his pelvis when his mount Islay Inlet reared in the post parade.
“It was a hard blow,” said Trotman, who switched hats from that of an agent to a friend and support system while Husbands spent time in the hospital for various medical procedures and surgeries.
While Husbands continues to recover and awaits the doctor’s okay to resume riding, Trotman already knows his jock won’t be sitting idle for too long.
“On a great note, he is determined to get back into the saddle, and it’s his life. It’s something that he’s done his whole life. It’s in his blood and it runs through his bloodstream daily.”
Just like Husbands, the longevity of Trotman’s career in the game speaks to the fact that his passion for horse racing continues to pulsate heavily through his veins, as well.