This month's announcement regarding the inaugural Harrah's Louisiana Downs Racing Hall of Fame was greatly appreciated by jockey Ronald Ardoin. He and fellow retired rider Larry Snyder are the first two jockeys to be inducted.
The July 13 Racing Hall of Fame ceremony will be the fourth Hall of Fame honor for Ardoin, who was previously enshrined as a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Fair Grounds Hall of Fame and the Lone Star Park Hall of Fame.
This one will always have a special place in the heart of the native Louisianan, who was born in Carencro, and resides in Haughton. He's won six leading rider titles at Harrah's Louisiana Downs.
“Everybody has their home track and I have been blessed to be a part of Louisiana Downs every summer since their inaugural meet (in 1974),” said Ardoin. “I've seen the good, bad and ugly, but wouldn't trade it for anywhere else!”
He is one of several nationally prominent jockeys, including Eddie Delahoussaye and Mark Guidry, who were born in Carencro.
“We were too little to work in the oilfield, so we started riding,” recalled Ardoin. “I began in the bush tracks in Louisiana when I was eight and got my jocks license when I turned 16.”
And what a career it was. According to Equibase statistics, Ardoin rode 32,335 horses over three decades, winning 5,226 races with 4,298 seconds and 3,793 third-place finishes. He had nationally lauded victories aboard multiple-graded stakes winner Scott's Scoundrel and a victory in the 1996 Arkansas Derby with Zarb's Magic, but winning each race, no matter the purse, was important.
“Every win was special to me,” he said. “I didn't care if it was a $5,000 maiden race or the $500,000 Arkansas Derby. It's the thrill of victory; I got 'em again. They're all special to me.”
Ardoin, who retired from the saddle in 2003, will celebrate his 62nd birthday on June 13. For the past six years, has served as a jockey agent at Louisiana Downs. He enjoyed the camaraderie in the jocks room and the relationships with trainers when he rode. That remains a mainstay of his agent career, six days a week, beginning before 6:00 am when he makes his rounds around the backside in his golf cart, booking mounts for his riders. He gives credit to his agent, Jerry Harrison, who worked tirelessly for Ardoin over a span of 25 years.
“A lot goes into agenting,” acknowledged Ardoin. “It's a 24-7 job, and working with people can be challenging. But I always had a plan as a jockey and the same is true for my riders.”
Ardoin took veteran rider Don Simington's book when he first began as an agent and last year booked mounts for Emanuel Nieves, who won the Louisiana Downs riding title. With Nieves out of action due to a broken arm early this meet, Ardoin took on Carlos Lozada and Aubrie Green. He demands a strict work ethic of his riders each morning and the same on race days.
“I tell them to show trainers and owners that you will give the same ride to a 20-1 shot that you would on an 8-5 favorite,” he explained.
One of the perks of spending six months in Bossier City, is enjoying quality time with his wife, Patti, who works for Hodges Photography and his daughter, Natalie, a member of the Louisiana Downs racing office.
A Racing Hall of Fame honoree might focus on the wins, top horses, injuries and connections involved in winning over 5,000 races. Ardoin remembers them like they were yesterday, but also expresses a heartfelt thanks to Patti and Natalie for their support.
“My wife of 43 years, Patti, has been with me from the start,” he acknowledged. “With all the traveling, I was a sometime dad, but Natalie had a great mom. With all the accomplishments in the racing industry, I take my greatest pride in our daughter; that kid is really something!”
On race afternoons, you can find Ardoin hanging out and watching the action with Natalie, who was the program coordinator/claims clerk last year and is the stall superintendent for the 2019 Louisiana Downs racing season. They will often finish each other's sentences as between the two, they combine for a full-volume encyclopedia on the people, history and current news in the racing industry.
“We spent a lot of time apart when he was riding,” said Natalie. “Since I moved back to Louisiana from Kentucky, this has been the closest we have ever been.”
Patti, a daughter of trainer Jack Lloyd, grew up around race trackers, so she was well-versed in the sacrifices required of family members.
“I've been there since the beginning,” she stated. “Seeing him get this recognition is very meaningful. The Hall of Fame ceremonies bring tears to your eyes.”
On July 13, Ardoin will be inducted into the Harrah's Louisiana Downs Racing Hall of Fame with Patti, Natalie and a slew of horsemen and fans celebrating another well-deserved milestone for the popular retired jockey. He may get a little emotional as his “home track” means so much to him, but the honor will not change him as a person.
“I came from a humble beginning and will leave this life as a humble man,” said Ardoin. “One thing is certain: I could never have done it by myself.”
Fan Vote for the Harrah's Louisiana Downs Racing Hall of Fame Begins on June 15
Harrah's Louisiana Downs recently announced the formation of its first Racing Hall of Fame. It will honor the achievements of horse owners, trainers, jockeys, horses and property contributors who have played pivotal roles in the rich history of Harrah's Louisiana Downs. Members of the first class are John Franks, Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr., Frank L. Brothers, C. W. Walker, Ronald Ardoin, Larry Snyder, Sunday Silence and Free Spirits Joy.
Beginning on Saturday, June 15, the public will be able to cast a vote for an additional inductee in the category of trainer, jockey, racing contributor and horse. Voters can select ONE of the following nominees in each category by clicking on the following link on the Harrah's Louisiana Downs website: http://shout.lt/bQZNV.
Voting will close on Saturday, June 29 with the Racing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony slated for Saturday, July 13.
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