A Wonderful Ride: A Tribute to Kenny LeJeune

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Gufo is one of many talented horses to pass through LeJeune's programSarah Andrew

Kenny LeJeune, a highly respected horseman who operated a training center in Ocala for many years, succumbed to cancer last week at age 60. Donations in his honor can be made to the PDJF or any horse aftercare organization. His wife Carey LeJeune wrote the following tribute.

The racing world just lost a fan. Ken LeJeune died at home Friday, Dec. 4 after a brief illness. In his 40-plus year career, he was a jockey, trainer, bloodstock agent and all things in between; but always A FAN.

He quietly went about his business: no advertisements, no parties, rarely a mention in the trade papers. That wasn't his thing. His involvement in horse racing reached far and wide.  There are not too many people I can think of in the business who have not asked him to train, examine, fix, buy, sell, evaluate or shelter a horse. He loved every minute of it. It was his life's blood.

We met at Delta Downs in the winter of 1980. He was hungry, trying to ride Thoroughbreds until the Quarter Horse meet came in the spring. We lived in a tack room. We married four months later and still didn't own a running car. No matter, we had each other and racing. He rode a match race the day we wed. He rode races for several years, sometimes away from home for months, other times dragging the family along–hotel to hotel.

We eventually moved lock stock, and barrel to Ocala with $65 and a tank of gas. He started breaking Thoroughbreds for various farms, the first being Fred Hooper's, where he was a regular rider of the famed Precisionist.

When race riding ended, he dreamed of training and buying horses. The first horse he sold went to Jack Van Berg; a horse given to him as a thank you for getting up at 4:30 a.m. to gallop a few horses prior to his usual job. He enjoyed helping others in the business and that's where he spent most of any profit.

He partnered in the early 2000's on a few cheap horses. One, which he bought as a field buddy for $1,300, became my namesake Carey's Gold, who fell just short of sweeping the Florida Stallion Stakes circa 2001? 2002? Bad feet, oh my, the horse had bad feet. He worked endlessly on those bad feet.

New York trainer Gary Contessa was the first prominent trainer to see talent in Ken's horsemanship and soon Kenneth was in business in a big way.

In later years, we became close friends of Jim and Susan Hill and enjoyed many racing-related and personal trips together, all the while talking horses. Always talking horses.

Over the years, he had the good fortune of finding or developing some of the best; Peace Rules, Divine Park, Genuine Devotion, Anne's Beauty, Bay to Bay, Clearly Now, Flip Cup and, more recently, Totally Boss, Gufo, Mo Forza and untold others I'm sure I've forgotten.

He was a true Cajun and he never left his roots. He enjoyed fishing in the Gulf, a few cold beers at the end of the day and a stop at the farm to check on the horses. He found total happiness in sitting on his pony, and watching his charges march like soldiers to the track. His faithful dog Sissy, always following behind, logging miles every day to keep up with him. She never wavered.

Although he was ill, even he did not know in the end that it would come so soon. He lived life by the drop and consumed every last bit. It may have seemed unfair, but it was long enough.

He adored, and was so proud of our children, John and Piper, and I'm sure bent everyone's ear to speak of their success. They, in turn, adored him and I am proud to say inherited a strong work ethic, humble gratitude and a commitment of service to others.

To those who believed in him, I thank you… you allowed him to earn a living in a sport that he loved. For almost 40 years, I tagged along for the wonderful ride.

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