Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Native horsemen ride high

Downs' Aboriginal Day honours champions Gardipy Jr., Delorme

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Tom GARDIPY JR. is your average, aw-shucks, sod-kicking type of guy from Saskatchewan who takes most things in stride.

Larren Delorme, 25, on the other hand, has the youthful exuberance and cockiness that comes with being successful and confident in what he does.

Two things these men have in common are that they're both aboriginal and both are champions. Last year, Gardipy won the Assiniboia Downs Trainer of the Year award (tied with Carl Anderson with 45 wins). Delorme made 86 trips to the Winner's Circle to grab Top Jockey honours.

One more thing they have in common is that they are the first aboriginals to finish on top in the same season in the Downs' 52-year-history.

In order to recognize its champions, the Downs has declared Victoria Day (Monday) as Aboriginal Day.

"I think this is kind of a surprise to me, actually," said Gardipy, who picked up a pair of wins Wednesday with a nine-year-old gelding (Simply Regal) and a seven-year-old mare (Flying Helmsman). "I just went about my business normally. I don't like to make big deals out of stuff like that. We're just out here trying to make a living. We're not trying to be famous. We've got our heads in the barn here every day, and that's all I know."

Four days into the season, the native of Beardys Okemasis First Nation near Saskatoon is currently at the top of the standings with seven wins, four seconds, two thirds and earnings of $42,888. "Things are going good so far this season. I really can't complain."

Delorme is off to a bit of a rocky start, but isn't concerned. He was forced to miss two race dates due to a suspension he picked up last season. With only 14 rides under his belt, the jockey from Spirit Lake Reservation, N.D., has only one win and three second-place finishes. "I missed some big races Friday and Saturday. I'm not worried, though. I'll catch up." His best ride on Wednesday was a second, aboard Moment of Song in the third race.

Delorme said he's looking forward to Monday. "It always makes you feel special when they do something for you for Aboriginal Day. I had never heard of this anywhere I have gone. Doing something for aboriginal people -- that's pretty cool."

"I'm proud of him," Travis Gardipy said of his father, Tom. "He grew up with horses his whole life. He's really experienced with them; it's kind of a gift." Travis, 24, his brother Gabe, 20, and sister Jessica, 18, work for their dad at the Downs. "He does a really good job and he deserves it (the recognition)."

Jessica is still in school, but will be joining them for the summer.

Tom Gardipy, who drives a school bus during the winter, thinks that sometimes a little too much is made of aboriginals who are successful. "We're all people here. I don't think anybody on my reserve even knows about it (Monday's celebration)."

Delorme, who is the process of getting his Canadian citizenship, has his wife Jennifer and boys Kyren, 7, and Kaden, 2, with him. "We (he and Jennifer) met right here at Assiniboia Downs nine years ago. She was a groom when I first started riding on a recognized track and we've been together ever since."

Tonight, Delorme will be in all eight races, including trips on Gold Lad and Mazel Star, both horses trained by Gardipy. On Saturday, he'll ride six times. Gardipy has six horses running both nights.

Monday's program has not been announced yet, but Travis puts everything into perspective. "Basically, it'll be just another day for us."

Post time tonight and Saturday is 7 p.m. On Monday, it's 1 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2010 C5

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