Above: Ashley Gamester exercises Narragansett, to warm up before a race at Red Shores Race Track & Casino, at Charlottetown Driving Park. Photo credit: Tiffany Ball.
Story by Tanya Nicolle MacCallum.
It’s that time of year, again—Old Home Week—when the colourful rides appear on Exhibition Drive, and harness racers and fans gear up for another exciting ten days of solid racing. But for some people, especially those who come from harness racing families, it means much more.
Ashley Gamester, 25—a native islander who hails from a long lineage of harness racers—says it’s obvious that the sport is in her blood. “I've been in the barn since I could walk. I lived next door to my grandparents, so I basically grew up in the barn. It's where I've always wanted to be.”
Though Gamester has competitively ridden horses as well, she says her family’s bond with horses has always been through harness racing. “My family is very strongly involved in harness racing. My grandparents have been involved in it for years, and it has fallen down to us through the generations.”
In 2010, when Gamester was only seventeen, she was awarded the Standardbred Horse-owners’ Association Groom of the Year award; and then in 2011 Horsewoman of the year.
Currently, Gamester works as a barn manager for Jason Hughes. “There are twenty horses in the barn, and I'm responsible for looking after five of them—exercising, putting them away, and spoiling them [of course],” laughs Gamester. “I also keep everything organized around the barn so that our days and race nights go as smooth as possible.”
Gamester says Old Home Week isn’t important to her family just because of racing, however. She says it is an important week to her friends and family because it’s where you get to see friends from away, while celebrating racing. A time to share, catch up, and have fun.
In 2015, Gamester learned how important it is to have her friends and family around during Old Home Week. “My favourite Old Home Week memory would have to be from 2 years ago, when my horse at the time, Walbert, won the $4,000 claiming series final.” Gamester says he raced in two legs during the week, and managed to win the series final on Gold Cup night. “All of my family and friends were there, so that made it much more special to be able to celebrate with them.”
When we asked Gamester how her week has been going as Jason Hughes’ barn manager, she says it’s going great at the track and that they’re off to a strong start. “This week has been going great so far. All of our horses have been racing very well.” She also says the good weather hasn’t hurt either.
Excitement for Gamesters' Barn Crew: Gold Cup & Saucer Race, Saturday 19th
This past Saturday, Jason Hughes drove a horse, Do Over Hanover, in the Gold Cup trial. The pair finished 3rd, and so he will advance to the final. “This will be Jason's first drive in the Gold Cup, so it is exciting to be cheering for him!” says Gamester.
Note: The Gold Cup Race will take place this Saturday, August 19th, at Red Shores Race Track of the Charlottetown Driving Park, 2 minutes to midnight.