Renee Sheward grew up working with her father Ray's horses at their Portland, Ind., farm and later as an assistant trainer. But she'll be in the judges stand at the Delaware County Fair on Sunday, serving as the first ever female associate judge for the Delaware fair.
"Renee is one of three women judges working at pari-mutuel tracks,” said Delaware Presiding Judge Tim Schmitz. "She is the first to work in Ohio in the capacity of a presiding judge. No woman has ever worked the Little Brown Jug, which says a lot about her qualities since it is the premium harness pacing event.”
Sheward joins Schmitz and associate judge Rich Williams, the presiding judge forthe Kentucky Racing Commission, in the stand at Delaware.
"I grew up on our farm working with dad's babies. I worked with them, jogged them, and went with Dad and my brother Donald to county fairs in Indiana and Illinois,” said Renee. "In the 1980s I took a few of Dad's racehorses to Chicago. I also worked for trainers Tommy Harmer, Lavern Hostetler and Doug Hamilton at Maywood Park, Balmoral Park and Sportsman'sPark.”
From Illinois, Rene went to Northfield Park as an assistant trainer. "We had a big stable, a lot of good 2 and 3 year olds. We trained winters at Kentucky's Red Mile, and raced all over the country. Two of my favorite horses were Rosemont Student, who set a track record at Scioto Downs, and Lightening Speed, one of the top 2 year olds that year.”
In 2000 she went from training horses to becoming a racing official. "I just decided it was time to turn my life around. I wanted to make a name for myself. And then Tom Aldrich, general manager at Northfield Park, gave me a chance and I loved it.”
In 2002, Rene worked as paddock judge at Northfield Park. She became presiding judge at Raceway Park and in 2009 became presiding judge at Lebanon Raceway. "I was there four years, then I joined Tim and Rich at Hoosier Park and Shelbyville (Indiana Downs).
"In the spring of 2008, Sam Zonack, executive director ofthe Ohio Racing Commission, was looking for a paddock judge for the Delaware County Fair. Four years later Tom Wright, director of racing for the Delaware Fair, asked me to become an associate judge. This was quite a shock and a tough decision because I really enjoyed being paddock judge. I will still get to see the horses, but not upclose."
Schmitz says of Renee, "She was a stern and efficient paddock regulator and kept her paddock in order. It only makes sense that she was going to be an outstanding presiding associate judge and that she has a keen eye for judging races, knowledge of the rules, and the backbone to enforce the rules of racing.” (Delaware County Fair)