This is the SIXTEENTH installment on Winbak Farms, one of the most successful breeding farms in the sport of harness racing.
By Mike Bozich for Post Time with Mike and Mike
LARRY AND JACKIE DRYSDALE
Larry and Jackie Drysdale, the husband and wife team that managed Winbak Farm of Canada for many years, celebrated their retirement last August. The saying however, "once harness racing gets into your blood, you're in it for life," has been proven to be more than just a catchphrase. It's no different with this husband/wife team.
Soon after their retirement, the Drysdale's headed on an eight week Australian trip, they toured the top breeding farms the country had to offer. "It was really an experience," Larry Drysdale said. "Both countries are so great."
After returning from down under, the duo headed to Florida to visit Jackie's mother, but also managed to visit some training centers to converse with owners and trainers. "It never gets out of your blood," Larry admitted.
Larry's harness racing story began at, coincidentally, a major breeding farm. "I started with Armstrong Brothers here in Canada as a kid working with the yearlings," said the native of Acton, Ontario. "Then I moved to California to work for Joe O'Brien, where I spent four years." Drysdale returned to Canada in 1974 to work with Jack Kopas. After that, Drysdale returned to Armstrong Brothers to assist with their breeding operations, where he was to spend the next 25 years until Winbak Farm took over the operation.
Drysdale met Winbak owner Joe Thomson at the Harrisburg sale, and shortly afterward was flown down to Maryland for an interview with Joe and his wife JoAnn. They hired Larry, along with his wife Jackie, to run Winbak Farm of Canada in 2005. Jackie was hired as an office manager, while Larry headed the breeding operation. The duo spent 13 years fronting the operation before their retirement in 2018.
Jackie Drysdale, a native of Pittsburgh, PA, got her start in Kentucky looking after Thoroughbreds. "I started working with them at Keeneland, before my trainer relocated to Florida," Jackie said. "I didn't want to go." Shortly afterwards, Jackie got a job with Clear Creek Farm, where she took Standardbred yearlings to the sales. This is when she met Joe O'Brien. "I asked Joe if he needed any help in California and he said yes, and that's where I met Larry." The rest, as they say, is history.
Eventually, Jackie moved with Larry to Canada, where they ended up at Winbak Farm. "I worked with the yearlings in the morning before I tended to my office work," Jackie said. As far as her duties at the office, Jackie processed breeding orders, took them to the lab, extend the semen, and shipped the orders out. "I was a Jackie of all trades," she quipped.
Shortly after their retirement, the Drysdale's received an award from the Standardbred Ontario Breeders named after Chris Van Bussell, who was a driving force behind Seelster Farms and a Hall of Famer. "Chris was such a kind man with the highest of integrity. It was an honor to win an award named after him," Jackie said. Larry echoed those words. "That was very emotional, especially with my wife," Larry said. "We personally knew Chris (Van Bussel) and he was a good friend of ours. It really meant a lot."
As far as what's ahead for Larry and Jackie, it will be a little of everything. "We plan on doing more traveling and spending time with our grandchildren," Jackie said. You can safely wager, despite retirement, that harness racing will remain a part of their lives forever. "Of course, I was at Winbak Farm this morning," joked Larry.