It has been two years since Barry “Breezy” Addison attended the United States Trotting Association Driving School, and since then he has been making steady inroads to realizing his dream of becoming either a driver, a trainer, or both.
On June 15 -- Father’s Day -- Addison drove in his first career matinee race at Goshen Historic Track in New York, and promptly guided Leopard Shark to a first place finish.
As he crossed the finish line, Breezy played it cool.
|Geri Schwarz photo|
|Barry “Breezy” Addison guided Leopard Shark to a first place finish.|
“At the time, I had a big, big smile, but they always say when you do something, act like you’ve done it before,” said Addison, who turned 25 in April. “On the outside I acted like I was not excited, but inside I was on Cloud Nine.
“But to do it in my first race and have a lot of my connections there, it couldn’t have been better. It was on Father’s Day, my grandfather (Barry) was there. To me he’s my dad so it was even more special to win on Father’s Day. I just loved that. Without him I wouldn’t know a thing about harness racing.”
He also wouldn’t have his nickname, which was bestowed upon him by his grandparents. There seems to be some controversy over how it came about.
“It depends on who you talk to,” Addison said with a laugh. “If you ask my grandmother, she said it was a cute name for a little boy. But if you ask my grandfather, he used to call himself Cool Breeze and he said if he had a son, he would have called him Breezy. But he had two daughters, so he gave the name to me.”
Cool Breeze whisked Barry to the Meadowlands at age 4, and from that point Addison was hooked on harness racing.
|Geri Schwarz photo|
|Addison is congratulated in the winner's circle after his June 16 triumph.|
Far from a country boy, the Mount Vernon, N.Y., product grew up loving horses. He would attend races at nearby Yonkers Raceway, where his consistent presence got him noticed by Jason Bartlett. The driver invited him on to the track one night and from there a mentor-protégé relationship was born.
Bartlett was nice enough to show Barry the inner-workings around the barn and track and, at times, let him stay at his house and go to various races with him.
While working as a bank teller, Addison decided to go to driver’s school. Once he graduated, the lure of the sulky became even greater. He began helping out at trainer Mark Ford’s stable.
“While I was at the bank, I would come here on Saturdays and I wasn’t kind of putting in the work that I wanted to,” Addison said. “After a while I had to stop working (at the bank) and started coming to the barn every day, doing paddocks, getting more training, more experience, more horses. I was jogging them, things like that, and making money.”
A major influence has been Ford’s second trainer, Mark Krouse.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be at Goshen,” an appreciative Addison said. “He showed me the ins and outs. When I first started jogging horses back in 2011, I would just come and jog one horse here and there. As I got better he gave me more and more opportunities to jog them more, get the feel for it.
“When I got better with horses, he took me on my first training trip. He started giving me more opportunities to train more horses and better horses. Since day one he has been a big help to me, he helped me get my groom’s license. I would say besides Jason, Mark Krouse has had the biggest influence on my racing career.”
But Bartlett is still making his presence felt. So much so, in fact, that Breezy took Jason’s red, black and white colors, and reversed them for his colors.
“He would ask me ‘Do you have your colors yet, what kind of colors are you getting?’” Addison said. “I didn’t tell him, I kind of hinted around and just threw some stuff out there, but I kind of knew what I was going to get. He saw them and was like ‘Ohhhh, nice colors.’
|Barry “Breezy” Addison attended the United States Trotting Association Driving School in 2012.|
“He’s still teaching me the ins and outs of the business. They all give it to me when I need to hear it. They don’t hold back if I do something wrong. They want me to get better; they always say to learn from your mistakes.”
He learned his lessons well enough to have a perfect winning percentage in his career starts so far.
Breezy’s first matinee race will always provide special memories. Not only did he win with a horse trained by Ford, but his mom was on hand, as well as his mother, grandparents, Ford’s wife Kelly and their children, Bartlett and his family and neighbors, and several classmates from driving school.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “Before the race people kept asking me if I was nervous and naturally you tell them you’re not. But deep inside I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect.
“But as soon as I got behind the gate all the butterflies went out, and that’s all she wrote. I was just blessed to have the first drive and first victory, with so many people who are so important to me being there. It was pretty cool.”
Addison hopes it’s only just the beginning. His plans are to try and keep improving in all facets of the sport and hopefully pick up more drives, although he has nothing specific planned at the moment.
As for whether he wants to be a driver or a trainer, he’s not fussy.
“In order to be a successful driver, you have to know the ins and outs of the barn,” he said. “I would say whatever comes along, trainer or driver. If the opportunity came along to be an established driver I’d be ever so grateful. I’ll just take it one step at a time.”
The good news is that Addison is delighted with how far he has come in the last two years.
“I’m extremely happy with my progress,” he said. “I wish it would have happened a little quicker but everything happens for a reason. I’m not on my time, I’m on God’s time. You can’t just write your own life script out, you’ve got to roll with the punches.”
Or when your name is Breezy, you get to flow with the punches.