Julie Manchester — Goalkeeper – Harness Racing Update
by Victoria Howard
Julie Manchester is a woman who has spent decades waking up before dawn to feed, wash, scrub and care for her four-legged surrogate children.
“I was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, and have traveled and cared for carriage horses for as long as I can remember,” Manchester said. “Even though my family wasn’t involved in the sport, when I was younger I was a riding instructor and barrel racer and trained Thoroughbreds.
“I guess you could say I’ve always been a free spirit. Alongside fast horses, I loved fast motorcycles. Unfortunately, when I was 20, I was involved in a motorcycle accident, which was the factor that made me move to sunny Florida to seek a new career working with driving horses.
“When I came to Florida, I got a job with trainer Bruce Wienland at Gilcrest Training Center. I also worked for Herman Ross (who taught me a lot) and Billy Walters.
“Over the years I have worked for some of the best sports coaches, such as Jim Gluhm (Sun Bird Stable), Per Henrickson, Alvin Cummings, Joe Pavia, Joe and Lyndell Adamsky and Don Harmon.
“I had my children in the early 1990s, so I took a sabbatical for several years to raise my babies. But as they say, “Once the horses and the races are in your blood, they never leave.”
“In 1997, I was hired by Bobby Williams – who became my best mate – to help him break babies. Quite a few became Florida champions like Doc’s Krista. I also worked at Gold Star Farms , helping to break in yearlings.
“In 2011 I left Pompano and moved to Monticello, New York where I raced until 2015. In addition to running my own stable, I got side jobs for Gill, Yonot and Alicica LeFreniere.
“I received several awards: one was for my pacer, Eadies Desire, and another was a training award for my senior trotter, Tyrees Treasure.
“At that time, I was married (my married name was Working) and my husband worked for me. After 32 years of marriage, my husband gave me an ultimatum: ‘It’s me or the horses!
“Well, guess who won. He’s not here.
“I worked for coaches Danny Gill and Frank Yanoti before I moved to Florida. That’s about when I decided to venture out on my own and try my hand at coaching, and I had a very modest stable made up mainly of Florida horses.
“After my divorce, I started working for trainer Rod Allen at the Golden Cross stable in Ocala, breaking in and training horses.”
Anyone in the industry will tell you that having a career in harness racing can be very difficult if you are married. Long hours, little free time and periodic trips with your horse have negative consequences. Unless both husband and wife are involved, unfortunately many marriages end in divorce.
“It was one of my favorite times until 2019 when my health took a turn and I had to quit. I moved back to Massachusetts to be near my family and started giving horseback riding lessons for kids on Cape Cod.
“I really missed the company, so when Bobby Williams called in 2021 and asked if I wanted to work for the Luther stable, I said yes.”
Currently Julie works for the Luther red hot stable and looked after superstar mare Katie’s Lucky Day last winter. In May, the 4-year-old trotting mare won the Graduate Series with a career best 1:50. Uncle Peter’s daughter by Yanksky won first prize for owners Black Magic Racing LLC and Patrick Hoopes. It was the fastest trotting mile of any horse in North America in 2022 by a full second.
“I haven’t looked after Katie since last April as she’s in the racing barn and I’m in the baby barn now, but Katie and I have a close connection and bond. She loves her peppermints and I was a very proud mom when she won the grad series in a 1:50 sizzle. Wow!”
Manchester have had a lot of thrills during their career; his biggest win was winning the Zweig Memorial Challenge Cup with Tabor Lobell. Besides Tabor Lobell, Manchester have taken care of Doc’s Krista, Goldstar Raider, Goldstar Spike, Sonett Grace, Now It Begins (Lady Godiva winner), Disco Solliel (Delaware State Champion) and Dream Baby Dream (Winner of Mary Reynolds).
“It never gets old working with these horses. Probably the greatest pleasure for me is seeing the babies come out of the fields and go from kindergarten to college. Being able to see them grow into the amazing athletes that they are is what it’s all about.
“I really admire all the riders who still dream of having a champion. Getting up at 5 a.m. washing the feeders, feeding the horses, cleaning the stalls, harnessing and brushing the horse, running into the late hours and getting up and doing it all over again. They are the true superstars of the sport.
“I was lucky to have met so many wonderful people who treated me well and had the good fortune to take care of all these great equines. I believe that God gives everyone a special talent and gift and my gift is to work with horses.