by Victoria M. Howard
Twenty-five-year-old Alesha Binkley was born to race. Coming from a family involved in harness racing, it was not a surprise their daughter would follow in their footsteps.
Born in Kentucky, Binkley relocated to Indiana and sought employment at Hoosier Park Racetrack when she was 19-years-old.
“The very first person I worked for was Judi Lundsford. I look up to her so much for she taught me a lot. Presently I work for Trent Stohler and have been with him for six years. Trent really has taught me everything I know and is a great mentor.”
In didn’t take Binkley long before she moved up the ladder in the Stohler Stable, from a groom, to second trainer, and now a driver.
“I train and drive but my heart is the happiest when I groom for I love working one-on-one with this magnificent animal,” Binkley
“I love it all — training, driving and grooming the horse, but I discovered driving is a real passion for me. It’s my way of showing my 3-year-old daughter, Maevyn, that females in the sport can do anything they set their minds to.
“Besides Lundsford, I owe Trent so much. If it weren’t for him I probably wouldn’t be driving. I was winter training with him in South Florida. I was on a mare named Astarisontheway. After finishing the mile Trent said, ‘You are sitting behind your Ladies Pace horse.’ I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.
“I can’t thank Trent enough. He’s always giving me constructive criticism for he wants me to do my very best and be the best I can. He never treats me differently because I’m a woman.
“Now I drive almost every Saturday night at Northfield Park in the Billings Amateur race. I love driving for I feel so relaxed and content on the racetrack. I never thought I would enjoy driving as much as I do. I love crossing the wire first, but also training and feeling my horses respond differently to different things. I hardly ever carry a whip when I train. I like to hand drive for I feel like they respond better that way and keeps them happy.”
Presently, Binkley operates a stable of 18 horses for Stohler at the Virgil Morgan Jr. Training Center in Ashville, OH.
“In about a week I should have eight more horses. Trent is sending some horses from Florida and two are coming from New Zealand. We are currently racing at Miami Valley, Northfield Park and The Meadows.”
As far as getting attached to the horses or having a favorite, Binkley said she gets way too attached.
“I put my heart and soul into each of them. I feel like many people in the business treat horses like machines. They’re not. They’re animals, so love the animal first, and then the sport.”
Along with the gratification comes the pain of losing one in a claiming race. Binkley recently experienced this first hand.
“The best horse I’ve owned is a mare named Queen Ann M. I claimed her for $5,000 and she made almost $50,000 last year. She gives me 100 per cent every time she steps on the track — even if she’s not feeling 100 per cent.
“Queen got claimed from me last summer and I made a huge profit. Everyone told me ‘Take the money and run.’ My daughter Maeyvn and I cried and were heartbroken. I had to get her back and waited it out for one month. It felt like an eternity but she’s back home with us and she’s not going anywhere this time. The only time she will leave again will be to become a momma.”
Queen is not the only horse Binkley is attached to.
“I love them all and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Besides Queen, I have a fat little trotter I drive in The Billings Amateur named Body Of Work. He has the best personality and loves my daughter and he’s always happy to see you when you walk in the barn. Another is Captain Velocity. He’s a big, beautiful Somebeachsomewhere and loves getting attention.”
Harness racing needs fresh, young blood and Alesha Binkley is just that.