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Happy 100th birthday Aime Choquette

October 31, 2014

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Aime Choquette, who has been a "behind the scenes” great in harness racing, is celebrating his 100th birthday on Friday, Oct. 31.
Born in 1914 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Aime returned to his home town four years ago and lives a quiet life in an assisted living center. He is close to his sister, age 94, and has breakfast with her every week.
"I don't get around as much as I use to,” Aime says, "I have to use a walker now but that has only been this past year. But other than that I think I am doing pretty well for almost 100 years old. I smile every day thinking how fortunate I am to have lived this long. I never thought growing up that I would live to see my 100th birthday.”

A confirmed bachelor, Choquette, who did not get into the harness racing industry until he was 38, had spent the next 52 years devoted to the sport. Starting out as a trainer of show jumping horses in Quebec, Canada, it was in 1952 that Choquette first switched over to become a caretaker in the Delvin Miller Stable, a relationship that would last for more than 30 years and see many world and Grand Circuit champion trotters and pacers come from the Miller Stable.

"At the time I was maybe one of the best show jumpers in all of Canada,” Aime explained. "One day at a big event in Trois-Rivieres in 1951 at the Warwick Horse Show, I did a jump that no one had ever attempted before. I jumped the great horse Pete Hackley, over four jumps that were set up next to each other.

"Delvin Miller happened to be in the area at that time and heard about the jump I had made,” Aime said, "and he was introduced to me and said he was interested in having me work for his stable and learn about harness racing. At the time the show horse business was going downhill and harness racing was moving uphill, so I took up his offer.”

Promoted to second trainer in 1959, Choquette would travel throughout North America on the Grand Circuit with Miller for most of his life, prepping yearlings at Miller's famous Meadow Lands Farm in Pennsylvania and wintering at Pompano Park in Florida.

One of Choquette's quotes that has stood the test of time include: "…we educate them, we never break them…” In referring to the early training of young horses.

During Choquette's long career he has shared his horsemanship, wisdom and friendship with many of today's racing industry leaders, who were grooms under Choquette's tutelage. They include the late Andy Grant, former president of the Hambletonian Society; the late Castleton Farms president John Cashman Jr.;Tom Charters, president of The Hambletonian Society; Jerry Monahan, former Red Mile GM; former USTA Registrar Bob Leuhrman; Jim Moran of Vernon Downs; and horsemen Walter Bonafice, Don McKirgan, Lenford "Bucky” Waugh, Bob Yohn, Soren Landin, Tomas Nilsson, Fred Kristofiak, David Seitz and many others.

And the horses that Choquette worked with reads like a "Who's Who” of harness racing greats including Countess Adios, Dancer Hanover, O'Brien Hanover, Speed In Action, Tarport Hap, Meadow Bright, Songflori, Arndon and Delmonica Hanover, just to name a few. And Choquette also traveled around the world withMiller, racing their great stable and winning nearly every major stakes race in harness racing. Choquette alone took Delmonica Hanover to France and prepped her for her victory in the prestigious Prix d'Amerique.

"I saw those hills at the Vincennes racetrack,” Choquette recalled, "and realized that she (Delmonica) would have to race up and down them and never could miss a step so I would train her in short trips every day, up and down until she knew it made no difference and she would trot up and down at full speed with ease. When she beat the boys it was a great day and such an historic event in harness racing.”

Even at age 90, trainers would still call upon Choquette to come to Pompano Park and the local training centers to watch their horses train a mile and ask him for his opinion on what they were doing right and wrong. They knew that even if Choquette could not sit in a sulky anymore, that his eyesight and knowledge were still so keen.
In his later years, Choquette wanted to help those in the business that were less fortunate them himself and with the Florida Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association, he would funnel money to their sunshine fund. The Chapter then renamed it the Aime Choquette Sunshine Fund and he has donated thousands of dollars that have been given to horsemen in need. (edited from Steve Wolf)
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