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Bouchard reaches 7,000 career victories

October 02, 2009
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Stephane Bouchard Friday night did what he's done for the better part of this decade...find his way into Yonkers Raceway's winner's circle. However, his trip there with the mare Winnie the Who was more than a bit special, doubling as the 7,000th victory of his driving career.
 
"Winnie," a 5-year-old daughter of Emile Angus, stuck her tongue out at just the right moment, winning the $20,000, fourth-race trot in the passing lane by a nose over Self Righteous. The lass trotted her mile in 1:57.4 at a $15 mutuel.
 
Bouchard was joined by his wife, Eve, and son, Samuel, for a post-race presentation.
 
"As I was getting closer (to 7,000), I began counting down," he said. "It was fun, but I didn't want to wait too long to get it done. The mare (Winnie the Who) didn't really go when I moved from third, but when I put her inside in the stretch, she was back on the bit.
 
"I thought I won, but I wasn't totally sure at the wire."
 
The 42-year-old Bouchard, a native of Montreal, is currently fifth in the 2009 local standings with 153 wins. He saw his career explode in Westchester as the Raceway's dominant force in the first portion of the decade, winning five consecutive driving titles from 2003 through 2007. His $5.3 million in local purses in '07 was a single-season record before Jason Bartlett went by it this season.
 
He also shares (with Walter Case Jr. and Luc Ouellette) the local record of nine wins on a single program. Both Bouchard and Case have done it twice.
 
Bouchard's overseas driving stops included Italy and Germany, but his career highlight came right here, when he guided Napoleon to victory in the wild-scramble 2008 Yonkers Trot.
 
"It's been a lot of hard work, but also very rewarding," he said. "You really have to have persistence."
 
Bouchard, with more than $57.5 million in career purses, ought to know. His first rendezvous with Yonkers came in the mid-1980's, when he was a groom for a Yonkers Trot entrant.
 
"I came here in 1986 with On the Take," he said. "I was working for Jean-Paul Gauthier."
 
(Author's aside...On the Take, with Gauthier driving, broke stride early in his elimination race and finished ninth [last]. Gauthier, who also worked for a tree company in Quebec, died in a car accident in 1988.. His widow then asked Bouchard to wear Gauthier's driving colors--green and white and adorned with tiny trees. Bouchard wears those colors--trees and all--to this day.)
 
Bouchard began his quest for the next 7,000 with the odds-on gelding Titan Park ($2.90) in the $25,000, sixth-race trot. For the record, his first win was behind D I Resplendent at Ottawa's Rideau Carleton Raceway in 1989.
 
Friday night's pair of $40,000 Open Handicaps, for trotters and distaff pacers, were won by Beach Nut Brand (Jeff Gregory, $9.80) in 1:55.1, and Sentbytheangels (Ryan Anderson, $8.50) in 1:53.1, respectively. Beach Nut Brand matched American Lane's track record an aged trotting gelding. (Yonkers)
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